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.

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