Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roses and Thorns: No Surprises, A Split

NCHC Standings: T-1) Miami, 7-3-0, 21 pts; T-1) UMD, 7-3-0, 21 pts;
3) UNO, 6-3-1-1, 20 pts; 4) UND, 6-3-1, 19 pts; 5) DU, 4-3-0, 12 pts;
6) WMU, 2-6-2-2, 10 pts; 7) SCSU, 2-5-1, 7 pts; 8) CC, 0-8-1, 1 pt
Another trip to Magness Arena. Another split.

The UND men’s hockey team and Denver played another high-energy, heated conference series this weekend as the Pioneers and netminder Evan Cowley took Friday night’s contest 4-1. North Dakota battled back on Saturday for a convincing 3-1 victory, earning the National Collegiate Hockey Conference split.

Here’s what stood out for the DDC in this week’s Rose and Thorns.



No. 1 – Nick Mattson 

The senior defenseman showed some veteran savvy in a big way on Saturday night. After being scratched the previous four games, Mattson netted UND’s first goal of the game and added an assist in the 3-1 victory. With Troy Stecher expected to be out through January, a contributing Mattson would be huge for UND.

No. 2 – Bryn Chyzyk

Chyzyk returned from injury and scored a big goal in Friday night’s game that got UND back in it at 2-1. He added an assist on Saturday. The junior has taken huge strides this season and it was nice seeing Chyzyk continue his good play after missing a good chunk of time with an injury.

No. 3 – Evan Cowley

DU head coach Jim Montgomery said after Saturday night’s 3-1 loss that he planned on using freshman goaltender Tanner Jaillet regardless of Cowley’s performance on Friday. Montgomery may be regretting that decision as Cowley was much better than Jaillet this weekend. The sophomore goalie came up huge on Friday, stopping 29 of 30 shots, also adding an assist. His save on the doorstep on UND’s Connor Gaarder with DU nursing a 2-1 lead in the third kept DU rolling and he earned the 4-1 win.


No. 1 – Refereeing/Penalties

Ok. DDC gets it. No excuses. You can’t control the calls on the ice. However, the checking from behind call on UND’s top centerman and assistant captain Mark McMillan that saw the senior get ejected just seven minutes into the game, was flat out awful. Below is the call. You judge for yourself. Losing McMillan, UND was forced to jumble lines, even going as far as pulling Tucker Poolman from the blue line to forward. This call put North Dakota on its heels early on and made a big impact on a rivalry series. Two minutes? Sure. Five? Not a chance. Denver, in DDC’s opinion, was a bit soft on their skates this weekend and a talented power play group took advantage. Look, DDC understands that UND isn’t full of angels and protecting players is very important. However, calls like that shouldn’t be game changers. Call the two. Keep McMillan on the ice. Move on.


No. 2 – Stephane Pattyn

Pardon me for calling out the captain of this team, but the burley forward has put UND behind the 8-ball a few times this season with silly, after the whistle penalties. The forward did it again on Friday with an unsportsmanlike call. DDC has always loved the grit and gristle that Pattyn has brought to his team, but, UND would prefer to keep its captain out of the box.

No. 3 – Coltyn Sanderson

Sanderson didn’t directly do anything to earn a spot on DDC’s thorns this week, but that may be precisely why he’s on this list.  Once again, Sanderson was completely invisible on Friday night and freshman Johnny Simonson took his spot on Saturday and in DDC’s opinion, it should stay that way going forward. Sanderson’s lack of skill isn’t hurting the team, as the junior doesn’t see much of the ice, but Simonson is simply a better option.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Gameday: As Must See As Must See Can Be

College hockey rivalries in the west have taken a bit of a hit over the last two years with the berth of the Big 10 and National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Rivalry series like Michigan vs. Miami and of course, UND vs. Minnesota have taken a hit with realignment.
Other rivalries are budding with the likes of Nebraska-Omaha, Western Michigan and St. Cloud State.

However, with all of this change, one rivalry has certainly stayed the same.

Heated foes in No. 10 Denver and No. 1 North Dakota renew pleasantries tonight and Saturday from Magness Arena in Denver in a bout of teams that have a history of epic battles and bad blood.

Here’s a quick refresher to remind DU and UND fans alike what this rivalry has been like over the years.

From Feb. 16, 2008, UND forward Kyle Radke annihilates Denver forward Brandon Vossberg. A couple things to note here: At 12 seconds of the video, Radke hears the crowd roar and runs back out of the tunnel to pummel Vossberg. Just a vicious beat down. One not to be forgotten. Starting at 1:37, you can see DDC waiving DU off the ice on the very far left of the row. Vintage sweater. Oh, college.

Powerful Pios

Denver comes into this weekend’s series on a roll offensively. The nation’s 11th-best scoring offense (3.38 goals per game) has been particularly lethal with the extra man.

Sr. D Joey LaLeggia
paces DU's blueline
The Pioneers boast the No. 4 power play in the country, converting at a stellar 27.6% clip.

Leading the charge for Denver offensively are a couple of old faces and one new one.

Senior defenseman, and preseason all-NCHC pick by both the media and DDC, Joey LaLeggia (5g, 6a – 11pts) leads the attack from the blueline while fellow senior Daniel Doremus (4g, 11a – 15pts) takes care of the forward group.

Freshman forward Danton Heinen leads the Pioneers in points with 16 (6g, 10a).
Denver (9-4, 3-2 NCHC) has seen two netminders emerge to replace all-world goaltender Sam Brittain.

Sophomore Evan Cowley (6-4, 1.98 goals against, .922 save percentage) leads the Pios statistically, however, the last two Denver wins have been backstopped by freshman Tanner Jaillet, including a 3-1 at Cornell last Friday. Cowley took the loss 4-1 on Friday.

UND Finds Depth

UND Jr. F. Drake Caggiula leads
the nation's No. 10 offense
Leading the way for UND’s No. 10 ranked offense (3.41 goals per game) has been junior Drake Caggiula.

The dynamic forward’s 21 points (7g, 14a) puts him in the top ten in the country while senior Michael Parks (6g, 13a – 19pts) and freshman Nick Schmaltz (2g, 12a – 14pts) also provide scoring spark for North Dakota.

UND (12-3-2, 5-2-1 NCHC) showed its depth last weekend in a 7-4, 3-1 sweep over Lake Superior State as defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (5 points) and Tucker Poolman (3 points) both took home National Collegiate Hockey Conference weekly honors.

Schmaltz earned defensemen of the week with a three-assist night on Friday, adding a goal and an assist on Saturday. Poolman was named the NCHC rookie of the week after notching two huge power play goals on Friday and coming back with an assist in Saturday’s win.

Backstopping the UND attack, junior Zane McIntyre earned the Green and White’s third NCHC honor of the week.

McIntyre allowed two goals this past weekend en route to earning conference goaltending weekly honors.

The Pick

UND will be without arguably its best defenseman this weekend in sophomore Troy Stecher who went down with a leg injury in Saturday night’s win over LSSU. This loss hurts North Dakota greatly, but it’s next man up for UND. Veterans Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzerella could both be thrusted into action against a team who knows how to put the puck in the net.

North Dakota seemed to get its power play back on track in last weekend’s sweep, going 5-for-8 and will likely have its chances with the extra man as Denver’s 16.9 penalty minutes a game is the fifth-highest in the country. The Pios have struggled on the penalty kill, as well, stopping just 84.7% of their opponent’s power plays.

This weekend should provide some high-octane energy and passion and is as much as can’t-miss-TV as college hockey has going today.

UND will look to score in bunches against an average defensive attack, but the loss of Stecher could deter that a bit. As much as it pains him to make this call, DDC sees a split this weekend at Magness in what should be two extremely competitive games.

UND wins 4-2 on Friday, Denver earns the split 3-2 on Saturday.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rose and Thorns: Don't Be a Liar

Raise your hand if you thought UND would be down 4-1 at any point to Lake Superior State this weekend.

Anyone? If your hand is up, you’re a liar.

Despite a stunning first half of the game on Friday that silenced the home crowd at Ralph Engelstad Arena, the No. 1 team in the country showed precisely why they earned that distinction coming into the weekend, ripping off six unanswered goals en route to a crazy 7-4 win.

In the series finale on Saturday, UND’s performance wasn’t its prettiest of the year, but North Dakota took care of business and earned a non-conference sweep with a 3-1 victory over LSSU. 

Here’s what stood out to DDC against the Lakers in this week’s edition of Roses and Thorns:


No. 1 – Tucker Poolman

Injuries to Drake Caggiula and Colton St. Clair forced the freshman defenseman to move to forward on Friday night and Poolman paced UND’s furious comeback win with a dynamic two-goal performance. Poolman netted his first on the power play to make it 4-2 and reignited the REA crowd and his second goal, again on the power play, knotted the game at 4-4. From there, the route was on. This freshman has a unique blend of size, skill and scoring touch and his versatility led UND to the win on Friday.

UND senior forward Michael Parks celebrates his third period power play
goal on Friday night. The Green and White were lethal with extra man this past
weekend, going a combined 5-for-8. Photo credit: UND Sports.

No. 2 – UND’s Power Play

After struggling mightily over the last handful of weekends, UND got back on track this weekend going a combined 5-for-8. Freshman Nick Schmaltz makes this unit go and they went all weekend.

No. 3 – Zane McIntyre

What else can be said about this kid? The junior netminder made two huge saves, one with UND still trailing and another while tied on Friday night after coming in cold after a tough start for freshman goaltender Cam Johnson. On Saturday night, McIntyre wasn’t very busy, but kept LSSU at bay, especially during a late push by the Lakers with UND nursing a tenuous 2-1 lead. As McIntyre goes, so goes the Green and White. Two more wins for the all-world North Dakota goalie. 

Honorable mention – LSSU’s Jerseys

Classic and timeless. Great colors and a solid logo. Simply put, those sweaters are a thing of beauty.


No. 1 – Injuries

UND has been bitten by the injury bug a lot this year and the Green and White may have had it’s biggest one to date when sophomore defenseman Troy Stetcher went down with a leg injury on Saturday. Arguably UND’s best d-man so far this year, Stetcher went leg first into the boards in the third period and his status is unknown going forward. UND lost St. Clair on Friday as well, but saw Caggiula come back to the ice on Saturday night after missing a large portion of Friday night’s game. Injuries are part of the game, unfortunately, and it’s next man up for the Green and White. 

No. 2 – Cam Johnson

DDC didn’t want to pick on the freshman netminder’s shaky first-career start on Friday, but it showed UND fans a nervous side to life without an experienced backstop. Johnson fought the puck as LSSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead that saw the freshman get yanked, but lucky for UND, they never really lost control of the game. If something were to happen to McIntrye injury-wise for North Dakota, Johnson would be the man running the show. Johnson needs to fix whatever jitters he was plagued with on Friday. Depth at all positions is key to a deep run.

No. 3 – Dumb Penalties

UND kept the Lakers from scoring a power play goal all weekend, however, dumb penalties stymied an early UND comeback just a minute after scoring a huge 3-1 goal on Friday night after a slashing call on Luke Johnson. It didn’t stop the comeback, but those kinds of penalties can’t happen against more talented teams. Saturday night, UND couldn’t get any offense rolling in the first due to penalties. Again, ultimately, it didn’t matter, but this needs to be a point of emphasis going forward.

Check back later this week as DDC takes a look at UND’s series with conference foe and longtime-rival Denver.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Gameday: New Trend for No. 1?

Three weeks gone. Three new No. 1s.

After a 2-2 tie and a 3-2 win at home against No. 11 Nebraska-Omaha over Thanksgiving weekend, it’s time for UND’s crack as the top dog in the hockey world.

The newly-dubbed No. 1 North Dakota men’s hockey team will try to break the running trend of No. 1s to fall tonight and Saturday as the Green and White take on the Lake Superior State Lakers in Grand Forks.

Lowly Lakers?

 LSSU has struggled so far this season falling to 3-13 after a painful 7-0, 3-0 sweep at the hands of Minnesota State this past weekend, in which they were outshot 77-45.

The Lakers are a team coming into the Ralph Engelstad Arena searching for production on both sides of the ice.

Entering tonight’s tilt, the Lakers are near the bottom of the country in scoring as well as defense ranking 56th and 55th in goals per game (1.69) and goals allowed (3.88), respectively.

LSSU brings just one double-digit scorer into this weekend’s non-conference faceoff. Minot-native junior forward Bryce Schmitt leads the Lakers with 10 points (5g, 5a).

In the nets for the Lakers, freshman Gordon Defiel looks to improve on 3-11 record as well as a 3.53 goals against average and a .900 save percentage.

Lots of Leftovers

 Last weekend may have been Thanksgiving, but UND is looking to feast on a struggling LSSU squad.

Junior and November’s national player of the month Drake Caggiula paces North Dakota’s (10-3-2) attack that is scoring at a 3.22 goals per game clip.

The dynamic forward leads the Green and White with 20 points (7g, 13a). Caggiula’s linemates, seniors Michael Parks (5g, 11a –16 pts) and Mark MacMillan (7g, 6a – 13 pts) round out one of the nation’s top scoring groups.

It’s been Zane McIntyre’s net for UND this season and the junior has been up to the task. The reining National Collegiate Hockey Conference goaltender of the week carries a stellar 10-3-2 record into this weekend’s series.

The Pick

Simply put, UND cannot take anything less than a sweep. Facing a struggling opponent in a non-conference series, this is a weekend for North Dakota to flex its muscles. Although DDC knows a team like LSSU has nothing to lose and will bring its best to The Ralph this weekend, UND’s talent is too much to ignore. After being embarrassed at home in a 5-1 loss to Bemidji State and escaping Air Force with a come-from-behind 3-2 OT win earlier in the year, UND won’t take a wounded Laker team for granted. Fast starts are important for the Green and White as UND is clearly the better team this weekend.

UND SWEEPS, 4-0, 6-2.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Roses and Thorns: 4 Out of 6 Ain't Bad

It's not quite Meatloaf, but maybe, turkey?

The No. 2 UND men's hockey team took 4 out of 6 National Collegiate Hockey Conference points this weekend against No. 11 Nebraska-Omaha, tying 2-2 on Friday (dropping the shootout) and winning 3-2 on Saturday.

DDC's here with his roses and thorns from the Thanksgiving Day weekend faceoff in Grand Forks:


No. 1 -- Johnny Simonson

The Freshman forward was a stalwart in dots this weekend for UND, especially on Friday night, winning 9 of 13 draws. DDC loves the multifaceted play of this kid's play this year. North Dakota succeeds when they win the faceoff battle and Simonson is good.

No. 2 -- Zane McIntyre

Coming into the weekend, much of the talk was centered around the emergence of UNO netminder Ryan Massa. It was UND's man in the pipes who stood tall this weekend. Massa played well for Omaha, but McIntyre was great, especially on Friday night as the Mavericks pushed hard after UND tied the score. This team goes as Zane goes.

No. 3 -- Stephane Pattyn

Wow. DDC received this text from the author of the popular University of Hockey Blog following The Captain's shorthanded and eventual game-winning goal on Saturday night. "Was that Pattyn or Crosby?" Seriously. What a missile and at a huge point in the game win UND nursing a tenuous lead. The Green and White lead the nation with eight short-handed goals this year and that one was pretty special.

No. 4 -- Austin Ortega

“Tonight we were able to get up on the board; we really showed we’re a scoring team,” Ortega said. “Kind of sending a message to North Dakota that we can score on any goalie out there.” That quote after their win against Minnesota Duluth provided a bit of bulletin board material for this weekend. Well, Mr. Ortega may want to reconsider talking before acting in the future. A rose to the leading scorer for UNO who failed to register a point on the weekend as the Mavericks were held to 4 goals in the weekend.


No. 1 -- Shootouts

Sure. This may not be here if UND had won on Friday night instead of lost, but did anyone else feel that shootout was extremely anti-climatic? DDC feels the NCHC brass needs to look at this. What's the need for it? That extra point may have a huge effect on the NCHC race down the stretch. Is this right? Both teams battle for 65 minutes and this is what decides it?

No. 2 -- Lulls in Play

It's become a frustrating pattern for UND this season. Torrid play for long stretches followed by long stretches of uninspired play. If this team plays a 60-minute hockey game, they are very, very tough to beat. The last 10 minutes on Friday nearly cost North Dakota the game. A lack of transition play and virtually no support on the boards led to huge chances for Omaha. Saturday, after going up 2-0, UNO scored a 2-1 goal that gave the Mavs all the momentum. There are too many good teams out there for UND to coast through large spans of games.