Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Gameday: A Top 5 Tussle

This past Friday, the UND men’s hockey team was still reeling from a eye-opening home-and-home split at the hands of unranked Bemidji State and were staring down an important NCHC season-opening series in Colorado Springs.

What a difference a week makes.

A 3-1 and 7-2 win and a series sweep over Colorado College later, all things look right for No. 3 North Dakota heading into a pivotal non-conference series against No. 5 Providence tonight and Saturday from the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

For the first time since 2011, the REA faithful welcome a Top 5 ranked team and the ranking is justified for the Friars. UND hasn't played Providence College since 1989.

GILLIES THE GREAT

Providence
Jr. G. Jon Gillies
Providence, the media’s preseason team to beat in Hockey East, is a veteran team that returns five 20-point forwards from last year’s squad that lost to eventual national champion Union in the East Region final.

Junior co-captains Ross Mauermann, the Friars leading scorer last year with 36 points (19g, 17a), and Noel Acciari (11g, 11a) pace the Providence offense.

However, it all starts between the pipes for Providence as junior stalwart Jon Gillies leads the Friars. An all-Hockey East preseason pick, Gillies was third in the nation last year in save percentage posting a miniscule .931.

The 6’5”, 215 pound and Mike Richter Award watch list goalie, Gillies looks more like an enforcer than a goaltender, but athletically, he’s as good as anyone in the country.

FIND A WEAKNESS

The Friars are 1-1 on the season following a non-conference split with Ohio State two weeks ago and an exhibition tie against the U.S. Under 18 team last Thursday.

If Providence sports a weakness at all, it may be on the blue line where since-departed Steven Shamanski and Kevin Hart led the team in minutes last season. That said, four regular contributors return, led by John Gilmour, and freshmen Jake Walman and Logan Day have made an early impact.

AWARD-WINNING WEEKEND

On the green and white side of the ice, UND seemed to get its offense rolling against Colorado College, netting 10 goals, five of which came from assistant captain Mark MacMillan.

After a two-goal performance in Friday’s 3-1 win, the senior centerman exploded for a five-point night including his first-career hat trick to pace a 7-2 UND blowout win. The seven-point weekend earned MacMillan NCHC offensive player of the week honors.

Joining MacMillan, sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue’s five-point (2g, 3a) weekend  earned him top defensive honors for the week in the NCHC.
North Dakota
Jr. G. Zane McIntyre

THE PICK

Ok, so DDC has talked about Gillies, the Friars offensive depth, UND’s increased offensive output and a Top 5 matchup, but what is he forgetting?

Zane McIntyre might have something to say about that.

After a shaky start got him yanked against in the season opener against Bemidji State, the junior netminder is 3-0 with a 1.33 goals against average and .953 save percentage.

What a matchup in between the pipes. Gillies and McIntyre. Gillies has never lost a game on consecutive nights in his Friar career. McIntyre has had it happen once. So, split, right?

UND laid an absolute egg in their first shot in front of their home crowd, getting dominated 5-1 against an unranked BSU. Since then, North Dakota has batten down the hatches defensively and found a way to score some goals. DDC thinks a hyped crowd could make the difference.

McIntyre has been lights out after the hiccup against the Beavers and DDC thinks he’s the difference this weekend as the green and white look to show the home crowd some love.

UND SWEEPS 2-0, 3-2.

 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Gameday: Moving On

“Disappointing.” “Unacceptable.” “Embarrassing.”

These were just some of the words uttered around fan circles after UND’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Bemidji State this past Friday as the Beavers looked more like the No. 2 team in the country, dominating North Dakota in every facet in Grand Forks.

UND coach Dave Hakstol said after the loss: “We got outcompeted. They were a focused, hungry team. We were not tonight. Bottom line, that’s on me.”

But, as the home-and-home series turned to Bemidji on Saturday, UND got back to what brought them to the verge of a national title game last season; lockdown defense and timely scoring, and North Dakota got an important 2-1 win and a non-conference split.

North Dakota played a much grittier game on Saturday night, getting to the front of the net and generating chances, and that play showed through. Senior captain Stephane Pattyn’s short-handed goal in the second period provided enough cushion for junior netminder Zane McIntyre’s steady 28-save effort in the win.

After Saturday night’s game, fan circles seemed relived and another term was often thrown out. It was time to simply “move on.”

Move on No. 3 UND does, right into NCHC play with this weekend’s series (8:30 p.m. CT Friday, 8 p.m. CT Saturday) against Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

The Tigers got a sweep last weekend at the hands of lowly Alabama-Huntsville 3-2 and 4-3, but it took some late-game heroics. Senior captain Peter Stoykewych netted the game-winning goal with 5:26 to go to seal the sweep against a Charger team that went 2-34-1 last year.

A sweep is a sweep, regardless of the opponent, however.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Colorado College is led by a solid defensive corps. Along with Stoykewych, the blueline is anchored by all-NCHC preseason pick, sophomore Jaccob Slavin. Slavin had a dynamic freshman campaign with a 20-point (5g, 20a) year.

Offensively, the Tigers look to continue to improve from last year’s paltry 56th ranked scoring after a 7-goal weekend against UAH.

Upfront, a pair of sophomores, Alex Roos and Sam Rothstein, look to provide CC’s scoring.

LOOKING FOR A TENDY

Expect to see a pair of goaltenders this weekend for the Tigers as CC tries to find a steady replacement for longtime netminder Josh Thorimbert, who graduated after last season.

Junior Tyler Marble got both wins last week, winning Friday night’s matchup and replacing a shaky freshman Chase Perry last Saturday night that saw the rookie get the hook after allowing three goals on nine shots through two periods.

THE PICK

Last Saturday night, UND got back to what made them successful last season and shutdown a game BSU team that was looking for an early-season sweep. DDC sees this continue this weekend in the Rocky Mountains.

The big ice sheet and elevation in Colorado Springs always seems to give UND trouble, but expect to see North Dakota clamp down on defense again against a team that hasn’t proven it has the offensive guns as of yet to keep up with solid defense. The extra space should provide a group of speedy forwards in junior Drake Caggiula, freshman Nick Schmaltz and sophomore Luke Johnson plenty of scoring opportunities. Pairing that with the play-making ability of d-men junior Jordan Schmaltz, sophomore Paul LaDue and senior Nick Mattson, UND’s talent will open up the transition game and pot some goals.

UND SWEEPS 5-2, 3-0.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Gameday: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

First day of Summer.

Birthday.

Christmas.

Start of college hockey.

Today is the day that the fans love the most.  Forget Christmas. THIS is the most wonderful time of the year. Let’s drop the puck.

The 2014-15 season kicks off tonight for the UND men’s hockey team as they share a home-and-home series with former WCHA rival, the Bemidji State University Beavers. 

Tonight’s tilt in Grand Forks and tomorrow’s in Bemidji features teams with much different expectations coming into the season.

UND comes into the matchup ranked No. 2 in the country and is expected to contend for a national championship, while BSU is trying to find its way back into the tournament for the first time since 2010.

Seeking Scoring


Bemidji State should be solid defensively as they return the entire defensive corps from last year’s 10-21-7 squad, including all-WCHA third teamer in senior Matt Prapavessis. The Beavers struggled to score last season, netting just 2.42 goals per game, but returns a large portion of their production from last season, including their top-four point getters in junior forwards Cory Ward and Markus Gerbrandt,  Prapavessis and sophomore forward Brendan Harms.

In the nets, senior Andrew Walsh and freshman and Moorhead native, Michael Bitzer will battle for starts with sophomore Jesse Wilkins out with injury until December. Walsh led the Beavers with 7 wins to Wilkins 3, but Wilkins topped Walsh in save percentage and goals against average last year.

Who’s Going to Step Up?


For North Dakota, scoring also looks to be the focus as defense should be strong for potentially one of the best d-corps in the country. Junior Jordan Schmaltz, senior Nick Mattson and sophomore Paul LaDue lead the way. Schmaltz is poised for a breakout season after a 24-point campaign, notching three points (1G, 2A) in UND’s 4-0 exhibition win over Manitoba this past Sunday.

Junior netminder Zane McIntyre is the backbone of this dynamic blue line. McIntyre comes into the year as the media’s pick for all-NCHC first team goaltending honors after a stalwart 2014-15 season that saw him carry the fifth best GAA (1.99) in country.

Up front, North Dakota returns three key cogs in senior assistant captains Michael Parks and Mark MacMillian alongside junior Drake Caggiula. Parks (12G, 18A), MacMillian (10G,16A) and Caggiula (11G,13A) were UNDs second, third and fourth leading scorers last season.

But, the real question is, who will step up and lead the way?

UND saw the potential of the playmaking touch of freshman Nick Schmaltz in their exhibition win as the NHL first round pick was electric, notching two assists and surrounding the net with chances all game. Schmaltz looks to replace the production of Rocco Grimaldi, who turned pro after last season after leading UND in goals, assists and points.

The Pick


Slow starts have become a punchline for North Dakota during head coach Dave Hakstol’s tenure. Should UND fans expect the same? DDC isn’t worried about it this week. Next week’s series with Providence coming to Grand Forks is a different animal. Nick Schmaltz was absolutely electric this past weekend and DDC looks for the forward to start an impressive season with a couple points this weekend. Nick’s brother, Jordan, is DDC’s pick as preseason player of the year in the NCHC and will show why. UND sweeps, 5-1, 2-0.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Time to Hit the Ice: DDC's 2014-15 NCHC Predictions

College hockey is back and so is the DDC.

As the schedule begins in earnest this week after a round of exhibitions for the NCHC, DDC takes a look at the league and at what to expect in the second year of the conference.

DDC’s Preseason Rankings

1) UND
2) Miami
3) Minnesota-Duluth
4) St. Cloud State
5) Denver
6) Western Michigan
7) Nebraska-Omaha
8) Colorado College

UND was tabbed by the NCHC media to take the Penrose Cup as the league’s champion this year, and for DDC, rightfully so. North Dakota is deep in the d-corps and Zane McIntyre could very well be the best goaltender in college hockey. Losing dynamic and diminutive Rocco Grimaldi leaves a void for the Green and White up front, but NHL first-round pick and Nick Schmaltz’s (2A) performance in a 4-0 exhibition win this past Sunday gave UND fans someone to look to for that lost production.

Miami returns a deep and skillful offense with Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik leading the way. Last year’s preseason favorite struggled all year but turned it around late but missed the NCAA’s after falling to Denver in the inaugural NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game. Defense will be the key to this team as scoring doesn’t look to be the problem.

DDC’s preseason darling is the UMD Bulldogs. Justin Crandall, Kyle Osterberg, Alex Iafallo and Tony Cameranesi lead a young and dynamic forward group. If the Dogs can find a netminder in a pair of juniors Matt McNeely and Alex Fons, this could be Penrose darkhorse.

St. Cloud State returns 40 point scorers Jonny Brodzinski and Kalle Kossila  but lose stalwart goaltender Ryan Faragher. If the Huskies find a man in the pipes, they will be a tough out this season 

The ones to watch

F – Jonny Brodzinski, St. Cloud State
F – Austin Czarnik, Miami
F – Riley Barber, Miami
D – Jordan Schmaltz, UND
D – Joey LaLeggia, DU
G – Zane McIntyre, UND

Honorable Mentions: F – Michael Parks, UND; F – Cameranesi, UMD; D – Jacob Slavin, Colorado College; D – Paul LaDue, UND.

Player of the Year: D – Schmaltz, UND

Schmaltz was left off the media's NCHC preseason favorites, however, DDC thinks big things are in store for the junior defenseman. Schmaltz was arguably the best player down the stretch for a North Dakota team that fell in the NCAA semifinals last season. The 6’2” blue liner has all the skills and his 3-point night (1G, 2A) in UND’s exhibition win puts the rest of the NCHC on notice.


So, that’s it. Time will tell. Let’s hit the ice.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hockey.... *sigh*


April 10, 2014.


June 13, 2014.

Yup. These two pictures are summation of DDC's hockey experience this past year. DDC's could easily say he died a little bit inside, but that would be a lot. These two losses hurt. But man, what a ride. 

Cheers, hockey. Here's to the countdown to October.