Game Preview: UND vs. Northeastern University

The Boston College Eagles seem to be getting all of the attention this week, for their matchup with North Dakota and for their “roster updates”. And Northeastern is used to playing second fiddle (or third, or fourth) in Beantown, with Boston College, Boston University, and Harvard stealing most of the hockey headlines.

But Northeastern is making strides. The 2005-06 Huskies posted just 3 wins in head coach Greg Cronin’s first season, and improved to 13 wins last year. Cronin is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances against the powerhouses in Boston and beyond.

“People are getting excited about Northeastern because we had some success last year; there were some really stunning victories at Michigan, at Maine, against BC, against BU, but I’m guarded because I’m in the trenches here working through it,” Cronin said. “We only have one senior. We’re still in that phase where we’re asking our freshmen to play significant roles.”

For the Sioux, there are a few question marks surrounding this contest with Northeastern: After two high-profile games against Frozen Four participants from last season (Michigan State and Boston College), will the Sioux suffer any sort of let-down? Will Anthony Greico start on Saturday night, giving senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux his first game off after starting 27 games in a row? Will any of this matter with a team that seems loaded, prepared, and driven to return to the Frozen Four for the fourth consecutive season?

Northeastern Team Profile

Head Coach: Greg Cronin (3rd season at NU, 16-42-12, .314)
This Season: 0-0-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 13-18-5, 9-13-5 Hockey East (7th)
Key Returning Players: Sophomore F Chad Costello (11-11-22), Sophomore F Kyle Kraemer (7-12-19), Junior F Joe Vitale (7-9-16), Junior F Ryan Ginand (6-8-14), Sophomore G Brad Thiessen (11-17-5, 2.48 GAA, .921 save percentage, 4 shutouts)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 80-45-11, .629)
This Season: 1-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (31-26-57 last season; 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner), Junior F T.J. Oshie (17-35-52), Junior D Taylor Chorney (8-23-31), Senior D Robbie Bina (10-22-32), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (21-12-4, 2.42 GAA, .913 SV)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 14-15, 2005 (Grand Forks, North Dakota). UND sweeps the non-conference series, 6-0 and 2-1, as freshman forwards Ryan Duncan (2 goals, 1 assist) and T.J. Oshie (4 assists) have breakout weekends. NU head coach Greg Cronin blasts the officiating crew (headed by referee Bill Mason) after Saturday’s defeat. “Honest to God, I’ve coached in the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, the OHL, international, WCHA, Hockey East, and that was the worst officiating I’ve ever seen in my life,” Cronin said. “All three of them — Moe, Larry and Curly — were sniffing glue. It was embarrassing. If I was the league, I’d be embarrassed by that.”
Last Meeting in Boston: October 30, 2004. The teams skate to a 3-3 tie in non-conference play. Northeastern Junior F Brian Swiniarski pots two third-period goals to force overtime.
Most important meeting: March 25, 1982 (Providence, Rhode Island). UND defeats Northeastern 6-2 in the NCAA semifinals, and goes on to claim its 4th national championship with a 5-2 victory over Wisconsin.
All-time: UND leads the all-time series with 8 wins against 5 losses and 3 ties (.594). The series record on Huskies’ home ice is 2-2-3.

Game News and Notes

In 2005-06 (Greg Cronin’s first season as head coach), the Huskies posted a 3-24-7 (.191) overall record. Last year, they improved to 13-18-5 (.431), and hope to make a similar improvement this season. Hockey East coaches picked Northeastern to finish 7th this season. Sophomore G Brad Thieseen played over 90% of his team’s goaltending minutes last season. UND opens its conference schedule with a two-game series at Michigan Tech (Houghton, MI) on October 26-27.

The Prediction

Matthews Arena will be buzzing, Coach Cronin will have his Huskies ready to play, and it won’t matter. The Sioux are too deep and too talented to drop this game. Sioux 4-1.

Check back after Saturday’s game for news, commentary, and analysis. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Two Boston College men’s hockey players suspended indefinitely

Well, it took a little digging, but here is the official word from the Boston College media relations office: “Junior defenseman Brett Motherwell and senior defenseman Brian O’Hanley will be out of the lineup indefinitely for a violation of team rules.”

Note that this one-sentence explanation does not even appear on the main page. I took a look at the Game Notes in PDF Format, scrolled down to page 2, and found my way to “Roster Updates”.

Now, this may sound cynical, but two players suspended indefinitely is more than a “roster update” to me.

Here’s what we know:

Both Motherwell and O’Hanley played in last Friday’s opening game of the IceBreaker Tournament (St. Paul, Minnesota). O’Hanley recorded one assist, while Motherwell did not figure in the scoring. The Eagles lost to Michigan, 4-3 in overtime.

Neither player was in the lineup for Saturday’s 4-1 win at the Icebreaker against Rensselaer.

BC hosts top-ranked North Dakota this Friday in non-conference action. For a complete preview of the matchup, click here.

Brett Motherwell led all Hockey East defensemen last season with 28 points on 3 goals and 25 assists, and has 51 points in 82 career games with the Eagles. Inside College Hockey named Motherwell to its preseason All-American second team.

Brian O’Hanley, a senior, has played 112 career games for the Eagles, with career totals of 6 goals and 19 assists. He is playoff-tested, having appeared in four Frozen Four games and six other NCAA tournament contests at Boston College.

With this “roster update”, Boston College has six eligible defensemen listed on its roster for this weekend’s action. Junior defensemen Tim Kunes and Anthony Aeillo replaced the two suspended players for last Saturday’s game against Rensselaer.

I will post further updates as they become available. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Game Preview: UND vs. Boston College

April 5, 2007. St. Louis, Missouri. The NCAA Frozen Four semifinal. Yet another in a seemingly endless string of bouts between two heavyweights. Arguably the two hottest teams in the tournament: Boston College, winners of 12 straight games, versus North Dakota, winners of 19 of their last 21 contests. A furious final seven minutes turns a 2-2 tie into a 6-4 Eagles victory.

This type of game has become almost commonplace for these two clubs. Over the last nine seasons, Boston College and North Dakota have met six times in the NCAA tournament, including 4 times in the Frozen Four and twice for the National Championship.

Before we look forward to this Friday’s matchup, let’s look back at some memorable moments in what has become an intense rivalry….

March 28, 1999. Madison, Wisconsin. BC defeats UND 3-1 (en) in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Sioux, who received a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament, lose for only the sixth time all season, and finish the year at 32-6-2, one game short of the Frozen Four.

April 8, 2000. Providence, Rhode Island. UND defeats BC 4-2 (en) in the NCAA title game to claim its 7th national championship. The Sioux rally from a 2-1 deficit after two periods.

April 7, 2001. Albany, New York. BC defeats UND 3-2 (OT) to win its first NCAA crown since 1949. Krys Kolanos nets the game-winner at 4:43 of overtime after UND scores twice in the final four minutes of regulation to even the score.

March 26, 2005. Worcester, Massachusetts. UND defeats BC 6-3 in the NCAA East Regional Final to advance to the first of three consecutive Frozen Fours. Colorado College, Denver, and Minnesota also advance, setting up an all-WCHA Frozen Four.

April 6, 2006. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. BC defeats UND 6-5 in the Frozen Four semifinal. North Dakota scores twice in the final five minutes to make it close, but it’s too little, too late.

While the fans love to look back and wonder, the players and coaches are focused on the upcoming weekend. UND junior forward and reigning Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan was asked if he viewed this Friday’s contest as some sort of “revenge game” from the past two years.

“Not at all,” Duncan said. “For us, this is the second game of our season. We want to keep developing as a team. We’re looking at this game as a tremendous challenge against a great opponent. I think both teams are familiar with each other because of our history over the last couple years which should make for a very exciting and competitive game.”

Both teams lose just a handful of players from last season. Boston College will miss Brian Boyle and Joe Rooney. North Dakota will have to do without Jonathan Toews, Brian Lee, and Chris Porter. But the Eagles and Sioux are loaded with offensive talent and defensive experience. UND carries 14 juniors and seniors on its roster; BC 15.

So the difference may very well come down to these names:

Jean-Phillippe Lamoureux and Cory Schneider.

UND’s Lamoureux (21-12-4, 2.42 GAA, .913 SV last year) is back for his senior season between the pipes. BC’s Schneider (29-12-1, 2.15 GAA, .925 SV) departed for the pros, giving up his final season of eligibility.

So while North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol knows what he can expect from his senior netminder, Boston College head coach Jerry York thinks he knows what he has in John Muse and fellow freshmen goaltenders Alex Kremer and Andrew Margolin.

“We have some really top-end offensive players and we’re very solid defensively,” York says of his Eagles squad. “I think Johnny [Muse] is going to give us enough strength in goal.”

Both Boston College and North Dakota faced an early test in non-conference action last weekend. North Dakota downed Michigan State University 6-0 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game (Grand Forks, North Dakota), while the Eagles fell to Michigan 4-3 in overtime in the opening game of the Ice Breaker Invitational (St. Paul, Minnesota). BC recovered from its opening round loss to defeat RPI 4-1 in the consolation game.

“It’s good for the team,” York said of having to face Michigan and North Dakota in its first three games of the season. “We’ve got to get prepared for Hockey East and the challenges it has.”

Boston College Team Profile

Head Coach: Jerry York (14th season at BC, 312-170-42, .635)
This Season: 1-1-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East
Last Season: 29-12-1 (NCAA runner-up), 18-8-1 Hockey East (2nd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Nathan Gerbe (25-22-47 last season), Junior F Benn Ferriero (23-23-46), Senior D Mike Brennan (0-11-11). Junior D Brett Motherwell (3-25-28) and Senior D Brian O’Hanley (2-3-5) are out of the lineup indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Junior F Brock Bradford (19-26-45) is on the roster this year but is out ten weeks or so after suffering a broken arm in the second period of Friday’s overtime loss to Michigan.

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 80-45-11, .629)
This Season: 1-0-0, 0-0-0 WCHA
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four semifinalist), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (31-26-57 last season; 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner), Junior F T.J. Oshie (17-35-52), Junior D Taylor Chorney (8-23-31), Senior D Robbie Bina (10-22-32), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (21-12-4, 2.42 GAA, .913 SV)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: April 5, 2007. Boston College and North Dakota battle in the Frozen Four semifinals, with the Eagles prevailing 6-4.
Last Meeting in Chestnut Hill: October 29, 2004. BC wins 5-3, scoring three times in the first 15 minutes of the game. Jerry York gets career victory number 700.
Most important meetings: The Sioux and Eagles have met twice to decide the National Championship, with UND taking the title in 2000 and BC winning it all in 2001.
All-time: UND leads the all-time series between the schools, 11-9-0 (.550). The teams first met on December 29, 1959, with the Sioux winning 5-3. In addition to the more recent playoff meetings listed above, UND and BC also played in national semifinal games in 1963 and 1965, splitting the two contests. When the newly-formed Hockey East began play in 1984-1985, it created a five-year interlocking schedule with the WCHA. During that time, Boston College and North Dakota met 7 times, with John “Gino” Gasparini’s Fighting Sioux squad going 5-2-0 against Len Ceglarski’s Eagles.

Game News and Notes

UND Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has started the last 26 games in a row for UND, the fourth longest streak in Sioux history. Boston College head coach Jerry York is in his 36th season of coaching, and holds a career mark of 779-505-76 (.601). The Eagles have made the NCAA tournament the past five seasons and the national championship game the last two. Dave Hakstol joins Jack Parker (Boston University) and Doug Woog (University of Minnesota) as the only coaches to take their first three teams to the Frozen Four. North Dakota and Boston College each have seven NCAA victories over the past three seasons, and are the top two teams over that span. The game will be televised live nationally on CSTV at 7 p.m. Central time. After the game on Friday, UND will battle Northeastern (Boston, MA) on Saturday in non-conference action, while Boston College will head to Burlington, Vermont for a Sunday clash with the University of Vermont Catamounts in the conference opener for both teams. UND opens its conference schedule with a two-game series at Michigan Tech (Houghton, MI) on October 26-27.

The Prediction

Judging from last Friday’s 6-0 shutout of Michigan State, UND will not start slowly this season. Goaltending and special teams play will be keys. Both teams can be lethal on the power play and stifling on the penalty kill. The edge goes to UND and senior netminder Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, who proved last weekend that he can play big in big games. UND 4-2.

Click here for the UND/BC Game React. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Hall of Fame Game Rewind: UND vs. Michigan State

I know, I know, I know. You’ve already read the Hall of Fame Game React. You’re all set for Friday’s tilt against Boston College. And you’re wondering, “Why the need for another Hall of Fame Game article?” Well, I’ll tell you: Some of you fans out there are looking for something more. You want to discuss penalty calls, disallowed goals, line combinations, and strategies. You’ve read the recaps and the newspaper articles, but it’s not enough. And it’s not enough for me, either.

I have to admit to something that many people who know me already know. I watch old hockey games all the time. Yes, even when I know who wins. For me, it’s like a favorite movie. I always notice something new or learn something about the team or players every time I watch. Yes, I’m a hockey freak. It’s who I am. And the Game Rewind serves as a second look at this past weekend’s game.

So, anyway, on to the action:

The first thing that occurred to me as I watched Saturday’s game again was how solid the Fighting Sioux are up the middle. Oshie, Kaip, VandeVelde, and Zajac are all formidable on draws and capable of playing sound defensively in their own end.

On to the first big call of the contest: Brad Miller’s goal is disallowed as Kyle Radke is called for interference (7:05, 1st period), Notice I didn’t say Radke was whistled for interference. Seemingly, the penalty was called without a signal or a whistle. Don’t get me wrong here – it WAS a penalty. Radke cleared Michigan State defenseman Mike Ratchuk (#44) out of the slot as the pass came across to Miller.

The problem with this call was two-fold: First, no one had any idea what was going on. The on-air announcers thought the play must have been offside, or that the penalty occurred after the goal was scored. The refs were unclear at every point. The second problem was that the announcement in the arena was also unclear. The public address announcer simply said, “The goal has been disallowed.” And then went on to announce Radke’s penalty as if the two were unrelated to one another.

To make a short story long: it was a penalty, but it was handled poorly.

Oshie’s goal (11:38, 1st period) to make it 1-0 was a very nice shot, but the real play was Duncan’s cross-ice pass that created the space inside the zone. The first of many, I’m sure.

Alright, on to the biggest call of the night: The hitting from behind call on T.J. Oshie. After watching the play countless times, and reading the most current version of the rulebook, the call had to be made.

The rulebook has this to say regarding hitting from behind:

SECTION 23. a. A player shall not push, charge, cross-check, or body check an opponent from behind in open ice.
PENALTY—Minor or major at the discretion of the referee.

So in open ice, the referee uses discretion to determine the penalty.

SECTION 23. b. Hitting from behind into the side boards, end boards or goal cage is a flagrant violation.
PENALTY—Major and game misconduct or disqualification at the discretion of the referee.

In this case, the only decision is whether the player is given a misconduct (and therefore misses only that game) or a disqualification (and misses the following game as well).

In two separate paragraphs, the NCAA Rules Committee addresses concern about players turning in order to draw hitting from behind penalties, but concludes by saying “the positive change in behavior the committee observed (after emphasizing the rule last season) outweighs this issue.” The committee reminds players and coaches (and indirectly, fans) that the responsibility remains with the player approaching an opponent along the boards in this rule. Furthermore, the committee notes that it considered intermediate penalties (e.g., minor and misconduct, major only, game and misconduct) but ultimately decided any lesser option would send the wrong message to officials, players and coaches.

So in Oshie’s case, even though he was simply chasing the puck-carrier and riding him along the boards, he did push with his forearm and Abdelkader (MSU #9) was in that dangerous area, just far enough away from the boards so as to be unprotected. Yes, I know that the penalty is called “hitting from behind” (or mistakenly called “checking from behind”), but the rule includes body checking and pushing.

So, in short: given the current state of the rules, the right call was made. It’s unfortunate that no discretion is allowed in this case, but it’s simply not. And the committee has done its due diligence, weighed all of the factors, and decided that this type of play is too dangerous to mess around with anything less than a major penalty and a game misconduct or disqualification.

Alright, on to the rest of the rewind.

The interference call (goaltender interference?) was clearly of the make-up variety. I’d like someone to crunch the numbers on how many times a team with a five-minute major power play is whistled for a penalty sometime during that span.

Duncan’s goal (16:28, 1st period), an intended pass which deflected off of MSU defenseman Dustin Gazely’s skate and found the far post, was crazy. Even highly skilled players get lucky sometimes!

I love VandeVelde, Zajac, Kaip, and Watkins killing penalties up front.

I did not see Trupp instigating anything. I saw Trupp get cross-checked across the face and fall down.

VandeVelde swatting the puck out of the air and in was beautiful. (6:55, 2nd period)

There were stretches in the second and early in the third where Michigan State sustained offensive pressure, but our defensive zone coverage was very solid.

The back-breaker goal was UND’s fourth (3:02, 3rd period). Michigan State had come out in the third period with purpose and had sustained offensive pressure. The Spartans had created an odd-man rush. Chorney broke up the play and joined the three-on-one the other way. Matt Frattin was given plenty of room down the left wing (Duncan got all of the attention on the other side) and scored on a nice low wrist shot to stem the Spartan tide.

Kozek had a great game. He is playing with purpose, and his goal (15:49, 3rd period) was a result of that. It looks like he realizes how close he is to being on the outside of this lineup looking in. In my opinion, he earned a spot in the lineup Friday night.

Genoway’s tally (17:02, 3rd period) was tipped in the slot, and Lerg had no chance.

The Sioux won their sixth consecutive season opener.

This game was a lot closer than the final score indicates. Lamoureux (23 save shutout) was a difference maker, and the Sioux found a way to finish their chances (6 goals on 22 shots). I don’t think these two teams are that far apart, and I do not believe the Spartans are “overrated”.

All four freshmen in the lineup (Frattin, Malone, Trupp, and LaPoint) played well and did not look out of place at all. All four forward lines and 4 of 6 defensemen figured in the scoring. Those contributions up and down the lineup are key to UND’s success this season.

That does it for this edition of Game Rewind. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Thanks for reading!

Playing UNO, or Playing Sioux Football

As I sit here after UND’s Saturday loss to UNO I’m wondering was UND more interested in playing UNO or playing Sioux Football.

I say this because UND left 3 points (I trust Hellevang from 23 yards) on the field in the second quarter. (Sorbo didn’t make a goal line twisting catch on fourth down.) Those three points would have made it most likely 21-17 at halftime.

Later, in the fourth, when it really was 21-17 (and could have been 21-20, see above), UND went on fourth and one and did not convert again. A field goal here combined with one just before half would have put UND into the lead (23-21) and forced UNO to play from behind for the first time on the day.

Instead, neither was attempted. That ultimately played right to UNO’s advantage and seemed out of character for Sioux Football.

Hall of Fame Game React: UND vs. Michigan State

After every game, I will post my immediate reaction to the action on the ice. On Sunday or Monday of each game weekend, I will also post a full game “rewind”, complete with goal descriptions, a breakdown of special teams play, reviews of controversial calls, and my commentary.

My immediate thoughts from tonight’s game, a 6-0 Sioux victory….

It has been said that a player in his senior year is never the same player he was before; he either explodes or fades away. Rylan Kaip will explode this year, and may very well equal his career point totals (8 goals, 16 assists) this year.

I know that there are Jean-Philippe Lamoureux haters out there, but he kept UND in the game until the Sioux could roll four lines and build some momentum. The first of many shutouts this season, I predict.

The “Overrated” chant is my least favorite chant in the history of hockey. When a crowd chants “overrated”, what they’re really saying is “hey, you can’t be as good as people say you are because WE beat you!” If anything, the crowd should chant “underrated” at their own team. (Of course, when your team is ranked #1, it’s impossible to be underrated.)

LaPoint played very well tonight. He went largely unnoticed, and didn’t show up on the score sheet, but for a freshman defenseman, unnoticed is pretty good.

When Evan Trupp skates, hustles, and shoots, he reminds me of Ryan Duncan. Maybe that’s why he wears 19? Kind of like Duncan with the 6 upside down?

VandeVelde may end up with Oshie and Duncan just as much as Frattin. He is a force on the ice and in all three zones.

I love how UND continued to apply pressure in the third period. Reminds me of the Sioux teams from the late 90s which never let up. I know we have had some more recent clubs do that on occasion; I’m simply saying that it’s a good sign from this team.

I will have a look at the Oshie 5 minute major and the Radke penalty that nullified a goal and let you know in my Hall of Fame Game Rewind.

Thanks for checking in. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Hall of Fame Game Preview: UND vs. Michigan State

Ralph Engelstad Arena (Grand Forks, ND) will be buzzing Saturday night, as the defending NCAA champion and #3-ranked Michigan State Spartans take to the ice against preseason #1 North Dakota in the U.S. Hall of Fame Game.

As the coaches recognize, nonconference results between national powers play a major part in the selection of the 16 teams for the NCAA tournament, even games played in October.

“This game will carry a lot of weight at the end of the season,” UND head coach Dave Hakstol said. “So we want a good start and to get a win in the bank.”

“It’s an honor to play in the Hall of Fame Game,” Michigan State head coach Rick Comley said. “I think it’s a real good, early wake-up test.”

The Fighting Sioux bring back 19 players from last year’s squad, after having lost three seniors to graduation and two sophomores to the pro ranks. The early-departure bug missed the Spartans completely this off-season, as Michigan State returns every eligible player (20 letterwinners in all) from last season’s championship team, Both teams are looking forward to getting the season started after last week’s exhibition wins against Canadian clubs.

“The expectations for us are high,” UND junior defenseman and alternate-captain Taylor Chorney said. “I guess we’ll find early if we’re for real.”

“We got better every period,” said MSU senior defenseman and alternate captain Daniel Vukovic, of his team’s 6-0 victory over the University of Windsor. “It’s a stepping stone. Saturday’s going to be the real test.”

“I think it’s good to get your game intensity up right away,” Sioux senior captain Rylan Kaip said. “It’s a good opportunity to make a statement about our team.”

Michigan State Team Profile

Head Coach: Rick Comley (6th season at MSU, 116-73-19, .603)
Last Season: 26-13-3 (NCAA Champions), 15-10-3 CCHA (4th)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Justin Abdelkader (15 goals, 18 assists last season; 2007 Frozen Four MVP), Senior F Bryan Lerg (23g, 13a), Junior F Tim Kennedy (18g, 25a), Junior G Jeff Lerg (26-13-3, 2.41 GAA, .913 SV)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (4th season at UND, 78-45-11, .623)
Last Season: 24-14-5 (Frozen Four Appearance), 13-10-5 WCHA (3rd)
Key Returning Players: Junior F Ryan Duncan (31g, 26a; 2007 Hobey Baker Award winner), Junior F T.J. Oshie (17g, 35a), Junior D Taylor Chorney (8g, 23a), Senior D Robbie Bina (10g, 22a), Senior G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (21-12-4, 2.42 GAA, .913 SV)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: October 9, 2005. Michigan State shut out North Dakota 3-0 in the title game of the Lefty McFadden Invitational Tournament (Dayton, Ohio) to snap an 11-game losing streak against the Sioux.
Last Meeting in Grand Forks: November 21-22, 1980. North Dakota swept the series 6-4 and 5-2 while Michigan State was still a member of the WCHA.
Most important meetings: The Sioux and Spartans have met twice to decide the National Championship, with UND prevailing in both the 1959 and 1987 title games.
All-time: UND leads the all-time series with 61 wins against 35 losses and 2 ties (.633). The Sioux hold a 33-11-1 (.744) record against the Spartans in Grand Forks.

Game News and Notes

Saturday’s game will be the first official game of the 2007-2008 season for both teams. The Spartans are looking to break a two-year streak in which the previous NCAA champion failed to qualify for the post-season. Both Denver (2005) and Wisconsin (2006) failed to make the 16-team field as defending National Champions. This will be the third time UND has hosted the Hall of Fame game, most recently on October 4, 2003, when they hosted the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. UND also hosted Minnesota for the grand opening of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena on October 5, 2001. MSU Junior netminder Jeff Lerg started all 42 games for the Spartans last season and played almost 97% of the minutes between the pipes. Saturday’s tilt will be the 99th meeting between the teams.

The Prediction

I have a feeling that this is a one-goal game either way. The edge goes to North Dakota playing in front of their fans, but keep a close eye on the special teams battle, as whichever side prevails there should win the game. UND 4-3.

Check back after Saturday’s game for news, commentary, and analysis. Thanks for reading, and, as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Football regional rankings released

The first round of the NCAA Regional Rankings were released on Monday.

Remember, the regional rankings reflect the NCAA tournament selection criteria. The top six teams from each region make the playoffs. There are no auto-qualifiers, though if a conference representative finishes in the top 10 of the regional rankings, that conference’s top team is guaranteed selection (“earned access”).

In the Northwest, the first 7 are:
1. Nebraska-Omaha 5-0
2. North Dakota 6-0
3. Grand Valley 5-0
4. Central Washington 4-1
5. Ashland 3-1
6. South Dakota 3-3
7. Winona State 5-1

(Full rankings for all regions)

A few things probably jump at you. Since UNO, UND, and GVSU are all undefeated, they’re presumably ranked on strength of schedule vs D-II opponents. Excluding common opponents between UNO and UND, UNO has played Nebraska-Kearney (3-2), and NW Missouri St (4-1) [.700], while UND has played Humboldt State (2-4), Central Washington (4-1) [.567].

Notice that at #6, USD is the fourth team from the NCC in the rankings. If the season ended today, USD would get bumped from the playoffs to make room for Winona State via “earned access”.

The numbers are somewhat meaningless at this point given the remaining games — for example, UNO vs. UND this weekend will send one of the two down the charts this weekend) — but it’s never too early to dive into the stats 🙂

Fighting Sioux Men’s Hockey 2007-2008: The Senior Class

The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux senior class for 2007-08 offers a little bit of everything, from goaltending and grit to memorable goals and big hits. Robbie Bina, Rylan Kaip, Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, and Kyle Radke bring experience, determination, versatility, and heart to this year’s lineup.

As freshmen, this class was not exceptionally large, just extremely talented. UND brought in only five players, and more than one coach said “they went five-for-five” with this recruiting class. Along with Kaip, Lamoureux (2003-04 United States Hockey League Goaltender of the Year), and Radke (2003-04 Albert Junior Hockey League Defenseman of the Year), the 2004-05 incoming freshman class included Rastislav Spirko and Travis Zajac (2003-04 British Columbia Hockey League Most Valuable Player), both of whom gave up their final two seasons of eligibility. Robbie Bina will play his final season with this group after sitting out the 2005-06 season following a broken neck and surgery to repair a shattered vertebra.

Here’s a look at the four Sioux seniors for 2007-2008:

#28 Robbie Bina

Position: Defense
Height/Weight: 5′-8″ 180 lbs.
Born: January 4, 1983
Hometown: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Previous team: Lincoln Stars (USHL)
Awards and Honors: 2007 NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team, 2006-07 WCHA All-Academic Team
Draft rights: Undrafted

UND Statistics by Season:
1 goal, 7 assists; 6 penalty minutes in 31 games played (2003-04)
0 goals, 9 assists; 8 penalty minutes in 32 games played (2004-05)
10 goals, 22 assists; 46 penalty minutes in 43 games played (2006-07)

UND Career Totals:
11 goals, 38 assists for 49 points; 60 penalty minutes in 106 games played

Season Outlook: Bina became a terrific two-way defenseman last season, and will contend with Taylor Chorney for the top point total among Sioux blueliners. His physical play and ability to join the rush have made him an asset in special teams situations and at even strength.

News and Notes: His 106 career games played rank second to Kyle Radke (110) among returning Sioux players. Bina is best known for coming back from a broken neck suffered during the 2005 WCHA Final Five. He is also famous for scoring a 180 foot, short-handed goal against the University of Minnesota during a two-game sweep in January 2007. (Videos of said goal have been viewed over 230,000 times at last count.) Scored 30 points (9 goals, 21 assists) in his final 29 games of 2006-07 after scoring two (1g, 1a) in the first 14 games of the year and 19 points (2g, 17a) in his first 77 career games.

#17 Rylan Kaip

Position: Center
Height/Weight: 6′-1″ 195 lbs.
Born: January 21, 1984
Hometown: Radville, Saskatchewan
Previous team: Notre Dame Hounds (SJHL)
Awards and Honors: Named UND’s team captain for the 2007-2008 season
Draft rights: Atlanta Thrashers (9th Round, 2003)

UND Statistics by Season:
0 goals, 4 assists; 20 penalty minutes in 22 games played (2004-05)
3 goals, 5 assists; 76 penalty minutes in 42 games played (2005-06)
5 goals, 7 assists; 55 penalty minutes in 38 games played (2006-07)

UND Career Totals:
8 goals, 16 assists for 24 points; 151 penalty minutes in 102 games played

Season Outlook: Kaip has the ability to score timely goals, and adds a physical presence up front. Not one to deliver a fiery speech in the locker room, look for Kaip to lead by example on the ice.

News and Notes: Has seven points (5g, 2a) in 15 career postseason contests. It took Kaip 60 games to notch his first career goal at UND, and less than twenty minutes to notch his second, as UND upended the Wisconsin Badgers 4-3 in the 2006 Final Five semifinal game. In the 2007 postseason, Kaip scored game-winning goals against Minnesota State University-Mankato in the first round of the WCHA playoffs and against Michigan in the semifinal round of the NCAA West Regional. Missed the second half of the 2004-05 season with post-concussion syndrome. Was an assistant captain for the Sioux last season. Rylan has been described as “like Rory McMahon with a touch of Mike Prpich”.

#1 Jean-Philippe Lamoureux

Position: Goaltender
Height/Weight: 5′-8″ 152 lbs.
Born: August 12, 1984
Hometown: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Previous team: Lincoln Stars (USHL)
Awards and Honors: 2003-2004 USHL Goaltender of the Year, 2004-2005 WCHA All-Rookie Team, 2007 WCHA Final Five All-Tournament Team, 2007 NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team
Draft rights: Undrafted

UND Statistics by Season:
18 games played, 7-8-2 record, 2.19 goals against average, .914 save percentage (2004-05)
14 games played, 5-7-0 record, 2.61 goals against average, .911 save percentage (2005-06)
37 games played, 21-12-4 record, 2.42 goals against average, .913 save percentage (2006-07)

UND Career Totals:
69 games played, 33-27-6 record, 2.39 goals against average, .913 save percentage, 4 career shutouts

Season Outlook: Lamoureux will be the go-to guy between the pipes this season, as the other two goaltenders on the roster, sophomore Anthony Greico (8 games played) and junior Aaron Walski (2 games played), are relatively untested. If Jean-Philippe can post similar numbers to his first three seasons, the Fighting Sioux will contend for the conference title and an eighth national championship.

News and Notes: Started the last 25 games of 2006-07, posting a 17-4-4 record with a 2.20 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Wore number 34 for his first two seasons before switching to number 1 last year. Had an 11 game unbeaten streak (8-0-3) last season. Career goals against average (2.39) and save percentage (.913) both rank third all-time among UND goaltenders. His father, Jean-Pierre Lamoureux, played for UND from 1979-1982.

#26 Kyle Radke

Position: Defense/Forward
Height/Weight: 6′-0″ 212 lbs.
Born: May 13, 1985
Hometown: Bashaw, Alberta
Previous team: Grande Prairie Storm (AJHL)
Awards and Honors: 2003-2004 AJHL Defenseman of the Year
Draft rights: Undrafted

UND Statistics by Season:
1 goal, 2 assists; 16 penalty minutes in 25 games played (2004-05)
3 goals, 12 assists; 100 penalty minutes in 44 games played (2005-06)
2 goals, 3 assists; 109 penalty minutes in 41 games played (2006-07)

UND Career Totals:
6 goals, 17 assists for 23 points; 215 penalty minutes in 110 games played

Season Outlook: Radke’s toughness and versatility will translate into 40 or more games played for the third season in a row. With five other returning defenseman (and incoming recruits Derrick LaPoint and Jake Marto), he is expected to play primarily at forward for this year’s Fighting Sioux. His point totals will look more like his sophomore season (15 points) than his junior campaign (5 points).

News and Notes: His 110 games played is the most among returning UND players, and he is the only Sioux player to suit up in the last three Frozen Fours. In 2006-2007, Radke played forward for UND’s last 21 contests after playing 19 of his first 20 games on defense. After ranking third on the Fighting Sioux team with 100 penalty minutes in 2005-2006, he led the Sioux in both penalties (49) and penalty minutes (109) last season. The only Sioux players to come from Bashaw, Alberta are Kyle Radke and Brad Berry (who played defense for UND from 1983-86 and was an assistant and associate coach at North Dakota from 2000-06).

This is the first in a four-part series. Check back later for news and notes on UND’s other three classes. I encourage you to check out my WCHA 2007-2008 season preview. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

WCHA pre-season coaches media conference

The WCHA held its annual pre-season media teleconference with the coaches today. Here’s a paraphrased summary of what Coach Hakstol had to say. If it’s not in quotation marks, it’s not a quote, so it would be a mistake to interpret it as such.

Hakstol Opening Remarks

We’re starting off with a tough game against Michigan State and a tough schedule in the first half. We’re different from the last couple years in that we’ll be able to lean on a senior in goal, have seniors and juniors on the blue line and up front. We have a nice base of leadership.

Q: Have you followed Jonathan Toews’ adventures in Chicago?
A: We’ve been in close contact, he had an unfortunate injury but was beginning to get comfortable in camp. As he gets over that injury, hopefully in the next couple days, we think he’s ready to transition to that level.

Q: You had a lot of other guys who could’ve left, but it sounds like a lot bonded together to come back. How do you create that on a team?
A: Some of that “pact” may have been fabricated to a certain extent. They’re a close-knit group of guys. A couple guys made the step, and we had about four who probably could’ve gone but decided to stay. They all had their own reasons. Certainly they talked amongst each other and had common interests. They’re excited for the season and are staying for the right reasons.

Q: College hockey has lost unusually high numbers in the last two years. With the way the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement has changed, do you see less raiding from the NHL in future years?
A: The NHL people are running their business as best they see fit. Every organization has a difference philosophy about developing their players. I don’t look at it as a raiding of players. Part of our job is to develop these guys so they’re ready to play in the National Hockey League. More often than not players are going to make the decision for the right reason and at the right time.

Q: You felt Jonathan was ready to make that step?
A: I think Jonathan had some questions at the end of the year. He went to the World Championships and played extremely well, which gave him an extra boost of confidence. I think a lot of people thought it was a given that he would leave after the season, but that wasn’t the case. He took a lot of time and I think he was ready mentally and physically to step up. He’s going to be able to contribute in the NHL immediately.

Q: With all your pre-season accolades, how are you dealing with those expectations?
A: Pre-season polls and predictions mean nothing. They’re not based on performance, they’re just predictions. Nobody has stepped on the ice or played a game. We talk about it openly, we have good leadership and our guys have their feet on the ground and know we’re going to be judged on our performance and wins and losses this year.

Q: What you have thought on how to replace Toews on that Duncan-Oshie line?
A: We’re going to call Chicago and ask for Johnny back. T.J. and Ryan will play together early on. We feel good about all of our freshman up front, we think Frattin could play there, maybe Brad Miller could step forward. There are different ways of thinking, VandeVelde was playing well at the end of last season, you could put him up the middle. We hope we can find some chemistry earlier than in previous years.

Q: When you had Parise and Bochenski there you could put a folding chair with them and have a good line. Is it like that this year?
A: We’re going to put a block of cheese out there with them. We need to find someone who’s comfortable there. It’ll be a challenge.