Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Birthday and a Berth?

It’s a big weekend on multiple fronts.

For the No. 10 UND men’s hockey team, it’s a trip down I-94 to take on the No. 5 St. Cloud State Huskies with the two teams deadlocked for 1st place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with four games left in the regular season.

For the namesake of Daddy Dump and Chase, it’s his daughter’s first birthday.

You can cut the tension with a cake knife.

“I think you always know the reality of your situation and then you focus on short term things,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol at his weekly press conference on Wednesday. “We need to take care of business today and have a good practice and work hard to prepare for the game on Friday. Nothing else really matters.”

This weekend features two teams that are playing well down the stretch, as their spot at the top of the NCHC standings would suggest.

The Huskies, (12-5-3 conf., 18-7-5 overall)  6-3-1 in their last ten games, are coming off a split last weekend against Miami in Oxford, Ohio, dropping Friday night’s contest 4-3 before a 3-0 Saturday victory.

North Dakota (13-7-0 conf, 18-9-3 overall) comes in as one of the hottest teams in the country. After sweeping Minnesota Duluth 3-0 and 6-2 last weekend, UND has rattled off a 14-2-1 run since a Nov. 29 loss to St. Lawrence at home. In that span, UND has given up more than two goals only three times; two of those were losses.

The two teams met last on Nov. 1-2 at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks and the Huskies swept UND, becoming the first team to sweep the Green and White at home since 2010.

That didn’t sit well with UND.

“I think we’re excited. Them sweeping us at home back in the beginning of the year is something that is still fresh in our minds,” said UND sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi to the media. “It’s playoff hockey. It kind of starts right now. But more importantly, we are just trying to get back at them for what they did to us at home. It’s going to be a good series.”


With a sweep, either team would be in the driver’s seat for a NCHC regular season title and name on the top line of the Penrose Trophy as the league’s inaugural champion. Two wins for either team would almost assure either a berth in the NCAA tournament, as well.

Although there is certainly a lot on the line this weekend, UND realizes that they can only control their own play this weekend.

“It’s a big time of the year, big picture and small picture,” said UND senior captain Dillon Simpson, the NCHC’s leading defenseman scorer. “The excitement is there, the intensity is there, but we just got to go play our best hockey.”


St. Cloud has a healthy scoring punch that is the 3rd best in the country with a 3.63 goals per game average. They also sport the 4th best power play in the NCAA, clipping at 25.2%.

Senior goaltender Ryan Faragher is 6-3-1 lifetime against UND and has some pretty eye-popping numbers. In his 10 career games against the Green and White, Fargher carries a 1.80 goals against average and a whopping .938 save percentage. 

Nic Dowd, Sr. F – 18g, 15a – 33 pts, 12g, 10a – 22pts conf (2nd in conference goals, 3rd in points)
Jonny Brodzinski, So. F – 16g, 17a – 33 pts
Ethan Prow, So. D – 4g, 15a – 19 pts
Kevin Gravel, Sr. D – 4g, 12a – 16 pts
Ryan Faragher, Sr. G -- 16-6-4, .910 sv pct, 2.62 GAA, 1 SO

North Dakota features a balanced attack in which 11 players have scored 10 or more points this season, including four defensemen. Simpson leads the NCHC in defensemen scoring with 18 points in conference play and his 10 points on the power play also leads the league.

Rocco Grimaldi, So. F – 12g, 17a – 29 pts
Michael Parks, Jr. F – 10g, 16a – 26 pts
Dillon Simmer, Sr. D – 7g, 13a – 20pts
Jordan Schmaltz, So. D – 4g, 15a – 19 pts

Zane Gothberg, So. G – 13-5-3, 2.12 GAA, .922 sv pct, 1 SO
Clarke Saunders, Sr. G – 5-4-0, 3.22 GAA, .905 sv pt


Emma will take down her birthday cake and it won’t even be close. The birthday girl devours her first big-girl confection, EMMA JEAN –1, CAKE – 0

The series in St. Cloud will be much closer. One stat that I think may prove large this weekend: The Huskies are 51st nationally in penalty kill. Although UND has looked dreadful with the extra man at times this season, a few personnel and system tweaks have them 7 for their last 21 on the power play. I think that makes up the difference. Couple that with the stout play goaltender Zane Gothberg has been showing recently and UND SWEEPS – 4-2, 3-2.


  1. Stoner loved the read bud! very bold prediction but I think it fits this weekend. SCSU has been tough this season but at home they are 7-3-5. In those 5 Ties-- they lost 3 in a shootout... the other two just ended in ties. I'd be shocked if UND didn't come out with at least 4 points this weekend on the road as hot as they've been. Quick question. What do you think of the points breakdown this season in the new conference?

    1. I think it's weird, but like anything, we'll get used to it. I personally don't like shootouts besides the entertainment factor. I don't think an extra point, which could ultimately decide a conference, should be awarded based on a skills competition. Just my opinion.

      I think we have a good chance to get some points this weekend. Wouldn't be surprised with a split, but, I like they way UND is playing and that's why I went with the sweep.