Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Gameday: Turkey Trash Talk

The No. 11 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks have been known in recent years as long on offense and short defense.
 
The 2014-15 Mavericks looked to have flipped that script.
 
Former UND head coach Dean Blais and Nebraska-Omaha head to the Ralph tonight and Saturday for a two-game National Collegiate Hockey Conference turkey day weekend tussle boasting the conference's best defense and a goaltender in Ryan Massa that is playing lights out.
 
The senior netminder is 6-1-1 on the year with the nation's fourth best goals against average at 1.49 and second best save percentage at .951. The Mavericks also boast the seventh-best penalty kill, going 40-for-44 on the year, 90.4 percent.

Not Only Defense?

This past weekend, Omaha (7-2-1) earned a home split with Minnesota-Duluth falling 3-2 on Friday night and coming back and netting some big goals en route to a 4-1 win on Saturday.
 
Omaha sophomore forward Austin Ortega, the team's leading scorer coming into this weekend (5g, 8a -- 13 pts), felt that this result may indicate a pattern against UND.
 
“Tonight we were able to get up on the board; we really showed we’re a scoring team,” Ortega said after the 4-1 win. “Kind of sending a message to North Dakota that we can score on any goalie out there.”

Something To Say?

UND junior goaltender Zane McIntyre and No. 2 North Dakota may have something to say about that.
 
Massa carries the better numbers into this weekend, but McIntyre carries the pedigree and some pretty solid numbers himself. The junior boasts at 9-3-1, a 2.04 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
 
The Green and White will look to best Massa with a top-line that features the nation's third leading scorer in Drake Caggiula, senior centerman Mark McMillan and senior winger Mike Parks. The trio has combined for 18 goals and 24 points, with Caggiula leading the way with 17.

The Pick

DDC is back in the north country visiting the family with Mrs. DDC and baby and is looking forward to stuffing his face, chasing the little one from family member to family member and watching a great series. Call DDC maybe a bit biased, but, in his time watching Nebraska-Omaha play, he's never been impressed by them defensively. Evidently this year's squad has righted the defensive ship, so to say. DDC is a little more skeptical. As pointed out in Puck Daddy's college hockey blog posted this week, an unbelievably hot goaltender, a huge shooting percentage and lack of puck possession all are signals for the ride to slow for Omaha. DDC thinks a series at UND in Grand Forks may just be the reason.
 

UND SWEEPS, 4-2, 5-1

Monday, November 24, 2014

Roses and Thorns: A Birthday, a Barn and Some Bounces

NCHC Standings:
1) Miami, 20 points; 2) UMD, 15 pts; 3) UND, 12 pts;
4) DU, 9 pts; 5) UNO, 9 pts; 6) St. Cloud State, 7 pts;
7) Western Michigan, 5 pts; 8) Colorado College, 0 pts
Welcome back to DDC for your second installment of Roses and Thorns.

Another week in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference brought yet another split for UND as they took on No. 16 St. Cloud State at the Herb Brooks Center in St. Cloud.

The Huskies rode the stellar play of their star, Jonny Brodzinski, who netted two goals en route to a 3-1 win on Friday night. UND battled back with an energetic performance on Saturday night and earned the split with a 3-2 win behind two Trevor Olson goals, the first two of the freshman’s career.

Here’s what stood out to DDC this weekend:

Roses

No. 1 – Troy Stecher


Another solid defensive weekend for this budding star. DDC wishes this kid would find the score sheet more often so people could know more about him. He was everywhere this weekend again playing shutdown defense with his partner Gage Ausmus. Stetcher has been nothing but astounding
this year and this weekend was no different.

No. 2 – Trevor Olson


Happy birthday Mr. Olson. The Freshman winger sat out Friday night’s loss and his addition back into the lineup with Bryn Chyzyk going down with an injury sparked a UND win. Olson netted his first two career goals on his 21st birthday and added a physical presence that the Green and White have lacked for much of the year.

No. 3 – Jonny Brodzinski


This kid is a stud. He showed it on Friday night. UND kept him quiet on Saturday and that ultimately got North Dakota the split. A unique blend of size, speed and scoring makes this forward really fun to watch.

No. 4 – Herb Brooks National Hockey Center


DDC had the opportunity to watch UND’s win on Saturday with Mrs. DDC and two friends, and the barn was rocking. There was lots of green in the stands and the small, intimate rink provided an amazing college hockey atmosphere. It doesn’t have Bavarian almonds and the seats aren’t padded, but despite this, DDC will definitely be making this trip again next year.

Thorns

No. 1 – Faceoffs


Yuck. UND got slaughtered in the dots on Friday 22-34, losing key faceoff after key faceoff in the defensive zone. Saturday was much better as senior Mark McMillan was slotted as the top centerman, going 19-14 for the top line. This needs to be a point of focus for North Dakota going forward. The teams in the NCHC are too good to be given opportunities in the offensive zone because of lost faceoffs.

No. 2 – Bad bounces


No excuses for UND on Friday night, but it is of DDC’s opinion that North Dakota was the better team 5-on-5 and a couple of awful bounces off defenders and offensive players a like ended up in the back of the net for the Huskies. These happen and Saturday night provided better bounces for UND, but again, these happen and the Huskies took advantage on Friday.

No. 3 – Missing the net


Too many times this weekend, UND came down on a rush and whistled shots wide that ended up being transition offense for St. Cloud. Hit the net. St. Cloud shot from all over the ice all weekend and created big rebounds that led to offensive chances. UND gets a few of these misses on net on Friday, especially early in the game while they carried the play, and we could be talking sweep for the Green and White.

So, that’s it. Up next, it’s Turkey Day weekend as the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks head to the Ralph for another important NCHC tussle. Come back later this week and DDC will bring you the breakdown.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Gameday: A Trip Down I-94

8-2-1 and 5-0.

1-5-1.

Which trend will continue as the No. 2 UND men’s hockey team takes on the No. 16 St. Cloud State Huskies tonight and Saturday?

North Dakota is rolling coming into this weekend’s National Collegiate Hockey Conference tilt with that 8-2-1 record, going 5-0 on the road for the first time since the 1980-81 season However, UND is just 1-5-1 in its last seven games against St. Cloud.

Highs and lows

It’s been an up and down year thus far for the Huskies as they enter the weekend a very average 4-5-1 after a win and shootout loss this past weekend at Western Michigan.

At its high, St. Cloud knocked off previously unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Minnesota.

At its low, the Huskies got swept at home against UMD.
SCSU Jr. F.
Jonny Brodzinski

Which team shows up this weekend against the Green and White will ultimately come down to a talented forward group.

Junior forwards Jonny Brodzinski (5g, 3a), Joey Benik (5g, 3a) and Kalle Kossila (2g, 6a) lead the Huskies with eight points while Senior defenseman and assistant captain Andrew Prochno (2g, 5a) is just behind the SCSU top line with seven.

Their explosive offense has been aided by a tremendous power play unit that is clipping at a 25% (11-out-of-44) rate this year, good for sixth-best in the country.

Sophomore goaltender Charlie Lindgren paces the Husky defense with a 4-5 record, 2.49 goals against average and .909 save percentage.

Top line vs. Top line

UND Jr. F. Drake Caggiula
is tied for the national lead
in points with 16.
The talented Benik, Kossila, Brodzinski line will certainly see its equal this weekend at the Herb Brooks Center.

The top line of seniors Michael Parks and Mark MacMillan and junior Drake Caggiula reunited this past weekend with MacMillan’s return from a wrist injury and it didn’t take long for the trio to get reacquainted.

The line recorded four points in a 2-2 tie on Friday and a whopping seven in a 4-1 victory on Saturday to earn a split with Miami in Grand Forks.

Caggiula leads the way for the nation’s seventh-best scoring team (3.55 goals a game) and is tied for first in the country in scoring with 16 points (6g, 10a). Parks (5g, 9a) and MacMillan (6g, 4a) are right behind him with 14 and 10 points respectively.

Between the pipes, it’s all Zane McIntyre.

The junior stalwart has been as steady as steady goes this season with a 8-2-1 record, 1.95 goals against average and .928 save percentage.

McIntyre had a rough start to open the year, getting yanked in the second period after giving up four goals in an embarrassing 5-1 home loss to Bemidji State.

Since that game, however, the netminder is 8-1-1 with a tiny 1.67 GAA and stellar .935 SV PCT.

The Pick

With all this talk about offense, it’s easy to forget about the talent on the blue lines. DDC believes this is where the weekend is won and frankly, UND’s is better than St. Cloud’s.

Sophomore defenseman Paul LaDue returned from injury against Miami and was very quiet and seemed to be getting his legs underneath him. North Dakota fans know what this kid is like when he gets going. LaDue will be a key cog this weekend for the Green and White.

The offenses on both ends of the ice will get theirs this weekend, but DDC believes  UND’s ability to play shutdown defense while providing offense at the same time, ultimately makes the difference.

DDC has been much maligned this season for picking a sweep every week, but, you know what? He’s only been wrong on two weekends. Call him a homer if you want, but DDC thinks UND is playing great hockey right now. The 1-5-1 trend falls by the wayside and a 2-0 streak starts for the Green and White in St. Cloud.

UND SWEEPS … 4-3, 5-3.

 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Roses and Thorns: UND/Miami Split

Welcome back to the DDC and to your first installment of the weekly Roses and Thorns.

In a throwback to his fraternity days, each week, DDC will take a look back at what stood out, both good and bad, from the weekend's series.

How it went down

The split was a safe call as the No. 2 UND and No. 7 Miami faced off this past weekend in Grand Forks, at that's what the Ralph Engelstad Arena faithful saw.

The RedHawks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in Friday night's tilt and while North Dakota battled back to even the game, Miami finished strong en route to a 3-2 win.

On Saturday, UND came back strong, paced by a three-goal second period, to earn a 4-1 win and a NCHC series split.

And now on to the Roses and Thorns:

Roses


Rose No. 1 -- Troy Stecher


DDC's No. 1 Rose goes to Troy Stetcher. The sophomore blue liner was held off the scoresheet this weekend, but was a key cog defensively for North Dakota against a juggernaut Miami Top 6 forward group. Stetcher brought physicality, speed, playmaking, penalty killing, an active stick and lock down defensive play for 120 minutes and helped to keep an extremely talented team at bay. Is there any doubt this kid wears a letter next year? DDC doesn't think so.

Rose No. 2 -- UND's Top Line


The line of Mark MacMillan, Michael Parks and Drake Caggiula gets DDC second rose. These three had themselves a weekend. MacMillan played his first series in three weeks and netted a goal and two assists, showing little rust from his time off. Caggiula potted three goals, two on Saturday, and added two assists for a five-point weekend. The junior, who scored a shorthanded goal on Friday and a highlight reel goal on Saturday that ended up being the game-winner, now leads the NCHC is scoring. Parks had three points on the weekend and made strong play after strong play on both ends of the ice. Kudos to this line with 11 points on the weekend.

Here's a clip of Caggiula's game-winner. Make sure you pick up your breezers from the ice, Mr. RedHawk defender.

Rose No. 3 -- Zane McIntyre


With the rose No. 3 of the weekend, DDC goes with Zane McIntyre. The junior netminder made some key saves in Saturday night's game before UND's big second period. This guy just flat out gets it done every weekend. Although he has a penchant for a softie here and there, North Dakota would be nothing without this guy between the pipes.

Thorns


Thorn No. 1 -- The Power Play


Although UND netted a PPG for their last goal of the weekend, listless might be an understatement to describe this group on the weekend. Missing dynamic freshman Nick Schmaltz, the power play unit struggled to develop all weekend, going 1-for-8 on the weekend and a paltry 0-for-5 on Friday. Schmaltz has done a lot to command attention on the power play and makes some nifty passes to set plays up. Hopefully, another week of practice will get this unit going.

Thorn No. 2 -- Nick Mattson


The senior defenseman sat on Friday night and was inserted on Saturday night in the search for more offense. As far as DDC's concerned, he could have stayed in the stands. Mattson got destroyed with a hit for what turned about to be a disallowed goal, but nonetheless, a senior cannot let that play happen. He also made a couple of untimely pinches and got beat wide on more than one occasion. The offensive ability is there, but so far this year in DDC's opinion, Mattson has showed nothing that deserves to keep him out there on a nightly basis. Plays like this are unfortunately becoming the norm.

Thorn No. 3 -- Slow Starts


Getting down 2-0 early in the first period against a team as talented Miami simply cannot happen. Although UND battled back to tie it in the second, slow starts and late scrambles has become a slight trend. Saturday night saw a smaller slow start, this time at the beginning of the second period, and it lead to a Miami 1-0 lead. Getting into a routine of playing catch up is something to avoid for North Dakota.

So, that's it. Thanks again for reading and check back later this week as UND travels down I-94 to take on NCHC foe St. Cloud State at the Herb Brooks Center in St. Cloud.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Gameday: Better Dead Than Red

North Dakota and Wisconsin fans alike remember the narrative very well.

With just over seven minutes to go in the third period of the Big Ten Championship game, Wisconsin trailed Ohio State 4-2. A Buckeye win got them into the NCAA tournament with an automatic bid, effectively taking the last spot in the big dance and sending UND home to Grand Forks for the offseason.


As fate would find UND on that night, the Badgers stormed back, knotted the game at four and a Mark Zengerle game-winner in OT sent North Dakota fans into a frenzy and the Green and White back into the tournament for a regional battle with… you guessed it… Wisconsin.

In the regional semifinal, UND bested its former WCHA foe 5-2 on a goal with just under two minutes to go from Mark McMillan and two empty-netters from Rocco Grimaldi.

Hockey is a cruel game, sometimes.

There’s sure to be a bitter taste in the mouths of several Badgers this weekend as No. 2 North Dakota travels to Madison to battle with Wisconsin, however, many of this year’s version of the Badgers weren’t around for last year’s memorable meeting as UW's squad with 11 freshmen takes the ice in a crucial non-conference series tonight and Saturday from the Kohl Center.

So far this season, Wisconsin has looked like a team that has 11 freshmen.

Perennial national contenders, the Badgers have had a rough go of it this Fall, coming into this weekend 0-4 after losses to Alaska and Alaska Anchorage on opening weekend and to Northern Michigan three weeks ago.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS

With a young team struggling out of the gate, Wisconsin turns to its upperclassmen to lead.
However, the Badgers return just three of their Top 10 scorers from last year.
Senior Forward
Joseph LaBate




Senior captain, forward Joseph LaBate is Wisconsin’s highest returning scorer (11a, 11g) and Sophomore forward and former Minnesota Mr. Hockey, Grant Besse, look to provide scoring.


The Badger's strong point is between the pipes as they lean on two senior netminders Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel.

Rumple, a Hobey Baker Top 10 Finalist last season, looks to be the one seeing more time through four games, having played in 3 of those contests with a 2.72 goal against average and .844 save percentage.

OPPOSITES ATTRACT

Junior Forward
Drake Caggiula
UND is essentially Wisconsin’s polar opposite to this point in the season. North Dakota is a team stocked with upperclassmen and is rolling on a six-game unbeaten streak.

Junior forward Drake Caggiula (2g, 6a) and Senior assistant captain Michael Parks (1g, 6a) lead the team in points.

North Dakota, too, has a solid backbone in the nets. Junior goaltender Zane McIntyre comes into this weekend 5-1-1 on the year with a solid 1.91 GAA and .931 save percentage.

THE PICK

This series is an interesting one to DDC. It’s a rivalry series, the Badgers home opener and the first time these two teams have played since last year’s crazy, fateful ending. Also, Wisconsin hasn’t played in three weeks, so, this team should have legs. Three weeks!? That’s strange.

 After an emotional, comeback OT win this past Saturday against Air Force, DDC sees North Dakota carrying that momentum into the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin has yet to show the scoring touch from its young group and UND is by far the best team they’ve played so far this year. With a dynamic blue line and leaders up front, DDC sees the Badgers being unable to handle a veteran squad at this point in the year. UND puts the Badgers on their heels on Friday for a big win and gets the sweep in a tighter battle on Saturday.

UND SWEEP, 5-1, 2-1



And, just because it’s a fond memory, here’s a clip of Andrew Kozek’s game-winning OT goal in the 2008 regional to send the Sioux to the Frozen Four over Wisconsin in the red’s home barn. A shout out to DDC’s fellow bleached-blonde haired brother for a great weekend and a pretty legendary memory.