NCAA West Regional Preview: UND vs. Quinnipiac

In 16 years at the Division I level, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has never had a losing season. Pecknold has led the Bobcats to their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (and fourth overall), and QU faces a fairly unfamiliar opponent at the West Regional in North Dakota.

Despite Quinnipiac’s recent success and the Bobcats’ deep run in 2013 (national runner-up, losing 4-0 to Yale in the final), UND and QU have never met in the NCAA tournament. The two teams have only faced each other twice: an October 2006 series in Grand Forks that went in the books as a UND sweep. Sioux forwards Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie, and Jonathan Toews figured heavily in those results (note: current Quinnipiac forward Devon Toews is no relation to Jonathan).

Before this recent stretch of three straight NCAA tourney bids, the only Quinnipiac appearance on the national scene came in 2001-02, when the team (competing in the MAAC and known as the “Braves”) suffered a 6-1 loss to Cornell in the regional semifinal.

It is fairly difficult to compare teams from different conferences, but there are some measurables. The only common opponent for the two programs this season was St. Cloud State. The Bobcats traveled to St. Cloud in early January and split with the homestanding Huskies (1-0, 2-3). North Dakota has faced SCSU five times this season, winning three of the five contests with each team scoring eleven goals in the season series.

Incidentally, St. Cloud State (who faces Michigan Tech in the other regional semifinal) was the team Quinnipiac defeated by a score of 4-1 at the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four, the only Frozen Four appearance for either of those two programs. Michigan Tech, a former WCHA foe of St. Cloud State and UND, is appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1981 but has three national championships (1962, 1965, 1975).

UND has amassed a record of 27-9-3; Quinnipiac, 23-11-4. According to KRACH, North Dakota has played the 8th most difficult schedule in the country this season, while QU comes in at 32nd. Of the tournament participants, only RIT (49th) has played a softer schedule than the Bobcats.

Quinnipiac played seven games this year against teams in the national tournament, going 2-3-2 with two games each against St. Cloud State and Yale and three games against Harvard. By comparison, 22 of North Dakota’s 39 games this year were against six of the other 15 teams in the NCAAs (the five other NCHC schools in the tournament plus a home series against Providence), with UND going 11-8-3 in those games. The Green and White had an even record this season against Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, and Miami and winning records against Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud State and Providence.

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan for the rest of the season. The NCHC Defensive Player of the Year sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill against St. Cloud State. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia, one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, finishes his North Dakota career with 99 points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

There is some intrigue regarding the availability of QU sophomore forward Sam Anas. The Bobcats’ leading scorer (23 goals, 16 assists) did not play last weekend in the ECAC semifinals, and earlier this week, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold was quoted as saying “right now, we’re moving on without him. Is it 100 percent that he’s not playing? No. We’re dreaming. But it’s very unlikely that he will play”. However, Anas participated in the team practice at Scheels Arena on Thursday (wearing a red non-contact jersey), and afterward, Pecknold opened the press conference by stating that he wasn’t going to comment on injuries or who will be in the lineup on Friday against North Dakota.

UND’s seven senior skaters (forwards Conner Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn, along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzerella) have amassed a career record of 100-49-16 (.655) with four straight trips to the NCAA tournament. By comparison, the winningest class under Dave Hakstol was the 2011 class (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, and Brent Davidson and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint), who went 109-48-16 (.676) during their time at UND. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2002, every four-year player to wear the Green and White has collected 100 career victories.

On the other side of the ledger, the three Quinnipiac seniors (forward Matthew Peca and defensemen Justin Agosta and Danny Federico) have amassed a record of 97-43-42 at QU, the best four-year mark in program history.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre has been showered with accolades over the past week or so. The junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year, one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award (best goaltender), and one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. McIntyre, who now sits 16th in the country in goals-against average (2.05) and 11th in save percentage (.929), has played the third-most minutes in the nation and has 27 victories, good for second among all goaltenders (Jamie Phillips of Michigan Tech has 28).

Only two goalies in North Dakota hockey history have more wins in a season than McIntyre’s 27: Aaron Dell went 30-7-2 in 2010-11, and Eddie Belfour notched 29 victories against only four defeats during his only season in Grand Forks (1986-87). Incidentally, Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux posted a record of 27-11-4 in 2007-08. With 56 career goaltending victories, McIntyre now sits in fourth place on UND’s all-time list. Karl Goehring (1997-2001, 80 wins), Lamoureux (2004-08, 60 wins), and Brad Eidsness (2008-12, 58 wins) hold the top three spots in that category.

It should be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.926) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

There is an excellent article by Brad Schlossman here that discusses why Zane changed his name from Gothberg to McIntyre and how much his mother and grandmother have influenced him, both on and off the ice.
Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (23-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 153 such situations (136-7-10). The last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Dave Hakstol, a National Coach of the Year finalist for the eighth time, was recently named the NCHC Coach of the Year and has now won twenty or more games in each of his first eleven seasons behind the North Dakota bench. That mark is easily the longest current streak in men’s hockey (Jerry York is second with six straight seasons of twenty or more wins, and UMass-Lowell’s Norm Bazin, Minnesota’s Don Lucia, and Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold have four). Since Dave Hakstol was hired (2004-05), his teams are 52-23 (.693) in the postseason (conference and NCAA tournaments). UND’s 25-win season is Hakstol’s eighth in his eleven years behind the North Dakota bench.

Quinnipiac Team Profile

Head Coach: Rand Pecknold (21st season at QU, 414-259-76, .603)
National Ranking: #11/#11
This Season: 23-11-4 overall, 16-3-3 ECAC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 5-3-2
Last Season: 24-10-6 overall (NCAA East Region semifinalist), 12-6-4 ECAC (3rd)

Team Offense: 2.76 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.24 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.6% (29 of 148)
Penalty Kill: 87.9% (124 of 141)

Key Players: Sophomore F Sam Anas (23-16-39), Senior F Matthew Peca (7-29-36), Junior F Travis St. Denis (15-18-33), Freshman F Landon Smith (15-16-31), Senior D Justin Agosta (3-19-22), Sophmore F Devon Toews (4-16-20), Junior G Michael Garteig (22-9-3, 2.00 GAA, .918 SV%, 5 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 287-142-43, .654)
National Rankings: #3/#3
This Season: 27-9-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 7-3-0
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.26 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.23 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.6% (31 of 158)
Penalty Kill: 84.5% (131 of 155)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (16-17-33), Senior F Michael Parks (12-20-32), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-21-26), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (13-7-20), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (4-23-27), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (5-16-21), Senior D Nick Mattson (4-16-20), Junior G Zane McIntyre (27-9-3, 2.05 GAA, .929 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 7, 2006 (Grand Forks, ND). A late Quinnipiac power play goal got the Bobcats within a goal, but the damage had been done by then. T.J. Oshie assisted on all three Jonathan Toews goals (remarkably, the only hat trick of his Fighting Sioux career) and Ryan Duncan had a three point night (1 g, 2 a) in a 4-2 North Dakota victory. UND blew out the Bobcats 6-1 in Friday’s opener despite only one goal from the Oshie-Toews-Duncan (D.O.T.) line.

Most Important Meeting: Friday’s NCAA West Regional semifinal is the most important meeting between the two programs.

All-time Series: The two teams have only played two games (the aforementioned October 2006 series in Grand Forks), with North Dakota sweeping the Bobcats by a combined score of 10-3.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota is 11-2 in one-goal games this season. Teams that bus to their regional site (in-state) are 25-15 in NCAA regional games since 2008 (#1 seeds are 9-1); teams that fly are 39-54 over that same time period. Quinnipiac has competed at the Division I level since the 1999-2000 season; that was the year UND won its seventh national championship. North Dakota has played exactly one game in Fargo, a 5-1 victory over the Fargo Flyers on January 18th, 1947. That contest was UND’s second-ever game as a Division I hockey program.

The Prediction

Dave Hakstol has experimented with the lines coming into this matchup, and it will be interested to see how and when he shortens the bench as the game progresses. Quinnipiac will give UND fits with its overall team speed, and Zane McIntyre will need to be up to the challenge as the Bobcats generate several odd-man rushes per game. The partisan green and white crowd at Scheels Arena should give North Dakota the push it needs to advance to the regional final. UND 3, QU 2.

Bonus Prediction

In the first regional semifinal (a battle of the Huskies), I’ve got St. Cloud State and Michigan Tech in a tight contest, with St. Cloud’s power play making the difference. SCSU 3, MTU 2.

Pregame Events (from UNDsports.com)

The North Dakota Champions Club is hosting an official UND pregame party at Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub. The pregame party starts three hours prior to any game in which UND is participating.

Parking at SCHEELS Arena is limited and fans are encouraged to consider alternate parking options. A shuttle service will run between Fargo Billiards and Gastro Pub, Anderson Softball Complex on 45th Street South, Bulldog Tap, and SCHEELS Arena. Shuttles will begin two hours before the first game of each day and will continue until one hour after the final game ends.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff Preview: UND vs. St. Cloud State

In the first year of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, St. Cloud State bested North Dakota by three points to claim the league’s first regular season championship. SCSU and UND were both invited to the NCAA tournament, and Denver earned the conference autobid by winning the inaugural Frozen Faceoff. This season, the Green and White won the Penrose Trophy as the top team in the NCHC while the Huskies fell to sixth place.

I wrote about which teams have had the most success through two seasons in the NCHC here.

North Dakota and St. Cloud State have been paired up as schedule partners and rivals since the 2002-03 season. Two years later, the Center Ice Club created a commemorative trophy to mark the rivalry, and the two teams have been battling it out four times each season to claim the Challenge Cup.

UND had the better of the play in the first eight years of the Challenge Cup era, claiming the Cup four times and sharing the trophy three times while St. Cloud State only won the trophy once (2005-06). However, St. Cloud went 5-2-1 against North Dakota over the past two seasons (2012-14) and earned the last two Challenge Cups.

And in 2014-15, a November split in St. Cloud and a UND sweep in Grand Forks (February 27-28) led to the first Challenge Cup victory for North Dakota since the 2010-11 season (the teams shared the cup in 2011-12).

According to KRACH, St. Cloud State has played the second-most difficult schedule in the country to this point in the season. Friday’s matchup between North Dakota and SCSU at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff marks the Huskies’ eleventh straight game against an opponent ranked in the top eight in the country. Over the last five weekends, St. Cloud went 6-4-0 against #6 Minnesota-Duluth, #5 Nebraska Omaha, #1 North Dakota, #7 Denver, and #8 Nebraska-Omaha (rankings are for the week the games were played).

Last weekend, the Huskies traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to face Dean Blais’ Mavericks in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. SCSU outlasted UNO in a 2-1 double-overtime thriller in Friday’s opener before handing the homestanding Mavs a 3-1 defeat in Game Two to advance to this weekend’s Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. David Morley (3 goals) and Joey Benik (1 goal, 2 assists) led the way for St. Cloud in the two game sweep, while Charlie Lindgren made 80 of 82 saves (Nebraska-Omaha outshot SCSU 46-39 and 36-28 in the series).

Bob Motzko’s crew is in an unusual position headed into this weekend’s action. Currently tied for 10th in the Pairwise rankings, the Huskies (18-17-1 overall) need to avoid two losses this weekend in Minneapolis to remain above .500 for the season and under consideration for the NCAA tournament. With a loss to North Dakota in Friday’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal, St. Cloud would need to win (or tie) the third place game on Saturday afternoon to remain eligible for the postseason.

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan for the rest of the season. The NCHC Defensive Player of the Year sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill against St. Cloud State. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia, one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, finishes his North Dakota career with 99 points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

St. Cloud State will be without senior defenseman Andrew Prochno (3-12-15) this weekend after the Huskies’ assistant captain suffered a hand injury blocking a shot in the same game that took MacMillan out of the North Dakota lineup. SCSU junior forward Kalle Kossila (5-20-25) practiced on Thursday but is a game-time decision for Bob Motzko. Kossila was injured in last weekend’s NCHC quarterfinal action against Nebraska-Omaha, and UNO’s Brian Cooper was given a major penalty (boarding) and a game misconduct for the incident.

UND’s seven senior skaters (forwards Conner Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn, along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzerella) have combined for 63 points over the last sixteen games and rank as the fourth-most productive senior group in the nation with 130 points (Mercyhurst 191, Air Force 149, Minnesota 137).

The last time North Dakota played on home ice, those seven players were the first to hoist the Penrose Trophy as NCHC regular season champions. The 2015 senior class has amassed a combined record of 100-47-16 (.663) with three straight trips to the NCAA tournament. By comparison, the winningest class under Dave Hakstol was the 2011 class (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, and Brent Davidson and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint), who went 109-48-16 (.676) during their time at UND. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2002, every four-year player to wear the Green and White has collected 100 career victories.

Offensive capability from the blue line is a big reason for UND’s continued success. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is first in the country in that category again this season. Through 37 games, North Dakota blueliners have scored 26 goals and added 84 assists for 110 points, or 2.97 points per game. Denver is second in that category with 104 points in 36 games (2.89 points/game).

More to the point, North Dakota’s top six defensemen have notched 19 goals and added 75 assists for 94 points (2.83 points/game). By comparison, the six St. Cloud blueliners expected to be in the lineup on Friday afternoon have combined for 9 goals and 43 assists (52 points, 1.69 points/game). And furthermore, UND is so deep with talent on the blue line that freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been playing wing this season, and he’s chipped in with seven goals and six assists.

Five different members of UND’s defensive corps (Paul LaDue, Nick Mattson, Jordan Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, and Keaton Thompson) have nabbed NCHC Defenseman of the Week honors this season, while Tucker Poolman has been named the league’s Rookie of the Week.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre has been showered with accolades over the past couple of days. The junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year, one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award (best goaltender), and one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. McIntyre, who now sits 9th in the country in goals-against average (1.96) and 6th in save percentage (.932), has played the third-most minutes in the nation and is tied for first with 27 victories.

Only two goalies in North Dakota hockey history have more wins in a season than McIntyre’s 27: Aaron Dell went 30-7-2 in 2010-11, and Eddie Belfour notched 29 victories against only four defeats during his only season in Grand Forks (1986-87). Incidentally, Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux posted a record of 27-11-4 in 2007-08. With 56 career goaltending victories, McIntyre now sits in fourth place on UND’s all-time list. Karl Goehring (1997-2001, 80 wins), Lamoureux (2004-08, 60 wins), and Brad Eidsness (2008-12, 58 wins) hold the top three spots in that category.

It should be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.927) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

There is an excellent article by Brad Schlossman here that discusses why Zane changed his name from Gothberg to McIntyre and how much his mother and grandmother have influenced him, both on and off the ice.

Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (23-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 153 such situations (136-7-10). The last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Dave Hakstol has his team in a much better position than last year, when North Dakota’s NCAA tournament hopes went down to the wire. With a sparkling 9-1-1 non-conference record, UND currently sits in first place in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams in line to make the NCAA tournament. Denver (3rd), Minnesota-Duluth (6th), Miami (7th), and Nebraska-Omaha (8th) are all expected to make the NCAAs regardless of the results of this weekend’s action.

And speaking of Hakstol, the NCHC Coach of the Year has now won twenty or more games in each of his first eleven seasons behind the North Dakota bench. That mark is easily the longest current streak in men’s hockey (Jerry York is second with six straight seasons of twenty or more wins, and UMass-Lowell’s Norm Bazin, Minnesota’s Don Lucia, and Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold have four). Since Dave Hakstol was hired (2004-05), his teams are 52-21 (.712) in the postseason (conference and NCAA tournaments). No other NCHC school has more than 33 victories in that timeframe. UND’s 25-win season is Hakstol’s eighth in his eleven years behind the North Dakota bench.

St. Cloud State Team Profile

Head Coach: Bob Motzko (10th season at SCSU, 202-153-41, .562)
Pairwise Ranking: t-10th of 59 teams
National Ranking: #18/#16
This Season: 18-17-1 overall, 11-12-1-0 NCHC (6th)
Last Ten Games: 6-4-0 overall, 4-4-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 22-11-5 overall (NCAA Region semifinalist), 15-6-3-0 NCHC (1st)

Team Offense: 2.78 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.42 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 24.1% (35 of 145)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (88 of 110)

Key Players: Junior F Jonny Brodzinski (19-16-35), Junior F Joey Benik (14-21-35), Junior F Kalle Kossila (5-20-25), Freshman F Patrick Russell (10-13-23), Junior D Ethan Prow (4-15-19), Senior D Tim Daly (1-7-8), Sophomore G Charlie Lindgren (17-16-1, 2.27 GAA, .920 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 287-140-43, .656)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 59 teams
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 27-7-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 8-1-1 overall, 6-1-1-0 NCHC
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.14 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.3% (31 of 153)
Penalty Kill: 84.2% (128 of 152)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (16-17-33), Senior F Michael Parks (12-20-32), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-21-26), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (13-6-19), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (4-23-27), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (5-16-21), Senior D Nick Mattson (4-16-20), Junior G Zane McIntyre (27-7-3, 1.97 GAA, .932 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 28, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). Conner Gaarder led the way with a goal and an assist and North Dakota chased SCSU netminder Charlie Lindgren after two periods of play as UND completed the sweep of the visiting Huskies by a score of 3-1. Nick Mattson scored North Dakota’s third goal with 41 seconds remaining in the middle frame, and Zane McIntyre made 27 of 28 saves for the Green and White after stopping 22 of 24 shots in the series opener (a 3-2 UND victory). With a 3-1 record against St. Cloud State this season, North Dakota won the 2014-15 Challenge Cup.

Last Playoff Meeting: March 15, 2012 (St. Paul, MN). Two empty net goals in the final minute turned a tightly-contested 2-1 game into a 4-1 UND victory in front of 15,133 fans at Xcel Energy Center. North Dakota’s Corban Knight and Danny Kristo each scored a goal and assisted on another while Brock Nelson tallied two goals. The Thursday quarterfinal win sent North Dakota into the semifinals against Minnesota, the game UND fans remember as “The Timeout Game” (video here). Dave Hakstol used a break in the action with six minutes remaining in the second period to rally the troops and turn a 3-0 deficit into a 6-3 victory. North Dakota went on to defeat Denver 4-0 in the WCHA Final Five championship game.

Most Important Meeting: Since St. Cloud State is fighting for an NCAA tournament berth and North Dakota is looking to maintain the #1 overall seed, I will call Friday’s Frozen Faceoff semifinal the most important game between the two schools.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 64-37-12 (.619), including a 6-1-0 (.857) record at neutral sites. St. Cloud’s only tournament victory was an overtime win over North Dakota at the 2001 WCHA Final Five (St. Paul, MN). UND is 10-2-0 (.833) against SCSU in the conference playoffs, with their most recent triumph coming in the 2012 WCHA Final Five quarterfinals.

Last Ten: St. Cloud holds a 5-4-1 (.550) edge in the last ten meetings between the teams and has outscored North Dakota 24-22 over that stretch of games.

Game News and Notes

UND goaltender Zane McIntyre is 5-5-1 against the Huskies in his three years at North Dakota. Head coach Bob Motzko picked up his 200th career victory (ten seasons) with a win over Denver on the final night of the NCHC regular season. North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol, who has 287 coaching victories in eleven seasons, is 26-15-7 (.615) in his career against the Huskies. UND is 11-4-0 on the road this season; St. Cloud State, 8-10-1.

The Prediction

I expect this game to play out much like an NCAA tournament game, with both teams keeping things tight early. With so much at stake, the Huskies will have to guard against playing too tentatively. If Bob Motzko can get his team playing fast and loose, SCSU has a good chance at advancing to the championship game. UND has an edge in net and on defense, but if the teams trade power plays, the advantage goes to St. Cloud State. This feels like a one-goal game either way, with North Dakota’s fans turning Target Center into yet another home game and tipping the scales in favor of the Green and White. UND 3, SCSU 2.

Bonus Prediction

In the other Frozen Faceoff semifinal, I’ve got the RedHawks knocking off Denver to set up a championship tilt between the top two teams in the NCHC. Miami 4, DU 2.

Pregame Events (from undsports.com)

UND fans attending the NCHC Frozen Faceoff are invited to join the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and UND Athletics for pregame festivities beginning three hours prior to any game in which UND is playing. The pregame events will be held at the Pourhouse (10 South 5th Street), within walking distance of the Target Center and area hotels.

All UND alumni, family and friends are invited to this free event with cash bars, a full restaurant, DJs, a live band and more! The Pourhouse invites all UND fans back to the venue after each hockey game. The usual cover charge will be FREE to UND fans or anyone with a ticket. On-site and nearby parking are available.

NCHC Playoff Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

After opening the season with a home sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, the Colorado College Tigers hosted UND at the World Arena. North Dakota erupted for ten goals in the two game sweep and sent the home team reeling. That series started a stretch of fifteen games with only victory (and that against Wisconsin, a team that everyone is beating these days).

North Dakota hosted CC in January and dispatched the Tigers by scores of 2-1 and 5-3, although Saturday’s series finale was also a one-goal contest until a late empty-net goal sealed the victory for UND.

Colorado College has only won two league games all season. One of those victories was against Nebraska-Omaha in mid-January, and the other came two weeks ago in a home series against Western Michigan. CC tied the Broncos 2-2 on Friday night (but lost the shootout) before throttling WMU 5-0 in the rematch. The Tigers also tied at UNO last Friday night and picked up a shootout win.

The biggest struggle for the boys from Colorado Springs has been goaltending. Since January 16th (the start of the second half of their NCHC schedule), CC has played fifteen games and given up three or more goals in ten of them. Over that same stretch, the Tigers have scored more than two goals only five times. As a result, Colorado College went 2-11-2-1 against those league opponents and sputtered to a last-place finish in the league standings.

The feeling among the Tiger faithful is that new blood behind the bench will eventually translate into new life on the ice. First-year head coach Mike 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 five times last season (all in Grand Forks), with North Dakota winning four of the five contests. As I wrote in this article, it has been extremely difficult to sweep in the first round of the conference tournament, and last year’s playoffs were no exception. CC notched an overtime victory in Game 2 of the NCHC quarterfinals to force a third and decisive game. Dave Hakstol’s crew ended the Tigers’ season with a 4-3 victory on Sunday night.

North Dakota will be without the services of senior forward Mark MacMillan for the rest of the season. The senior from Penticton, British Columbia sustained a lower body injury while blocking a shot during a key 5-on-3 penalty kill against St. Cloud State. MacMillan, one of three finalists for the NCHC defensive forward of the year, finishes his North Dakota career with 99 points in 151 games at UND. The last player to fall one point short of UND’s Century Club was forward Wes Dorey (1997-2001), who collected 47 goals and 52 assists in 140 career games.

UND’s seven senior skaters (forwards Connor Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzarella) have combined for 54 points over the last fourteen games and rank as the fifth-most productive senior group in the nation with 120 points (Mercyhurst 171, Air Force 143, Minnesota 128, Dartmouth 124).

The last time North Dakota played on home ice, a Senior Night celebration was held for those seven players. The 2015 senior class has amassed a combined record of 98-47-16 (.658) with three straight trips to the NCAA tournament. By comparison, the winningest class under Dave Hakstol was the 2011 class (forwards Matt Frattin, Evan Trupp, Brad Malone, and Brent Davidson and defensemen Chay Genoway, Jake Marto, and Derrick LaPoint), who went 109-48-16 (.676) during their time at UND. Beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2002, every four-year player to wear the Green and White has collected 100 career victories.

Offensive capability from the blue line is a big reason for UND’s continued success. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is first in the country in that category again this season. Through 35 games, North Dakota blueliners have scored 22 goals and added 79 assists for 101 points, or 2.89 points per game. Denver is second in that category with 98 points in 34 games (2.88 points/game).

More to the point, North Dakota’s top six defensemen have notched 16 goals and added 70 assists for 86 points (2.76 points/game). By comparison, the six Tiger blueliners expected to be in the lineup this weekend have combined for 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points (1.69 points/game). And furthermore, UND is so deep with talent on the blue line that freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been playing wing this season, and he’s chipped in with six goals and six assists.

Five different members of UND’s defensive corps (Paul LaDue, Nick Mattson, Jordan Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, and Keaton Thompson) have nabbed NCHC Defenseman of the Week honors this season, while Tucker Poolman has been named the league’s Rookie of the Week.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre took a step backward in the Hobey Baker race with an up-and-down performance last weekend. After a fantastic outing (43 of 44 saves) in Friday’s 2-1 victory at Miami, he made only 23 of 28 stops in Saturday’s 6-3 defeat. McIntyre, who now sits 13th in the country in goals-against average (1.99) and 7th in save percentage (.931), has played the second-most minutes in the nation and is tied for first with 25 victories. In my opinion, the junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota will earn a Hobey Baker nomination, but a berth in the Hobey Hat Trick (three finalists) would be a surprise.

Only three goalies in North Dakota hockey history have more wins in a season than McIntyre’s 25: Aaron Dell went 30-7-2 in 2010-11, Eddie Belfour notched 29 victories against only four defeats during his only season in Grand Forks (1986-87), and Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux posted a record of 27-11-4 in 2007-08. With one more win, McIntyre would tie Jordan Parise (2003-06, 55 career goaltending victories) for fourth place on UND’s all-time list. Karl Goehring (1997-2001, 80 wins), Lamoureux (2004-08, 60 wins), and Brad Eidsness (2008-12, 58 wins) hold the top three spots in that category.

It should be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.09) and save percentage (.927) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

Perhaps the biggest reason for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (21-0-2) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 151 such situations (134-7-10). In fact, the last time UND lost when leading after two periods of play was November 1st, 2013 against visiting St. Cloud State, when a 1-0 lead turned into a 3-2 defeat.

Dave Hakstol has his team in a much better position than last year, when North Dakota’s NCAA tournament hopes went down to the wire. With a sparkling 9-1-1 non-conference record, UND currently sits in first place in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams in line to make the NCAA tournament. Minnesota-Duluth (3rd), Miami (4th), Nebraska-Omaha (7th), and Denver (8th) would all make the field of 16 if the season ended today. St. Cloud State (16th) sits squarely on the bubble for the national tournament after losing three of its last four games. The Huskies play at Nebraska-Omaha in the first round of the NCHC playoffs and will more than likely need to advance to Minneapolis to continue their season. Incidentally, SCSU and UNO swapped places from the NCHC preseason media poll. The Huskies were picked to finish 3rd, while the Mavericks were slotted in 6th. The other six teams in the league finished exactly as predicted (#1 North Dakota, #2 Miami, #4 Denver, #5 Minnesota-Duluth, #7 Western Michigan, and #8 Colorado College).

And speaking of Hakstol, the UND head coach has now won twenty or more games in each of his first eleven seasons behind the North Dakota bench. That mark is easily the longest current streak in men’s hockey (Jerry York is second with six straight seasons of twenty or more wins, and Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold has four). Since Dave Hakstol was hired (2004-05), his teams are 50-21 (.704) in the postseason (conference and NCAA tournaments). No other NCHC school has more than 31 victories in that timeframe.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (1st season at CC, 6-24-3, .227)

Pairwise Ranking: 50th of 59 teams
National Rankings: NR/NR
This Season: 6-24-3 overall, 2-19-3-1 NCHC (8th)
Last Ten Games: 1-7-2 overall, 1-7-2-1 NCHC
Last Season: 7-24-6 overall, 6-13-5-1 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 2.15 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.88 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.0% (26 of 124)
Penalty Kill: 77.5% (100 of 129)

Key players: Junior F Cody Bradley (10-19-29), Junior F Hunter Fejes (5-13-18), Senior F Scott Wamsganz (8-11-19), Sophomore F Sam Rothstein (6-8-14), Sophomore D Jaccob Slavin (5-12-17), Senior D Peter Stoykewych (3-7-10), Sophomore G Tyler Marble (5-16-2, 3.39 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 285-140-43, .655)

Pairwise Ranking: 1st of 59 teams
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 25-7-3 overall, 16-6-2-0 NCHC (1st)
Last Ten Games: 7-2-1 overall, 7-2-1-0 NCHC
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.34 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.17 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.5% (30 of 146)
Penalty Kill: 83.6% (122 of 146)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (16-17-33), Senior F Michael Parks (12-19-31), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (5-20-25), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (11-6-17), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-23-26), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (4-15-19), Senior D Nick Mattson (3-13-16), Junior G Zane McIntyre (25-7-3, 1.99 GAA, .931 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 24th, 2015 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota completed the weekend sweep of the visiting Tigers with a 5-3 triumph. Five different players tallied goals for UND , eleven North Dakota skaters figured in the scoring, and Zane McIntyre made 25 saves. Colorado College went two for three on the power play and also scored an extra-attacker goal with under two minutes to play. Drake Caggiula’s unassisted empty-netter with 27 seconds remaining iced the victory.

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, 147-80-10 (.641), including a stellar 89-21-6 (.793) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won eight of the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 38-24 over that span. Both of the Tigers’ victories were overtime wins in league playoff action (WCHA Final Five in 2013, NCHC Quarterfinal in 2014). Sixteen of the last seventeen games have been decided by two goals or less.

Game News and Notes

CC has just one victory on the road this season and sports a 1-15-2 (.111) record in games away from the Springs. UND head coach Dave Hakstol has an overall record of 24-13-1 (.645) against Colorado College. Three North Dakota forwards in this weekend’s lineup have scored ten or more career points against Colorado College: junior forward Drake Caggiula and senior forward Michael Parks have gone 8-5-13 and 5-7-12 respectively in their fourteen games against the Tigers, while senior defenseman Nick Mattson has played against Colorado College fifteen times, scoring three goals and adding eight assists. For the second time in two seasons, a college hockey team in Colorado has a new coach (Jim Montgomery took over for George Gwozdecky at DU last year). UND went the entire regular season without being swept on the road (11-4-0 away from Ralph Engelstad Arena this year).

The Prediction

I feel like this series will play out like so many playoff weekends in the past. Friday’s opener will be no contest, with CC pushing back on Saturday night. Expect Colorado College seniors Scott Wamsganz and Peter Stoykewych to figure heavily in the outcome of these games as they battle to extend their season (and collegiate careers). If the Tigers’ power play gets clicking, this one could go to three games. As it is, however, I’ve got North Dakota in two. UND 4-1, 3-2.

The First Round Playoff Series: Why Is It So Difficult To Sweep?

This is the 13th consecutive season that North Dakota has hosted a first round playoff series, and UND has fared extremely well on home ice, advancing to the second weekend of the conference tournament in each instance.

Dave Hakstol is 20-5 in home quarterfinal games during his tenure, putting the home fans at ease by winning Friday’s opener eight straight times. Over the past twelve series, Saturday’s games have been more difficult, as seen by the following breakdown:

Average goals scored/goals allowed in first round home playoff games (2003-2014):

Friday: 4.83 goals scored/1.67 goals allowed
Saturday: 3.08 goals scored/2.25 goals allowed
Sunday: 3.67 goals scored/1.17 goals allowed

The way this has played out in the past is that North Dakota has typically hosted a team from the bottom third of the league (Michigan Tech five times, MSU-Mankato twice, and once each for Bemidji State, Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota, and Minnesota-Duluth). Friday’s openers have been blowouts, with UND winning ten of its last twelve openers by an average score of 5.5 – 1.3.

So why is it that six of the past twelve home series have gone to a third and decisive game?

The main reason that the Green and White have played much closer games on Saturday night (eight one-goal games) is that in every case, North Dakota was playing to extend its own season and/or end another team’s season. Elimination games bring out the best in both teams, and the results are tightly contested matches. Remarkably, UND played host to five overtime playoff contests from 2003-2008 but only one (last season’s Game Two overtime loss to Colorado College) since that time.

And not coincidentally, the last time North Dakota was on the road for the first round (2002), they demonstrated similar results. Playing at eventual national champion Minnesota in the opening round of the WCHA playoffs, UND took the Gophers to overtime on Saturday night (losing 4-3) after getting destroyed 7-2 in Friday’s opener.

The boys from Grand Forks have only given up seven total goals in six Sunday home playoff games. Two recent Game Threes went into the books as blowouts (4-1 vs. Minnesota [2010] and 6-0 vs. Michigan Tech [2013]), but last season’s rubber match against the Tigers went right down to the wire. CC scored an extra-attacker goal with 90 seconds remaining but could not find the equalizer and fell by a score of 4-3.

The only playoff series in the current stretch that did not feature at least one close game was in 2005. North Dakota destroyed Minnesota-Duluth 8-2 and 6-1, with Rory McMahon (2 goals, 5 assists) and Rastislav Spirko (3 goals, 3 assists) leading the way for the Fighting Sioux. Colby Genoway added three goals and two assists, and netminder Jordan Parise turned away 34 of 37 Bulldog shots to earn two victories and the series sweep.

Here are the complete results for the last 30 home conference playoff games:

Year Opponent Game One Game Two Game Three
2014 Colorado College 4-2 2-3 (OT) 4-3
2013 Michigan Tech 5-3 1-2 6-0
2012 Bemidji State 4-1 4-3
2011 Michigan Tech 8-0 3-1
2010 Minnesota 6-0 2-4 4-1
2009 Michigan Tech 5-1 4-3
2008 Michigan Tech 4-0 2-3 (OT) 2-1
2007 Mankato State 5-2 2-1
2006 Mankato State 2-3 (OT) 4-1 3-0
2005 Minnesota-Duluth 8-2 6-1
2004 Michigan Tech 6-2 4-3 (OT)
2003 Denver 1-4 3-2 (OT) 3-2 (OT)

So what will this weekend’s result be between #1 North Dakota and #8 Colorado College? Will the series go to a third game? Follow this link for a full preview and prediction.

Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota will be at the top of the league rivalries. Despite having played just four games in the past two years, the schools definitely do not like each other. The feud goes all the way back to Geoff Paukovitch’ illegal check on Sioux forward Robbie Bina during the 2005 WCHA Final Five.

Since that 2005 Final Five contest (a Denver victory), the two teams have met six times in tournament play. Denver won the 2005 NCAA title with a victory over North Dakota and claimed a 2008 WCHA Final Five win as well. UND has won the last four playoff games between the schools, including three consecutive victories in the WCHA Final Five (2010-2012) and the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional final which sent the Fighting Sioux to the Frozen Four.

A key storyline for DU this season has been the play of its first-year players, particularly the emergence of freshman forward Danton Heinen. The 6-foot, 161 pound phenom from Langley, British Columbia leads the Pios in scoring with 29 points in 26 games. Heinen, who played his junior hockey with the Surrey Eagles (BCHL), notched just a single assist in the December home split against North Dakota but turned it on in January, collecting nine points in the first seven games of 2015. Nationally, Jack Eichel (Boston University) has been the most impressive freshman (15-28-43 in 25 games to lead the nation in scoring), and Michigan’s Dylan Larkin has 31 points in 22 contests, but Heinen is still the third-most prolific scorer among first-year players (by comparison, North Dakota’s top-scoring freshman is Nick Schmaltz, who has potted three goals and notched 16 assists for 19 points in his first 23 college games).

And a second newcomer to the DU roster is also making a difference in 2015. After sophomore goaltender Evan Cowley started ten of the first fourteen games of the season for the Pioneers, freshman Tanner Jaillet has flipped the script and taken the job away from his teammate. Since January 1st, here are the splits:

Evan Cowley: 0-1-1 (four appearances), 2.59 goals-against average, .926 save percentage, zero shutouts
Tanner Jaillet: 6-3-0 (ten appearances), 1.64 goals-against average, .940 save percentage, one shutout

Cowley, from nearby Arvada, Colorado, played in only five games last season (1.76 GAA, .949 SV%), so the two Denver netminders have almost the same amount of game experience.

By contrast, UND’s upperclassmen have been carrying the load. North Dakota’s seniors shined in recent home sweeps of Niagara and Colorado College and again at Nebraska-Omaha. The seven skaters (forwards Connor Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzarella) combined for 32 points over the last six games and now rank as the fourth-most productive senior class in the nation with 98 points (Mercyhurst 147, Air Force 111, Minnesota 99).

Offensive capability from the blue line is another reason for UND’s continued success. After leading the nation in scoring by defensemen last year, UND is second in the country in that category this season. Through 27 games, North Dakota blueliners have scored 16 goals and added 60 assists for 76 points, or 2.81 points per game. Only Minnesota State-Mankato (2.97 points/game) has scored at a higher rate this year.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre is now squarely on the bubble for a Hobey Baker nod after a rather pedestrian performance in his last weekend of action (59 of 65 saves in a split at UNO). McIntyre, who now sits 11th in the country in goals-against average (1.96) and 10th in save percentage (.931), has played the seventh-most minutes in the nation and is tied for second in victories (19). In my opinion, the junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota will need to continue registering victories and pick up one or two more shutouts over the next month to remain in contention for college hockey’s highest individual award.

It should also be noted that Zane McIntyre is also statistically the best goaltender in North Dakota hockey history. His career goals-against average (2.08) and save percentage (.926) rank as the best all-time at UND. Former goaltending greats Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five.

One of the biggest reasons for UND’s success this season has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. During the 2014-15 campaign, Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten (16-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past seven years, North Dakota is converting almost 90 percent of second intermission leads into victories and has just seven losses in the last 145 such situations (129-7-9).

Dave Hakstol has his team in a much better position than last year, when North Dakota’s NCAA tournament hopes went down to the wire. With a sparkling 9-1-1 non-conference record, UND currently sits in second place in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams in line to make the NCAA tournament. Nebraska-Omaha (4th), Minnesota-Duluth (5th), Miami (7th), and Denver (9th) would all make the field of 16 if the season ended today. Of the remaining three league teams on the outside looking in, St. Cloud State is the closest to making the tournament, as the Huskies are currently tied for 21st.

On a sad note, Denver head coach Jim Montgomery’s father passed away this morning. This, via Twitter:

Jim Montgomery @DUCoachMonty 7:26 AM – 13 Feb 2015 The man who impacted my life the most has passed away. I will miss our daily phone calls and the wisdom and love you gave me. Love you Dad

DU assistant coach David Carle will act as head coach. From all of us at SiouxSports.com, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Montgomery and Denver families.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (2nd season at DU, 36-25-7, .581)

Pairwise Ranking: 9th of 59 teams
National Rankings: #9/#9
This Season: 16-9-1 overall, 9-7-0-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Ten Games: 6-4-0 overall, 5-4-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 20-16-6 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 10-11-3-2 NCHC (6th)

Team Offense: 3.00 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.15 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.5% (23 of 102)
Penalty Kill: 87.6% (78 of 89)

Key Players: Freshman F Danton Heinen (10-19-29), Senior F Daniel Doremus (7-15-22), Sophomore F Trevor Moore (13-13-26), Junior F Quentin Shore (8-10-18), Senior D Joey LaLeggia (9-15-24), Junior D Nolan Zajac (5-14-19), Sophomore G Evan Cowley (7-5-1, 2.05 GAA, .927 SV%, 2 SO), Freshman G Tanner Jaillet (9-4-0, 1.97 GAA, .927 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 279-139-42, .652)

Pairwise Ranking: 2nd of 59 teams
National Rankings: #2/#3
This Season: 19-6-2 overall, 10-5-1-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Ten Games: 7-3-0 overall, 5-3-0-0 NCHC
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.44 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.15 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.9% (23 of 110)
Penalty Kill: 84.8% (95 of 112)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (11-16-27), Senior F Michael Parks (9-18-27), Senior F Mark MacMillan (15-8-23), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (3-16-19), Senior F Brendan O’Donnell (10-5-15), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-18-21), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-9-12), Sophomore D Troy Stecher (1-8-9 in 19 games), Junior G Zane McIntyre (19-6-2, 1.96 GAA, .931 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: December 13, 2014 (Denver, CO). One night after falling 4-1 to the homestanding Pios, North Dakota used a balanced attack to gain the road split. Despite being outshot 33-26, the Green and White built a 3-0 lead and held on for a 3-1 victory. Seven different UND players figured in the scoring, and junior netminder Zane McIntyre made 32 of 33 saves for his thirteenth victory of the season. Each team went 0-3 on the power play.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: December 8, 2012. After the teams battled to a 2-2 tie in the opener, it was all UND in a penalty-filled rematch. The hometown squad could have been deflated after allowing two goals during Dan “Jimmer” Senkbeil’s major for checking from behind, but North Dakota’s specialty teams came through in the end, scoring a power play goal, a shorthanded goal, and an empty netter to ice the 6-3 victory. Rocco Grimaldi and Carter Rowney each had four-point nights and, along with freshman linemate Drake Caggiula (two assists), turned in a ten point performance and a combined plus-5.

Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963. But the game that stands out in recent memory as “the one that got away” was DU’s 1-0 victory over the Fighting Sioux in the 2004 NCAA West Regional final (Colorado Springs, CO). That North Dakota team went 30-8-4 on the season (Dean Blais’ last behind the UND bench) and featured one of the deepest rosters in the past twenty years: Brandon Bochenski, Zach Parise, Brady Murray, Colby Genoway, Drew Stafford and David Lundbohm up front; Nick Fuher, Matt Jones, Matt Greene, and Ryan Hale on defense; and a couple of goaltending stalwarts in Jordan Parise and Jake Brandt.

Last Ten Games: North Dakota has had slightly the better of it lately, going 5-4-1 (.550) in the last ten meetings between the schools and outscoring Denver 33-26 over that span. The two teams have also met once in the WCHA Final Five (St. Paul) and once in the NCAA regionals during this most recent stretch, with UND winning both of those playoff games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 139-119-9 (.537), including an 81-42-6 (.651) advantage on home ice. North Dakota last home sweep of the Pioneers came on February 15th and 16th, 2008.

Game News and Notes

UND is 6-6-1 on Friday nights and 13-0-1 on Saturdays. Senior forward Brendan O’Donnell has eight goals in his last thirteen games (UND’s all-time record is 19-0-1 when O’Donnell scores a goal). Denver is 4-5-1 on the road this season; North Dakota is 11-3-2 at home. Denver senior defenseman Joey LaLeggia and North Dakota senior forward Mark MacMillan are two of four players tied for the league lead in points (both have 18 points in 16 NCHC contests). MacMillan, whose twelve goals in conference play lead all scorers, has a career line of 45-52-97 in 145 games played and needs just three points to join UND’s Century Club.

The Prediction

Even though the rosters and past results point to yet another split, UND is playing better hockey right now and is looking for more than three league points this weekend. Friday’s game will be close, with the home crowd pushing the Green and White over the edge. It’s all North Dakota in the rematch. UND 3-2 (OT), 5-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Colorado College

After opening the season with a home sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, the Colorado College Tigers hosted UND at the World Arena. North Dakota erupted for ten goals in the two game sweep and sent the Tigers reeling. That home series started a stretch of fifteen games with only victory (and that against Wisconsin, a team that everyone is beating these days).

On the positive side, CC has won two of its last three to bring their season record to 5-14-1. One of those victories was against NCHC foe Nebraska-Omaha, the Tigers’ first league win of the year.

The feeling among the Tiger faithful is that new blood behind the bench will eventually translate into new life on the ice. First-year head coach Mike 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 five times last season (all in Grand Forks), with North Dakota winning four of the five contests. CC notched an overtime victory in Game 2 of the NCHC quarterfinals to force a third and decisive game. Dave Hakstol’s crew ended the Tigers’ season with a 4-3 victory on Sunday night.

Nationally, Dave Hakstol has his team in a much better position than last year. With a sparkling 9-1-1 non-conference record and sixteen victories overall, UND currently sits in fourth place in the Pairwise rankings, one of five NCHC teams in line to make the NCAA tournament. Nebraska-Omaha (2nd), Minnesota-Duluth (5th), Miami (6th), and Denver (t-12th) would also make the field of 16 if the season ended today (no other league school is in the top twenty). In the second half of the season, North Dakota will face UNO, Denver, and Miami as well as Western Michigan and St. Cloud State.

North Dakota’s seniors shined in last weekend’s sweep of visiting Niagara. The seven skaters (forwards Connor Gaarder, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Michael Parks, and Stephane Pattyn along with defensemen Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzarella) combined for seven goals and seven assists (and a +15 rating). MacMillan and Parks each had two goals in Saturday’s 7-0 triumph.

UND junior netminder Zane McIntyre strengthened his case for a Hobey Baker nod with another dominating performance last weekend. He made 42 of 43 saves in the two victories and notched his first shutout of the season. McIntyre, who now sits on the top ten in the country in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.933), has played the fifth-most minutes in the nation and is tied for first with 16 victories. In my opinion, the junior from Thief River Falls, Minnesota will need to maintain or improve upon those numbers and pick up one or two more shutouts over the next two months to remain in contention for college hockey’s highest individual award.

Colorado College Team Profile

Head Coach: Mike Haviland (1st season at CC, 5-14-1, .275)

Pairwise Ranking: 43rd of 59 teams
National Rankings: NR
This Season: 5-14-1 overall, 1-9-1-0 NCHC (8th)
Last Season: 7-24-6 overall, 6-13-5-1 NCHC (7th)

Team Offense: 2.25 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 4.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.3% (15 of 82)
Penalty Kill: 80.7% (67 of 83)

Key players: Junior F Cody Bradley (8-10-18), Junior F Hunter Fejes (5-9-14), Senior F Scott Wamsganz (5-6-11), Sophomore F Sam Rothstein (4-7-11), Sophomore D Jaccob Slavin (2-8-10), Senior D Aaron Harstad (3-2-5), Freshman G Chase Perry (1-7-1, 3.64 GAA, .884 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 276-138-42, .651)

Pairwise Ranking: 4th of 59 teams
National Rankings: #2/#2
This Season: 16-5-2 overall, 7-4-1-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.48 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.09 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.8% (20 of 96)
Penalty Kill: 87.8% (86 of 98)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (9-15-24), Senior F Michael Parks (8-15-23), Senior F Mark MacMillan (11-8-19), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (3-14-17), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-17-20), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-8-11), Junior G Zane McIntyre (16-5-2, 1.87 GAA, .933 SV%, 1 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 18, 2014 (Colorado Springs, CO). North Dakota scored five times on nine chances with the man advantage in a 7-2 throttling of the homestanding Tigers. UND’s Mark MacMillan had a hat trick (including two shorthanded goals) and added two assists to go along with his two goals in Friday night’s 3-1 North Dakota victory. Zane McIntyre made 52 of 55 saves in the weekend sweep.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: March 16, 2014. In the third and decisive game of their first round playoff series, Colorado College gave the Green and White all they could handle, scoring an extra attacker goal with 90 seconds remaining to pull within one. UND netminder Zane McIntyre (nee Gothberg) stood strong at the end, however, making 27 saves in the contest and preserving a 4-3 North Dakota victory. CC played perhaps its best, most complete hockey of the season in the three-game series.

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, 145-80-10 (.638), including a stellar 87-21-6 (.789) record in games played in Grand Forks. The teams first met in 1948.

Last Ten: North Dakota has won seven of the last ten meetings between the teams, outscoring CC 39-27 over that span. All three of UND’s losses over that stretch have been by a single goal, including two overtime defeats in league playoff action (WCHA Final Five in 2013, NCHC Quarterfinal in 2014).

Game News and Notes

CC has just one victory on the road this season and sports a 1-11-1 (.115) record in games away from the Springs. UND head coach Dave Hakstol has an overall record of 22-13-1 (.625) against Colorado College. Two North Dakota forwards have scored ten or more career points against Colorado College: junior forward Drake Caggiula has scored seven goals and added four assists in his twelve career games against CC, while senior forward Mark MacMillan is averaging a point per game (8-6-14 in 14 games) against the Tigers. For the second time in two seasons, a college hockey team in Colorado has a new coach (Jim Montgomery took over for George Gwozdecky at DU last year). Friday’s opener can be seen on CBS Sports Network, with a puck drop of 7:07 p.m. (thirty minutes earlier than normal).

The Prediction

UND should fare well in this matchup, as they have more top-end talent and depth than the Tigers. The only way that Colorado College can stay in these games is to draw penalties and score on the power play. Watch for a hat trick sometime this weekend. UND 4-1, 6-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Niagara

The last game between these two teams featured three of that season’s ten Hobey Baker finalists: Niagara junior goaltender Carsen Chubak (who led the nation with six shutouts) and North Dakota senior forwards Danny Kristo and Corban Knight faced off in the 2013 NCAA Midwest Regional. UND prevailed 2-1 behind a pair of third period goals, but would fall 4-1 to eventual national champion Yale in the regional final.

This season’s version of the Purple Eagles does not appear to be headed back to the NCAAs. Niagara is currently dead last in the Pairwise Rankings, and will need to win the Atlantic Hockey postseason tournament to make the program’s fifth appearance in the national tournament. NU has competed at the Division I level since the 1996-97 campaign.

Niagara opened up this season with nine consecutive losses but managed to string together three straight victories from November 8th to November 22nd (their only three wins of the season). Since that time, Dave Burkholder’s squad has gone 0-6-2 for a combined season mark of 3-15-2.

The problem for the boys from Niagara Falls has been, well, everything. NU has given up four or more goals THIRTEEN times this season. The Purple Eagles have scored three or more goals only six times, and four or more goals only once. The Niagara power play is abysmal (7 goals on 94 chances, 7.4%), and they’ve given up 25 power play goals to opponents (killing less than 75% of penalties). NU’s power play and penalty kill numbers rank 57th and 56th respectively among all 59 NCAA men’s hockey teams.

And NU’s three wins came by way of an overtime victory over Bentley (10-9-2, 40th in the Pairwise) and a sweep of Army (5-14-2, 57th). According to KRACH, Niagara has played the easiest schedule in all of college hockey, and they’ve still managed only three victories. To put that in perspective, North Dakota picked up their third win on October 18th. By my calendar, that’s three months ago. And KRACH lists UND as having the 7th toughest schedule in the country to this point in the season.

Through their first twenty games, Niagara has only one skater with ten or more points. By comparison, North Dakota’s roster features eight skaters with double digit point totals, led by junior forward Drake Caggiula (9-14-23) and senior forward Michael Parks (6-14-20). UND has scored eighteen power play goals while allowing just twelve and have also scored eight shorthanded goals (tops in the country) while allowing only two.

Dave Hakstol’s squad has already posted a 7-1-1 (.833) record in non-conference games this season, his best mark in eleven years as head coach. The only blemishes on that mark are a home loss to Bemidji State and a tie against Providence. UND won the other game in both of those series, and also swept on the road at Wisconsin and at home against Lake Superior State. North Dakota picked up a single win against Air Force in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime on Bryn Chyzyk’s shorthanded tally with six seconds remaining. That victory could prove huge in the final Pairwise rankings at the end of the season.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, four conference schools appear in the top seven in the Pairwise rankings: #2 Minnesota-Duluth, #4 Nebraska-Omaha, #6 North Dakota, and #7 Miami. Denver is currently #17 in the Pairwise, with St Cloud State at #21 and Western Michigan tied for #25. With only a handful of non-conference games remaining, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 48-24-4 (.658, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 13-2-0 (.867)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 13-6-2 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 7-7-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 12-7-1 (.625)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 35-40-6 (.469) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 12-48-4, .219). Not including a 9-1-2 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 26-39-4 (.406) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Niagara Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Burkholder (14th season at NU, 232-210-57, .522)

Pairwise Ranking: 59th of 59 teams
National Rankings: NR
This Season: 3-15-2 overall, 3-11-2 Atlantic Hockey (11th)
Last Season: 15-20-5 overall, 11-11-5 Atlantic Hockey (6th)

Team Offense: 1.95 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 4.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 7.4% (7 of 94)
Penalty Kill: 74.2% (72 of 97)

Key Players: Senior F Isaac Kohls (4-6-10), Junior F Hugo Turcotte (5-4-9), Freshman F Robert Angiolella (5-3-8), Junior F Dan Kolenda (4-5-9), Senior D Keegan Harper (2-4-6), Senior D Nick Cecere (2-3-5), Junior D Matt Dineen (0-3-3, 52 PIM), Sophomore G Jackson Teichroeb (3-9-2, 3.11 GAA, .903 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 274-138-42, .650)

Pairwise Ranking: 6th of 59 teams
National Rankings: #3/#2
This Season: 14-5-2 overall, 7-4-1-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.24 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.24 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.5% (18 of 88)
Penalty Kill: 87.0% (80 of 92)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (9-14-23), Senior F Michael Parks (6-14-20), Senior F Mark MacMillan (9-7-16), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (3-13-16), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-13-16), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-7-10), Junior G Zane McIntyre (14-5-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: March 29, 2013 (Grand Rapids, MI). In the semifinals of the NCAA Midwest Regional, Niagara scored first but couldn’t make it hold up. UND outshot the Purple Eagles 20-7 in the third period, making two of them count and escaping with a 2-1 victory. Ten current North Dakota skaters appeared in that playoff game, but none registered a point. Zane McIntyre was the goaltender of record, stopping 28 of 29 shots and earning his first NCAA tournament victory.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: October 26, 2002. UND scored three goals in the first four minutes of the second period and downed the Purple Eagles 5-3 in the second game of a non-conference series. North Dakota goaltender Jake Brandt was pulled after allowing three goals on twelve Niagara shots. Hat tricks by Brandon Bochenski (in Friday’s 6-4 victory) and Zach Parise (Saturday) helped propel the Fighting Sioux to the series sweep.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series 5-0 and has outscored the Purple Eagles 20-10. The teams first met on March 25, 2000 (NCAA West Regional). Jeff Panzer tallied three assists to lead North Dakota to a 4-1 victory over the Purple Eagles at Mariucci Arena. UND forward Lee Goren scored early in the third period after NU cut the lead to 2-1 in the middle frame. Andy Kollar made 26 saves for the Fighting Sioux, who outshot Niagara 43-27.

Game News and Notes

Niagara is 1-8-1 away from home and has not won a non-conference game all season. The Purple Eagles play their home games at Dwyer Arena (capacity 2100). NU has been dreadful in 2nd and 3rd periods this season, scoring only 24 goals and allowing 59 over their first twenty games. UND is 4-5-1 on Friday nights and 10-0-1 on Saturdays. Friday’s opener will be Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder’s 500th game behind the bench. North Dakota fans are encouraged to “Green Out” the Ralph this weekend; official glow-in-the-dark shirts will be available for purchase at the Sioux Shop and other merchandise outlets.

The Prediction

In the battle of the coaching Daves, Hakstol’s crew can’t afford a hiccup this weekend against college hockey’s worst team. I expect one game to be close, and I’ll go with Friday’s opener since UND has been virtually unstoppable on Saturdays. Don’t be surprised if North Dakota freshman netminder Cam Johnson sees the ice in this series. UND 4-2, 6-1.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Minnesota-Duluth

51-20-12. That’s the record that Minnesota-Duluth compiled from 2010-2012. In 2010-11, the Bulldogs won the national title, and they followed that up with a berth in the Northeast Regional final at the end of the 2012 campaign (falling to Boston College).

But the last two years have been a different story. UMD won only thirty games combined over the past two seasons. Despite a national championship to his credit, head coach Scott Sandelin is only eight games over .500 (259-251-67, .507) during his tenure at Duluth. Now in his 15th season behind the bench, Sandelin has notched 20 or more victories six times, claimed one WCHA playoff championship, led Duluth to the national tournament four times, and brought his teams to two Frozen Fours.

By contrast, UND head coach Dave Hakstol, now in his eleventh season coaching at his alma mater, already has over 270 wins to his credit (273-137-42, .650). In each of his ten previous campaigns, Hakstol has won at least 20 games and brought UND to the NCAA tournament. He boasts two MacNaughton Cups (WCHA regular season title), four Broadmoor trophies (WCHA playoff title), and six Frozen Four appearances.

At the end of the 2010-11 season, many expected these two squads to go to battle for the national title. Duluth held up their end of the bargain, dispatching Notre Dame in their semifinal. UND fell short, however, falling to Michigan 2-0 in heartbreaking fashion.

In the current race for the top spot in the NCHC, Minnesota-Duluth is tied with Miami for first place while North Dakota is in fourth place (two points back). With each victory worth three points, the top four places (those three schools, plus Nebraska-Omaha) will ebb and flow all the way until March.

This season, North Dakota is 7-1-1 (.833) in non-conference play, with only a January home series versus Niagara (3-13-2, .222) remaining outside of their league schedule. Duluth has struggled a bit out of the NCHC, going just 5-3 over their first four non-conference weekends. The Bulldogs lost to Minnesota at the IceBreaker South Bend, Indiana) in October but rebounded to sweep a home-and-home series against the Gophers in November. UMD could face Goldy a fourth time at the North Star College Cup (St. Paul, Minnesota) later this month. Duluth also has a non-conference series with Northern Michigan in early February.

North Dakota’s remaining league schedule features two home games each against Colorado College, Denver, and St. Cloud State and road series at Nebraska-Omaha, Western Michigan, and Miami. Duluth will close the regular season by hosting Western Michigan, St. Cloud State and Nebraska-Omaha and traveling to face Denver, Miami, and Western Michigan.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, five conference schools appear in the top 14 in the Pairwise rankings: #3 Minnesota-Duluth, #4 Miami, #6 Nebraska-Omaha, #7 North Dakota, and #14 Denver. With only a handful of non-conference games remaining, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 46-24-4 (.649, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 13-2-0 (.867)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 13-6-2 (.667)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 5-7-1 (.423)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 12-7-1 (.625)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 35-39-5 (.475) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 12-47-4, .222). Not including a 9-1-2 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 26-38-3 (.410) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Minnesota-Duluth Team Profile

Head Coach: Scott Sandelin (15th season at UMD, 259-251-67, .507)

Pairwise Ranking: 3rd
National Rankings: #7/#7
This Season: 12-6-0 overall, 7-3-0-0 NCHC (t-1st)
Last Season: 16-16-4 overall, 11-11-2-2 NCHC (t-4th)

Team Offense: 3.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.22 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 20.0% (18 of 90)
Penalty Kill: 81.6% (62 of 76)

Key Players: Sophomore F Dominic Toninato (13-5-18), Junior F Austin Farley (7-8-15), Junior F Tony Cameranesi (4-9-13), Sophomore F Alex Iafallo (3-10-13), Junior D Andy Welinski (6-7-13), Sophomore D Carson Soucy (2-4-6), Freshman G Kasimir Kaskisuo (11-4-0, 2.12 GAA, .920 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 273-137-42, .650)

Pairwise Ranking: 7th
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 13-4-2 overall, 6-3-1-0 NCHC (4th)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.26 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.16 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 21.4% (18 of 84)
Penalty Kill: 86.9% (73 of 84)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (8-14-22), Senior F Michael Parks (6-14-20), Senior F Mark MacMillan (8-7-15), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (3-12-15), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-11-14), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-6-9), Junior G Zane McIntyre (13-4-2, 1.95 GAA, .929 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: February 22, 2014 (Duluth, MN). North Dakota blitzed the Bulldogs 6-2 to complete the road sweep (UND won 3-0 in Friday’s opener). Freshman defenseman Paul LaDue scored two power play goals while Rocco Grimaldi, Mitch MacMillan, Dillon Simpson, and Jordan Schmaltz all registered two-point nights. The Green and White went 3-for-4 with the man advantage and held Duluth scoreless on five power play opportunities.

Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 16, 2013. One night after dropping a 4-2 contest to homestanding North Dakota, the Duluth Bulldogs doubled up UND 6-3 behind two goals from Adam Krause. Zane Gothberg took the loss in net for North Dakota after relieving Clarke Saunders, who allowed three goals on 13 shots in the first period.

Most Important Meeting: March 22, 1984 (Lake Placid, NY) Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota met in the national semifinal game, with the Bulldogs defeating the Fighting Sioux 2-1 in overtime to advance to the championship. UND went on to defeat Michigan State 6-5 (OT) for third place, while Duluth fell to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes, the longest championship game ever played.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 139-76-9 (.641), including a 77-32-3 (.701) record in games played in Grand Forks.

Last Ten: North Dakota is 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten games between the teams, outscoring Duluth 43-21 over that stretch. Two of the three losses were by a single goal.

Game News and Notes

North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol is 22-8-3 (.712) against Minnesota-Duluth in his head coaching career. UND sophomores Paul LaDue and Luke Johnson each scored five points in their four games against Duluth last season. UMD has the top scoring offense in the league (3.33 goals/game), with sophomore center Dominic Toninato leading the way with 13 goals (best in the NCHC). Both head coaches this weekend are alumni of the University of North Dakota: Dave Hakstol (’92) and Scott Sandelin (’86) both played for UND.

Media Coverage

Friday’s game can be seen on Midco Sports Network, while Saturday’s rematch will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.

The Prediction

These two teams haven’t played a meaningful game since December 13th. To put that in perspective, most of us hadn’t started our holiday shopping at that point. It is important for both squads to find and reestablish their brand of hockey for the second half of the season and the playoffs. With that being said, the edge goes to the home team. I’ve got North Dakota winning Friday’s opener, with the finale going down to the wire. UND 4-3, 3-3 tie.

Weekend Preview: North Dakota at Denver

In the NCHC, it is clear that Denver/North Dakota will be at the top of the league rivalries. Despite having played just two games since February 2013, the schools clearly do not like each other. The feud goes all the way back to Geoff Paukovitch’ illegal check on Sioux forward Robbie Bina during the 2005 WCHA Final Five.

Since that 2005 Final Five contest (a Denver victory), the two teams have met six times in tournament play. Denver won the 2005 NCAA title with a victory over North Dakota and claimed a 2008 WCHA Final Five win as well. UND has won the last four playoff games between the schools, including three consecutive victories in the WCHA Final Five (2010-2012) and the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional final which sent the Fighting Sioux to the Frozen Four.

A key storyline for DU in the early going has been the emergence of freshman forward Danton Heinen. The 6-foot, 161 pound phenom from Langley, British Columbia leads the Pios in scoring with 16 points in 13 games. Heinen, who played his junior hockey with the Surrey Eagles (BCHL), has been even more impressive since the calendar turned to November, cranking out five goals and adding seven assists for twelve points in his last eight contests. Nationally, Jack Eichel (Boston University) has been the most impressive freshman (8-17-25 in 15 games to lead the nation in scoring), but Heinen is the second-most prolific scorer among first-year players.

One of the biggest reasons for UND’s success over the first seventeen games of this current campaign has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten this season (10-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past nine years, North Dakota is converting ninety percent of second intermission leads into victories (165-13-12).

On the injury front, North Dakota will be without the services of sophomore defenseman Troy Stecher, the most consistent blueliner on the roster (a team-leading +10 on the season). Stecher’s leg injury is expected to keep him out for 6-8 weeks (between six and ten games), with senior d-man Nick Mattson taking his spot in the lineup. Mattson has appeared in nine contests this season after playing 120 games over his first three seasons at UND.

At forward, Drake Caggiula, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, and Nick Schmaltz have returned to the lineup after missing a combined ten games. Colten St. Clair is out indefinitely with an upper body injury he sustained against Lake Superior State, while Bryn Chyzyk has not played since being injured November 21st at St. Cloud State. Chyzyk could return to the lineup this weekend against the Pioneers.

So far, Dave Hakstol has been able to keep things humming by inserting first-year forwards Johnny Simonson, Trevor Olson and Austin Poganski into the lineup (4-6-10 in 41 combined games played). Sophomore winger Wade Murphy has appeared in seven games, and freshman defenseman Tucker Poolman has been effective at forward when called upon. With twelve healthy forwards, however, expect Poolman back at his natural position on the blueline this weekend against Denver.

Junior netminder Zane McIntyre has been everything for North Dakota while the boys in green and white shuffle lines and adjust to the mounting list of injuries. McIntyre, from Thief River Falls, Minnesota, is UND’s all-time leader in goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.925). Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux, Jordan Parise, Aaron Dell, and Karl Goehring round out the top five in each category.

For the Pioneers, sophomore goaltender Evan Cowley has started nine of the first thirteen games, posting a record of 6-4-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average, a save percentage of .922, and two shutouts. Cowley, from nearby Arvada, Colorado, played in five games last season (1.76 GAA, .949 SV%) while learning from senior Sam Brittain. At 6’4”, Cowley is three inches taller than Brittain and two inches taller than McIntyre.

UND is currently 7-1-1 (.833) in non-conference play, with only a January home series versus Niagara (3-11-0, .214) remaining outside of their league schedule.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, five conference schools are ranked in the top twelve in the country: #1 North Dakota, #6 Miami, #9 Minnesota-Duluth, #11 Denver, and #12 Nebraska-Omaha (St. Cloud State is also receiving votes, while Western Michigan and Colorado College are unranked). More importantly, those same five ranked teams are also currently in the top twelve in the Pairwise rankings. If the league continues to notch non-conference victories at this pace, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 36-17-2 (.673, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 12-2-0 (.857)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 8-4-1 (.654)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 3-3-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 10-6-0 (.625)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 29-34-4 (.463) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 11-33-2, .261). Not including a 7-0-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 22-34-3 (.398) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

Denver Team Profile

Head Coach: Jim Montgomery (2nd season at DU, 29-20-6, .582)
National Rankings: #11/#11
This Season: 9-4-0 overall, 3-2-0-0 NCHC (5th)
Last Season: 20-16-6 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 10-11-3-2 NCHC (6th)

Team Offense: 3.38 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.23 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 27.6% (16 of 58)
Penalty Kill: 84.7% (50 of 59)

Key Players: Freshman F Danton Heinen (6-10-16), Senior F Daniel Doremus (4-11-15), Sophomore F Trevor Moore (5-9-14), Junior F Quentin Shore (5-6-11), Senior D Joey LaLeggia (5-6-11), Junior D Nolan Zajac (3-7-10), Sophomore G Evan Cowley (6-4-0, 1.98 GAA, .922 SV%, 2 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 272-136-42, .651)
National Rankings: #1/#1
This Season: 12-3-2 overall, 5-2-1-0 NCHC (3rd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.41 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.12 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.1% (18 of 78)
Penalty Kill: 88.0% (66 of 75)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (7-14-21), Senior F Michael Parks (6-13-19), Senior F Mark MacMillan (8-7-15 in 13 games), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (2-12-14 in 13 games), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (3-11-14), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-6-9), Junior G Zane McIntyre (12-3-2, 1.94 GAA, .929 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 25, 2014 (Denver, CO). Despite outshooting the Pioneers 43-23, North Dakota failed to put one past Sam Brittain and fell 3-0 to homestanding DU. Denver’s Zac Larraza scored two third period goals, one early on the power play and a late empty netter to seal the victory. UND won Friday’s opener 4-2, with nine different players figuring in the scoring for the Green and White.

Most Important Meeting: It’s hard to pick just one game, as the two teams have played four times for the national title. Denver defeated UND for the national championship in 1958, 1968, and 2005, while the Sioux downed the Pioneers in 1963. But the game that stands out in recent memory as “the one that got away” was DU’s 1-0 victory over the Fighting Sioux in the 2004 NCAA West Regional final (Colorado Springs, CO). That North Dakota team went 30-8-4 on the season (Dean Blais’ last behind the UND bench) and featured one of the deepest rosters in the past twenty years: Brandon Bochenski, Zach Parise, Brady Murray, Colby Genoway, Drew Stafford and David Lundbohm up front; Nick Fuher, Matt Jones, Matt Greene, and Ryan Hale on defense; and a couple of goaltending stalwarts in Jordan Parise and Jake Brandt.

Last Ten Games: North Dakota has had the better of it lately, going 6-3-1 (.650) in the last ten meetings between the schools and outscoring Denver 39-25 over that span. The two teams have also met once in the WCHA Final Five (St. Paul) and once in the NCAA regionals during this most recent stretch, with UND winning both of those playoff games.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 138-118-9 (.537), but the Pioneers hold a 69-52-3 (.569) record in game played at altitude.

Game News and Notes

Currently 12-3-2, head coach Dave Hakstol has never won more than thirteen games before Christmas in his ten seasons behind the North Dakota bench. Senior forward Brendan O’Donnell has scored a goal in each of his last three games (UND is 16-0-1 when O’Donnell scores a goal). Denver is 7-2-0 at home this season; North Dakota is 6-1-0 on the road (sweeps at Colorado College and Wisconsin, a road win at Bemidji State, and a split at St. Cloud State). The aforementioned 2003-04 UND squad is the last team to leave Denver with a sweep. The two teams will meet again in February 2015 in Grand Forks.

The Prediction

With all of the talent on both rosters, a split is the most likely result. I’ll take the home team in a close one on Friday, with UND rebounding on Saturday to keep both teams feeling good about themselves heading into the holiday break. DU 3-2, UND 4-2.

Weekend Preview: UND vs. Lake Superior State

After Union dismantled Minnesota to become the 20th college hockey team to claim a national championship, I ranked all twenty programs. Lake Superior State, UND’s opponent this weekend, came in at #13 (you’ll have to check out the full article to see where North Dakota ended up). At that time, I said this about the Lakers:

From 1987-1996, the Lakers were a college hockey dynasty. Head coaches Frank Anzalone and Jeff Jackson amassed a combined record of 277-80-39 (.749), and Lake Superior appeared in nine straight NCAA tournaments with three national titles (1988, 1992, 1994) and a runner-up finish in 1993. Perhaps the most astounding fact of all is that the best Laker team, the 1990-91 squad, went 36-5-4 but lost their first round NCAA playoff series to Clarkson and didn’t make the Frozen Four. Still, it’s been 18 seasons since those glory days without a single noteworthy accomplishment or tournament appearance. Until that changes, the Lakers are stuck in the past.

Beginning in 1996-97, Lake Superior fell off the college hockey map just as the Fighting Sioux were returning to national prominence. Even though LSSU has competed at the Division I level since 1966, the two teams have never been members of the same conference or met in postseason play. Remarkably, the two schools have only played two games in almost fifty seasons of hockey, a weekend series in Grand Forks in December 1973.

LSSU now competes in the new-look WCHA after competing in the CCHA from 1966 until 2013. Lake Superior had one dominant stretch as mentioned above, claiming three regular season championships and four league playoff titles in a nine year span. But since 1996, the Lakers have only reached the twenty-win plateau once (2006-07) and grew accustomed to finishing in the bottom half of the league standings.

This season, the Lakers went winless in October (0-9-0) and were outscored 36-13 over that stretch of games. November has been a bit better for Lake Superior (3-4-0), although they were recently blanked at home by scores of 7-0 and 3-0 at the hands of current #2 Minnesota State. LSSU is a very young team, with only three seniors on the roster (compared with nine freshmen and nine sophomores). Damon Whitten is in his first year as head coach in Sault Ste. Marie, and he regularly plays a first-year netminder and five freshmen on the blue line.

For the first time since 2002-03, a North Dakota team has ten or more wins over the first two months of the season. UND is currently 10-3-2, compared to an October/November record of 5-7-2 a year ago. Last year’s squad went 20-7-1 (.732) over the final five months of the season, overcoming that slow start and advancing to the Frozen Four for the sixth time in Dave Hakstol’s ten seasons behind the bench.

One of the biggest reasons for UND’s success over the first fifteen games of this current campaign has been North Dakota’s ability to hold a lead. Dave Hakstol’s squad is unbeaten this season (8-0-1) when leading after the first forty minutes of play. In fact, over the past nine years, North Dakota is converting ninety percent of second intermission leads into victories (163-13-12).

UND is currently 5-1-1 (.786) in non-conference play, with only a January home series versus Niagara (3-9-0, .250) on the horizon after this weekend’s games.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole has a stellar record against other leagues so far this season, a far cry from last year’s troubles. Currently, five conference schools are ranked in the top twelve in the country: #1 North Dakota, #4 Miami, #8 Minnesota-Duluth, #10 Denver, and #12 Nebraska-Omaha (St. Cloud State is also receiving votes, while Western Michigan and Colorado College are unranked). If the league continues to notch non-conference victories at this pace, the NCHC could easily place four or even five teams in the NCAA tournament in March after sending just three (and barely that) a year ago.

NCHC overall record vs. other conferences: 33-16-2 (.667, best in the country)

NCHC record vs. Atlantic Hockey: 3-2-0 (.600)
NCHC record vs. Big Ten: 12-2-0 (.857)
NCHC record vs. ECAC: 7-3-1 (.682)
NCHC record vs. Hockey East: 3-3-1 (.500)
NCHC record vs. WCHA: 8-6-0 (.571)

The six teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) are a combined 29-34-4 (.463) in non-league play, the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (Atlantic Hockey, 11-33-2, .261). Not including a 7-0-1 mark against Atlantic Hockey, the Big Ten sports a dismal 22-34-3 (.398) record against the other four major hockey conferences.

After this weekend, UND will travel to Denver for an important NCHC series against the Pioneers while Lake Superior heads four hours south of Sault Ste. Marie to Big Rapids, Michigan for a pair with Ferris State. The Lakers will also take part in the Florida College Classic (also featuring Cornell, Miami, and Notre Dame) to close out the 2014 portion of their schedule.

Lake Superior Team Profile

Head Coach: Damon Whitten (1st season at LSSU, 3-13-0, .188)
National Ranking: NR/NR
This Season: 3-13-0 overall, 3-9-0 WCHA (6th)
Last Season: 16-19-1 overall, 12-16-0 WCHA (t-8th)

Team Offense: 1.69 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.88 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 6.9% (5 of 72)
Penalty Kill: 75.9% (41 of 54)

Key Players: Junior F Bryce Schmitt (5-5-10), Senior F Stephen Perfetto (4-2-6), Senior F Chris Ciotti (4-1-5), Freshman D James Roll (0-7-7), Freshman D Jason Bird (1-3-4), Freshman G Gordon Defiel (3-11-0, 3.53 GAA, .900 SV%, 1 SO)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (11th season at UND, 270-136-42, .650)
National Ranking: #1/#1
This Season: 10-3-2 overall, 5-2-1-0 NCHC (2nd)
Last Season: 25-14-3 overall (NCAA Frozen Four appearance), 15-9-0-0 NCHC (2nd)

Team Offense: 3.20 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.07 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.6% (13 of 70)
Penalty Kill: 86.4% (57 of 66)

Key Players: Junior F Drake Caggiula (7-13-20), Senior F Michael Parks (5-11-16), Senior F Mark MacMillan (7-6-13 in 11 games), Freshman F Nick Schmaltz (2-8-10 in 11 games), Junior D Jordan Schmaltz (2-7-9), Sophomore D Troy Stecher (1-8-9), Sophomore D Paul LaDue (3-5-8), Junior G Zane McIntyre (10-3-2, 2.02 GAA, .928 SV%)

By The Numbers

Last meeting: December 15, 1973 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after throttling the visiting Lakers 7-2, the homestanding Sioux defeated Lake Superior 7-3 to earn the series sweep. Rookie head coach Rick Comley did manage to win twenty games that season after taking over for the legendary Ron Mason, who left LSSU to coach at Bowling Green (and later Michigan State).

All-time Series: North Dakota has won both of the meetings between the teams by a combined score of 14-5.

Game News and Notes

The Lakers have not made the NCAA tournament since a thirty win season in 1995-96. North Dakota has advanced to the tourney 17 times since then, winning two national titles (1997 and 2000). UND has scored eight shorthanded goals this season, most in the nation. Lake State’s power play is currently 57th out of 59 Division 1 men’s hockey teams. North Dakota junior forward Drake Caggiula is tied for second nationally in scoring (20 points).

The Prediction

Normally, in a mismatched series, the Saturday game will be a closer contest after the underdog has had some time to adjust and prepare for the rematch. But I’ve got a feeling that Friday’s opener will be tighter, with the Lakers running out of gas in game two. UND 4-2, 6-1.