Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Gameday: DDC's Apology, A Quick Recap and Battling the Beavs

Sophomore forward Joel Janatuinen (25) celebrates his first goal in a hat trick performance on Saturday in UND's 5-2
win over RPI. Janatuinen has helped pace a Green and White attack that has lead to a 3-0 record. (Photo: GF Herald)
Did you all miss me? No? Well, DDC is sorry, anyway.

A busy schedule, including starting his MBA earlier this month, has led DDC away from his readers and for that, he is truly sorry! Time management, people!

Let's get right into it.

Since DDC last wrote, the defending national champion UND men's hockey team hasn't skipped a beat. Just in case those reading rely on DDC as their only way to follow college hockey (He knows better, but just in case), here's what's been happening with your Green and White.

Two Weeks In, Still on Top

DDC noted in his season preview that the three main storylines for the 2016-17 UND men's hockey team were defense, an emergence of a new, dominant top line and a battle between the pipes. Well, it seems that the script is going to plan for the Green and White.

Offense From Top to Bottom

UND So. F, Brock Boeser
leads the team in points
with seven (1g, 6a).
The CBS line of last season saw consistently dominant play. The only returner from that vaunted line, sophomore sensation Brock Boeser is starting his potential Hobey Baker campaign off on the right foot and freshman Tyson Jost is living up to expectations. Boeser tallied six points (1g, 5a) in an opening weekend 6-0, 4-1 sweep of Canisius, earning NCHC Player of the Week honors and added an assist in a 5-2 win over RPI last Saturday, leading the team with seven points on the year. Jost and Shane Gersich, who has filled out the top line in the first three games, are tied for third with four points a piece.

But, the top line isn't the end of the story. UND has seen scoring from all over the lineup through their 3-0 start, highlighted by sophomore Joel Janatuinen's hat trick against RPI last Saturday. The Espoo, Finland native is second on the team with five points (3g, 2a). Along with Janatuinen, the Green and White has gotten a big season start from another European product. Freshman forward and Norway native Ludvig Hoff scored his first-career goal last Saturday against Canisius and assisted on two of Janatuinen's goals against RPI to bring his point total to three (1g, 2a) through three games. In total, 16 players have tallied a point, so far and seven players are averaging at least a point per game. It's been a solid start for UND's depth to see scoring from all over the stat sheet.

The 'D' is Dominant

Through three games, UND's D corps hasn't allowed an opponent more than 17 shots, outshooting teams 118-42 and outscoring them 15-3. Cam Johnson has started where he left off his 2015-16 Mike Richter award finalist season, allowing just three goals (1.00 goals against average) and posting a 92.8 save percentage. With a couple of freshmen defenseman anchoring spots No. 5 and 6 in all three games, UND's defense is definitely doing its job. 

Bring On the Beavers

For the sake of length, DDC will forgo his usual "Who? What? How?" preview and will summarize who's to watch when UND takes on the Bemidji State Beavers this weekend from Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

After a relatively easy pair of weekends, the No. 1 Green and White will be tested against BSU. The Beavers are No. 18 in this week's poll on the heels of a 4-0 start after a pair of sweeps of WCHA opponents. The first came against preseason top pick Bowling Green 2-1, 4-1 on opening weekend and the second last weekend against Northern Michigan, winning 2-0 both nights.

Junior forward Myles Fitzgerald leads the Beavers with five points (1g, 4a) and sophomore forward Jay Dickman's team-leading two goals. Junior netminder and Moorhead native Michael Bitzer has dazzled through four games, starting in each, with a 0.50 goals against average and a 97.7 save percentage with two shutouts.

The Pick

The Beavers are coming into the weekend hot, just like the Green and White and they are looking to prove to the college hockey world that they are here to stay in 2016-17. This is always a tight series with two teams that know each other very well. After a couple of weekends where UND dominated, this series isn't going to come that easy.

DDC has been very impressed with UND's play through three games. This team has had a lot of contributions from top to bottom of their lineup and their defense has shutdown their opposition through three games.

While Bowling Green and Northern Michigan certainly are not weak opponents, BSU hasn't seen the depth of talent that UND will bring to the Ralph in this weekend's series. Plus, they are coming to UND's barn where they have lost just four times in their last 43 games at home (35-4-4).

The battle between the pipes will loom large in this one and while Bitzer has absolutely had a stellar start and has been a quality netminder in his career, Cam Johnson has proven his meddle on the big stage against top tier teams and DDC thinks this is where North Dakota has the advantage.


Thanks for coming back and cheers to another weekend of college hockey.

Friday, September 30, 2016

DDC's 2016-17 Season Preview -- UND's Top 3 Storylines, NCAA Top 20, NCHC picks and A Peek at the Bisons

The UND men's hockey team were presented with their National Title
rings earlier this week. Their season kicks off tonight against Manitoba.
We've made it. It's hockey season.

The defending national champions, the University of North Dakota men's hockey team, kicks off its repeat bid as they take on the University of Manitoba Bisons in exhibition fashion tonight at 7 pm from the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Let's say that once more, shall we?

The defending national champions, the University of North Dakota men's hockey team. Man, that feels good.

UND has already gotten its rings and green banner No. 8 will be hoisted into the REA rafters tonight and the memory of last season's incredible run has DDC thinking, will the Green and White do this again next year and potentially raise No. 9?

Well, we shall see, but these three storylines are going to go a long way to decide if UND can celebrate in Chicago in April.

1) Can the 'D' do it Again?

The 2015-16 UND squad was simply loaded. They were a special team that could score in bunches, but also completely shutdown an opponent defensively. While the Green and White return four defensemen that played heavy minutes last season in now two-time Captain Gage Ausmus, dynamic offensive defenseman Tucker Poolman, Christian Wolanin and Hayden Shaw, outside of that top four, the final two spots will needed to be figured out quickly.

UND carried the second-best scoring defense in the NCAA last season, allowing just 1.84 goals a game. Losing Troy Stecher, Paul LaDue and Keaton Thompson to professional contracts doesn't just leave a hole in UND's 'D', it leaves a chasm. The Green and White still sport Mike Richter Finalist Cam Johnson between the pipes, but will need to figure out the last two spots on the backend to make a deep run this season.

2) CBS 2.0?

Can freshman Tyson Jost
jump into a key role for
the Green and White?
The CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz is no more. While Boeser remains and is a legitimate Hobey Baker preseason front runner, the loss of Caggiula and Schmaltz to the NHL ranks means UND needs to figure out how to replace a combined 97 points. That's a lot of scoring. The CBS line was a special blend of speed, power, defense and scoring touch. Can the Green and White find a duo to pair with Boeser on the top line? What about the rest of the lineup? Who is going to step up to produce? 

Austin Poganksi, Shane Gersich, Rhett Gardner and Chris Wilkie could go a long way to help shore up the top 6 forward group. Can highly-touted freshman Tyson Jost turn into the playmaker Schmaltz was last year? He certainly appears to have the talent. DDC believes we may see Jost and Boeser paired together and he'd be surprised to see Gardner and Poganski split up because they spent so much time playing together last year. Can the speedy Gersich step into Cagguila's game-breaking, goal-scoring role? We shall see.

3) Battle Between the Pipes

Can Matej Tomek push
Cam Johnson for the
starting role in net?
Coming into last season, UND was looking to replace an all-world goaltender in Zane McIntyre with three netminders who had barely seen the ice in their college careers. Well, with all those questions, Cam Johnson became as much as a sure thing as UND has ever seen, becoming a Mike Richter Finalist with a tremendous year. Matt Hrynkiw proved he was a solid backup, too, going on a great, early season run with Johnson shelved with an injury. What about NHL draft pick Matej Tomek? Highly regarded coming into the 2015-16 season, an early injury hindered Tomek's chances of seeing any ice time. 

So, once a huge question mark, the goaltender spot for UND is now a strong point and we could very well see a battle for playing time between these three. DDC believes Tomek will get his shot, this season. NHL teams don't draft goalies early in the draft for a player that isn't incredibly talented. As we start the season, Johnson deserves to be the starter. But, was Cam's year a product of an incredibly special defenseman group? DDC thinks it helped, but Johnson certainly held his own. However, this will definitely be a battle for time this season. 

DDC's Preseason Top 20

1) UND
2) Boston University
3) Denver
4) UMass-Lowell
5) Quinnipiac
6) Providence
7) Northeastern
8) Boston College
9) Notre Dame
10) Minnesota Duluth
11) Harvard
12) Minnesota
13) Bowling Green
14) Michigan
15) Wisconsin
16) St. Lawrence
17) Michigan Tech
18) St. Cloud State
19) MSU-Mankato
20) Air Force


Despite losing a lot to graduation and professional contracts, UND is still well suited to make a deep run with key players in each position group. So, until they get topped, DDC has the Green and White on top.

Boston University brings in one of the most dynamic freshmen groups in recent history, with NHL first-round picks Clayton Keller, Dante Fabbro and Keifer Bellows while returning fellow first-rounder Charlie McAvoy. Can all that young talent produce big results? Denver lost a lot, but brings back all-NCHC picks Dylan Gambrell and Will Butcher in front of veteran netminder Tanner Jalliet. BU vs. DU in early October will be a true test for both teams.

Can a budding team like Bowling Green or Wisconsin get all their pieces in place to make a run? It'll sure be fun to watch and find out.

NCHC Picks

Sophomore Brock Boeser is the clear-cut favorite as NCHC
Preseason Player of the Year. Can he improve on his dynamic
2015-16 season as UND looks to repeat in 2016-17?
1) UND
2) Denver
3) Minnesota Duluth
4) St. Cloud State
5) Omaha
6) Miami
7) Colorado College
8) Western Michigan

DDC's All-NCHC Team

F -- Brock Boeser, UND
F -- Dylan Gambrell, DU
F -- Tyson Jost, UND
D -- Will Butcher, DU
D -- Neal Pionk, UMD
G -- Cam Johnson, UND

Can Omaha's Austin Ortega
take an all-NCHC spot?
Player of the Year: Boeser
Defenseman of the Year: Butcher
Goaltender of the Year: Johnson
Rookie of the Year: Jost


Call DDC a homer. He's fine with it. Like he said before, until someone takes down the defending national champs, UND is tops of the league. Jost looks like a generational-type player and while players like Austin Ortega from Omaha and UMD's Tony Camoranesi may have something to say about that final forward spot, DDC leans Green and White. UND has the most pieces in place right now and the rest of the teams seem to have a few more question marks.
UND is 12-0 all time against the Manitoba Bisons

Bring on the Bisons

UND is 12-0 all-time against Manitoba, outscoring the Bisons 72-21 in those 12 games. Tonight isn't about wins and losses, but more about taking a look at some new pieces. Who will group with Boeser on the top line? Will Jost show of his Top 10 NHL draft pick talent? How about Tomek? How much time does he get in an effort to earn time between the pipes? 

Last season, the Green and White rolled to a 8-3 victory and tipped off the REA faithful that something fun was brewing in Grand Forks. DDC thinks this happens again. 

Jost gets his first and adds an assist, Johnson and Tomek start their battle and slow a hyped-up Manitoba squad and Boeser shows while he'll be a Hobey front-runner this year with a pair of goals. 


It's here, hockey fans. It's time to RAISE 8 and start the run to No. 9.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's Time to Reload -- DDC's Look at the 2016-17 Squad

For the first time in 16 years, it's been a celebratory offseason.

It's been 172 days since we saw the UND men's hockey team skate around Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL with the National Championship trophy. Before DDC takes a look ahead, let's all reminisce, one more time, shall we?

One last time ... what a team.

While the pressure of once a seemingly unending, unbearable streak of frustration is over, the goal for the 2016-17 version of the Green and White remains the same as all previous incarnations of UND hockey -- to win a national championship.

The 2015-16 team was special. A squad stuffed with scoring, defense and tenacity, they finally cashed in on their all-time UND legacy. While many of those special players are gone, many remain and the expectations are still as high as ever in Grand Forks. Losing players like Troy Stecher, Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Paul LaDue, all key cogs in the run to No. 8, will force the 2016-17 squad to look for answers as to who will step up into key roles.

However, let DDC make one thing clear -- UND doesn't rebuild. We reload.

Here's a look at what remains and who will be there to restock the talent load lost from the tremendous 2015-16 squad.

Who's Left?

UND's Top Returning Players

 Sophomore Forward, Brock Boeser

Without a doubt, Boeser is the most important and dynamic returning player for the 2016-17 Green and White. The first-round NHL draft pick was arguably the best forward in the country last year, ending last season as the nation's third-leading scorer with an impressive 27 goal, 33 assist -- 60 point season. Boeser was pegged by USCHO as the top returning forward for the 2016-17 season, and for good reason. If you need a refresher as to why, here you go:

Boeser's unique blend of effort, power, speed and scoring touch led to one of the best freshman campaigns in UND history. Last year's NCHC Rookie of the Year is a Hobey Baker candidate and will wear an 'A' for the Green and White as they look to repeat. 

Junior Forward, Austin Poganski

The big-bodied power forward really came into his own last year as a part of UND's Heavy Line with Rhett Gardner and Luke Johnson. Poganski was a force in the middle of the ice, owning the front of the net and anchoring a line that was matched with opponent's top lines down the stretch. The St. Cloud, Minn., native notched 10 goals and added 15 assists last season. This year, Poganski has been named an Assistant Captain and will greatly factor again into UND's success. Another step forward for the St. Louis Blues draft pick will be an important piece in the Green and White's run to No. 9, this season.

Jr. D, Tucker Poolman
named an Assistant Captain
for the 2016-17 season.

Junior Defenseman, Tucker Poolman

Much like Poganski, Tucker Poolman took another big step in his development as one of UND's most important defensemen last year on a squad chocked full of important defensemen. Poolman was fifth in the NCHC in defenseman scoring and notched career highs in assists (19) and points (24). The East Grand Forks, Minn., product will wear an 'A' for the 2016-17 team. Armed with a lethal slap shot from the point, Poolman is also incredibly steady on the back end and will anchor a great returning corps of D-men along with two-time Captain Gage Ausmus and sophomores Christian Wolanin and Hayden Shaw. Defense was the backbone of the 2015-16 title team and with Poolman on the back end once again, UND should be stellar, once again.

Who's New?

UND's Top Newcomers

 Freshman Forward, Tyson Jost

As DDC noted earlier, UND doesn't rebuild ... it reloads. Bringing in the talent the likes of freshman forward Tyson Jost, the Green and White will look to do just that. The St. Albert, Alberta native was selected No. 10 overall in this year's NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche, becoming UND's second forward Top 10 pick of all time with the legendary Jonathan Toews. The comparisons to the former Fighting Sioux superstar isn't just due to his high draft status. DDC was recently told by a local media member that Jost reminds him very much of Toews in that he just simply does everything right. Last season with Penticton, Jost was named the BCHL MVP, the CJHL National Player of the Year, MVP and forward of the year with an eye-popping 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists) in 48 games. He has been tabbed as ISS Hockey's Top Incoming Freshman. Take a look at UND's new prized blue chipper:

Oof. Anyone else licking their chops? Looks like a special player. Hands, playmaking ability, vision and scoring touch, anyone? With Nick Schmaltz and Drake Caggiula gone, look for Mr. Jost to make an immediate impact.

Freshman Forward, Ludvig Hoff

The Oslo, Norway native had a stalwart career with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, posting 57 points last season. Hoff was eighth in the league in points and fifth in assists (37) and was named a USHL Third-Team All-star. Hoff, UND's first Norwegian-born product, twice captained Norway's World Junior Championship team. Hoff will certainly have his chance at Top 6 minutes in UND's effort to reload.

Fr. D, Casey Johnson adds
to UND's local talent pool.

Freshman Defenseman, Casey Johnson

Johnson, a Grand Forks native and former Central High Knight, continues a trend of local flavor that has spotted the Green and White over the last handful of years. The defenseman spent the 2015-16 season with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints and tallied nine goals and 13 assists, helping Dubuque to the Clark Cup Final. A solid defenseman, Johnson will have the opportunity for minutes as UND looks to find a pair to join a returning corps.

Poised for a Breakout?

DDC's Breakout Player for 2016-17

So. F, Shane Gersich
is DDC's pick for UND's
Breakout Player of 2016-17.

Sophomore Forward, Shane Gersich

Losing the likes of Schmaltz, Caggiula, Stecher and LaDue, who will be the man to take the biggest step for the 2016-17 Green and White? Along with the previously mentioned Austin Poganski and Rhett Gardner, Shane Gersich showed flashes of greatness last year for UND. Gersich scored 9 goals and added two assists last season and scored the Green and White's first goal in their 5-1 National Title winning victory against Quinnipiac. The Chaska, Minn., product has tremendous top-end speed and a noticeable scoring touch in space. With that speed and touch, Gersich could very well have the opportunity to play on the top line with Boeser and potentially Jost, setting up a group that's loaded with a dynamic scoring knack. With opponents having to contend with Boeser and with what looks to be elite-level playmaking ability in Jost, Gersich should have time and space and DDC thinks big things are in store. DDC sees Gersich jumping up into the 30 point range and becoming a huge factor for the Green and white.

It's good to be back, folks. Thanks again for reading and keep coming back for DDC's takes on UND hockey all season.

Later this week, visit DDC as he looks at UND's biggest storylines for 2016-17, delves into his NCHC and NCAA preseason rankings and predictions and previews the season-opening exhibition against the Manitoba Bisons.

We're just three days away from the glory of another banner raising as the Green and White hoist Green Banner No. 8 into the Ralph Engelstad Arena rafters on October 3 to kick off the 2016-17 season. 

Cheers and Fight On, Green and White!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DDC's Top 10 Moments of 2015-16 -- No. 1 -- Raise It

UND celebrates with it's eighth national championship trophy after being Quinnipiac 5-1. (Photo: Associated Press)
As DDC puts cursor to blog, it has been almost exactly one day and one month since the UND men's
hockey team pasted the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 on April 9 in the national championship game to earn the Green and White its eighth national title.

DDC's Top 10 moments of the 2015-16 season ends with this final memory and it's one that was 16 years in the making.

This moment is the culmination of a lot of pain and relative suffering. This pain and suffering was throughout the program. From the players and coaches, both former and current, to the fans, this moment was for everyone.

Without further ado, here's DDC's No. 1 moment of the 2015-16 season -- The Celebration.

No. 1 -- Raise It -- UND wins title No. 8 -- UND vs. Quinnipiac, National Championship game, Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL., April 9, 2016.

Looking back at what this team did this season since April 9th has been incredibly enjoyable for DDC. Being a fan of this team since he moved to Northwest Minnesota in 1996, it's hard to fully grasp what this year's squad meant to this blogger.

DDC grew up on Sioux hockey. The highs of the 1997 and 2000 teams and the lows of disappointment after disappointment in the 16 years since 2000 only increased DDC's affection for this team.

DDC had the opportunity to cover UND hockey for the Dakota Student for four memorable seasons during his college days. During that time, the Sioux won MacNaughton Cups, Broadmoor Trophies, made the national tournament each season and competed in Frozen Fours.

Each great moment, however, was a bit overshadowed by the letdown of not being able to check that last box.

As the seconds ticked down while watching the game at his home in the Minneapolis suburbs, DDC started to realize that this moment was finally coming to fruition. He couldn't help himself from looking at the clock and reminiscing.

The seconds ticked. The pain was being washed away. The demons were being exercised.

Ten, nine, eight.

Krys Kolanos ends UND's title defense.

Seven, six, five.

Nathan Gerbe and BC rip out the hearts of Sioux fans, once again.

Four, three, two.

Shawn Hunwick's 40 saves denies the Pony Express.



It's was time to forget it all. It was time to Raise It. It was time to check that final box. It was our time.

And finally, it was time to celebrate.

Some awesome stuff there. Thank you to all who put videos on YouTube.

While DDC was not able to partake in person, he, along with a close friend, did celebrate in DDC's backyard, Stone Cold Steve Austin style. 

And finally, as the beer dripped off his Sioux jersey, DDC joined UND fans around the world in a collective smile, cheer and one last moment, that will go down as one of the best in the history of our beloved program.  

Check that final box. Raise it.

Thanks again for reading.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

DDC's Top 10 Moments of 2015-16 -- No. 2 -- The Best Hockey Play He's Ever Seen

UND Sr. F, Drake Caggiula celebrates one of his two goals in the Green and White's 5-1 win over Quinnipiac
in the national championship game. (Photo credit: Associated Press)
Thanks again for checking back in to DDC's Top 10 moments of the 2015-16 season for the EIGHT-time NCAA hockey national champion, UND men's hockey team.

Nearly a month later and that still feels so good to say.

National. Champion.

*Deep breath* *Smile*

Soak it in, once again.

Ok, so back to it. We're down to the final two and this particular play, DDC has no shame in saying it, is the best single hockey play he has ever seen.

In a season full of memories and history, this play will be the one that fans of the Green and White talk about for generations to come.

This play is the first play that DDC will show baby Emma and all future DDC babies when telling them how special this 2015-16 squad was.

No. 2A -- The Tic-Tic-Tic-Tac-Toe Goal -- UND vs. Miami, Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, N.D., November 13, 2015.

Sports fans all have those plays that will forever be etched into their minds. The beauty of sports often provides unforgettable ones that will span the test of time. Those plays that will be shown on highlight reels for all time. The plays that cause that "remember where you were, when..." feeling.

Being raised a New York professional sports fan, DDC's lean heavily to the east. Yankee captain Derek Jeter's dive into the stands to make a catch against the Red Sox. David Tyree's sticky-helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII against the Patriots. Stephane Matteau's double OT goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils. These are the pro clips he will show his children. DDC remembers where he was for all of these plays.

For his beloved UND hockey team, DDC's most memorable plays elicit the same feelings. Evan Trupp's diving game-winning goal against the Gophers. Robbie Bina's full-sheet goal, also against Minnesota. Chris Porter's regional-winning overtime tally... again... against the Gophers. These are the UND version of the "remember where you were, when..." goals.

Simply put, this goal passes all. DDC thinks you remember this one very well.

Remember this one? Yeah, DDC isn't surprised. He watched this goal on a 26" TV at one of his best friend's new house, while standing up as he had yet to bring chairs downstairs. DDC remembers giggling as he ran into the other room to explain the goal while he worked on his newly-bought home. It will be a moment DDC never forgets. It's the appropriate feeling for a play like this.

Schmaltz to Boeser to Caggiula to Stecher to Boeser to Schmaltz. Tic-tic-tic-tic-tac-toe.

Watching it again for the possibly millionth time, DDC starts to giggle when Boeser taps it to Stecher. By the time Schmaltz finishes the play, DDC's smile is a big as humanly possible and the laugh is now emanating from his belly. 

The buzz this goal created was unreal.

"I don't think I've been in a play with so many passes tic-tac-toe on the tape," Nick Schmaltz said in the postgame presser.

“In the moment, you didn’t think it was as cool as everyone was saying,” Boeser added. “But the bench just kept saying “wow’.”

“Those are special,” head coach Brad Berry said. “Those are things you like to see.”

From Bleacher Report to Twitter to TSN, this play reached college hockey legend. 

Another incredible moment from the CBS line. What a joy. Thank you, men, for giving us a play for the ages.