Monday, March 20, 2017

Roses and Thorns: Trying to Take the High Road

UND and Minnesota Duluth scuffle after UMD's Neal Pionk (4) ran over North Dakota goaltender Cam Johnson (33)
in the first period of the Bulldogs' 4-3 win over the Green and White in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Championship game
from the Target Center in Minneapolis on Saturday. Pionk was issued a five-minute penalty for the play. (Photo: Eric Hylden, GF Herald)
This must be said ...

DDC isn't "that guy" to criticize officiating. He's truly not. Refereeing sports is incredibly hard, having it done it at the high school level, DDC knows it's a no-win job.

This must also be said ...

DDC has never been one to question a team's leadership and/or integrity (other than maybe the Gophers ;) ).

With those things said, there were some ... we'll call it... questionable ... calls and some ... questionable ... penalties committed this Saturday night when the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs topped the UND men's hockey team 4-3 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's Frozen Faceoff championship game from the Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Green and White used a 5-on-3 power play goal to tie the game with just under three minutes to go in the third period. However, UMD would have the last laugh, netting their own 5-on-3 goal with under a minute left in regulation to take the Frozen Faceoff tournament title.

Below are some video highlights from this wild game, thanks to Goon and his blog. There are a few points to note, well, more than a few, actually ... DDC is going to take the high road and let you make the calls:

1:15 -- Neal Pionk takes out Cam Johnson; 2:00 Commentary on Previous Hit; 4:00 -- Kyle Osterberg Falls After Clear Penalty by Johnny Simonson; 4:20 -- Willie Raskob Falls After Scuffle with Hayden Shaw; 5:10 -- Dom Toninato Reacts to Call; 7:00 -- Hunter Miska Falls Down; 7:45 -- Dan Molenaar Falls Down -- Note Commentary After Fall.


With all of that said, while the Green and White aren't back in Grand Forks with a new piece of hardware, they come back with a lot of reasons to be happy.

UND topped Denver 1-0 on Friday night, holding Denver to just 21 shots on goal, a season-low total for the Pioneers, and broke a 0-3 skid in the Frozen Faceoff semifinals. The win mathematically clinched North Dakota a spot in the NCAA tournament for the 15th-straight season.

However, DDC Baby No. 2's magic ran out on Saturday night, as Duluth took the NCHC's autobid.

But hey, 5-1 ain't so bad.

Here's what stood out to DDC in his Frozen Faceoff edition of his Roses and Thorns column.

Roses

No. 1 -- Breaking the Target Center Curse


Finally, UND faithful left the Target Center in Minneapolis on Friday with smiles on their faces and not gonna lie, that felt pretty darn good. After three years of lethargic play and bad bounces, the Green and White played with pace and passion against Denver and got a bounce off those lovely, springy end boards and got a win in the Frozen Faceoff semifinals. Fans in the Target Center saw a team that was hungry and their defensive effort was tremendous on Friday night. It was a good win against arguably the best team in the country. Coupled with another great effort the next night against UMD, the Green and White showed they can hang with (and outplay) anyone in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

UND Jr. F, Austin Poganski and Shane Gersich celebrate Poganski's goal in the third period
of the Green and White's 1-0 win over Denver on Friday (Photo: Eric Hylden, GF Herald)


No. 2 -- Offensive Creativity


While this weekend wasn't a dynamite offensive effort, it was a very good one. What's more important in the eyes of DDC were the chances UND created, particularly on the power play. Outshooting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the PairWise on a particular weekend isn't a small feat, particularly since both Denver and UMD are among the defensive teams in the nation. In a game that was largely played with special teams on Saturday night, the Green and White scored all three of their goals on the power play. Sure, they had 10 chances, but even when they didn't score, UND moved the puck well and broke the Bulldog PK box with sharp passing and created loads of chances. The top power play unit has started to become something special with Boeser, Jost and Gersich consistently finding each other in soft spots for scoring chances. Outside of the power play, Jost and Boeser paired together at times and are showing once again why they are NHL first rounders. When UND gets this kind of effort from its top forwards, the bottom six becomes that harder to handle and those lines have been creating a lot, too (see: Trevor Olson). For the Green and White, it's all about effort and speed. They brought that game to the Target Center this weekend and it turned out two great performances.

No. 3 -- Defensive Effort

UND Fr. D, Colton Poolman

What would you have said if DDC told you UND would shutout Denver, the best offense in the nation since January 1st, on Friday? What would you have said if DDC told you the Green and White would lose the NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year in Tucker Poolman to injury in the first period on Saturday and that UND would hold Minnesota Duluth down for large chunks of the game and nearly win? Crazy on both accounts, right? Well, not this weekend. As mentioned previously, North Dakota's game is all about speed and effort right now and that is showing up. On Friday, the Green and White held DU to just 21 shots, a season low for the Pioneers. On Saturday, it took a goal off a teammate's skate during a 5-on-3 penalty kill to beat netminder Cam Johnson for the game winner. The D-corps' physicality was tremendous. Colton Poolman and Hayden Shaw played with an edge this blogger has rarely seen. While Tucker's injury looms large, UND's young blue line took a big step this weekend in Minneapolis.

Thorns

No. 1 -- 27 Penalties and Four 5-on-3s


Simply put, this shouldn't happen. Like mentioned previously, DDC is going to take the high road and not overly criticize, but no way should a tournament championship be decided on a 5-on-3 power play. Nor should the game end up tied with less than 3 minutes to go on a 5-on-3 power play. The fact that the stripes reviewed Neal Pionk's contact with Cam Johnson and gave him a five minute penalty without tossing the sophomore defenseman is what, in DDC's opinion, let this game get away in terms of penalties. This was too good of a weekend for it to be hijacked by penalties. A bit of a shame, to say the least.

No. 2 -- An Injury and a Big One

Jr. D, Tucker Poolman
left Saturday's NCHC
Championship game
in the first period due
to injury and did not return

Tucker Poolman is a NHL defenseman. He has the frame, the offensive skill, the skating and the defensive prowess to be playing for the Winnipeg Jets, his draft team, as we speak. So, when he went down in the first period on Saturday against Duluth and did not return to action, a collective groan could be heard across NoDak nation. Head coach Brad Berry brought fans a little solace in the postgame presser, saying that Tucker is the toughest player in the NCHC and expects him to play on Friday when the NCAA tournament starts. It goes without saying that Tucker is invaluable to UND. Cheers to him hopefully being ready to go.

There you have it, hockey fans. Welp, the conference tournaments are over, the field is set and the NCAA Tournament starts in four days. UND will be in Fargo in a pretty eyebrow raising regional, considering history and this past weekend's event.

Check back on Friday as DDC previews the West Regional from Scheels Arena in Fargo -- Minnesota Duluth ( 😁 ) versus Ohio State and North Dakota vs. Boston University.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Gameday: The Luck of the Babe and of The Timeout

It's Frozen Faceoff weekend 2017 and the Target Center again plays host, this time with some new equipment!
For this blogger, it's truly the most wonderful time of the year. Welcome to Frozen Faceoff weekend 2017!

Of the four teams skating for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament trophy this Friday and Saturday at the newly-renovated Target Center in downtown Minneapolis (check out that scoreboard!), only one isn't assured to be playing past their time at the Frozen Faceoff.

Denver, Minnesota Duluth and Western Michigan have done enough to this point in the season to guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament when it starts next week. The UND men's hockey hasn't gotten there quite yet.

However, as noted in Grand Forks Herald hockey writer extraordinaire Brad Schlossman's blog, the Green and White can lock up their 15th-straight NCAA tournament berth with a win this weekend. With all scenarios run, UND would get in 100% of the time with at least one win at the Frozen Faceoff, but two losses would still have them in the tournament in 90% of the scenarios.

With that being said, the Green and White don't want to take any chances. UND has had plenty of struggles in the Target Center since the berth of the NCHC and with another expected large gathering of Green and White (Hello, St. Patty's Day! We'll get back to what St. Patty's day weekend means to UND a bit later) in the stands, could this be the year North Dakota finally breaks through in Minneapolis?

While the other three teams have less to play for in terms of the season, clearly, no team wants to back into the national tournament with a loss and playing for a trophy is always a big deal in a conference like the NCHC.

This weekend has four of the best teams in college hockey, including three potential No. 1 seeds for the NCAA tournament and it will certainly be fun to watch. Can UND keep riding Baby DDC No. 2's magic with their four-game post birth winning-streak? What is DDC watching for this weekend? Check out his "Who? What? How?" Frozen Faceoff preview and see who he thinks will skate away from the Target Center hoisting some hardware.

Who?

DU Fr. F, Henrik Borgstrom
leads the NCAA's 10th-best
scoring offense with 38 points.

Players to Watch


Denver


Fr. F, Henrik Borgstrom, 21 goals, 17 assists -- 38 points; So. F, Dylan Gambrell, 11g, 26a -- 37 points; So. F, Troy Terry, 19g, 17a -- 36 pts; Sr. D, Will Butcher, 6g, 29a -- 35 pts; Sr. G., Tanner Jaillet, 24-4-4, 1.84 Goals Against Average, .929 Save Percentage.

UND


So. F, Shane Gersich, 21g, 16a -- 37 pts; Fr. F, Tyson Jost, 15g, 16a -- 31 pts; So. F, Brock Boeser, 15g, 16a -- 31 pts; Jr. D, Tucker Poolman, 7g, 23a -- 30 pts; Jr. G, Cam Johnson, 19-11-3, 2.39 GAA, .904 SV PCT.

UMD Sr. F, Alex Iafallo

Minnesota Duluth


Sr. F, Alex Iafallo, 17g, 24a -- 41 pts; So. F, Adam Johnson, 16g, 15a -- 31 pts; So. D, Neal Pionk, 7g 22a -- 29 pts; Fr. F, Joey Anderson, 9g, 19a -- 28 pts; Fr. G., Hunter Miska, 22-4-5, 2.22 GAA, .917 SV PCT.

Western Michigan


So. F, Matheson Iacopelli, 20g, 14a -- 34 pts; Sr. F, Sheldon Dries, 15g, 14a -- 29 pts; So. F, Griffen Molino, 14g, 15a --29 pts; Fr. F, Wade Allison, 12g, 17a -- 29 pts; Fr. G, Ben Blacker, 17-5-2, 2.37 GAA, .922 SV PCT

What?

Standout Stats


Denver


The Pioneers lead the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 1.84 goals per game and are 10th best scoring offense at 3.39 goals per game.

Freshman forward Henrik Borgstrom, the newly-minted NCHC Rookie of the Year, is tied for second in the NCAA with six game-winning goals.

Senior defenseman Will Butcher was named a Hobey Baker Finalist, the lone pick for the NCHC as well as the conference's Player of the Year.

UND


The Green and White are 14th in scoring in the NCAA at 3.24 goals per game and are T-20 in scoring defense, allowing 2.59 goals per game.

During UND's four-game winning streak, junior forward Trevor Olson has the game-winning goal in three of those games.

Freshman forward Tyson Jost is one of six rookies in the NCAA averaging at least 1 point per game. Jost has a 1.03 point per game average.

Minnesota Duluth


The Bulldogs are 11th in the NCAA in scoring offense with 3.36 goals per game and are 10th in scoring defense, allowing 2.28 goals per game.


UMD has struggled to a paltry 80.4% penalty kill rate which slots them as No. 41 in the NCAA.

Freshman goaltender Hunter Miska is fourth in the NCAA in winning percentage at .790 and in shutouts with 5.

Western Michigan


The Broncos have the 8th-best scoring offense  (3.41 goals per game) in the NCAA and power play (21.8%).

Freshman goaltender Ben Blacker has the 6th-best winning percentage in the NCAA at .750.

WMU has struggled on the penalty kill, this season, stopping just 81.5% of opponents power plays. This ranks them 39th in the NCAA.

How?

How'd they get here?


No. 1 Denver (PWR: 1, 28-6-4, No. 1 seed in NCHC tournament) swept Colorado College 4-1, 4-0 in the first round of the NCHC tournament. The Pioneers are on a NCAA best 13-game winning streak.

No. 11 UND (PWR: 11, 20-14-3, No. 4 seed in NCHC tournament) swept SCSU 5-2, 6-5 (OT) in the first round of the NCHC tournament. UND has won five of their last six games after winning just three of the previous 10.

UND Jr. F, Trevor Olson netted the series-winning goal past St. Cloud State goalie
 Jeff Smith on Saturday. The Green and White take on Denver in the NCHC
Tournament semifinals from the Target Center in Minneapolis
(photo cred: GF Herald)

No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (PWR: 2, 23-6-7, No. 2 seed in NCHC tournament) swept Miami 5-4 (OT) and 5-3 in the first round of the NCHC tournament. The Bulldogs are 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.

No. 8 Western Michigan (PWR: 4, 22-10-5, No. 3 seed in NCHC tournament) beat No. 6 seeded Omaha in three games at home during the NCHC first round. Won Saturday and Sunday after falling on Friday. Sunday's win came 34 seconds into overtime when Michael Rebry netted the game winner.

The Pick(s)

Semifinal No. 1 -- Minnesota Duluth vs. Western Michigan


DDC likes the Bulldogs in this one. UMD is loaded up front with senior Alex Iafallo and and sophomore Adam Johnson leading the way and defenseman Neal Pionk is a dynamic playmaker in front of freshman netminder Hunter Miska who is 4th in the country in shutouts.

The Bulldogs dominated UND in their four games this year and DDC is of the opinion that they are the best team in college hockey right along with Denver.

With that being said, Western Michigan is having a tremendous year with a power play that can break a game. If WMU can slow down UMD's depth, this could go the way of the Broncos, but DDC thinks the Dogs take this one.

THE BULLDOGS HEAD TO THE TITLE GAME, 5-2.

 

Semifinal No. 2 -- Denver vs. UND


The stats scream Denver, but DDC is a homer and all of my readers know that. There are certainly many factors in this particular pick, but DDC just has a hunch here. That hunch comes from two things -- UND's Baby DDC No. 2 birth magic and their 4-0 current run and the luck of the Irish.

The luck of the Irish, you say, DDC? What do you mean?!

Well, think back, UND fans... when was the last time the Green and White took over the Twin Cities for a conference championship tournament during St. Patrick's Day weekend? 2012. You all remember what happened that weekend, don't you? Here's a hint that only needs two words ... The Timeout.

There is it. The luck of the Irish. The luck of the green. The 2012 WCHA Final Five is one of DDC's favorite tournaments he can remember. A special and incredibly memorable weekend. Is magic really in the air, this weekend in Minneapolis?

Let's look at this without bias, shall we? Denver is good. Really good, in fact. The Pioneers are No. 1 in the NCAA for a reason. They sport the NCAA's lowest goals against average (1.84) and are 10th in scoring. Freshman Henrik Borgstrom (NCHC rookie of the year) and sophomore Dylan Gambrell are two of the NCHC's best forwards and senior defenseman Will Butcher is the conference's only Hobey Baker finalist and was named the NCHC player of the year. Goaltender Tanner Jaillet was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Year, to boot. On paper, DU is the better team.

With all that said, DDC loves how UND is playing right now. They've found an effort level that has found them tough to beat, right now. Couple that with the play of their best players (Jost, Boeser, Gersich, T. Poolman and Poganski) over the last few weeks and the Green and White are poised for a big weekend. North Dakota knows they are one win away from the NCAA tournament and DDC expects them to play desperate.

Forget that the Green and White have yet to win a semifinal game at the Frozen Faceoff. Forget that DU has won a NCAA best 13 straight games. Forget that UND has been up and down this season. The Green and White need one win this weekend to clinch a berth into the NCAA tournament and rightfully defend their national championship.

The luck of the Green and of Baby DDC No. 2 continues in this one.

UND BREAKS OUT OF THEIR TARGET CENTER SEMIFINAL FUNK, 4-2.

 

Championship Game -- UND vs. Minnesota Duluth


See all above. Note that UMD has beaten UND four times this season. Forget that.

THE MAGIC CONTINUES ... UND TAKES THE NCHC TOURNAMENT TROPHY, 4-3.


There you have it, college hockey fans. Enjoy the weekend.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Roses and Thorns: UND's Newfound Weapons

UND Jr. F, Trevor Olson tips in the game-winning goal past SCSU netminder Jeff Smith for a wild 6-5 overtime win on
Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. Olson netted the series-clinching goal and now has game-winning
goals in three of the last four games for UND. Photo Credit: Jesse Trelstad, Grand Forks Herald.
As mentioned in DDC's preview of the first round National Collegiate Hockey Conference series between the UND men's hockey team and St. Cloud State, DDC Baby No. 2 was born March 1st.

Since that wonderful day in DDC's life, the Green and White has seen two new heroes come to the forefront -- junior forward Trevor Olson and DDC Baby No. 2.

Following a 5-2 win on Friday, Olson netted the game-winning goal at 7:38 of the OT period in a wild and memorable game at Ralph Engelstad Arena as UND swept the Huskies to advance the Green and White to the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis this coming weekend. Since DDC Baby No. 2's birth, UND was won four-straight games and Olson has the deciding tally in three of those games.

North Dakota handled St. Cloud fairly handily on Friday, but the old adage "it's hard to end a team's season" held true on Saturday as the Huskies brought a tremendous effort.

The game was tied 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5 before Olson potted the winner in OT. After a Shane Gersich goal made it 4-3 halfway through the third period, St. Cloud State continued to come at UND, tying the game just 1:02 later and took the lead just 1:44 after that.

But, the Green and White had the magic of Baby DDC No. 2 in their pocket as Christian Wolanin knotted the game at five with 4:02 to go.

During the intermission before the overtime period, fans at the REA were treated to bonus coverage of the UND men's basketball team's overtime winning effort in the Big Sky tournament finals that punched the Green and White's first-ever ticket to the NCAA tournament over Weber State, sending the fans into a frenzy that continued with Olson's winner in OT.

Baby DDC No. 2's magic was too strong for the Huskies and Weber State, for that matter.

Here's what stood out to DDC as UND notched wins No. 19 and 20 and moved one step closer to the NCAA tournament.

Roses

NCHC Playoffs First Round Results:

No. 1 Denver sweeps CC, 4-1, 4-0;
No. 2 UMD sweeps Miami, 5-4 (OT), 5-3;
No. 3 WMU in three over UNO, 2-1 (OT)
UNO, 5-2 WMU, 2-1 (OT) WMU;
No. 4 UND sweeps SCSU, 5-2, 6-5 (OT)


Frozen Faceoff semifinals -- Friday, times TBD:

No. 1 Denver vs. No. 4 UND
No. 2 UMD vs. No. 3 WMU

No. 1 -- Big Players Playing Big


While UND's depth has been a huge part of their last handful of games where they've won five-of-six, come playoff time, teams that compete for NCAA titles need to have their best players be their best players, each night. This was definitely the case this weekend for the Green and White. UND's top five point producers, Shane Gersich, Brock Boeser, Tyson Jost, Austin Poganski and Tucker Poolman all had multiple point weekends. Boeser returned to the lineup after missing the previous weekend in Miami and scored in both games. Gersich and Poganski also both scored in both. With the development of depth players increasing each game, having these five players rolling will prove large for UND as the look to continue to advance.

No. 2 -- Depth Goals Coming Up Large


As just mentioned, UND's depth players are turning dividends for the Green and White, of late. Along with Olson's game winner, junior Johnny Simonson and freshman Cole Smith both assisted on the game-tying goal by Christian Wolanin and did the same on Olson's series-clinching goal. Simonson fired the puck from the side boards toward the net and Olson got his stick on it to get the winner. The line of Smith, Simonson and Olson had a tremendous weekend, playing with edge and pace that St. Cloud had trouble containing. UND will be a tough out the rest of the way if this trend continues.

No. 3 -- A Memorable Day for UND Sports


DDC Baby No. 2's magic is pretty evident to this blogger. A wee bit biased, you say? No. You're wrong. DDC Baby No. 2 is clearly a UND sports Godsend.

Here's an awesome video of the ovation the REA crowd gave the UND men's basketball team's victory in the Big Sky Conference:

UND Men's Basketball Gets a Big Ovation at REA

You'll need a Facebook account to get to it and the video is about halfway down the page. Big props to the UND men's basketball team.

Thorns

No. 1 -- Last Game at REA for 2016-17


While it was done in victorious fashion, it's always a sad moment each season to know that the Palace on the Prairie will be closed for games until October. While UND struggled at times at home this season, The Ralph is always a true home advantage for the Green and White. Senior Gage Ausmus and Matt Hrynkiw as well as any underclassmen that leave after the season, helped send the REA faithful happy one more time. Here's to hoping there's another ceremony at The Ralph in about three weeks.

Thanks for reading and check back later this week as DDC previews the Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Gameday: Baby, It's Time for the Playoffs

NCHC Tournament -- First Round Pairings:

No. 1 Denver vs. No. 8 Colorado College;
No. 2 Minnesota Duluth vs. No. 7 Miami
No. 3 Western Michigan vs. No. 6 Omaha
No. 4 North Dakota vs. No. 5 St. Cloud State

It's been awhile since DDC has brought you his Friday Gameday and for good reason. This blogger is happy to announce to the college hockey world that DDC baby No. 2, a happy and healthy, 8 lb, 6 oz boy, was born on March 1st.

DDC has had the opportunity over the past week to reflect on the roller coaster ride that has been this march to baby No. 2 and as he always does, he's found a way to compare it to his beloved UND men's hockey team.

Baby DDC No. 1's emergence into the world feels much like last year's NCAA championship run -- smooth sailing. Mrs. DDC had an easy pregnancy with a few minor hiccups (think last year's Frozen Faceoff), but ultimately, but the ride was a fairly easy one.

Baby DDC No. 2, much like this year's version of the Green and White, has been a bit more unpredictable. It started with a happy start and finding out that this baby was a boy (think UND's 5-0 start). Then came the morning sickness, food aversions and much less comfortable sleeping for Mrs. DDC than with baby No. 1 (think the Green and White's injuries, inconsistent play, games they dominated, but still lost).

With all of this considered, Baby No. 2 came into the world a happy camper and his first week in the world has found him on the right track. Seamlessly, with a sweep last week at Miami, much like DDC Baby No. 2, UND is right where they wanted to be at the start of the year (or their life), at home for the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs with control of their own destiny to make the NCAA tournament for the 15th-straight year.

North Dakota, the No. 4 seed in the NCHC tournament, hosts St. Cloud State this weekend in a pivotal best 2-of-3 series that with a win will advance them to the Frozen Faceoff next weekend in Minneapolis and should see UND make the national tournament. However, a series loss may burst the Green and White's bubble. For SCSU, it's do-or-die, as well. They'll need a big run in the NCHC tournament to make the dance.

So, what'll it be for UND? Lots of spit up and no sleep and a long summer at home or a happy tummy and restful nights en route to the tournament? Wait, sorry, baby confusion... actually, that analogy seems to work, so let's go with that.

Here's what to watch for in DDC's "Who? What? How?" breakdown of a crucial first-round NCHC series in Grand Forks with a trip to the Target Center on the line.

Who?

Players to Watch


St. Cloud State:

SCSU So. F, Mikey Eyssimont
leads the Huskies with 29 points.

So. F, Mikey Eyssimont, 14 goals, 15 assists -- 29 points; Jr. F, Blake Winiecki, 12g, 11a -- 23 pts; So. F, Patrick Newell, 3g, 20a -- 23 pts; Fr. D, Jack Ahcan, 5g, 16a -- 21 pts; So. F, Jacob Benson, 10g, 10a -- 20 pts;  So. G, Jeff Smith, 10-11-0, 2.58 goals against average, .910 save percentage.

UND:


So. F, Shane Gersich, 19g, 15a -- 34 pts; Fr. F, Tyson Jost, 14g, 15a -- 29 pts; So. F, Brock Boeser, 13g, 15a -- 28 pts; Jr. D, Tucker Poolman, 7g, 21a -- 28 pts; Jr. F, Austin Poganski, 9g, 12a -- 21 pts; Jr. G, Cam Johnson, 17-11-3, 2.34 GAA, .905 SV PCT.

What? 

Standout Stats


St. Cloud State:


The Huskies are tied for 31st in both scoring and goals allowed with 2.88 goals per game for and 2.88 goals per game against.

St. Cloud State commits the least amount of penalty minutes per game in the NCAA, averaging just 9.1 and are 21st in the country in penalty kill at 83.9%.

Sophomore forward Jacob Benson and Freshman defenseman Jon Lizotte are Grand Forks natives.

UND:


UND is 23rd in the NCAA in goals per game (3.11) and 19th in goals allowed (2.54).

The Green and White lead the NCHC in penalty kill and are 15th nationally, killing 84.6% of the opposition's power plays.

Freshman forward Tyson Jost is 6th in the NCAA in rookie scoring, notching 1.04 points per game and is tied for 5th in rookie goals (14).

Jost was named to the NCHC all-rookie team and Junior defensman Tucker Poolman was named all-NCHC first team. Sophomore forward Shane Gersich was tabbed as an honorable mention.

How?

How’d they get here?


No. 20 SCSU (PWR: 18, 16-17-1; 10-13-1 – 31 points, 5th Seed for NCHC tournament) split at home against Colorado College, winning 5-2 on Friday and losing 201 on Saturday. The Huskies have lost 3 of their last 4.

No. 14 UND (PWR: 12, 18-14-3; 11-12-1-1 – 35 points, 4th Seed for NCHC tournament) swept Miami last weekend in Oxford, Ohio, 3-2 and 5-2 . The sweep clinched home ice for the first round of the conference tournament for the 15th-straight season for the Green and White.

The Green and White won 3-of-4 against the Huskies this season, sweeping SCSU in St. Cloud in November and splitting in Grand Forks in February.

The Pick

UND Fr. F, Tyson Jost (center) has been the Green and White's most consistent
player in the second half of the season. Jost looks to lead North Dakota this
weekend against SCSU in a first-round NCHC tournament series at home.
Photo credit: North Dakota men's hockey/UND Sports
So much on the line. After all the ups-and-downs this season has brought, UND fully controls its destiny this weekend in Grand Forks. The same can be said for the Huskies, however. They can certainly find their way into the NCAA tournament and that run starts at the Ralph Engelstad Arena for them, as well.

For long stretches of this season, North Dakota has been inconsistent. In the same weekend, on many occasions, they've shown the ability to be a true contender in their pursuit of a back-to-back title run and then the next night, shown up as a team that wouldn't make the tournament.

After a dominant weekend in Oxford that saw UND sweep and hold Miami to just 27 shots on the weekend (including a season-low allowed 11 on Saturday), the Green and White have put themselves into position to make a run. Which team shows up this weekend?

UND had a couple of key injuries to note from last weekend as sophomore Brock Boeser did not play in the series and junior Austin Poganski exited Saturday's game. While Poganski is expected to play this weekend, Boeser, arguably North Dakota's best player, is questionable. St. Cloud State will be without sophomore defenseman Will Borgen for two games after an incident with an official last weekend and senior defenseman Niklas Nevalainen is also a question mark due to injury.

Much like Baby DDC No. 2's run into the world, DDC sees this weekend as roller coaster for UND. All things considered, the Green and White are a little bit better than the Huskies and ultimately, DDC thinks UND will prevail. However, SCSU has a lot to play for, too and certainly won't go quietly.

Tyson Jost needs to keep being the dynamic rookie he's been all season and UND desperately needs their third and fourth lines to keep scoring like they have of late. Junior Trevor Olson netted both game-winning goals at Miami last weekend and sophomore Chris Wilkie scored his first of the year on Saturday. If Boeser is back in the lineup, the top line of Boeser, Jost and Gersich have shown a streak of dominance. With that line in tact, secondary scoring would be massive.

Expect this one to go three and UND fans around the world have to sweat it out on Sunday, but see their team march on to Minneapolis and the Frozen Faceoff.

UND WINS IN THREE, WINNING 4-2 ON FRIDAY, FALLING 3-2 ON SATURDAY AND MOVING ON TO THE TARGET CENTER WITH A 5-2 WIN ON SUNDAY.


There you have it, hockey fans. Hopefully DDC will bring you good news after this weekend. Thanks for reading and enjoy the series!



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Friday Gameday: UND Looks to Make 2017 Great... Again?

UND forward Brock Boeser (16) celebrates a goal in last Friday's 9-1 win over UNO in Omaha. Boeser returned
from wrist surgery, netting two goals in his first action since November 19th. Photo: Megan Farmer/The World-Herald.
It's 2017 and change is abound.

DDC is no longer a 20-something, the United States is about to inaugurate a new president, baby DDC No. 2 is less than two months away from entering this crazy world and after an up-and-down start of the season, the UND men's hockey team seems to be turning the corner.

After a New Years Eve 3-1 victory over Union in Upstate New York, North Dakota traveled to Omaha and brought two big guns with them. UND got back Brock Boeser from wrist surgery and Tyson Jost from a silver medal performance for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship tournament and their impacts were felt immediately. Boeser scored twice on Friday and then netted another and assisted twice on Saturday for a five-point weekend. Jost on Friday, having almost no sleep on the heels the gold medal game in the WJC in Montreal the night before, scored and added an assist. Then on Saturday, playing his fourth game in four days and fifth in six days, potted two goals for a crazy, four point weekend.

UND Fr. F, Tyson Jost
had a four-point weekend
at UNO (3 goals, 1 assist).
Think about this for a second ... UND rolled the Mavericks, a Team Under Consideration in the PairWise rankings and a conference foe in Omaha with two blowout victories (9-1, 7-3), potting 16 goals, their most on a weekend since the 2010-11 season. North Dakota has now won three-in-a-row and five of their last six games.

As the college hockey world saw these developments, a loud "uh oh" could be plainly heard. The Green and White may have found their mojo.

With their lineup back to form, No. 7 UND welcomes the Miami RedHawks to the Ralph Engelstad Arena this weekend for an important National Collegiate Hockey Conference series that sees Miami also on the uptick.

After a rough 0-7-2 streak, the RedHawks have heated up, winning four straight games and going unbeaten in their last five. That includes a sweep at home against SCSU, 3-2 (OT) and 4-1 last weekend.

After their huge sweep on the road, UND is now third in the NCHC and looking to cement their place as the second half gets rolling. Miami is 6th and a good showing in Grand Forks would certainly vault them into 2017.

Who will continue their New Year hot start?

Here's what to watch for as Miami faces off with the Green and White in DDC's first "Who? What? How?" series preview of 2017.

Who?

Players to Watch


Miami:

Miami Fr. F, Carson Meyer
is sixth in the NCAA
in Rookie points per
game with 1.06.

Sr. F, Anthony Louis, 11 goals, 14 assists -- 25 points; So. F, Kiefer Sherwood, 10g, 13a -- 23 pts; So. F, Josh Melnick, 6g, 11a -- 17 pts; Fr. F, Carson Meyer, 5g, 12a -- 17 pts; Jr. D, Louie Belpedio, 3g, 6a -- 9 pts;  Fr. G, Ryan Larkin, 6-6-5, 2.48 goals against average, .914 save percentage.

UND:


So. F, Shane Gersich, 15g, 13a -- 28 pts (3rd in the NCAA in goals); Fr. F, Tyson Jost, 10g, 12a -- 22 pts (T-2 in NCAA in rookie goals and 6th in rookie points/game); So. F, Brock Boeser, 10g, 11a -- 21 pts; Jr. D, Tucker Poolman, 4g, 14a -- 18 pts; Jr. F, Austin Poganski, 7g, 10a -- 17 pts; Jr. G, Cam Johnson, 12-6-3, 2.08 GAA, .916 SV PCT.

What? 

Standout Stats


Miami:


The Redhawks lead the NCHC on the penalty kill and is 13th in the nation with a 85.3% mark.

Miami has struggled offensively, at times, this season, averaging just 2.6 goals per game which is T-40th in the NCAA. However, they've scored at a 3.4 goals per game clip during their current five-game unbeaten streak.

Freshman forward Carson Meyer ranks sixth in the NCAA in rookie points per game at 1.06 (5 goals, 12 assists in 16 games).

UND:


UND is 9th in the country in goals against, allowing just 2.19 goals per game and are T-9 in goals scored with a 3.52 per game average.

The Green and White's 16-goal outburst last weekend in Omaha was their most in a series since they scored 17 to close out the 2010-11 season at Michigan Tech.

Sophomore forward Shane Gersich is tied with Omaha's Austin Ortega for the NCHC goal lead with 15 and is tied for 3rd nationally.

Freshman forward Tyson Jost leads the NCHC and is sixth nationally with a 63% faceoff win mark.

How?

How’d they get here?


Miami (PWR: 28, 7-8-5; 3-4-3-1 – 13 points, 5th in NCHC) swept SCSU at home 3-2 in OT and 4-1. The Redhawks are unbeaten in their last five games (4-0-1).

No. 7 UND (PWR: 7, 12-6-3; 5-4-1-1 – 17 points, 3rd in NCHC) swept UNO last weekend in Omaha, drubbing the Mavericks 9-1 and 7-3. The Green and White have won five of their past six.

The Pick

The last time Miami traveled to Grand Forks, the REA faithful were treated to one of the most memorable goals ever scored in UND history.

It will forever be known by DDC and many others as "The Tic-Tic-Tic-Tac-Toe" goal.


This will be a goal that all UND fans will remember as the seminal play of the Green and White's 8th national champion season in 2015-16. 

While this goal means nothing in terms of this weekend, DDC just had to bring it up. Sorry, Miami fans.

Ok, so with that, on to The Pick. 

Both teams are playing much better of late, but DDC can't shake off what he saw last weekend as UND destroyed Omaha. While 16 goals will more than likely not be repeated, that series showed the college hockey world that the Green and White are ready for a serious run at defending their crown. 

The return of Boeser and Jost to the lineup has given UND a huge shot in the arm and has evened out their scoring attack. Shane Gersich is having a monster year and leads the NCHC in goals and is third in the NCAA with 15. With Jost and Boeser on separate lines, UND is 4-0, outscoring their opponents  by a ridiculous 23-4 margin while going an equally ridiculous 9-for-20 on the power play. 

Couple these points with a defense allowing just 2.19 goals per game, the 9th-best mark in the NCAA, UND is turning up their performance. 

DDC sees the Green and White sweeping the RedHawks to keep their 2017 going in the right direction.

UND SWEEPS AND OFFICIALLY RINGS IN THE NEW YEAR, 5-2, 4-3.


There's The Pick. Check back next week to see if North Dakota kept it rolling. Thanks for reading!