Two seasons ago, the NCAA West Regional was held at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and the Fighting Sioux were in real danger of missing the national tournament. UND had gone 17-12-1 (10-10-0 WCHA) through its first thirty games, and found itself squarely on the bubble for the 16-team field.
An early-February series with Colorado College kick-started a 12-4 finish, including the WCHA Final Five Championship and a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
This season, the Colorado College Tigers know they have an opportunity to make some waves in the postseason, an opportunity they did not cash in on the last time Colorado Springs was home to the West Regional.
“We’re very excited and anxious for the season to get started,” said head coach Scott Owens. “Losing last year at home in the playoffs for the second year in a row left a bad taste in our mouths and knowing that we have an opportunity hosting the West Regional in ’07-’08 I think has really excited our team.”
In case you forgot, the last time Colorado College hosted the West Regional (2004), the Tigers failed to make the tournament. Denver defeated North Dakota, 1-0, in that West Regional final to advance to the Frozen Four.
Both teams know how important non-conference games are in determining the 16-team field for the NCAA tournament. UND sports a 2-0-1 mark in non-conference play; CC is 0-2 after a sweep at the hands of #4 New Hampshire last weekend. WCHA schools own a 20-5-4 (.759) record in non-conference play this season, a mark that bodes well for the conference come tournament time.
Colorado College Team Profile
National Rankings: #9/#10
Head Coach: Scott Owens (9th season at CC, 197-111-24, .630)
This Season: 2-2-0 Overall, 2-0-0 WCHA
Special Teams: Power Play 23.8% (5 of 21), Penalty Kill 86.4% (19 of 22)
Last Season: 18-17-4, 13-12-3 WCHA (5th)
Key Returning Players: Senior F Jimmy Kilpatrick (1-0-1), Senior F Scott McCulloch (1-1-2), Junior F Chad Rau (2-2-4), Sophomore F Bill Sweatt (2-2-4), Senior D Jack Hillen (1-4-5)
North Dakota Team Profile
National Rankings: #2/#3
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 82-46-12, .629)
This Season: 3-1-1 Overall, 1-1-0 WCHA
Specialty Teams: Power Play 20.0% (5 of 25), Penalty Kill 96% (24 of 25)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (1-4-5), Junior F T.J. Oshie (4-0-4), Junior D Taylor Chorney (0-6-6), Senior D Robbie Bina (0-4-4), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (3-1-1, 0.43 GAA, .983 SV, 4 SO)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: January 6, 2007. UND defenseman Joe Finley scores with under 5 seconds remaining in the second period to break a 1-1 tie, and the Fighting Sioux hold on for a 2-1 victory in Colorado Springs to gain a split of the weekend series.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 25, 2006. North Dakota turns in what head coach Dave Hakstol calls “our best 60 minutes of the season” and defeats the Tigers, 5-2.
Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeats Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downs Boston University, 6-4, to claim its sixth NCAA Championship. North Dakota and Colorado College also met in the 2001 East Regional (Worcester, Mass.), with UND prevailing, 4-1.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 127-73-9, and holds a 77-18-5 mark against the Tigers in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.
Game News and Notes
The Sioux will celebrate 60 years (1947-2007) of collegiate hockey over the weekend. The Sioux and Tigers have split their last three series in Grand Forks. Colorado College has played in 10 of the last 13 NCAA national tournaments, but has not won a national championship since 1957. Ryan Duncan needs two points to reach the 100 point plateau for his career; the junior forward has collected 48 goals and 50 assists through his first 94 games. T.J. Oshie was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week last week after he notched a hat trick in Saturday’s victory over Michigan Tech.
This weekend marks the only regular season meeting between the two schools, but I predict they will face each other again at the WCHA Final Five and on the national stage. UND and CC have split the last three series in Grand Forks, and that trend will continue. CC 4-2 Friday, UND 5-1 Saturday.