Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Gameday: It's Time

NCAA West Region
Friday (all times CT):
No. 1 North Dakota vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac, ESPN U, 7 p.m.
No. 2 Michigan Tech vs. No. 3 St. Cloud State, ESPN 3, 3:30 p.m.
UND/QU winner vs. MTU/SCSU winner, ESPN U, 8 p.m.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of year.

It's time for one-and-done. It's time for white knuckles and sweaty palms.

It's time for beating hearts, greasy goals and queasy stomachs.

The time for conference championships and game-planning is over.

For the four teams in the NCAA West Regional, North Dakota, Michigan Tech, St. Cloud State and Quinnipiac, it's two wins to Boston and one loss to the golf course.

It's playoff time.

All four teams that will grace the Scheels Arena ice in Fargo, N.D. this weekend are coming off a loss. Another one will mean the end of their season.

All have some big questions that need answers this weekend.

One team, UND, is coming off losses in back-to-back games for the first time in two years. Two teams, QU and SCSU, are facing key injuries. The other, Michigan Tech, is playing in its first NCAA tournament since 1981.

Who will have the answers this weekend?

Let's get to it. Here's your breakdown of what we'll see this weekend.

The Teams

No. 1 North Dakota, 27-9-3, 16-2-2, NCHC regular season champion

Leading Scorers: Jr. F, Drake Caggiula, 16 g, 17 a --33 pts
Sr. F, Michael Parks, 12 g, 20 a -- 32 pts
Jr. D, Jordan Schmaltz, 4 g, 23 a -- 27 pts

16 players with at least 10 points

Jr. G, Zane McIntyre, 27-9-3 (2nd in NCAA in wins), .929 sv pct, 2.05 GAA

3.26 GPG (10th in NCAA), 2.33 goals allowed (10th in NCAA), 19.6% PP, 84.5 % PK, 23-0-2 when leading after 2

Last Action: 3-1 L vs. SCSU, 5-1 L vs. Denver in NCHC Frozen Faceoff

Big Story: What will be the response after losing back-to-back games for first time in two years? Playing in front of a partisan crowd, just 70 miles from home, UND will need to find goals.

No. 4 Quinnipiac Bobcats, 23-11-4, 16-3-3, ECAC regular season champion

Leading Scorers: So. F, Sam Anas, 23 goals, 16 assists -- 39 points
Sr. F, Matthew Peca, 7 g, 29 a (.76 per game, T-14 in NCAA) -- 36 pts
Jr. F, Travis Denis, 15 g, 18 a -- 33 pts

Jr. G, Michael Garteig, 22-9-3, .918 save percentage, 2.00 goals against average, 5 shutouts (T-6 in NCAA)

Split with SCSU 3-2 L, 4-1 in January

2.76 GPG, 2.24 goals allowed (11th in NCAA) 19.6% PP, 87.9% PK (6th in NCAA) +223 in shots

Last Action: 5-2 L vs. Harvard in ECAC semifinals

Big Story: Head coach Rand Pecknold played coy with media on Thursday after his leading scorer, Sam Anas, who was presumed to be out for the regional, practiced with a no-contact jersey.

No. 2 Michigan Tech Huskies, 29-9-2, 2nd in WCHA

Leading Scorers: Sr. F, Tanner Kero, 19 g, 26 a --45 pts
Jr. F, Alex Petan, 15 g, 29 a -- 39 pts
Jr. F, Malcolm Gould, 14 g, 17 a -- 31 pts

15 players with at least 10 points

Jr. G, Jamie Phillips, 28-8-2 (Leads NCAA in wins), 1.71 GAA (3rd in NCAA), .935 sv pct (3rd in NCAA), 6 shutouts (T-2 in NCAA)

3.55 GPG (6th in NCAA), 1.77 goals allowed (2nd in NCAA), 1.77 scoring margin best in NCAA, 21.6% PP (7th in NCAA), 85.4% PK, +307 in shots, 19-3-0 when leading after 2

Last Action: 5-2 L vs. Minnesota State in WCHA Title Game

Big Story: In NCAA tournament for first time since 1981. Are the Huskies just happy to be here?

No. 3 St. Cloud State Huskies, 19-18-1, 11-12-1, 6th in NCHC

Leading Scorers: Jr. F, Joey Benik, 16 g, 22 a -- 38 pts
Jr. F, Jonny Brodzinski, 20 g (11 power play goals leads the NCAA), 17 a -- 37 pts
Jr. F, David Morley, 17 g, 11 a -- 28 pts

So. G, Charlie Lindgren, 18-17-1, 2.26 GAA, .919 sv pct

2.76 GPG, 2.39 goals allowed, 23.7% PP (5th in NCAA), 80.0% PK (44th in NCAA)    

Last Action: 3-1 W vs. North Dakota, 3-2 L vs. Miami in NCHC Frozen Faceoff title game

Big Story: Forward Kalle Kossila and defenseman Andrew Prochno likely to return from injury.

The Picks

No. 1 North Dakota vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac

Will forward Sam Anas play against UND?

Earlier this week, the Bobcats looked like they would be without their most dynamic player, Sam Anas for this first-round showdown with UND.

A red, no-contact jersey and a no comment postgame presser from coach Rand Pecknold later, Anas looks like he could be ready to go.

Gamesmanship? Why not?

Before last weekend's mess-of-a-weekend for UND, the Green and White looked to be a no-brainer pick to make it to the Frozen Four in Boston with what will be essentially a home game just 70 miles from Grand Forks.

What a difference a weekend makes.

Two uninspiring losses later, can North Dakota bounce back?

Defense and goaltending have been the name of the game all year for the Green and White, but this weekend, UND must find a way to be desperate offensively. In losses to St. Cloud and Denver, a lack of energy was evident and 2 goals on the weekend showed that. UND failed to generate any kind of sustained offense in front of their opponent's net and we're held to perimeter shots that missed the net or were blocked by traffic.

DDC's take is that there is just too much senior leadership on this team to allow for another soft performance. North Dakota failed to find rebounds down low in two games last weekend. Expect to see this change.

UND finds a way to get to the paint and knock home some rebounds with a hard-working, Sioux-like victory.


No. 2 Michigan Tech vs. No. 3 St. Cloud State

SCSU Jr. Forward
Jonny Brodzinski

This is a tough one as DDC really likes both of these teams. St. Cloud State looks like it may get two key cogs, forward Kalle Kossila and defeseman Andrew Prochno, back in time for this weekend.

On the other side of the ice, Michigan Tech is a very well-balanced team, featuring a goaltender in Jamie Phillips that is in the top three in the NCAA in every important statistic. Up front, forward Tanner Kero is a Hobey Baker finalist for a reason.

St. Cloud State showed a tenacious trap game last weekend against UND and got two goals in 30 seconds at the end of the first en route to a victory that essentially got them into the NCAA tournament.

Offensively, SCSU has a dynamic power play that is lead by junior forward Jonny Brodzinski. If MTU can keep St. Cloud's power play off the ice, DDC likes them to advance.


North Dakota vs. Michigan Tech, West Region Championship

UND Jr. Goaltender
Zane McIntyre

One player that DDC did not mention in his pick of the UND vs. QU is certainly an important one --

The Thief River Falls, Minn., native was visibly frustrated during UND's loss to Denver last weekend, as the netminder was hung out to dry many times last Saturday afternoon. However, all season long, when UND needed a big stop, the Hobey Baker finalist was the man for the job. And as it often does in the NCAA tournament, goaltending will be the difference in this one.

The Huskies have seen their netminder take control of his fair share of games this season, too. This one will be a treat to watch.

Throughout his three-year career at UND, McIntyre has certainly had his ups and downs, but has shown the ability to shutdown any opponent.

Tech is looking to stake claim to a renewed program and find its way to Boston, but McIntyre won't let it happen.

Big time players find a way to put their team on their back and Zane McIntyre will show his mettle on Saturday, finding an elite level in victory.


We're all ready. Bring on the Big Dance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Gameday: The Real March Madness

Forget the round ball.
Game times:
All games on CBS Sports
Semifinal #1, UND vs. SCSU, 4:08 p.m.
Semifinal #2, Miami vs. Denver, 7:38 p.m
Third place game, 3:38 p.m.
Championship game, 7:38 p.m.  

This is the real March Madness.

Four teams have ascended upon the Target Center in Minneapolis for this weekend’s National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff tournament and all will be looking to grab some hardware on the way to next weekend’s NCAA tournament.

For the nation’s toughest conference, there’s no better way to end a season than to watch four highly-touted teams duke it out for the right to hoist the NCHC tournament trophy.

Let’s take a look at who’s left standing and who will take home the tourney title in this weekend’s “Who? What? How?” Frozen Faceoff preview.

The Teams

1. North Dakota, 27-7-3 (16-6-2-0)

Players to watch: Jr. F, Drake Caggiula (16 goals, 17 assists), Sr. F, Michael Parks (12 G, 20 A), Jr. D, Jordan Schmaltz (4 G, 23 A)

Jr. G, Zane McIntyre (27-7-3, 1.97 GAA, .932 save percentage)

Standout Stats: 3.38 goals per game (8th in NCAA), 2.14 goals against per game (7th in NCAA), 19-1-3 when scoring first, 23-0-2 when leading after two periods.

How they got to Minneapolis: Swept Colorado College, 5-1, 3-2 in Grand Forks.

About UND: For the Green and White, the 2014-15 campaign really boils down to two things: Depth and Zane McIntyre.

Scoring has come from every line for UND as they bring eight players with at least 20 points and 16 with at least 10 into the Frozen Faceoff. From the fourth line to the top line, North Dakota has found different players chipping in on a nightly basis.

Leading the charge of late, senior assistant captain Connor Gaarder’s 5 goals in 6 games, with four game winners in that span, is a heckuva testament to this team’s depth.

And in the pipes, consistency in the form of McIntyre has reigned. The newly-donned NCHC goaltender of the year and Hobey Baker finalist has been this team’s unquestioned MVP.

UND will continue to be hard to beat if these two pieces continue their stellar play.

2. Miami, 23-13-1 (14-9-1-1)

Players to watch: Sr. F, Austin Czarnik (8 G, 32 A), Jr. F, Riley Barber (19 G, 18 A), Sr. F, Blake Coleman (17 G, 16 A)

Jr. G, Jay Williams (17-8-0, 1.84 GAA, .924 save percentage)

Standout Stats: +25 in the second period, +280 in shots on goal.

How they got to Minneapolis: Won series in three games vs. WMU in Oxford, Ohio, 5-3 W, 7-5 L, 4-0 W

About the RedHawks: Much like UND, Miami has relied heavily on its depth and goaltending this year. The RedHawks bring seven 20-point scorers to Minneapolis and feature a high-flying, energy attack.

Jay Williams looks like the main difference from last season’s last place NCHC finish. The junior netminder has played well all season and that consistency has allowed Miami to often play with a lead with a dangerous offensive attack.

4. Denver, 22-12-2 (13-10-1-1)

Players to watch: Fr. F, Danton Heinen (16 G, 28 A), So. F, Trevor Moore (20 G, 20 A), Sr. D, Joey LaLeggia (13 G, 25 A)

Fr. G, Tanner Jaillet (13-6-0, 2.42 GAA, .917 save percentage)

Standout Stats: 3.25 goals per game (10th in NCAA), 15-3-0 when scoring first, 18-0-0 when leading after two periods.

How they got to Minneapolis: Swept Minnesota Duluth in Denver, 4-3, 4-0

About the Pioneers: Denver has been here before, albeit under slightly different circumstances. The defending Frozen Faceoff champions took home the inaugural tournament title last season to pace an improbably run to the NCAA tournament.

But, no mistaking, this year’s squad is much different, featuring league MVP and Hobey Baker finalist Joey LaLeggia and unanimous NCHC rookie of the year Danton Heinen. Freshman goaltender Tanner Jalliet has become a mainstay in net for DU and continues a long line of outstanding netminders for Denver.

The Pioneers special teams have certainly been special this season as their power play is clipping at a solid 21.6%.

While the Pios are all but a lock for the NCAA tournament, repeating as Frozen Faceoff champions is surely high on their to-do list.

6. St. Cloud State, 18-17-1 (11-12-1-0)

Players to watch: Jr. F, Jonny Brodzinski (19 G, 16 A), Jr. F, Joey Benik (14 G, 21 A), Jr. F, David Morley (16 G, 11 A)

So. F, Charlie Lindgren (17-16-1, 2.27 GAA, .920 save percentage)

Standout stats: 24.1% power play (4th in NCAA), -1 in third period, 0-12-0 when trailing after two periods.

How they got to Minneapolis: Swept UNO in Omaha, 2-1 (2OT), 3-1

About the Huskies: St. Cloud State might be the team with the most to play for this weekend, as their NCAA tournament picture isn’t as clear as the other three teams in Minneapolis. Sitting at No. 11 in the Pairwise rankings, the Huskies look well on their way to a tourney berth, but it isn’t yet etched in stone.

A win against PWR No. 1 UND on Friday would assure a bid into the big tourney. However, two losses will eliminate them from the NCAA tournament as a below .500 record cannot get them in as an at-large per NCAA rules.

While their record doesn’t leap off the page, the Huskies are certainly capable of doing major damage this weekend. Junior forward Jonny Brodzinski paces a Husky attack that loves to play with the extra man. Coming into the Frozen Faceoff, the Huskies are clipping at a phenomenal 24.1% on the power play.

The Picks
Who will hoist the Frozen Faceoff trophy?

UND vs. St. Cloud State

The Huskies look to be the team with more to play for in the early semifinal, but UND’s focus this season in big-time games has been second to none.

The Green and White swept SCSU in Grand Forks in late February pacing UND’s run to the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champion.

This should be a heck of a game on Friday featuring two teams who know each other very well.

As it did in the season series, DDC expects UND’s defense to play a huge role. Keeping Jonny Brodzinksi at bay has been objective No. 1 for North Dakota against the Huskies. While SCSU may be the more desperate team in this one, the Target Center is sure to feature a highly-partisan UND flavor and that should help lift the Green and White.


Denver vs. Miami

This could be fun.

These are two teams that love to push the tempo and fly all over the ice. Both are playing for momentum going into the NCAA tournament, but DDC gives the slight edge to Miami.

DDC has seen Miami a lot this season and has really been impressed by their goalie play. Couple that with a dynamic offense that comes at teams in waves, expect to see the RedHawks find a way to outscore the Pioneers.


Third place game: SCSU vs. Denver

This will truly be desperation time for the Huskies. If SCSU falls to the third place game, it will be win or hit the golf course for the Summer.

Nothing against the Pioneers, whatsoever, but St. Cloud gets a big win and punches their ticket to the big dance.


Championship game: UND vs. Miami

UND has just simply found a way to win games in big spots this season.

Whether it be huge late rallies early in the season against Air Force and Lake Superior State, a gritty, hard-fought OT win in Omaha the night after dropping a heart-breaker in OT, a Penrose Cup clinching performance on the back of their netminder in Oxford, or a clutch, game-winning goal from a third-line senior, the Green and White just keep getting it done and getting it done in any way possible.

This focus on the brightest of stages is what sets UND apart from the pack.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Roses and Thorns: The Legend Continues

Results from NCHC first-round:
No. 1 UND sweeps No. 8 CC
No. 2 Miami tops No. 7 WMU in three games,
No. 6 SCSU upsets No. 3 Omaha with a sweep
No. 4 Denver sweeps No. 5 UMD
For the 13th season in a row, the UND men’s hockey team hosted a first-round conference to
urnament series from Ralph Engelstad Arena.
And after a 5-1 and 3-2 series sweep of Colorado College, for the 13th season in a row, UND fans will have the opportunity to follow the Green and White to the Twin Cities while they vie for a conference tournament championship.
No. 1 ranked UND shook off a slow start on Friday and netted two goals late in the second period before coasting in the third period.
On Saturday, CC brought their A game as a team that was playing for their season and stood toe-to-toe with North Dakota, tying the game in the third period.
But, the legend of Connor Gaarder would not let this series go past Saturday.
The senior assistant captain added to his growing list of big-time, late-season goals, notching the game-winner on a terrific back-handed, net-crashing one-timer with just over a minute left in the game.
After a nice play from Bryn Chyzyk in the neutral zone to turn over the puck, Austin Poganski came in from the right wing with Gaarder barreling towards the net. The freshman made a nifty saucer pass to the slot and Gaarder did the rest, sending the REA faithful into a frenzy and UND to the Target Center.
Gaarder’s goal was his fifth in his last six games – and fourth game-winner in that span.
The Edina, Minn., native’s penchant for scoring big goals started last season in the Frozen Faceoff as he potted two in a pivotal, third-place game victory over WMU, including the game winner that kept UND’s season alive. Then, in the NCAA tournament, Gaarder sent the Green and White to the Frozen Four with a dramatic double-overtime winner. In Frozen Four, Gaarder did it again, scoring UND’s lone goal against Minnesota, less than a minute after the Gophers took the lead in the third period.
The senior leader doesn’t have much to say about this knack for big goals, however.
 “It’s just puck luck and hard work, I guess,” Gaarder said on Saturday. “If you work hard, you’re just going to get the bounces.” 
Whatever it is, DDC hopes to see the tough-minded senior continue his flare for the dramatic.
Here’s what stood out to DDC in this week’s Roses and Thorns.
UND's Connor Gaarder nets the series-clinching goal with 1:22 left in the third on Saturday. (Photo:


No. 1 – Connor Gaarder

See above.
Gaarder came to UND four years ago as a late addition to the roster following J.T. Miller’s decision to de-commit from the program and bolt for the Canadian Juniors. While this move crushed DDC at the time as Miller was set to be UND’s first New York Rangers draft pick to don the Green and White,  there are certainly no reasons to be upset now. While Miller has seen success in Broadway, much to DDC’s liking, Gaarder has become a living legend for UND. Fair trade.

No. 2 – Nick Mattson

After bouncing in and out of the lineup during the first half of the season, the senior defenseman took Christmas break to reevaluate his play. Since then, Mattson has been arguably UND’s best defenseman and he showed up big time against CC. Mattson netted the game-winning goal on Friday and added two assists in the 5-1 added an assist. Mattson has been a force for UND, leading the team with 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in the last 14 games. The senior had often been a source of frustration for fans for parts of his career, but he’s brought his game to a new level during a special run.

No. 3 – Johnny Simonson, Bryn Chyzyk and Trevor Olson

These three were grouped together on the fourth line this weekend and found immediate chemistry. With senior Mark MacMillan officially out for the season and forward Colten St. Clair out for the weekend with injury, Simonson and Olson stepped into the lineup in the playoffs and made a heck of an impact. While trio only notched one point on the weekend, Chyzyk’s second assist on Gaarder’s game-winner on Saturday, the line played with energy and created many chances. Simonson may have had his best game with UND on Friday night, tallying three shots on goal. DDC expects this line to be together this weekend in Minneapolis and is certainly all for it.
UND's Nick Mattson celebrates his game-winning goal in front of the REA faithful on Friday. (Photo:


No. 1 – No Coverage of Penrose Celebration

DDC did not have the opportunity to see UND parade the Penrose Cup around the REA following Saturday night’s win and he’s not happy about it. Ok, DDC gets it, there are timing constraints and other TV programs to be shown, but c’mon, not even a snippet?! C’mon Midco. This was a pinnacle regular-season celebration for the fans of the Green and White and you cut to other programming?! Fail. Well, here’s to hoping for more important trophy celebrations in the coming weeks.
Thanks for tuning in once again. Come back later this week for the breakdown of the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Gameday: It's Hard to End Somebody's Season

It’s hard to believe these words are about to be uttered:

It’s playoff time.

While this weekend’s best two-out-of-three first round National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament series between No. 1 seeded UND and No. 8 seeded Colorado College is certainly big for both teams with a berth in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on the line, for the visiting Tigers, it’s do-or-die. It’s win or go golfing.

North Dakota clinched the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champions outright this past Friday in Oxford, Ohio against Miami and comes into this series a lock for the NCAA tournament in two weeks with the No. 1 ranking in the polls and PairWise. For UND’s seven seniors, it’s the last time they will play in front of the Ralph Engelstad faithful.

For CC, simply put, there’s no other option left but to keep on winning. The Tigers are well out of the NCAA tournament picture and must win this weekend to keep their season alive. 

Enough of the fluff. Let’s get to the preview of this weekend’s series in Grand Forks.


Players to watch

Colorado College:

Jr. F, Cody Bradley, 10 goals, 19 assists – 29 points
Sr. F, Scott Wamsganz, 8g, 11a – 19 pts
Jr. F, Hunter Fejes, 5g, 13a – 18 pts

So. G, Tyler Marble, 5-16-2, .899 save percentage, 3.39 goals against average (7th in NCAA), started last 13 games. 27 save shutout against WMU on 2/28. 0-4, 5.95 GAA, .850 against UND this season
Fr. G, Chase Perry, 1-8-1, .873 save percentage, 4.05 goals against average


Jr. F, Drake Caggiula, 16 goals, 17 assists  – 33 points
Sr. F, Michael Parks, 12g, 19a – 31 pts
Jr. D, Jordan Schmaltz, 3g, 23a – 26 pts

Jr. G, Zane McInyre, 25-7-3, 1.99 goals against average (13th in NCAA), .931 save percentage (7th in NCAA). 25 wins tied for lead in NCAA.

16 players with at least 10 points.

UND gathers with the Penrose Cup this past Friday after clinching the NCHC regular season
title outright with a 2-1 win against Miami in Oxford, Ohio. (Photo Credit:


Standout stats


2.15 goals per game (49th in NCAA), 3.88 goals allowed per game (56th in NCAA), 21.0% power play (11th in NCAA), 77.5% penalty kill (51st in NCAA)

1-15-2 away from home, 0-14-1 when giving up first goal


3.34 GPG (10th in NCAA), 2.17 GAG (8th in NCAA), 20.5% PP, 83.6% PK

14-3-3 at home, 18-1-3 when scoring first, 14-0-1 when leading after 1, 21-0-2 when leading after 2.

13th-straight year hosting first round of conference tournament.


How’d they get here?


No. 50 PWR, NR USCHO, 6-24-3 overall, 2-19-3, 10 points, Final Rankings: 8th in NCHC.

Last weekend:

2-2 T (SO win), 4-2 L @ Omaha.


No. 1 PWR, No. 1 USCHO, 25-7-3 overall, 16-6-2, 50 pts, Won Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champions.

Last weekend:

2-1 W, 6-3 L @ Miami.

Last meeting:

UND swept CC, 2-1, 5-3 in Grand Forks Jan. 23-24. Swept CC in Colorado 3-1, 7-2 on Oct. 17-18.

Fab 5

UND Jr. G, Zane McIntyre

UND lands five on NCHC all-conference teams

First Team
- Sr. F, Mark MacMillan
- Jr. G, Zane McIntyre

Second Team
- Jr. F, Drake Caggiula,
- Jr. D, Jordan Schmaltz

UND Jr. F, Drake Caggiula
Rookie Team
- Fr. F, Nick Schmaltz

The Pick

UND has handled the Tigers this season, sweeping the series 4-0 while outscoring CC 17-7. On paper, this looks like a mismatch.

Statistically, North Dakota is near the top in goals per game and goals against while Colorado College is near the bottom.

That being said, the old adage rings true “it’s hard to end somebody’s season.”

This was evident last season as the Tigers took the Green and White to three games in the first round of the NCHC tournament.

But, as hard it is to put a team away, these two squads are where they are in the standings for a reason. While CC will no doubt be playing with nothing to lose this weekend in Grand Forks, UND has earned its billing as one of the nation’s best teams.

CC has certainly come a long way this season in terms of their play, but UND will not take this challenge lightly. North Dakota plays a tenacious, end-to-end defensive style that relies on depth and hard work. This will be the difference this weekend.

Colorado College brings the nation’s 11th best power play into this series and it will be important for North Dakota to stay out of the box as the clear edge goes to UND in 5-on-5 play.

With the season on the line for the Tigers, it’s tempting to call this series to go three games, but again, these two teams are where they are for a reason. The Green and White get it done in two and head to Minneapolis.

It’s absolutely hard to close a team’s season, but it’s the end of the line for Colorado College.

UND SWEEPS 5-1, 3-1