Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Roses and Thorns: A No Surprise Split

NCHC Standings:
T-1) UND, 5-1-0-0, 15 points; T-1) SCSU,
5-1-0-0, 15 pts; T-3) DU, 3-0-1, 10 pts; T-3)
UNO, 3-2-1, 10 pts; T-5) UMD, 2-3-1, 7 pts;
T-5) Miami, 2-5-1, 7 pts; 7) WMU, 2-4-0, 6 pts:
8) Colorado College, 0-6-0, 0 pts

Despite his homer pick of a UND sweep, the "no-sweep series" once again lived up to its billing and DDC is certainly not surprised.

North Dakota and St. Cloud State, the top two teams in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, both earned a win over the weekend at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. UND, paced by a hat trick by senior Drake Caggiula won a 4-3 contest on Friday, but the Huskies earned the split with a 6-1 victory on Saturday.

All things considered, this wasn't a terrible result for either team as the rivals leave the series the same way they entered -- tied a top the NCHC.

Here's what stood out to DDC in his weekly Roses and Thorns series recap.


No. 1 -- Drake Caggiula

The senior forward paced the vaunted CBS line along side Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser this weekend, notching his first-career hat trick on Friday night. Caggiula was a force in the opening game of the series, scoring his third goal, the eventual game winner, just 28 seconds into the third period as UND held on for the victory. The CBS line was dominant on Friday, tallying 7 points, led by Caggiula. As it has all season, as the CBS line goes, so goes the Green and White.

No. 2 -- Rhett Gardner

UND Fr. F, Rhett Gardner
Nursing a 4-3 lead with just five seconds left in the game, UND lined up for a decisive faceoff in their defensive zone. St. Cloud had dominated the dots all game and this was by far the biggest one of the night. Gardner stepped in, won a clean draw and UND held on for the win. The closing play wasn't the only mark that the freshman made in Friday's game as he netted another goal-front goal, his fourth of the season and added an assist. Outside of the CBS line, Gardner might be the Green and White's most consistent player of late. His heavy frame and offensive skill has had Moose Jaw, Sask., native on the ice a lot in the last handful of games for UND. A friend noted that Gardner is developing much like another familiar 22 for UND, Brad Malone. For fans of the Green and White, this would be a welcomed development. Gardner keeps impressing.

No. 3 -- Charlie Lindgren 

The St. Cloud State goaltender came into this weekend's series sporting numbers that had him among the top of the NCAA goalie stats and Lindgren certainly impressed. Despite allowing four goals on Friday, Lindgren made several big saves to keep it close. On Saturday, the Husky netminder was dominant, stopping 28 of 29 UND shots, including 16 in the third, to earn SCSU the split. With the game 4-1 in the third, UND peppered Lindgren as the Green and White pressed to get back in the game and Lindgren shut the door. Props to the first non-UND rose on the season.


No. 1 -- UND's Penalty Kill

This is becoming a bit of a trend for UND as the PK struggled, allowing 3 goals on 10 chances on the weekend. St. Cloud has a dynamic bunch of scoring forwards and they move the puck incredibly well on the power play and that hurt the Green and White, particularly on Saturday as the Huskies scored twice with the extra man. UND's lack of discipline has put this unit on the ice a lot this season and North Dakota has yet to find a consistent group of penalty killers. With the game tightening at 3-1 late in the second period, Trevor Olson took a silly, five minute interference penalty and SCSU cashed in and essentially sealed the game. This unit must find some consistency. A paltry 77.4% success rate on the PK just won't cut it.

No. 2 -- Concerns in Net

UND Jr. G, Matt Hyrnkiw

Following an injury to starting goaltender Cam Johnson, just two plus games into the season, Matt Hyrnkiw was pressed into duty and did well, losing just one game in his first nine starts. However, Hrynkiw seemed to fight the puck this weekend against a SCSU squad that has the most scoring touch UND has played against this season, leaving several juicy rebounds to St. Cloud sticks on Friday. That continued a bit on Saturday and the junior was pulled in the second period with UND down 3-0. Johnson relieved Hyrnkiw and didn't do much to assure anything going forward for the Green and White as he too allowed three goals. Not all the blame can be placed on Hyrnkiw for either result as he made several big saves on Friday with St. Cloud pressing late, but the rebound control has been somewhat of a problem all season. UND had the luxury over the past two seasons of a goaltender in Zane McIntryre that had the ability to steal games if the Green and White were struggling. Neither Hrynkiw nor Johnson have proven this ability so far this season. While both are certainly serviceable, UND will need to find more consistent play if they have hopes of hanging banner No. 8 in the rafters of the REA. Freshman Matej Tomek is still on the shelf with nagging injuries, but will get his shot in net once healthy as neither Hrynkiw or Johnson have truly taken the reigns.

So there you have it. Come back later this week as UND prepares to travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a non-conference, turkey day weekend series with Michigan State.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Friday Gameday: New Name, Same Game

It's certainly been an interesting week for the UND men's hockey team.

A decades long battle to officially replace the beloved Fighting Sioux nickname came to an end on Wednesday as the UND brass announced Fighting Hawks as the newly chosen moniker.

DDC isn't quite ready to transition and will refrain from doing so until he shakes his jitters of replacing an icon that's close to his heart.

For North Dakota, unfortunately, they do not have the luxury of waiting. We are... Fighting Hawks.

In all reality, nothing has changed for the Green and White and business is at hand. Despite all the nickname hoopla, UND has it's hands full this Friday and Saturday night as they travel to St. Cloud and the Herb Brooks Arena to take on their long-time rival, the St. Cloud State Huskies.

These two teams know each other very well.

Dubbed "The no-sweep series" by DDC's friend, former colleague and the best college hockey writer in the biz, Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, the stats are flat out insane. Since the 2001-02 season, UND and SCSU have played at least one two-game series. None of those series have resulted in a sweep for either team. In another oddity, during a 10-year span from 2002-03 to the 2012-13 season, the Green and White went 0-8-2 on Friday night and 10-0 on Saturday. Can any of that change this weekend?

The Huskies topped UND in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semis 3-1 last season, but, just eight days later, the Green and White earned the biggest win between the two, beating SCSU 4-1 in the Western Regional Final in Fargo, to advance to the Frozen Four.

First place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is on the line this weekend and here's what to watch for in DDC's "Who? What? How?" series breakdown.


Players to watch

SCSU Sr. F, Joey Benik


So. F, Patrick Russell, 6 goals, 6 assists -- 12 points; Sr. F, Kalle Kossila, 2g, 10a -- 12 pts; Sr. F, Joey Benik, 7g, 3a -- 10 pts; So. F, Judd Peterson, 6g, 3a -- 9 pts; Jr. G, Charlie Lindgren, 7-2-0, 1.49 goals against average (6th in the NCAA), .944 save percentage (7th in the NCAA).


Sr. F, Drake Caggiula, 4g, 9a -- 13 pts; So. F, Nick Schmaltz, 2g, 11a -- 13 pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser, 7g, 5a -- 12 pts; Sr. F, Bryn Chyzyk, 6g, 3a -- 9 pts; Jr. D, Troy Stecher, 2g, 7a -- 9 pts; Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw, 8-1-1, 1.81 GAA (10th in NCAA), .920 SV PCT.


Standout Stats

UND leads the country in shots allowed, giving up just 22.25 shots per game. On the offensive end, the Green and White also lead the country in shot margin with a +176.

The "CBS line" of Drake Caggiula (+16), Nick Schmaltz (+15) and Brock Boeser (+13) ranks 1st, 2nd and 4th respectively in the NCAA in plus/minus rating.

St. Cloud State is 6th in the NCAA in goals per game with a whopping 4.10 mark. UND isn't far behind, scoring 3.58 goals per game. Defensively, the Huskies are third in the NCAA in goals allowed, averaging just 1.50 goals against. Again, the Green and White are not far behind with a 7th-best NCAA mark of 1.83 goals against per game.

UND topped SCSU 4-1 last March in the West Regional Final in Fargo
to advance to the Frozen Four. (Photo credit: St. Cloud Times)


How'd they get here?

This weekend's series in St. Cloud is a match up of the top two teams in the NCHC and two top 10 teams in the national rankings.

No. 3 UND (9-1-2, 4-0-0-0 NCHC) swept Miami last weekend 6-2 and 4-3 in OT.

No. 7 St. Cloud State (8-2-0, 4-0-0-0 NCHC) is on a four-game winning streak including a sweep against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., 5-2 on Friday and a whopping 11-1 on Saturday. The 11-goal explosion set a NCHC record for goals in a game.

The Pick

It's time for DDC to, for the first time publicly, embrace something he's avoided for the duration of his time writing this blog.

For far too long, DDC has hidden behind a facade, a smokescreen, a masquerade. After years of non-biased nonsense, it's time to admit it.

I am DDC and I am a homer.

Man, that felt good.

The history, the statistics, the rivalry all scream split, but DDC won't hide anymore.

Let's get this straight. Both of these teams are very good. This series will be tight. Both teams are solid defensively and can flat out light the lamp, but DDC feels this Green and White squad has that killer instinct and that was evident last Saturday against Miami.

UND dominated the RedHawks throughout, but trailed 3-2 with time ticking down in the third. Then, the killer instinct, the dynamic, cold-blooded, game-breaking scoring ability took over and North Dakota got it done.

It's time for the Green and White to shake off a week to forget and exercise the "No-sweep series" demons.

This is a statement series for both teams that could go a long way towards a Penrose Cup title. DDC thinks UND makes the statement this weekend and, for the first time in 17 years ... sweeps the Huskies in St. Cloud.

UND SWEEPS, 4-3, 4-2

Come back after the series and see if the homer call held up. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Roses and Thorns: Dynamic, Game-Breaking, Cold-Blooded Goal Scoring

Following the UND men's hockey team's exhibition win over Manitoba, the DDC wrote in his Roses and Thorns column that this year's team might have something that had been lack over the last handful of years in Grand Forks: dynamic, game-breaking, cold-blooded goal scoring.

If there was any doubt that the 2015-16 Green and White lack that special knack, one play may have put that all to rest.

UND raced out to a 5-0 lead on Miami on Friday night, but gave up back-to-back goals in the third period to make the game interesting. Then, one play put the college hockey world on notice that this North Dakota squad has a scoring punch that is something to behold.

Any questions?

The goal had Grand Forks, social media and the college hockey world buzzing. But, UND didn't stop with that goal and 6-2 win.

On Saturday night, despite being heavily out shot, Miami looked to hush all the hype and scored a goal with just under 6 minutes to go in the third to take a 3-2 lead. But, once again, the cold-blooded scoring punch rang true for UND when Nick Schmaltz buried the game-tying goal with an extra attacker to tie the game at three and Luke Johnson scored just 1:23 into overtime to give the Green and White a National Collegiate Hockey Conference sweep, 4-3.

Here's what stood out from this weekend's series at the Ralph in DDC's weekly Roses and Thorns column.


UND Sr. F, Drake Caggiula leads the Green and White with 13 points (4g, 9a)
this season. The senior paces his vaunted "CBS line" with sophomore Nick
Schmaltz and freshman Brock Boeser. (Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald.

No. 1 -- The CBS line

Honestly, DDC could just go ahead and say "see above" and point you to the attached video, but that would diminish the impact that the line of Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser had again this weekend. Leading the way once again, this line racked up 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) including a 1 goal, 3 assist Friday night from both Schmaltz and Boeser. DDC's friend told him earlier this past week before the Miami series that he thinks Schmaltz might be the best passer he's ever seen in college hockey. His opinion is one that DDC respects pretty much more than any, but he was hesitant to give Schmaltz that honor. However, after this weekend, it really is becoming hard to argue. Couple the play-making touch of Schmaltz with the pure scoring from Boeser and Caggiula, UND has something special this season.

No. 2 -- Rhett Gardner

With heralded freshmen of the likes of Boeser, Shane Gersich and Chris Wilkie coming into the program, the big-bodied Gardner was a bit of an afterthought. After a goal in each game against Miami, the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native appears to be carving out a big role with this UND squad. With a team full of scoring touch, Gardner is adding a net-front presence and that showed against Miami. Gardner tipped in a Troy Stecher point shot on Friday and buried a pass from Caggiula on the door step on Saturday, netting his second and third goals of the season. As the Green and White continue on their schedule with defenses keying on UND's elite scoring, greasy, tough-guy goals from guys like Gardner and Austin Poganski will be very important.

No. 3 -- Tucker Poolman 

Speaking of big bodies... after missing the previous four games with a leg injury, the sophomore defenseman got back in to the lineup this weekend and Poolman did not miss a beat. The East Grand Forks native was a plus 4 and assisted on UND's first goal on Saturday night. With junior d-man Paul LaDue missing Saturday's game with an injury, Poolman logged heavy minutes and was on the ice for all four of UND's goals. Fans of the Green and White know what this guy is capable with his rocket of a slap shot from the point, but Poolman showed his lock down defensive ability this weekend.


No. 1 -- Injuries

UND Jr. D, Paul LaDue

Even though it may turn out not to be a serious one, LaDue's injury in the second period on Friday is certainly a cause of frustration for UND. LaDue has had a bit of a slow start to the 2015-16 season, but potted his first goal of the season on Friday night before leaving before the start of the third. Early indications are that LaDue may not miss any time, but if he does, the junior will be the ninth player to sit because of injury this year for the Green and White.

No. 2 -- Special Teams

Miami came into this weekend's series boasting the nation's third-best penalty kill and despite UND notching a power play goal early in the first period on Friday, the Green and White struggled the rest of the weekend, going a total of 1 for 7 with the extra man. The penalty kill didn't fare any better, allowing three power play goals in the series. After a nice stretch of penalty kill play over the previous two weekends, UND reverted to its early-season struggles a bit and are a dismal 79.1% while down a man on the season. With the scoring touch that the Green and White have shown this season, 14.3% on the power play certainly isn't a game-breaking number. These two areas will need to improve going forward.

There you have it. Come back later this week as UND travels down I-94 to take on rival St. Cloud State from Herb Brooks Arena in St. Cloud. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Gameday: On the Conference Grind

Flashback to March 7, 2015.

The UND men's hockey team gritted out a 2-1 win on Friday night over Miami in their home barn to clinch the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions. The Green and White were presented the Penrose in the locker room, but the celebration bled out to the ice as the team posed for pictures with the regular season championship trophy.

I'm not sure how you'd feel about that, but if DDC were in the Miami home locker room, that would certainly leave him with a sour taste in his mouth.

Although the stakes may not be as high, will a bit of revenge be looked for this weekend as the Miami University RedHawks travel to Ralph Engelstad Arena to take on UND in a NCHC series?

I guess we'll find out.

Here's what to watch for in this conference showdown this Friday and Saturday in DDC's weekly "Who? What? How?" series preview.


Players to Watch


Miami Fr. F, Jack Roslovic

Fr. F, Jack Roslovic, 6 goals, 3 assists -- 9 points; Fr. F, Josh Melnick, 3g, 3a -- 6 pts; Jr. F, Anthony Lewis, 1g, 5a -- 6 pts; So. D, Louie Belpedio, 1a, 4a -- 5 pts; Sr. F, Sean Kuraly, 0g, 3a -- 3 pts; Sr. G, Ryan McKay, 5-2-1, 1.70 goals against average (10th in NCAA), .937 save percentage (11th in NCAA).


Sr. F, Drake Caggiula, 3g, 8a -- 11 pts; Sr. F, Bryn Chyzyk, 5g, 3a -- 8 pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser, 5g, 2a -- 7 pts; Jr. D, Troy Stecher, 2g, 5a -- 7 pts; So. F, Nick Schmaltz, 0g, 7a -- 7 pts; Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw, 1.63 GAA (8th in NCAA), .933 SV PCT (14th in NCAA).


Standout Stats

North Dakota leads the country in shots on goal with 375, is fourth in shots per game, averaging 37.5 and is second in plus/minus with a +16.

UND's 1.70 goals allowed per game is 6th best in the NCAA. Miami ranks 20th with 2.50 allowed.

Miami carries the third best penalty kill in the country into this weekend's series, having stopped 34 of 35 power play chances for a sterling 97.1% kill average.

UND is 7-4-1 all time against Miami. The two teams split both series last season.


How did they get here?

No. 3 UND (7-1-2, 2-0-0-0 NCHC) dropped its first game of the year 3-1 last Friday at home against Wisconsin, but battled back and earned a non-conference split with a 3-1 win on Saturday. Friday night's loss haulted the Green and White's best season-opening unbeaten streak (8 games) since 1999-00.

No. 17 Miami (5-4-1, 2-2-0-0 NCHC) swept Western Michigan with a pair of 2-1 NCHC victories last weekend at home in Oxford, Ohio.

The Pick

UND celebrated with the Penrose Cup on Miami's home ice last March.
Will this fire up Miami this weekend at the Ralph? (photo: GF Herald)
UND has certainly had a great start to this season. All things considered, with a new head coach, 11 freshmen and a boatload of injuries, the Green and White have thus far exceeded expectations with a 7-1-2 start. With all due respect to Lake Superior State, Maine, Vermont, Colorado College and Wisconsin, this will be the toughest test for UND to this point in the season.

The RedHawks are loaded up front and freshman Jack Roslovic looks to be the real deal. Senior goaltender Ryan McKay has taken control of the Miami net in a battle with fellow senior Jay Williams with solid numbers.

UND experienced defeat for the first time this season at the hands of bitter rival Wisconsin last weekend and frankly, they deserved to lose on Friday night. The Badgers were tenacious defensively and had a compete level that the Green and White never really matched. UND bounced back on Saturday with a much better showing and got a convincing win. This will serve this team well as Miami will be jazzed up in front of a raucous REA crowd and will be looking for a bit of payback for the Penrose Cup victory celebration in Oxford.

This series screams split, but DDC really likes how UND responded last Saturday against Wisconsin. This team, loaded with freshmen, found out the hard way on Friday night what happens when your compete level isn't where it should be from the drop of the puck. While Miami is very talented, DDC likes the home ice advantage in this one.


There you have it. Come back after the series to see if DDC made the right call. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Gameday: A Big Fight Feel

It's Rylan Kaip leveling Kyle Turris in the corner.

It's a 2-0 third period deficit in the 2008 Midwest Regional in Madison turning into a 3-2 OT win, sending UND to the Frozen Four on goals by Kaip, Ryan Duncan (PING!) and Andrew Kozek.

It's Dave Hakstol and Mike Eaves arguing on ice.

It's Cary Eades taking on the Wisconsin bench in the infamous Water Bottle Incident.

And for the first time since 2013, it's UND vs. the Wisconsin Badgers from the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

There's a big fight feel in the air tonight.

These former WCHA foes left for the NCHC and Big 10 to start the 2013-14 season and have gone in opposite directions. The Green and White have made back-to-back Frozen Fours while Wisconsin has seen unprecedented struggles. 

Excuse the cliche, but you can throw that all out the window this weekend.

It's UND vs. Wisconsin.

Here's what to watch for in DDC's weekly "Who? What? How?" series preview.


Players to Watch


Jr. F, Grant Besse 3 goals, 5 assists -- 8 points; Fr. F, Seamus Malone 2g, 5a -- 7pts; Fr. F, Luke Kunin 2g, 4a -- 6pts; Fr. G, Matt Juruski, 2-2-2, 2.84 goals against average, .904 save percentage.


UND Sr. F. Drake Caggiula

Sr. F, Drake Caggiula 2g, 7a -- 9pts; Sr. F, Bryn Chyzyk 5g, 2a -- 7pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser 5g, 2a -- 7pts (T-2 in NCAA rookie goal scoring); Jr. D, Troy Stecher 2g, 5a -- 7pts; Jr. G, Matt Hyrnkiw, 5-0-1, 1.48 GAA (11th in NCAA), .942 SV PCT (13th in NCAA).


Standout Stats

UND brings in the NCAA's eighth-best scoring defense (1.62 goals against per game) and 16th-best scoring offense (3.62 goals scored per game) into this weekend's series.

UND's 6-0-2 mark is their longest unbeaten streak to start a season since 1999-00.

Wisconsin's sweep of Arizona State last weekend was their first series sweep since March 2014 against Penn State.

The Green and White are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games against the Badgers including a 4-3, 5-1 sweep last November in Madison.


How'd they get here?

UND swept Colorado College last weekend 5-2, 2-0 in Colorado Springs. The No. 1 Green and White are unbeaten on the season with a 6-0-2 record.

Wisconsin got a non-conference sweep of Arizona State 5-1, 2-1 at home. In Friday night's win, the Badgers outshot the D-I rookie Sun Devil team 56-19. They carry a 2-3-3 record to Grand Forks.

The Pick

UND celebrates its comeback 3-2 overtime win over Wisconsin in the
2008 Midwest Regional final in Madison. This is easily DDC's favorite
image from that game. J.P. Lamoreux's celebration is flat out epic.
Boy does this series bring the DDC back down memory lane.

Whether it's covering the 2-0 comeback in the 2008 Midwest Regional with one of his best friends while they both had bleach blonde hair (fun story... feel free to ask), a rowdy series in Madison where DDC watched UND clinch a MacNaughton Cup with a dozen of his fraternity brothers or seeing the Green and White end Wisco's season just one week after the Badgers got UND into the tournament, DDC flat out loves watching these two teams play and he has the honor of being in Grand Forks this weekend, to watch it in person.

Outside of the Minnesota Gophers, this is the one team that DDC hates more than any other. Year after year, big game after big game, playoff battle after playoff battle, UND vs. Wisconsin brings an intensity that few other rivalries in college hockey can bring.

Despite where they are in the national standing and their records, DDC expects a game Badgers team this weekend in Grand Forks.

All of the emotion aside, UND is playing better than Wisconsin.

The Green and White are No. 1 in the country, paced by a dynamic scoring punch and a goaltender playing as well as any the country.

The Badgers got their first sweep in 18+ months at the hands of D-I infant Arizona State.

UND is the better team in every phase, this season and while this series could very well end up being a dog fight, stirring up memories of battles of the past, the talent difference between these two teams can't be ignored.

Bring it, Bucky. It's time for a fight.


Come back after the series for DDC's recap.