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.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Rivalry Renews -- DDC's Frozen Four Semifinals Predictions

Alright, enough with the prognosticating, the analysis, the "my-team-is-better-than-your team", the nonsense, the memories and the tomfoolery.

It's finally game day.

DDC's little one is certainly ready for tonight. She'll be decked out in her "business suit" today.

After an exhausting 11 days of trudging through stats, comparisons and every angle of the rivalry, UND and Minnesota will finally face off  at 7:30 CST from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia at the 2014 Frozen Four.

Thank God.

DDC has refused to make a prediction for this game during the longest 11 days that he can remember, because he's seen this rivalry bring out the best in both teams too many times.

Cliches are beloved by sports fans and this one is especially perfect for Thursday's game. "When these two teams get together, you can throw out the record books."

On paper, the general consensus from most covering this match up gives the nod to the Gophers. UND head coach Dave Hakstol noted early this week that Minnesota has "earned the No. 1 seed" and has played into the being the favorite. DDC agrees. Minnesota has been a dominant team for long stretches this season.

One thing Minnesota hasn't seen yet this season, in DDC's opinion, is a team that is similar to its own, up and down the lineup. The Gophers pride themselves on depth up front, as does UND; the Gophers herald a fast and skilled, puck-moving defensive corps, so does North Dakota; Minnesota has a talented sophomore goaltender, so do the Sioux.

Get the drift? These two teams are very equal. Throw in a rivalry game for a chance to play for a national championship and this game is nearly a toss up.

This is why DDC has had a tough time picking this game.

So, what is going to be the difference maker?

The last time UND made the Frozen Four in 2011, they expected to win a national championship. It's Minnesota's time in the spotlight, this year.

Will this cause Minnesota to be tight in this one? DDC think so. Pressure is the beast that no one likes to carry. It's hard to be the team that's "supposed to win."

North Dakota wasn't supposed to be in this position. They showed a loose style of play in their last three games (5-0 win over WMU in the NCHC third place game included). DDC thinks this is the difference maker.

UND plays with a large chip on their shoulder, sticks the pedal to the medal and stymies a potent Minnesota attack. That, and Gothberg plays the way he did against Ferris State.

UND 3, Minnesota 1

BC and Union face off in the early game at 4 pm CST in what should be a dandy. In a change from UND/Minnesota, these two teams are the opposite of each other in it's two opposite teams battling in this one. It'll be BC's offense, led by Hobey Baker winner elect, Johnny Gaudreau versus the stout Union defense led by Hobey Finalist Shane Gostisbehere. 

DDC called UND vs. Union at the start of the tournament. Why stop now? Union will have it's hands full with BC, of course, but DDC likes their 'D' and hates BC's depth. Union slows, not shuts down, but slows, the top line of Johnny Hockey and Kevin Hayes and moves on to Saturday.

Union 4, BC 3