Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Gameday: Youth vs. Experience

One point stands between National Collegiate Hockey Conference foes No. 1 North Dakota and No. 5 Nebraska Omaha.

That one point was earned by the Mavericks back in November when these two played to a 2-2 tie in Grand Forks. The difference maker in that shootout victory for UNO was one more save by goaltender Ryan Massa, and by that slimmest of margins, we bring ourselves to this weekend’s tussle.

The Mavericks lead UND in the conference by that single point, while the Green and White are ahead in the national polls. Along with their respective rankings, the two teams are No. 2 and No. 4 in the Pairwise headed into this weekend’s showdown in Omaha.

What will this weekend bring? No one’s sure, but local media in Omaha has played this series as the biggest in UNO history, dubbing it “North Dakota Hate Week.”

If the series lives up to its billing, this should be some fun hockey tonight and Saturday.

Youth Movement

UNO sophomore goalie
Ryan Massa
The Mavericks, 15-6-3 overall, are led up front by a dynamic group of forwards. Sophomore Austin Ortega paces a UNO attack that features underclassmen as 8 out of their top 10 scorers. Ortega is Omaha’s top point getter with 25 and his eight game-winning goals lead the country.

The Mavericks are scoring 3.04 goals per game, good enough for 15th.

Although limited to just one start since Jan. 1 due to a concussion, the UNO sophomore Massa continues the youth leadership between the pipes.

Massa is 10-3-3 on the year with a 1.99 goals against average and the nation’s No. 8 save percentage at .936.

Despite the stellar numbers in net, UNO has been very average this year defensively, allowing 2.46 goals a game, good for just 26th best in the nation.

Off last week, Omaha split with CC, losing 4-3 and winning 4-1 despite being outshot 28-14, on Jan. 16-17.

A Top Down Team

UND Junior. Goalie
Zane McIntyre
While it’s UNO’s youth that leads the way for the Mavericks, UND’s leadership comes from the top.
The Green and White attack features 8 out of 10 scorers being upperclassmen.

Junior Drake Caggiula continues to carry the team lead inA points with 26, tied with senior Michael Parks. Fellow senior Mark MacMillan leads UND in goals with 13. His .62 goals per game mark is good for seventh best nationally while the team’s 3.48 goals per game is tied for sixth.

UND (18-5-2, 9-4-1 NCHC) earned a sweep last weekend with 2-1 and 5-3 wins over Colorado College.  Much of the credit for last week should go to junior netminder Zane McIntyre.

The Thief River Falls, Minn., native came up huge on Friday night, making four saves without his goal stick in the last eight minutes to earn the victory.

On the season, McIntyre’s 18 wins (18-5-2) is the most in the country while his 1.89 goals against average and .933 save percentage rank him 10th and ninth nationally.

A Second Look

So much is on the line in this series both in the NCHC and nationally, so DDC decided to take a deeper delve into the stats.

One particular jumped out – shots.  While shots aren’t always an end-all, be-all statistic, they can certainly tell a story.

Coming into this weekend’s series, UNO is a -110 in shots, meaning the Mavericks’ opponents have 110 more shots this season. UND is a +90. 

Nebraska Omaha is also averaging 30.54 shots allowed a game. 

Another statistic that stood noteworthy was special teams. UNO boasts a subpar 16.4% on the power play, good for 33rd in the country. UND is 21% with the man advantage, which is 13th. On the penalty kill, UND is 15 with a steady 86.4% while UNO is 27th at 83.9%.

The Pick

Like DDC said earlier, shots aren’t always the perfect indicator of team play, but, DDC’s guess … UNO won’t want UND’s 6th best offense firing 31 shots a game on net this weekend.

It’s easy to expect a high-paced and tight-checking game this weekend with UNO and former UND head coach Dean Blais and DDC thinks we’ll see just that.

Omaha came into this season with a young team and a lot of question marks. Those question marks have turned into consistent, dynamic play. The new question is, can this continue?

There’s something to say for a team that has seen these types of series many times and one who’s new to the party. DDC thinks UND’s experience is what paces the play in this important, NCHC series.

The upperclassmen get it done as North Dakota sweeps and takes ascends to the top spot in the conference.

UND SWEEPS 3-2, 3-1 


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