Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Roses and Thorns: Getting it Done

NCHC Standings:
1) UND, 13-5-2, 41 points;
2) Miami, 12-7-1 (1 SO win), 38 pts;
t-3) Denver, 11-8-1 (1 SO win, 35 pts;
t-3) UNO, 11-8-1 (1 SO win), 35 pts;
5) UMD, 11-8-1, 34 pts;
6) SCSU, 10-9-1, 31 pts;
7) WMU, 5-11-4 (3 SO wins), 22 pts;
8) CC, 1-18-1, 4 pts.
It wasn’t pretty, but at this time of the season, it doesn’t need to be.The UND men’s hockey team entered into hostile territory against a game Western Michigan squad this past weekend that tested the Green and White physically for 120-plus minutes.

But again, UND did what they have done for most of this season – found a way to win.

After a 3-1 victory on Friday, the No. 1 team in the country led WMU 2-0 with just over four minutes to go. However, the Broncos potted two empty-net goals in a furious finish, the second coming with 30 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Despite the deflating finish to regulation, UND gritted its teeth and fought back as junior Drake Caggiula netted the overtime winner at 3:31 in the extra frame for a 3-2 win.

The sweep earned the Green and White six massive points in the race for the Penrose Cup as North Dakota left Kalamazoo, Mich., three points ahead of Miami on top the NCHC standings with just four games remaining in the regular season.

Here’s what stood out to DDC from Lawson Ice Arena in this week’s Roses and Thorns.


No. 1 – Zane McIntyre

The UND netminder was simply fantastic this weekend. Several times this series, WMU flexed its muscles with highly-physical play and pressed the North Dakota net, but time and time again, McIntyre stood tall. The junior from Thief River Falls, Minn., allowed just three goals on the weekend, all of which came with the WMU net empty.  McIntyre stopped 69-of-72 shots this weekend en route to NCHC goaltender of the week honors. After a run of less-than-perfect starts, McIntyre was UND’s best player this weekend. The Green and White will continue to be tough to beat if they continue to see McIntyre’s best like they did again this weekend.

No. 2 – Tucker Poolman

The freshman defenseman turned forward didn’t light up the statsheet this weekend, but his physical, up-tempo play led UND. Poolman had a beautiful assist on UND’s first goal on Friday and was a +1 with two shots on Friday. Saturday, Poolman was a +2 and added another shot on goal. While he wasn’t always scoring, he played with an edge against a rough and tumble WMU squad. His active stick was in passing lanes both nights as he was a big part of UND keeping the Broncos at bay.  The freshman has shown his versatility all season long and the weekend was no exception.

No. 3 – UND’s Lockdown Defense

After an impressive performance in the third period on Friday that saw UND shutdown the Broncos as they attempted a comeback, the Green and White continued that play on Saturday. While a late WMU push forced OT, UND’s defensive play was still exceptional. UND won nearly every battle late on Friday and it took two late empty netters to break the Green and White on Saturday. The blown two-goal lead was surely disappointing, but it still doesn’t change how UND played defensively. Again, despite the late struggle, UND left Lawson with six points and the defense was the biggest reason.

DDC's hometown Thief River Falls girls hockey team won the Minnesota Class A
state title on Saturday, their first in team history. (Photo: Youth Hockey Hub)

No. 4 – Thief River Falls Girls Hockey

An extra special shout out goes to DDC’s high school alma mater Thief River Falls as the Prowler girls hockey team topped Blake 3-1 in the Class A state championship game to earn the program’s first state championship. DDC had the honor of coaching several of these young women in baseball when they were children and it was very fun watching them take home the hardware up to Northwest Minnesota. DDC is very proud of his Prowlers.


No. 1 – UND’s Power Play

Simply put – yuck. DDC will give Western Michigan all the credit as they shutdown UND’s power play this weekend. The Green and White could not get things going with the extra man going 1-for-13 in the series. There was no time and space to be had and the Broncos held UND down. At times this season, North Dakota has been very good on the power play, but this weekend was a poor performance. Special teams play a huge role come playoff time and UND needs to get their power play clicking and in a hurry.

UND's Keaton Thompson battles for the puck on Saturday. (Photo cred: MLive.com)

No. 2 – Another Blown Lead

For the second weekend in a row, UND blew a two-goal lead on Saturday night. Despite playing lights out defensively for the first fifteen minutes in the third period, North Dakota coughed up the lead and clearly, this trend cannot continue. Western Michigan is not the most talented offensive team in the country but they grinded UND down in the third on Saturday. McIntyre can only do so much. Much like the power play, this needs to be fixed and in a hurry. With high-powered offenses St. Cloud State and Miami left on UND’s schedule, the Green and White can’t afford another third period let down like this Saturday.

So that’s it. Tune in later this week as the St. Cloud State Huskies head north up I-29 to Grand Forks and the Ralph Engelstad Arena for another important NCHC tilt. If all things fall right, UND could be playing for the Penrose Cup on Saturday.

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