Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UND/Minnesota -- What's a Rivalry?

Former UND captain Chris Porter's game-winning goal in the 2007 West Regional Final. (Photo: UND Sports)
Pardon DDC for being a little bit disconnected the past two weeks. 

With Baby DDC No. 2 growing and battling sleep regression and his favorite baseball team playing currently playing in the ALCS (thumbs down... if you don't know what this means, Google it) DDC has been a wee bit predisposed. 

In the midst of all of this, in case you didn't know, my guess is you did, but in case you don't, the Minnesota Gophers travel to Grand Forks to take on the University of North Dakota men's hockey team this Friday and Saturday for a renewal of pleasantries in what has apparently become a debatable topic -- Is UND vs. Minnesota still a rivalry? 

So, let's take a look, shall we? First, let's start with a simple definition

What's in a Sports Rivalry?

According to the Wikipedia entry on "List of sports rivalries", a sports rivalry is defined as an "intense competition between athletic teams or athletes, but not directly related to the formal sport and the practice thereof. This pressure of competition is felt by players, coaches, and management, but is perhaps felt strongest by the fans."

So, in summation in DDC's words, a sports rivalry isn't necessarily about the ins and outs of the history between two teams (of course this is a massive part of it), but more about the experience and how players, coaches, teams respond to how the FANS feel about the competition. 

With this considered, there are two obvious sides -- Side 1 says "since UND and Minnesota have stopped playing yearly, the game is big, but doesn't feel the same." Side 2 rebuts with "the rivalry is as strong as ever regardless of how often they play."

Most Recent Examples

DDC is strong on side 2 with the two previous match ups (2014 Frozen Four semifinals and last year's series in Minneapolis) between UND and Minnesota showing an incredible intensity on the ice and a tremendous community response. 

Two examples of this.... one important thing to note. Listen to the crowd. DDC understands the importance of the 2014 goal, but the ovations are incredible.


This makes DDC a bit sick to his stomach to show this, but it helps prove his point. Just a note, DDC didn't watch it, he just listened.


Insanity. Listen! 

So, if we're using the most recent example, this sounds like tremendous community support, correct? Well, let's take a look at how the teams feel about this "rivalry".

What do the Players and Coaches Think?

DDC's single-favorite picture ever taken in regards
to this rivalry. (Photo: John Stennes, GF Herald.)
Head coach Brad Berry before UND traveled to take on Minnesota last season -- "It's on our walls in our rink here. (The players) get it from there. To hit on that point, we had T.J. Oshie and Taylor Chorney come in and give their point of view on how special the weekend is. Not only for the players, but for alumni watching. Obviously we haven't played them in a few years, but the history and tradition resonates through this building and through our program." 

By the way, what does that say about this set of games that NHL players TRAVEL TO GRAND FORKS to talk about it on their day off?

UND forward Shane Gersich about the games against Minnesota -- "Everyone knows what this rivalry is about. We know what's at stake without even talking about."

Former Minnesota forward Jake Bischoff before last year's series -- "My dad used to love playing North Dakota. Watching as a kid, I remember it being super intense; all the players would be getting into it with each other, and all the games were really competitive. It was always fun as a fan. Now, getting to play it should be unbelievable."

Former Minnesota forward Justin Kloos before last year's series -- "These are the ones you highlight. These are the ones you dream about."


So, so far... fans? Check. Players, coaches and alumni? Check.  

DDC's Final Take

In short, when considering the parameters of how the FANS feel and how the teams respond, DDC thinks it's clear as day that UND vs. Minnesota is still as big as it comes when talking about a sports rivalry, particularly in college hockey. 

Outside of these stated parameters, consider the tickets to the actual games. The UND athletic department announced ticket prices for this weekend's series at the Ralph Engelstad Arena back in August at $99, this highest single-game price in REA history. Did this cause fans pause to buy these tickets? Absolutely not. In fact, the tickets sold out instantly back in September.

Even the NCAA has recognized this rivalry, recently naming UND vs. Minnesota its No. 2 best in college hockey in a Facebook video. While DDC disagrees with this being No. 2, it still helps cement the point. 

The rivalry, yes, it is a rivalry, is back and we're all ready to go. So, how about a few pump up memories? Let's go. 


Check back tomorrow for a series preview. Thanks for reading!

 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Gameday: Just Like Old Times?

UND defenseman Derek Forbort battles along the boards with a UAA skater from in Anchorage, Alaska
in 2011 during the last time the Green and White and Seawolves played each other in Sullivan Arena. (Photo: UND Sports)
Alright, so this time is counts.

We've officially reached college hockey season as the No. 7 University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks travel to a place well known by the program, but not much by the current team.

The Hawks are on the road to faceoff with long-time Western Collegiate Hockey Conference foe the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves Friday and Saturday from Sullivan Arena.

These two teams have a long history together, but haven't played each other since the 2012-13 season as North Dakota left to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference before the 2013-14 campaign. UND hasn't played in Sullivan Arena since 2011.

Since then, UAA has struggled to perform in the WCHA having continued to finish near the bottom of the conference and dead last the past two years. UND, on the other hand, has continued its run at or near the top of the college hockey world, making the NCAA tournament every year since 2001 and winning its 8th National Championship in 2016.

So, will it continue to be like old times for this series that has seen UND dominate to a 46-17-5 clip all-time, or is the dawn of a new season and the task of the Hawks traveling nearly 3,000 miles for a pair of games enough to sway the tide for UAA?

Let's see what DDC thinks will stand out this weekend in Alaska in his weekly "Who? What? How?" series preview.

Who?

Players to Watch


Sr. G Olivier Mantha

Alaska-Anchorage (2016-17 scoring):


Sr. F, Matt Anholt, 5 goals, 17 assists -- 22 points; Sr. F, Tad Kozun, 5g, 14a -- 19 pts; Sr. D, Jarrett Brown, 5g, 10a -- 15 pts; Jr. F, Jonah Renouf, 3g, 6a -- 9 pts; Fr. F, Cameron Trott, 50 points in two seasons of Junior A hockey; Sr. G, Olivier Mantha, 7-18-4, 2.82 goals against average, .913 save percentage.

UND (2016-17 scoring):


Jr. F, Shane Gersich, 21g, 16a -- 37 pts; Sr. F, Austin Poganski, 12g, 13a -- 25 pts; So. D, Christian Wolanin, 6g, 16 a -- 24 pts; So. F, Rhett Gardner, 8g, 13a -- 21 pts; Fr. F, Grant Mismash, 2nd Round NHL draft pick; Sr. G, Cam Johnson, 20-13-3, 2.38 GAA, .903 SV PCT.

What? 

Standout Stats


Alaska Anchorage:


The Seawolves were last in the NCAA in scoring last season, recording just 1.74 goals per game and were second to last in power play goals at 0.44 per game.

Senior Matt Anholt leads UAA returners with 22 points (5g, 17a) last season.

Senior netminder Olivier Mantha has posted a .903 save percentage of better in his of his three seasons with the Seawolves.

UND:


UND leads the all-time series with UAA at a 46-17-5 mark. This weekend marks the first time the two long-time WCHA foes have played since October 26-27, 2012.

North Dakota has made the NCAA tournament in 15-straight seasons.

The Fighting Hawks return 7 of their top 10 scorers from last season, but lose 99 combined points from Tyson Jost (Colorado), Brock Boeser (Vancouver) and Tucker Poolman (Winnipeg), who all left for NHL contracts and are on opening-night rosters for their respective teams.

How?

How’d they get here?


UAA won their exhibition matchup against Simon Fraser University, 6-1. Senior forward Austin Azurdia had a hat trick and an assist in the win..

No. 7 UND topped Manitoba 6-2 in exhibition fashion as sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff notched two goals while all six rookie skaters tallied at least a point.

The Green and White are 6-0 in their last six games against Alaska Anchorage.
UND rookies Jordan Kawaguchi (29) and Nick Jones
converge on a Manitoba skater. (Photo: GF Herald)

The Pick

Well, this is kind of an odd one.

A non-conference series (and we know how important these are to the Pairwise) that's 3,000 miles from home with a team in UND that's chocked full of new faces that are still trying to get to know each other while replacing three NHL players from last season's roster.

Sounds easy, right?

Well, DDC thinks it will end up being that way, but it may take a minute. UAA has a nice group of returning players and are going to be fired up at home against an old-time foe, but frankly put, they have been at the bottom of the WCHA for the past two years for a reason.

The Hawks look like they are going to bring a depth that the Seawolves just cant hang with for a 60-minute game. With a group of returning standouts like skaters Shane Gersich, Austin Poganski, Christian Wolanin and netminder Cam Johnson, UND is simply more talented than UAA.

With that complement of talented returners, the Green and White showed in the exhibition that their rookies can play, too. Freshmen Grant Mismash and Jordan Kawaguchi both potted goals in their first games in a UND sweater while all six rookies tallied at least a point in a 6-2 drubbing of Manitoba. Of course, this is only an exhibition, but the rookies certainly passed the eye test last week against the Bisons.

Travel shouldn't be an excuse for the Fighting Hawks as they arrived three days in advance for this series and are the more talented team.

UND GETS THE SWEEP AT SULLIVAN AND LEAVES THE LAST FRONTIER WITH TWO WINS, 6-2, 4-1


Thanks for reading! Check back next week to see how the Green and White fared.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Roses and Thorns: Starting Hoff on the Right Foot

UND freshmen Matt Kierstad and Grant Mismash (16) celebrate a goal on Saturday from the Ralph Engelstad Arena
in Grand Forks. All six rookie skaters notched at least one point as the Fighting Hawks rolled
the Manitoba Bisons 6-2. (photo: GF Herald)

It'd been six months since we saw our boys in Green and White on the ice for competitive hockey and after a 6-2 exhibition drubbing of the Manitoba Bisons, the game was less about the score and more about who did the scoring for the Fighting Hawks.

UND got at least one point from all six of its rookie skaters, including a goal and an assist from second-round pick Grant Mismash and two assists from Collin Adams while the entire group looked like the college game would suit them fine.

Not to be undersold, the Hawks got a big performance from a returning skater in Ludvig Hoff who, centering the top line for the first time in his career, potted two goals leading the top group with Shane Gersich and Austin Poganski to a +6 performance.

Depth was the story before the start of the season and that held through in the exhibition as all four foward lines and two of three defensive pairings notched points against the Bisons.

It was a good start for the Green and White and here's what stood out to DDC in 2017-18's first installment of Roses and Thorns.

Roses

So. F, Ludvig Hoff
netted two goals
against Manitoba

No. 1 -- New Man in the Middle?


For the past two seasons before the start of 2017-18, UND's top line featured a dynamic, game-breaking name that centered the Green and White's clear best group. With Nick Schmaltz and Tyson Jost, both now in the NHL, UND has to find someone new to find that role. With two goals, including laser from the spot to open the scoring for the Fighting Hawks, sophomore Ludvig Hoff has firmly planted his name on the line chart, to start this year. Centering Shane Gersich and Austin Poganski, Hoff looked very much in control as the trio notched four points and were a combined +6.

No. 2 -- Newbies Step Right In


As DDC mentioned in his previous of this season, UND's season could come down to its depth and having a contributions from the crop of new faces would be a big development. Well, at least for this night, this rang true as all six rookie skaters notched a point. Standing out from that group were Grant Mismash with a goal and an assist. Mismash looked like he belonged with heady vision and a couple fantastic moves with his hands. Jordan Kawaguchi also scored a nice goal off a terrific pass from fellow freshman Josh Rieger from cross ice. This will be a group that is tremendously important to UND this season and the exhibition was a great start.

No. 3 -- Top Players Start Quick

Jr. D, Christian Wolanin
recorded a goal and an assist

Not to be forgotten during the underclassmen bonanza, the Green and White got great performances from a few established stalwarts. Junior Shane Gersich looked incredible, skating and creating chances all night while adding and assist while fellow Junior Christian Wolanin netted a goal and an assist. Arguably UND's two best pure playmakers, Gersich and Wolanin looked ready to start the season on a high note as both saw significant special team's time, as well. Wolanin quarterbacked the Power Play and looked calm and collected in doing so. Not to be left out, senior netminder Cam Johnson played well, too. While he let up two goals, one was on a clean breakaway after a turnover and the other on a bit of an off bounce. Johnson made a couple of key saves early in the second, as well. Good performance from some of UND's key players in this one.

Thorns

No. 1 -- Bad Turnovers


Turnovers were a bit of a problem last year and unfortunately, this hasn't wholly changed following the exhibition. Whether it's trying to go too quickly out of transition or completely missing open sticks on passes, UND had couple bad lapses against the Bisons. Sure, this can be attributed to knocking off a bit of rust, but it's a trend that has roots from 2016-17. Here's to hoping that's left behind before the Hawks travel up to Alaska.


Thanks for reading and check back later this week as DDC previews the Green and White traveling to Anchorage to face off with the Seawolves.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Let's Drop the Puck -- DDC's 2017-18 Season Preview

It's been six long months since we've last seen our beloved UND men's hockey team in action, but that changes as
the puck drops on Saturday when the Fighting Hawks take on the Manitoba Bisons in exhibition action. (Photo: Fargo Forum)
Holey moley, it's frickin' hockey season.

Maybe it's the fact that it was 90 degrees last weekend that makes it feel like we are still in the dog days of summer, but alas, here we are. It's nearly October and it's about time to drop the puck on the 2017-18 season.

Denver is the clear favorite for a back-to-back run at the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions as well as the favorite to defend their national championship, but as we UND hockey fans well know, it's pretty dang hard to repeat.

It's been six long months since the Fighting Hawks lost in heartbreaking OT fashion to Boston University at the West Regional in Fargo and UND has gone through some serious changes. Gone to the NHL are stalwarts Tyson Jost, Brock Boeser and Tucker Poolman. But, the cupboards are certainly not bare. The Green and White return a great nucleus of players that will lead UND in their run to a potential shot at Green Banner No. 9 when the Frozen Four rolls around from St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center in April.

Captaining this year's squad, senior Austin Poganski leads the way with Shane Gersich, Christian Wolanin and netminder Cam Johnson helping pace UND in it's new pursuit of greatness. Accompanying the returners, the Fighting Hawks bring in a nice group of freshman that are hoping to make an immediate impact.

So, let's take a look at what storylines will write the history for this year's UND men's hockey team. DDC delves into those storylines as well as preview his view of the NCHC and NCAA picture and predicts the Hawks' exhibition game against the Manitoba Bisons. Without further ado, let's get it going, shall we?

1) Depth, Depth, Depth

This team, unlike the past two seasons, isn't loaded with elite-level scoring, but it does have a lot of depth. The Fighting Hawks lose a combined 99 points from the trio of Jost, Boeser and Tucker Poolman, all having moved on to professional hockey contracts, but return 7 of their top 10 scorers from last season including last year's team leader in Shane Gersich (21 goals, 16 assists -- 37 points). UND looks to young players like Dixon Bowen and Ludvig Hoff to expand their roles as this team should be able to roll four deep lines if newcomers can come in and instantly contribute.

2) Fresh Meat

UND's rookie class doesn't have the blue chip name like Jost, Boeser or Nick Schmaltz like they have had in the past few seasons, but that doesn't mean this isn't a good class of rookies. In fact, neutralzone.net had the Hawks rated as the top class in the NCAA coming into this year. Grant Mismash is a 2nd-round NHL draft pick while Jordan Kawaguchi and Nicholas Jones are coming off BCHL playoff runs that saw them posted No. 1 and 2 in scoring.

3) Can Cam Return to Form?

2016-17 wasn't a terrible season for UND netminder Cam Johnson, but it wasn't to the level of what it was like during the Hawks' 2015-16 title run in which Johnson was a Mike Richter finalist as the NCAA's top goaltender. Loads of new freshmen defensemen getting used to college hockey was a big part of this, but Johnson was nevertheless not at his top form. With a returning group of D-men in Christian Wolanin, Colton Poolman, Hayden Shaw, Andrew Peski and Casey Johnson that logged significant minutes last season, Cam will have a chance to improve and be the backbone of UND once again. If this happens, the Green and White will have a chance to be in every game this year.

DDC's Preseason NCAA Top 10

1) DU
2) Providence
3) Boston University
4) UMass-Lowell
5) Penn State
6) Wisconsin
7) UND
8) St. Cloud State
9) Minnesota
10) Notre Dame

DDC's NCAA Take


It's DU's world and we're all just living in it. In all seriousness, all the top contenders have big question marks while DU pretty much just has the least. Returning the talent they have on the front end, they are the best team in the country until that is proven differently. Boston University lost a lot of talent, but still has a lot of with Jordan Greenway, Patrick Harper and Jake Oettinger leading the way. 

Penn State and Wisconsin are wholly unproven, but are loaded with talent. The Badgers lost Luke Kunin, but gained a legit No. 1 goalie in graduate transfer, All-American Kyle Hayton, formerly of St. Lawrence. DDC believes that UND can make some hay with a lot of depth, but lacks dynamic scoring that they have had the past two seasons. If Cam Johnson plays like he did during the Fighting Hawks' 2015-16 title run, the Green and White could be right there in St. Paul for the Frozen Four in April.

NCHC Picks

1) Denver
2) UND
3) St. Cloud State
Denver sophomore forward is DDC's
NCHC preseason Player of the Year pick
4) Minnesota Duluth
5) Miami
6) Western Michigan
7) Colorado College
8) Omaha

DDC's All-NCHC Team


F -- Henrik Borgstrom, DU
F -- Dylan Gambrell, DU
F -- Shane Gersich, UND
F -- Troy Terry, DU
D -- Jimmy Schuldt, St. Cloud State
D -- Louie Belpedio, Miami
G -- Cam Johnson, UND

Player of the Year: Borgstrom
Defenseman of the Year: Schuldt
Rookie of the Year: Grant Mismash, UND

DDC's NCHC Take


DU is No. 1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the NCAA polls and rightfully so. Losing last year's Hobey Baker Will Butcher is a big blow to their blue line, but returning stars in Henrik Borgstrom, Dylan Gambrell, Troy Terry and goaltender Tanner Jaillet, the defending national champs are poised for another deep run.

DDC likes UND's depth this season, but who will stand out as scorers? Contributions are needed from a nice group of freshman led by 2nd round NHL draft pick Grant Mismash. Cam Johnson ala 2015-16 would be a nice piece for North Dakota.

St. Cloud State looks like a team that will contend both in the NCHC and nationally with Jack Ahcan, Will Borgen, Mikey Eyssimont, the Poehling trio and Jimmy Schuldt leading the way. They are a legit goaltender from being really, really good. Can Slovakian rookie David Hrenak be they guy for the Huskies?
UND is 13-0 all time against the Manitoba Bisons

Bring on the Bisons

UND is 13-0 all-time against Manitoba and topped the Bisons 5-1 last year, but that game was more about raising banner No. 8 to the Ralph Engelstad Arena rafters. In this one, the Fighting Hawks starts its run to No. 9 and are trying to see who can make an early impact. Nicholas Jones has experience in college hockey, leaving Ohio State and heading to the BCHL before coming to Grand Forks. After a huge playoff run, can he make an early impression on his new teammates?

How about Shane Gersich? Can he build of an impressive sophomore campaign and bring the Hawks the elite scoring they are looking for? Will Cam Johnson once again become the man between the pipes or will freshman Peter Thome make his push?

DDC sees UND's depth taking hold here. The Green and White get scoring from all over the lineup as Gersich nets two, captain Austin Poganski gets one to go, while freshmen Jordan Kawaguchi and Grant Mismash endear themselves to the REA faithful with their first tallies. Ludvig Hoff and Johnny Simonson round out the scoring for a successful start to 2017-18.

UND ROLLS, 7-2


It's hockey season, ladies and gents. Let's do this!

Come back next week to see how it went down. Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 24, 2017

NCAA Tournament -- West Regional: It's Ours to Defend

UND's title defense starts Friday at 2 pm from Scheels Arena in Fargo versus the Boston University Terriers.
After all the ups and downs for the 2016-17 UND men's hockey team, they enter this weekend's NCAA West Regional right where they wanted to be at the start of the season -- 81 miles from home in Fargo with a chance to defend their 2015-16 national championship.

It's in our state and the title is ours to defend until someone takes it.

Joining the Green and White at Scheels Arena are three other teams who want to end UND's run at the top and move on to the Frozen Four in Chicago.

Semifinal 1 pits No. 3 seeded UND, the away team just an hour-plus from home, against the No. 2 seeded Boston University Terriers. In the other semifinal, the No. 1 seeded Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs faceoff with the No. 4 seeded Ohio State Buckeyes.

2017 NCAA West Regional -- Scheels Arena, Fargo

Friday:
Semifinal 1 -- No. 2 BU vs. No. 3 UND, ESPN2, 2 p.m.
Semifinal 2 -- No. 1 UMD vs. No. 4 OSU, ESPNU, 5:30

Saturday:
UND/BU vs. UMD/OSU -- ESPNU, 5 p.m.

Loaded with nine players drafted in the first or second round in the NHL draft, the Terriers are a team chocked full of talent. Minnesota Duluth enters the West Regional as the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and have beaten the Green and White five times in five opportunities this season, capped off by a wild 4-3 win in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game last weekend in Minneapolis. Ohio State features the best power play in the nation and the second-highest scoring offense.

Simply put, this is anybody's region to win.

When the brackets were announced this past Sunday, DDC called a friend when finding out UND would be taking on BU and had a potential looming battle with a foe in UMD that just locked the Green and White in a rough and tumble battle at the Target Center the night before and said, "Yikes."

DDC's first reaction was that he didn't want the Terriers in the first round. The response he got was simple -- "Well, no one wants to play us in the first round, either."

Think about it... The Green and White are playing this regional weekend having just beat the No. 1 overall seed Denver and took the No. 2 seeded Bulldogs down to the wire. UND is playing its best hockey of the season. Add that to the fact that the three other teams are headed to Fargo to play this weekend and the point is easy to make -- this region, this NCAA title, is ours until someone takes it.

Let's get it on.

Here's DDC's "Who? What? How?" breakdown of what will be a terrific weekend. Who will punch their ticket to Chicago?

Who?

Players to watch

BU Fr. F, Clayton Keller
leads all NCAA rookies
in points per game (1.45).


Boston University Terriers


Fr. F, Clayton Keller, 20 goals, 22 assists -- 42 points; Fr. F, Patrick Harper, 12g, 22a -- 34 pts; So. F, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, 13g, 19a -- 32 pts; So. F, Bobo Carpenter, 13g, 18a -- 31 pts; Fr. G, Jake Oettinger, 20-10-3, 2.09 goals against average, .927 save percentage.


UND


So. F, Shane Gersich, 21g, 16a -- 37 pts; Fr. F, Tyson Jost, 16g, 19a -- 35 pts; So. F, Brock Boeser, 16g, 17a -- 33 pts; Jr. D, Tucker Poolman, 7g, 23a -- 30 pts (questionable with injury); Jr. G, Cam Johnson, 20-12-3, 2.38 GAA, .904 SV PCT.

OSU So. Mason Jobst
leads the nation's top
power play and second-
highest scoring offense.

Ohio State University Buckeyes


So. F, Mason Jobst, 19g, 36a -- 55 pts; Sr. F, Nick Schilkey, 27g, 14a -- 41 pts; Sr. F, David Gust, 18g, 23a -- 41 pts; So. F, Dakota Joshua, 12g, 22a -- 34 pts; Sr. G, Christian Frey, 9-7-3, .910 SV PCT, 3.07 GAA; Sr. G, Matt Tomkins, 12-4-3, .909 SV PCT, 2.48 GAA.

Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs


Sr. F, Alex Iafallo, 18g, 27a -- 46 pts; So. F, Adam Johnson, 17g, 19a -- 36 pts; So. D, Neal Pionk, 7g 25a -- 32 pts; Fr. F, Joey Anderson, 10g, 20a -- 30 pts; Fr. G., Hunter Miska, 24-4-5, 2.23 GAA, .917 SV PCT.

What?

Standout Stats


Boston University


The Terriers are 18th in the NCAA in scoring, averaging 3.16 goals per game and 10th in goals allowed at 2.27.

Freshman Clayton Keller leads all NCAA rookies with a 1.45 points per game mark.

BU has four NHL first-round draft picks in Keller, Kieffer Bellows, Dante Fabbro and Charlie McAvoy and four second-round picks in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jordan Greenway, Chad Krys and John MacLeod. Netminder Jake Oettinger is expected to be drafted high in June's draft.

UND


The Green and White are t-16 in NCAA in scoring (3.18) and 19th in goals against (2.56).

UND allows the second least amount of shots per game in the nation with 24.8.

North Dakota is 12-5-2 when scoring first this year and just 9-10-1 when not.

Freshman Tyson Jost is 6th in the nation in rookie points per game with 1.09.

Minnesota Duluth


The Bulldogs are 8th in the NCAA in scoring offense (3.42) and 11th in defense (2.29).

Minnesota Duluth netminder Hunter Miska is t-4 in the NCAA with five shutouts and 2nd in winning percentage .803.

Neal Pionk and Dom Toninato are tied for 10th nationally in plus/minus with a +22 rating.

UMD is 16-0-2 when leading after two periods, this season and 4-4-5 when trailing at that same point.

Ohio State


OSU is 2nd in the NCAA in scoring with 3.97 goals per game but are allowing a 31st-best 2.89. The Buckeyes are first in power play with a ridiculous 32.5%, nearly five percentage points better than No. 2 Northeastern.

Sophomore forward Mason Jobst is 8th in the NCAA in points per game with 1.45 and t-5th in assists per game with .95.

Senior forward Nick Schilkey leads the nation in power play goals with 16 and is 2nd in goals per game with .79.

How?

How'd they get here?


No. 6 BU (23-11-3, At-Large Bid, 2nd in Hockey East) lost to Boston College in the Hockey East Tournament semifinals. The Terriers have won four out of their last six games. BU was rolled by Denver, 7-2, in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.

No. 10 UND (21-15-3, At-Large Bid, 4th in NCHC) topped Denver 1-0 and lost to UMD 4-3 in the  NCHC Frozen Faceoff last weekend. The loss on Saturday snapped a five-game winning streak. The Green and White are the defending national champion and are playing in their 15th-consecutive NCAA tournament (2nd-best streak in history).

No. 3 UMD (25-6-7, NCHC tournament champion, 2nd in NCHC) topped UND 4-3 in the finals of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff last weekend. The Bulldogs have won five straight games. UMD lost to Boston College 3-2 in the Regional Final.

No. 14 Ohio State (21-11-6, At-Large Bid, 3rd in BTHC) lost to Wisconsin 2-1 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. Before the loss, the Buckeyes had won four straight. OSU returns to the national tournament for the first time since 2009.

The Pick(s)

So now that you're all caught up on the ins and outs of these four teams, let's get to it.

West Regional Semifinal No. 1 -- UND vs. BU


What a juicy match up. These are two of college hockey's blue bloods taking the ice in an arena that will be packed to the rafters.

Boston University entered this season will all the accolades.

Picked by many fans and media as the favorites to raise the national championship trophy at the end of the year, the Terriers have wholly lived up to expectations. While their season hasn't been perfect, BU is a tremendously talented team that is stocked with players who know what it feels like to play in big-time situations. Seven players from this year's squad played in the World Junior Championship tournament with six winning gold for Team USA. The big stage won't scare the Terriers.

On the other side of the ice, the defending national champions know exactly how to play in this spot, having won the 2015 West Regional in Scheels Arena in front of a green-clad, tremendously partisan and raucous crowd.

While both teams won't be afraid of the bright lights, the crowd in Fargo will be jacked up for this one and an early edge will do one of two things depending on who nets the first tally on Friday. It will either blow the roof off the arena if it's the Green and White leading, while the silence will be deafening if it's the Terriers.

Boston University, with all its youth, hasn't exactly been world beaters away from home this season, going just 10-8-1 away from their home rink, Agganis Arena. Also, since the national tournament went to its current 16-team format in 2003, BU hasn't done well when having to fly to a regional, losing in the first round in three previous attempts.

The Terriers have also had a recent trend of falling behind early. In their last nine games, BU has allowed the first goal of the game and have gone 4-4-1 in those games.

So, being unfazed by the big stage is one thing in the WJC, falling behind UND in Fargo doesn't seem like a recipe for success for the Terriers.

Both teams have top end talent. Both teams can score. Both teams are serviceable defensively. Both teams have solid goaltending. What will be the decider?

Again, this one is in North Dakota and this rink is ours to defend.

UND TOPS BU IN A WILD ONE, 5-4.


West Regional Seminfinal No. 2 -- UMD vs. OSU


Ohio State reminds DDC a lot of UND's 2016 Midwest Regional final foe, Michigan. This is a team that can score quick, fast and in a hurry. However, that's not where the comparison ends. Much like the Wolverines last season, the Buckeyes are a bit leaky defensively, sporting the 31st-ranked team defense, allowing 2.89 goals per game.

Their opponent, the UMD Bulldogs are, top-to-bottom, one of the most well-rounded and skilled teams in the NCAA featuring the 8th-best scoring offense and 11th-ranked team defense. Goaltender Hunter Miska will be tested against a team the tries to fire the puck from everywhere, but UMD has been near the top of the NCAA polls all year for a reason.

In DDC's opinion, it's all about composure for the Bulldogs. In the Frozen Faceoff championship last weekend against UND, Minnesota Duluth was incredibly undisciplined, committing 15 penalties and allowing three power play goals. Against the best power play in the country in OSU, UMD has to stay out of the box.

While DDC thinks OSU will get their chances with the extra man, the Buckeyes don't look to be deep enough to hold the Bulldogs down for 60 minutes.

THE BULLDOGS MOVE ON TO SATURDAY, 5-2.


West Region Final -- UND vs. UMD


*Takes a deep breath*

The Bulldogs have beaten the Green and White five teams this season and have won the last six between the two teams, overall.
 
However, after UMD beat UND last weekend in Minneapolis, in a game that was as intense, chippy and wild as it comes, DDC realized one thing -- the Green and White can beat the Bulldogs.

Much like against BU, both of these teams can score, play defense and have good netminding. This time, UND finishes the job.

Forget Neal Pionk running over Cam Johnson. Forget all the questionable calls. Forget the late, heart-breaking goal in Minneapolis. Forget six losses in a row.

With sights set on Chicago and revenge in the cross hairs, North Dakota will take on one of its biggest rivals, but this time, it's to keep its title defense alive and it's in their backyard.

It's ours to defend.

UND TAKES DOWN THE BULLDOGS AND ADVANCES TO THEIR FOURTH-STRAIGHT FROZEN FOUR, 3-2.


Strap in, boys and girls. Thanks for reading.