Weekend Preview: UND vs. Western Michigan

Freshmen are leading the way for the Western Michigan Broncos, as 18 of the team’s first 58 goals (31 percent) have been scored by first-year players. Forward Griffen Molino is tied for third in the league scoring race with 18 points (7g, 11a), while classmate Colt Conrad (5-8-13) is tied for ninth. First-year blueliner Oliver Kaski has also chipped in with 11 points. Among other accolades, Molino was named the NCHC Rookie of the Month for December.

The Broncos are coming off of a home shellacking at the hands of SCSU, losing 8-2 and 7-3 to the first-place Huskies. St. Cloud State scored on six of ten power play opportunities, dropping WMU’s penalty kill rate to under 70 percent, easily the worst unit in the country.

The boys from Kalamazoo, Michigan like to play a tight, physical brand of hockey, but that has meant quite a bit of time in the penalty box. WMU has been in 109 shorthanded situations already this season (compared to 79 power play opportunities). The Broncos’ power play has scored 16 goals this year (converting at 20.3%), but their penalty killers have allowed 34 goals to the opposition. By comparison, North Dakota has scored twenty power play goals and allowed fifteen in an equal number of man-advantage and shorthanded situations (101 each).

This season, the race for the Penrose is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State. The Huskies (12-3-1-1, 38 points) are idle this weekend and have eight league games remaining, while the Fighting Hawks (11-2-1-1, 35 points) have ten. SCSU and UND, winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles, will not meet again in the regular season.

If North Dakota is to put two more victories in the books and pass the Huskies, they will need to do it with secondary scoring. Two Hobey Baker candidates, senior forward Drake Caggiula (15-15-30) and sophomore forward Nick Schmaltz (3-24-27), are expected to miss a second consecutive weekend of action. In their absence last weekend against Colorado College, the top five forwards in the lineup for North Dakota (Brock Boeser, Bryn Chyzyk, Rhett Gardner, Luke Johnson, and Austin Poganski) accounted for eight goals and eight assists. Boeser also scored the only goal in Friday’s shootout victory over the Tigers, UND’s first shootout win in the history of the NCHC.

WMU’s Lukas Hafner, a senior goaltender who played his junior hockey with the Cornwall Colts (CCHL), has the worst numbers of his four-year career (3.49 goals-against average and a save percentage of .901), but that has as much to do with the team in front of him as it does his own play. Hafner has the ability to steal games and was a force two seasons ago, posting a 2.06 GAA and a save percentage of .925. The Toledo, Ohio native also has six assists in his career.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, has had two rough outings in his last four starts after going nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) . The Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December allowed four goals on 23 shots against Omaha and three goals on 11 shots against Colorado College in two consecutive Friday home starts this month. Johnson was able to bounce back from both of those outings (making 46 of 48 stops in the two Saturday rematches) and is currently first in the nation in goals-against average (1.42) and tied for second in save percentage (.942).

During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (17-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 65 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 8th nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 93 goals and allowing only 46 in 26 games this season. Nationally, only St. Cloud State (113 goals for/52 goals against in 26 games), Boston College (100 goals for/45 goals against in 24 games), and Quinnipiac (92 goals for/40 goals against in 25 games) boast a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Omaha, and Denver) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Minnesota-Duluth (19th) and Miami (t-20th) are close, with Western Michigan and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Western Michigan Team Profile

Head Coach: Andy Murray (5th season at WMU, 80-73-27, .519)

Pairwise Ranking: t-30th of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 7-14-3 overall, 4-9-1-1 NCHC (7th)
Last Season: 14-18-5 overall (missed NCAA tournament), 6-13-5-4 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 2.42 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.96 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.3% (16 of 79)
Penalty Kill: 68.8% (75 of 109)

Key Players: Freshman F Griffen Molino (7-11-18), Junior F Sheldon Dries (10-4-14), Freshman F Colt Conrad (5-8-13), Senior F Nolan LaPorte (5-6-11), Freshman D Oliver Kaski (4-7-11), Junior D Chris Dienes (2-8-10), Senior G Lukas Hafner (5-9-3, 3.49 GAA, .901 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 20-3-3, .827)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 20-3-3 overall, 11-2-1-1 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.58 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.77 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.8% (20 of 101)
Penalty Kill: 85.1% (86 of 101)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (15-12-27), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (9-7-16), Junior forward Luke Johnson (7-7-14), Sophomore F Austin Poganski (6-9-15), Sophomore D Tucker Poolman (3-11-14), Junior D Troy Stecher (5-14-19), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-8-10), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (11-1-1, 1.42 GAA, .942 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 21, 2015 (Kalamazoo, MI). Western Michigan scored two extra-attacker goals in the last four minutes of the third period to knot the game at two, but Drake Caggiula sent the home fans home unhappy with a goal at 3:31 of overtime. Zane McIntyre made 34 of 36 saves for the Green and White, who also won Friday’s contest by a score of 3-1. The Broncos’ lone goal in the opener came with 33 seconds remaining in the game, also with the goalie pulled. Yes, that’s right, all three of WMU’s goals on the weekend came with an extra attacker on the ice.

Most Important Meeting: March 24, 2012 (St. Paul, MN). North Dakota upended Western Michigan 3-1 in the NCAA West Regional semifinal. Brock Nelson had two points, including an empty net goal with 25 seconds remaining that sent UND to the regional finals against Minnesota. Aaron Dell made 24 saves for the Green and White. The Broncos, who have played at the Division I level since 1975-76, have five NCAA tournament appearances but have not been in the national tournament since 2012.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Saturday, March 22nd (Minneapolis, MN). North Dakota faced a must-win situation in the 3rd place game at the inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not disappoint the partisan crowd. The Green and White rolled to a 5-0 victory behind two first period goals from Conner Gaarder. UND netminder Zane Gothberg made 25 saves for the shutout, and Dave Hakstol’s crew played the waiting game for several more hours before discovering that they had indeed made the NCAA tournament for the 13th consecutive season.

All-time Series: In the short history between the schools, UND has won eleven of the twelve games, outscoring the Broncos 51-22. WMU’s lone victory over North Dakota was a 2-1 road win on March 8th, 2014. The teams first met in 1997.

Game News and Notes

UND forward Luke Johnson has collected three goals and four assists in seven career games against Western Michigan but was held off the scoresheet in last February’s road sweep. North Dakota is 9-1-1 on the road this season, while the Broncos are 6-2-1 at Lawson Ice Arena, suffering their first two home defeats of the year at the hands of St. Cloud State last weekend. UND has never lost in Kalamazoo (6-0-0). The Fighting Hawks and Broncos will also meet at Ralph Engelstad Arena on March 4th and 5th, the last two games of the regular season.

Media Coverage

Friday’s opener will not be televised, but Saturday’s contest will be shown live on American Sports Network, MidcoSN2, TSN2 (Canada), and WDAY’Z Extra. A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

North Dakota can take a huge step forward in the league race with two NCHC victories this weekend. It won’t be easy, but UND showed last weekend that they can score without Caggiula and Schmaltz in the lineup. UND 4-1, 3-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

Mike Haviland’s second year behind the Colorado College bench has already produced better results than year one. Last season, the Tigers were historically bad, winning just twice (2-19-3-1) in 24 league games. This year, CC already has three conference victories (a December home sweep against Miami and a road split at St. Cloud State two weekends ago), and Haviland’s squad has posted a 5-4-0 overall record in the past nine games after opening the season with thirteen consecutive losses.

The feeling among the Tiger faithful is that new blood behind the bench will eventually translate into new life on the ice, and that has certainly been true since the end of November. Haviland is new to Division I hockey, but he was named the AHL coach of the year in 2006-07 (Norfolk Admirals) and served as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks for four seasons (2008-12), winning a Stanley Cup in 2010. He was most recently head coach for the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

UND and Colorado College met six times last season (twice in Colorado Springs), with North Dakota winning all six games and outscoring the Tigers 25-10. Without those six victories, UND’s record last year would have looked far less impressive at 23-10-3 (.681). This season, Brad Berry’s first trip to Colorado Springs as head coach resulted in a pair of victories (5-2, 2-0).

This weekend’s games are critical for UND’s Penrose Cup hopes. Last year, North Dakota went 10-2-0 against the bottom four teams in the league (Colorado College, Western Michigan, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota-Duluth) en route to a 16-6-2 conference mark and the NCHC regular season title. A second reward for the Green and White was a first-round playoff series against Colorado College, the 13th time in a row that UND hosted the opening round of the conference tournament. The Green and White dispatched the Tigers in two games (5-1, 3-2) and advanced to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

This season, the race for the Penrose is down to North Dakota and St. Cloud State. The Huskies (10-3-1-1) have ten league games remaining, while the Fighting Hawks (10-2-0-0) have twelve. SCSU and UND, winners of the first two NCHC regular season league titles, will not meet again in the regular season.

If North Dakota is to put victories in the books and keep pace with the Huskies, they will need to do it with secondary scoring. Two Hobey Baker candidates, senior forward Drake Caggiula (15-15-30) and sophomore forward Nick Schmaltz (3-24-27), are expected to miss this weekend’s action. Freshman Brock Boeser (15-10-25) will be paired with new linemates but will need to finish his chances, as will senior forward Bryn Chyzyk (8-5-13). Other likely contributors among the forward group include junior Luke Johnson, sophomore Austin Poganski, and freshmen Shane Gersich and Rhett Gardner, all of whom have already netted five goals.

Colorado College has seen a resurgence in their offensive numbers since assembling a forward line of Hunter Fejes, Sam Rothstein, and Luc Gerdes eight games ago. The three upperclassmen (Fejes is a senior; the other two are juniors) have combined for 11 goals and 15 assists over the past four weekends, and the Tigers have averaged 2.88 goals per game over that same stretch, a far cry from the 1.57 goals/game over the first 14 games of the season.

Another storyline for the boys from Colorado Springs has been the play of freshman netminder Jacob Nehama. The Allen, Texas native has all five of the Tigers’ victories this season (junior Tyler Marble is 0-7-0), and those five wins have all come in his last eight starts.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, has been absolutely incredible since returning from injury in late November. Johnson leads the nation in both goals-against average (1.28) and save percentage (.949). The Flint, Michigan native went nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) and was named both the Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December.

Johnson’s play, equal parts steady and spectacular, has meant that North Dakota has been able to hold leads. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (16-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 63 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 11th nationally in scoring offense and 3rd in scoring defense, notching 83 goals and allowing only 40 in 24 games this season. Nationally, only Quinnipiac (92 goals for/40 goals against in 25 games) boasts a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 3rd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with St. Cloud State, Omaha, and Denver) who would make the NCAAs if the season ended today. Minnesota-Duluth sits squarely on the bubble (tied with Minnesota at 17), with Western Michigan, Miami, and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (2nd season at CC, 11-43-3, .219)

Pairwise Ranking: t-52nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 5-17-0 overall, 3-9-0-0 NCHC (8th)
Last Season: 6-26-3 overall, 2-19-3-1 NCHC (8th)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 2.05 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.59 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 15.4% (14 of 91)
Penalty Kill: 81.1% (73 of 90)

Key players: Senior F Hunter Fejes (9-5-14), Junior F Luc Gerdes (4-9-13), Junior F Sam Rothstein (5-7-12), Senior F Cody Bradley (5-4-9), Sophomore D Teemu Kivihalme (3-9-12), Freshman D Andrew Farny (2-7-9), Freshman G Jacob Nehama (5-10-0, 3.37 GAA, .905 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 19-3-2, .833)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 19-3-2 overall, 10-2-0-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.46 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.67 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.7% (19 of 92)
Penalty Kill: 85.1% (80 of 94)

Key Players: Freshman F Brock Boeser (15-10-25), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (8-5-13), Junior forward Luke Johnson (5-6-11), Sophomore F Austin Poganski (5-6-11), Sophomore D Tucker Poolman (3-11-14), Junior D Troy Stecher (5-14-19), Junior D Paul LaDue (2-6-8), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (10-1-1, 1.28 GAA, .949 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 31, 2015 (Colorado Springs, CO). The Tigers could not solve UND’s Matt Krynkiw, as the junior netminder stopped all 29 shots he faced (earning his second shutout) and propelled North Dakota to a 2-0 victory (goals by Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich). On the weekend, the Green and White put 79 shots on goal and scored seven times (UND won 5-2 in Friday’s opener).

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 14, 2015. Senior forward Connor Gaarder potted the game-winner with under 90 seconds remaining in the hockey game to propel UND to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Tigers. Colorado College forward Luc Gerdes scored a wraparound goal at 6:10 of the third period to knot the game at 2. CC outshot the Green and White 33-31, but Zane McIntyre was up to the challenge, making 31 saves in the victory. North Dakota won Friday’s opener by a much more comfortable 5-1 margin.

Most Important Meeting: March 27, 1997. UND defeated Colorado College, 6-2, in the Frozen Four Semifinals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two nights later, North Dakota downed 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, 151-80-10 (.647), including a blistering 97-21-6 (.806) mark in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won nine of the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 38-18 over that span. The only Tigers victory was an overtime win in the 2014 NCHC quarterfinals.18 of the last 21 games have been decided by two goals or less.

Game News and Notes

In first periods this season, North Dakota has outscored opponents 27¬-13 while Colorado College has been outscored 22-8. These two coaching staffs coached against each other at the AHL and NHL levels prior to the NCHC. Only six teams in UND men’s hockey history have won 20 games before the calendar turned to February. With four January games remaining on the schedule, Brad Berry currently has his team’s record at 19-3-2.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised on Midco Sports Network. Saturday’s contest will also be featured on FOX College Sports Central. A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

If UND was healthy, I would have the home team winning by three goals each night, but that’s obviously not the case. Question marks abound: How will Brad Berry shuffle the lines to get the most out of his forwards? Will North Dakota’s top four defensemen be able to handle the Rothstein line? How will freshman goaltender Jacob Nahama respond in his first Ralph Engelstad Arena appearance? I’m giving the Fighting Hawks the edge in both contests, but these games will be much closer than most people expect. UND 3-2, 3-1.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Omaha

Nebraska-Omaha has finally figured out who will replace Ryan Massa in net (the four-year starter logged over 4000 career minutes between the pipes for the Mavs and was a key component in their Frozen Four run a year ago). In twelve starts, freshman netminder Evan Weninger ranks second in the league in save percentage (.942) and third in goals-against average, allowing less than two goals per game.

Fortunately for North Dakota, Weninger will not be in uniform this weekend due to an injury. Surprisingly, Mavericks’ head coach Dean Blais has elected to give freshman Alex Blankenburg his first career start in Friday’s opener rather than tab junior Kirk Thompson, who has performed capably in eight starts this season. Thompson has amassed a record of 4-3-1 with a 2.75 goals-against average and an .889 save percentage. Blankenburg has no official NCAA statistics (of course) and is listed at 5-8 and 162 pounds.

His counterpart in the UND net, sophomore Cam Johnson, has been absolutely incredible since returning from injury in late November. Johnson has won eight consecutive games (four by shutout) and allowed a total of four goals over that stretch (one each in the other four victories). The Flint, Michigan native went nearly 300 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal (a UND record and the second-longest in the history of NCAA Division I men’s hockey) and was named both the Hockey Commissioners’ Association and NCHC Player of the Month for the month of December.

Johnson’s play, equal parts steady and spectacular, has meant that North Dakota has been able to hold leads. During the 2015-16 campaign, Brad Berry’s squad is unbeaten (11-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, North Dakota has gone 62 straight games without a loss when leading after the first two periods. Amazingly, UND is 11th nationally in scoring offense 2nd in scoring defense, notching 75 goals and allowing only 35 in 22 games this season. By comparison, UNO has outscored opponents 66-47 over their first 20 games. Nationally, only Quinnipiac (87 goals for/35 goals against in 23 games) boasts a better scoring margin than North Dakota.

Omaha was swept by visiting Denver last weekend, the second sweep the Mavericks have suffered this season (UNO also lost a pair of games at Western Michigan in late October). Omaha’s first period on Friday night will set the tone for the entire weekend, as head coach Dean Blais will have his squad prepared to rebound from their first two home losses of the season.

Berry has his team in very good position for a 14th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UND went 9-1-2 in non-conference games this season, with a home split with Wisconsin accounting for the only loss in twelve games. The Fighting Hawks are currently 2nd in the Pairwise rankings, one of four NCHC teams (along with Omaha, St. Cloud State, and Denver) who would make the NCAA’s if the season ended today. Minnesota-Duluth sits squarely on the bubble at 16, with Western Michigan, Miami, and Colorado College outside the top 25.

Omaha will host North Dakota in late February for UND’s first games in the newly-opened Baxter Arena (capacity 7,898). With hockey back on the UNO campus, North Dakota can expect a raucous, rowdy atmosphere next month. Brad Berry has his squad playing well on the road, going 10-1-2 in the first half of the season. No team in the country has more road wins than North Dakota.

UND’s next home victory will mark 200 home wins since the current Ralph Engelstad Arena opened prior to the 2001-2002 season. North Dakota is 199-73-34 (.706) all-time at the Palace on the Prairie, including an 8-1-1 record this season. The team will be wearing green jerseys at home for the first time in the Ralph, and a Green Out is planned for Friday’s opener. Fans are encouraged to wear green to match and support the home squad. NCHC teams will wear dark jerseys at home and white jerseys on the road for the second half of the season (conference games only).

Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile

Head Coach: Dean Blais (7th season at UNO, 125-104-25, .541)

Pairwise Ranking: 7th of 60 teams
National Rankings: #9/#9
This Season: 14-5-1 overall, 4-5-1-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 20-13-6 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 12-8-4-3 NCHC (3rd)

Team Offense: 3.30 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.35 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.9% (14 of 78)
Penalty Kill: 87.5% (70 of 80)

Key Players: Junior forward Jake Guentzel (10-17-27), Junior F Austin Ortega (16-8-24), Junior F Justin Parizek (6-15-21), Sophomore F Jake Randolph (8-9-17), Sophomore D Luc Snuggerud (2-6-8), Junior D Ian Brady (1-5-6), Freshman G Evan Weninger (10-2-0, 1.99 GAA, .942 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (1st season at UND, 18-2-2, .864)

Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 60 teams
National Rankings: #1/#2
This Season: 18-2-2 overall, 9-1-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 29-10-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)

Season Statistics:
Team Offense: 3.41 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 1.59 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 17.9% (15 of 84)
Penalty Kill: 84.7% (72 of 85)

Key Players: Senior F Drake Caggiula (14-15-29), Sophomore F Nick Schmaltz (3-23-26), Freshman F Brock Boeser (13-8-21), Senior F Bryn Chyzyk (8-3-11), Sophomore D Tucker Poolman (3-11-14), Junior D Troy Stecher (3-12-15), Freshman D Christian Wolanin (3-6-9), Sophomore G Cam Johnson (9-0-1, 1.07 GAA, .957 SV%, 4 SO)

By The Numbers:

Last meeting: January 31, 2015 (Omaha, NE). UND flipped the script from Friday’s opener as Brendan O’Donnell potted the game-winner two minutes into overtime to give North Dakota a 4-3 victory. One night earlier, Omaha forward Austin Ortega’s goal with 33 ticks remaining in the extra frame spoiled UND’s third period comeback. Five of the twelve goals in the series were scored on the power play.

Last meeting in Grand Forks: November 29, 2014. Zane McIntyre made 32 saves as the Green and White built a 3-1 lead and held on for a 3-2 home victory. North Dakota senior forward Mark McMillan scored a second period goal that withstood a lengthy review, and senior captain Stephane Pattyn potted a shorthanded tally late in the middle frame for the game winning goal. UND and UNO skated to a 2-2 tie in Friday’s opener, but Nebraska-Omaha won the shootout for the extra league point.

Most memorable meeting: The game that UND fans will long remember is the outdoor game played at TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, Nebraska) on February 9th, 2013. One day after winning a tight 2-1 contest indoors, North Dakota throttled UNO 5-2 on a sunny, melty afternoon. Mavericks netminder John Faulkner was pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in just ten minutes of game action.

All-time: UND leads the all-time series 9-6-1 (.594), including a 4-3-1 (.563) record in games played in Grand Forks. North Dakota has picked up six wins and a tie in the last ten games between the schools, outscoring the Mavs 30-27 over that stretch. Three of the last four games have gone to overtime.

Game News and Notes

Dean Blais, who was the head coach at UND from 1994-2004, collected 262 victories at North Dakota and led the school to national titles in 1997 and 2000. Senior forward Drake Caggiula has appeared in 144 games in his North Dakota career, tied with Minnesota State’s Bryce Gervais for the most among all active NCAA Division I men’s hockey players. Prior to last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Denver, UNO had gone 8-1-1 in its previous ten games. Both UND and Omaha are tied for second in the nation with six shorthanded goals, one behind first-place Penn State. North Dakota has not lost since November 21st, a string of eight consecutive victories.

Media Coverage

Both games this weekend will be televised on Midco Sports Network. Saturday’s contest will also be featured on FOX College Sports Central. A high definition webcast of the games is also available to NCHC.tv subscribers. All UND men’s hockey games (home and away) can be heard on 96.1 FM and on stations across the UND Sports Network (as well as through the iHeart Radio app). Follow @UNDMHockey for real-time Twitter updates, or follow the action via live chat at UNDsports.com.

The Prediction

Here are the key questions for this series: Which defensive pairing will Brad Berry match up against Jake Guentzel’s line (with RW Austin Ortega and whoever plays left wing), and will those blueliners be effective? How will the CBS line (Caggiula, Brock Boesser, and Nick Schmaltz) fare against a rookie netminder making his first start in a hostile environment? And how will the officials call a game that is certain to be hard-nosed, gritty, and physical? The fans are in for a treat this weekend, and both teams will leave with points. 2-2 tie (North Dakota wins the shootout), UND 4-1.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

A quick flashback to November 13th, 2009: UND entered the weekend series with St. Cloud State at 6-1-1, was ranked #2 in the country, and was scoring 3.62 goals per game and allowing 1.50. On the special teams side, North Dakota was scoring on 26% of their power play opportunities and had allowed only three power play goals in 41 chances (92.7%).

On a very unlucky Friday the 13th for the Fighting Sioux, St. Cloud junior forward Aaron Marvin met North Dakota senior defenseman Chay Genoway with a high elbow, sending Genoway into the glass and to the ice. UND’s captain and preseason All-American has not returned to game action (post-concussion syndrome) and the Green and White have struggled in his absence.

Since that game, North Dakota is 6-9-4 and is scoring 2.47 goals per contest while allowing 2.53. After converting on 13 of 50 man advantage opportunities with Genoway in the lineup, the Fighting Sioux have potted only 16 goals on 103 power plays (15.5%) in his absence.

There has been much debate this week regarding whether one of Genoway’s teammates will attempt to exact retribution against Marvin for his illegal hit; it is my opinion that the best way to do that would be on the scoreboard rather than attempting to injure an opponent.

For St. Cloud, the opening of the year 2010 was stellar. The Huskies won their first nine games after the calendar turned, but have just one victory in the past three games. During the current twelve game stretch (10-1-1), St. Cloud has converted better than 28 percent of their power play opportunities.

After this weekend’s series, SCSU will travel to Wisconsin for a pair before playing a home and home with Minnesota State Mankato to close out the regular season.

SCSU head coach Bob Motzko has been rotating netminders, playing junior Dan Dunn on Fridays and freshman Mike Lee on Saturdays. That cycle will continue in the series against the Fighting Sioux.

This weekend, the teams will be earning points for the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup, a traveling fan trophy awarded to the team which wins the four-game season series. The teams split the series in Grand Forks, so the Cup is on the line this weekend and will be awarded in St. Cloud on February 13, 2010. North Dakota has won at least a share of the Challenge Cup each of the past three seasons.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: (Bob Motzko, 5th season at SCSU, 99-68-23, .582)
National Ranking: #4/#4
PairWise Ranking: 4th
This Season: 18-8-4, 13-6-3 WCHA (t-1st)
Last Season: 18-17-3 overall, 13-13-2 WCHA (6th)
Team Offense: 3.27 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.50 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.6% (33 of 160)
Penalty Kill: 85.7% (108 of 126)
Key Players: Junior F Garrett Roe (11-22-33), Junior F Tony Mosey (10-16-26), Senior F Ryan Lasch (15-18-33), Senior D Garrett Raboin (5-13-18), Freshman G Mike Lee (8-6-3, 2.39 GAA, .923 SV%, 1 SO), Junior G Dan Dunn (10-2-1, 2.55 GAA, .914 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (6th season at UND, 143-81-24, .625)
National Ranking: #11/#11
PairWise Ranking: t-11th
This Season: 13-10-5, 8-9-3 WCHA (6th)
Last Season: 24-15-4 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 17-7-4 WCHA (1st)
Team Offense: 2.86 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.21 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.0% (29 of 153)
Penalty Kill: 86.6% (123 of 142)
Key Players: Sophomore F Jason Gregoire (13-10-23), Senior F Chris VandeVelde (9-12-21), Freshman F Danny Kristo (8-12-20), Junior F Evan Trupp (5-16-21), Junior D Derrick LaPoint (1-11-12), Sophomore G Brad Eidsness (12-7-4, 2.26 GAA, .906 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: November 14, 2009 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after defeating St. Cloud but losing Chay Genoway, the Huskies scored the first three goals of the game and downed the Fighting Sioux 3-2 to earn a split of the weekend series.

Last Meeting in St. Cloud: January 31, 2009. North Dakota rebounds to defeat St. Cloud State 4-2 after suffering their first shutout loss of the season in Friday’s opener (3-0). Senior captain Ryan Duncan scored the game-winner for the Fighting Sioux.

Most Important Meeting: March 17, 2001 (St. Paul, MN). St. Cloud State defeated North Dakota 6-5 to claim the 2001 WCHA Final Five Championship. Derek Eastman scored the game-winner in overtime after UND scored three goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to force the extra session.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 51-28-10 (.629), and holds a record of 20-15-5 (.563) in games played in St. Cloud.

Game News and Notes

St, Cloud has not won a game this season when trailing after one period of play (0-3-3), but the Huskies are doubling up opponents (38 goals scored, 19 allowed) in the opening frame. UND sophomore goaltender Brad Eidsness is 4-1 in his career against St. Cloud. SCSU head coach Bob Motzko will be looking to pick up his 100th win this weekend. Under the new 12-team schedule rotation beginning next season, the Fighting Sioux and Huskies will continue to play four regular season games each year.

The Prediction

The last two times North Dakota has traveled to St. Cloud, the Fighting Sioux have lost on Friday and won on Saturday. I think UND will reverse the trend this weekend with a strong first period on Friday night. In Saturday’s rematch, tempers will flare and the Huskies power play will be the difference. UND 3-2, SCSU 4-1.

If this prediction holds, North Dakota and St. Cloud State will share the Challenge Cup for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

On a Personal Note

I look forward to this series every year because of the unique relationship we have with the Center Ice Club, the official hockey booster organization for the St. Cloud State University Huskies. On behalf of the Center Ice Club, I would like to invite you to the UND/SCSU pre-game social on Saturday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Legends Grill and Bar in the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in St. Cloud. This is a great opportunity to meet fans on both sides of the rivalry, share in some complimentary food and door prizes, and view the Challenge Cup. This event is free and open to all fans 21 and older.

Sioux fans rally behind one of their own

While Internet forums are sometimes (rightfully) thought of as untamed jungles into which only the thickest of skin dare tread, they also foster a strong community among distant strangers brought together by a common tie.

Over the past week, the SiouxSports.com community rallied behind a 14 year-old Sioux fan in the Twin Cities who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

Nick and PSB with the new dishIn addition to visiting his Caring Bridge site to drop notes of well wishes, fans proposed chipping in to buy his family an over-the-air satellite dish so he could watch all the Sioux games for free while recovering.

Enough Sioux fans, none of whom knew each other or Nick, offered to chip in that the plan was surely becoming a reality. When a Sioux fan contacted a satellite dish installer who frequents the forum (and who has installed dishes for countless other forum denizens) to arrange the details, “PSB” was happy not only to perform the installation, but to donate the entire system himself.

There’s not much I can add to the story, other than to tell you to check it out yourself:
“14 y/o Sioux Fan diagnosed with leukemia, Nick Cherekos from Osseo, MN” thread
Nicholas Cherekos Caring Bridge guestbook

Lennon leaves and the foolish blame game begins

This whole “it must be somebody’s fault that Dale Lennon left” line is total bunk. Yesterday on KFAN, Scott Swygman and Wayne Nelson of the Grand Forks Herald said it wasn’t widely known, but other schools had taken serious looks at Lennon and he’d taken serious looks at them.

Quite obviously, UND’s head football coach was considering better opportunities for some time. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. Anyone with an ounce of sense should have understood that the moment Lennon won a national championship in 2001, there was a chance that he’d be offered a job he couldn’t refuse. Frankly, I think UND was extremely fortunate to have had a coach of his caliber here for so long.

But there were some who claimed that if not for former UND athletic director Tom Buning, Lennon would stay at UND for his entire coaching career. The university got rid of Buning and Lennon left anyway. So much for the accuracy of “inside” information.  The idea that a witch hunt should be conducted to purge the university of those responsible for Lennon’s departure is simply ridiculous.

The fact is, UND bent over backward to create a situation that would help keep Lennon here and it wasn’t enough. Until UND joins the ranks of the top dogs in college football, there will always be schools that can offer its coaches more money and better situations. It’s just a fact of life. It’s no single person’s fault.

When a coach as competent and as popular as Lennon leaves, it’s probably natural that the finger pointing and blame game takes place. But it’s unseemly, counter productive and childish.

Lennon is gone and publicly leveling accusations against certain individuals at UND isn’t going to change that. It’s time to get over it, move on and set the stage for UND’s next football coach to successfully transition the program to the next level. Public backbiting and infighting serves no useful purpose, a lesson Fighting Sioux fans should have learned from recent experience.

NCAA releases blogging policy

Still no Sioux sports to talk about, so another installment of “A day in the life of running a college athletics website”.

Readers may remember the controversy last summer when the NCAA threw a newspaper reporter out of the College World Series for blogging from the press box. The NCAA has finally clarified its position on blogging as part of its new Conditions on Media Credentials.

NCAA Blogging Policy (PDF from ncaa.org)

By my interpretation, Credentialed media must follow rules including the following at NCAA championship events (selected highlights):

  • Any blog must link to ncaasports.com Blog Central
  • All blogs must post an NCAA logo/link
  • All blogs must be free
  • Any representations (picture, video, audio, drawing) of an NCAA championship can only be used by Internet media entities within a 24-hour period following the competition and cannot exceed 3 minutes in length
  • The maximum number of blog entries allowed is restricted by sport, e.g.:
    • Football: Three per quarter; one at halftime
    • Hockey: Three per period — one in between (includes overtime)
    • Baseball: One every inning (includes extra innings)
    • Swimming: Ten per day/session

Note that score/time updates do count as blog entries.

Does anyone own PAIRWISE?

Owning a college sports web site doesn’t usually bring with it much intrigue or drama, though having a blog does allow me to share interesting stories about the online college hockey world with you when they do occur.

Does USCHO exclusively own the term “PAIRWISE”, as it relates to college hockey rankings? For now the answer appears to be no, though USCHO has been trying to change that. I first became aware of this effort when USCHO added a small “SM” to their “Pairwise” tables on their site last spring. I dashed off to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to investigate, which you may also want to do so you can follow along:
USCHO’s claim to Pairwise

Mar. 20, 2006

USCHO’s initial application for trademark for “PAIRWISE”

Apr. 17, 2006

The next action in the file, described as “Paper Correspondence Incoming”, came from a bunch of names you might recognize as formerly associated with USCHO: Mike Machnik (founder of HOCKEY-L, now affiliated with CollegeHockeyNews), Adam Wodon (founder of CollegeHockeyNews), John Whelan (developer of some pretty neat hockey ranking analysis tools, wrote USCHO’s Pairwise analysis tools, now with CollegeHockeyNews) and Keith Instone (long-time HOCKEY-L ranking guru, first devised the pairwise technique to mimic the selection process). Their letter raised quite a few objections to USCHO’s application, including the following:

  • Pairwise is a generic mathematical term that describes how the comparison is performed
  • The algorithm, in relation to college hockey, was developed by Keith Instone before USCHO existed
  • USCHO doesn’t use the term “pairwise” in commerce, as they claimed
  • The sample of “advertising” submitted by USCHO was not, indeed, advertising, but a page of hockey rankings
  • Lots of other sites cover college hockey and publish pairwise rankings of teams

Compelling stuff, particularly the first, which is why I was surprised to see the next document…

Sep. 11, 2006 Office Action Outgoing

No mention of the Apr. 17 “Paper Correspondence Incoming”. Notes were pretty much limited to the following:

Office records have been search and no similar registered and pending mark has been found that would bar registration

The wording used to describe the services needs clarification because it is unacceptable as indefinite. Applicant may adopt the following identification of services, if accurate: Providing information in the field of rankings of college hockey teams; and publication of books featuring rankings of college hockey teams.

Though there seemed to be some confusion between the two parties about wording (is USCHO a book or a web site? is PAIRWISE a marketing slogan or the name of a database?), it seemed like USCHO just needed to adopt the suggested description. I start getting ready to scrub the word “pairwise” from SiouxSports.com and come up with the SiouxSports.com Power (PWR) rankings (which is what everyone thinks PWR stands for, anyway).

Nov. 22, 2006 Response to Office Action

USCHO seems pleased with the change in wording, though did want to note that they publish a website, not books.

Jan. 25, 2007 Office Action Outgoing

Pointing out that USCHO is a web site, not a book, seemed to have compelled the USPTO to search the web, because it came back now denying the claim:

Registration is refused because the proposed mark merely describes a characteristic and feature of applicant’s goods and services

The proposed mark appears to be generic in connection with the identified services

According to the Internet evidence, a ‘pairwise comparison’ is a problem solving method that allows one to determine the relative order (ranking) of a group of items

The mark… is a commonly used term for ranking college hockey teams

Evidence for the denial included a mountain of captured web pages (what did trademark examiners do 10 years ago?)

Page 1 — The first few pages are from Wikipedia. Really? It was my understanding that students aren’t allowed to cite wikipedia in fifth grade reports, yet the PTO uses it? Ok, let’s see what else they have…

Page 9 — Wiktionary?!? Seriously, will someone buy the PTO a subscription to the OED? I think m-w.com is free.

Page 10 — Mathworld, that sounds like an amusement park where I could imagine running into Whelan.

Page 12-16 — SiouxSports.com. w00t. I’m particularly impressed that he grabbed our awesome individual team detailed pairwise comparisons table, which I still think is the best on the net.

Jul. 25, 2007 Response to Office Action

Obviously, PAIRWISE is not descriptive of a ranking

Eh?

Even if the word “Pairwise” has become descriptive of a general process by which items are ordered and ranked by comparing each item to another, the fact that such a process is employed in a specific sport application in which the source of the ranking chooses and assigns weights to selected criteria makes it clear that the word is, at best, suggestive of what makes PAIRWISE rankings better than its competition.

Ok, I think I’m getting it. USCHO is trying to lay claim to PAIRWISE in all caps, differentiated from pairwise, the descriptive term. Huh.

From Tim Brule’s letter:

The success of our PAIRWISE rankings help establish uscho.com as a definitive source of information about college hockey and consequently increases the traffic to our site. Obviously it is economically benefical to us to have high traffic rankings.

Ah, is this about search results? Let’s google “pairwise hockey“:
USCHO.com::U.S. College Hockey Online::Pairwise
USCHO.com::U.S. College Hockey Online::Pairwise Surprise
College Hockey News: NCAA Tournament Pairwise Comparison Ratings
College Hockey News: Pairwise and KRACH
SiouxSports.com: NCAA College Hockey PWR (Pairwise Rankings)

Is USCHO’s new desire to trademark PAIRWISE because CollegeHockeyNews is gaining ground as a source of that information? It hardly seems a coincidence that this occurred so soon after the CHN guys split off.

Sep. 5, 2007 Office Action Outgoing

The examining attorney has also considered the applicant’s arguments carefully but has found them unpersuasive.

The applicant has responded to the refusal by stating that the proposed mark is not descriptive of the applicant’s services. The examining attorney disagrees

The term “PAIRWISE” as used in the mark merely indicates that the pairwise method was used to generate the college hockey team rankings.

Let’s take a look at PTO’s new evidence (much of it from the same source as the previous):
Page 4-6: Is PTO really using a page from USCHO’s site to try to demonstrate that Pairwise is a generic description. I don’t get this one.

Page 7-10: CollegeHockeyNews’s PWR

Page 11-12: SiouxSports.com’s PWR

Page 18-21, 27-30: Brad’s blog chats about USCHO’s PWR

I think those last three sets of evidence are flawed, for reasons I’ll describe in the next section.

What does Jim make of all of this?

Keep in mind that USCHO wasn’t trying to protect the mathematical formula behind PWR (which by my understanding could have proven difficult), but rather the name “PAIRWISE” when used to describe their rankings using that formula.

Though the formula isn’t their invention, but rather mimics the NCAA Selection Criteria, trademarking their own unique name of their presentation of those rankings strikes me as plausible. Searching the HOCKEY-L archives** may give you fascinating look at the origin of all of this stuff; the first reference I could find to the criteria came from Keith Instone, but the first reference I could find to PAIRWISE or PWR was from Tim Brule (of USCHO).

As to the numerous examples from the Internet of sites using PWR/Pairwise to describe the college hockey rankings, though there was no way for the examiner to know it, the term is likely in use in all of those places specifically because USCHO popularized it. I have no idea if allowing it become part of the college hockey lexicon for 10 years before attempting to trademark it harmed their case, but I can say on behalf of SiouxSports.com that our PWR rankings are called PWR specifically so people are aware that they use the same methodology as those USCHO calls PAIRWISE (PWR’s very purpose on SiouxSports.com is to assist people who want to analyze and predict the PAIRWISE rankings by providing detail of the calculations beyond that available from USCHO).

However, that is all likely irrelevant, as the nail in the coffin of USCHO’s claim seemed to be that pairwise is a generic term descriptive of the ranking methodology. Though the first reference I can find to that name did come from Tim Brule on HOCKEY-L, it also predated the creation of USCHO, so it’s not surprising that the rankings were given a descriptive name rather than one chosen with attention to trademark suitability. If only he had chosen Tim’s Rankings for American College Hockey (TRACH).

Final thought — it’s almost impossible to run sites like these without a good IP attorney. Thanks to John (ours).

** While browsing the HOCKEY-L archives, you may stumble upon the Nov 29, 1995, announcement of SiouxSports.com, which wasn’t yet called SiouxSports.com, but is a pleasant reminder of our longevity.

Welcome to the SiouxSports.com blog

Welcome to the SiouxSports.com blog.

While the world undoubtedly does not need a new blog, I view this as a repackaging of the information you already come to SiouxSports.com to find. It will complement the news listings and message boards by providing much of the same information, but in a different format that may be more accessible and useful to certain audiences.

Like the news listings, we will use it to point out interesting information on the Sioux discovered from media across the Internet and offline. However, like the message board, it will allow us to include some commentary, analysis, and personal experiences with that news. Because a limited group of bloggers can originate new articles, quality will be high and readers can catch up on the latest news even when they don’t have time to engage in the message boards. Categorization of posts will allow you to quickly locate just those posts that reference a topic in which you’re interested.

Finally, this increases your opportunity to participate. All registered SiouxSports.com members can post comments on any blog entry. No new accounts or passwords are required, yet the lack of anonymity should keep spam and trolling to a minimum (as SiouxSports.com members have come to expect).