Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Gameday: New No. 1, New Challenge

After loses all over the Top 10 this past weekend coupled with an Ice Breaker Invitational championship, the
UND men's hockey team has taken over the top spot in college hockey.

The No. 1 Green and White will look to hold onto that top spot in an all-important, non-conference, home-and-home series against the Bemidji State Beavers Friday night in Bemidji and Saturday night in Grand Forks.

UND enters this weekend after playing well in a win and tie in Portland, Maine against Lake Superior State,
5-2 and Maine, 1-1. The Beavers started off their 2015-16 campaign with a strong victory over then No. 2 Minnesota Duluth last Saturday in Bemidji.

BSU scored with just 22 seconds left to play in the game to top the Bulldogs for their first win of the season.

Former conference mates in the WCHA, these two teams know each other very well. Last season, the Beavers stunned UND in the front end of the home-and-home series, dominating the Green and White 5-1 in Grand Forks. The loss marked the first for UND at home against BSU since 1970. North Dakota bounced back the next night and downed the Beavers 2-1 in Bemidji.

Here's what to watch for this weekend with DDC's "Who? What? How?" series preview.


Players to Watch



BSU So. G, Michael Bitzer
So. G, Michael Bitzer, 14-11-3, 1.80 goals against average, .929 save percentage last season; So. F, Brendan Harms (10g, 11a -- 21 pts) and So. F, Nate Arens (9g, 11a -- 20 pts) were Bemidji's 2nd and 3rd leading scorers in 2014-15.


Sr. F, Drake Caggiula (18g, 18a -- 36 pts) returns as UND's leading scorer from 2014-15. Caggiula notched two assists last weekend. Fr. F, Brock Boeser is a first-round NHL draft pick and lead UND in shots last Saturday vs. Maine with eight. So. G, Cam Johnson earned his first career victory last Friday against LSSU.


Standout Stats

UND is 27-3-3 all-time against Bemidji State, including an 18-2-2 record at home. The Green and White
are 47-19-3 all-time in their home opener.

Freshmen Shane Gersich (Friday) and Chris Wilkie (Saturday) scored their first career goals for UND last weekend in Portland.

Junior Charlie O'Connor scored the game-winning goal with just 22 seconds left to play to top UMD last weekend. Sophomore goaltender Michael Bitzer, a Moorhead, Minn., native, made 28 saves in the victory.


How'd they get here?

No. 1 UND (1-0-1) won the Ice Breaker Invitational last weekend in Maine with a 5-2 win over Lake Superior State and tie against Maine, 1-1.

Bemidji State downed No. 2 Minnesota Duluth with a late goal, 3-2.

The Pick

UND So. G, Cam Johnson
Although they left Maine with a bit of hardware, the UND players felt a bit deflated. The Green and White dominated the game, outshooting the Black Bears 45-20, including 18-10 in the third, but could not solve Maine goaltender Rob McGovern a second time, earning a tie. It clearly wasn't for a lack of chances. The line of freshman Shane Gersich, sophomore Nick Schmaltz and freshman Brock Boeser had noticeable chemistry, creating opportunities throughout. DDC sees no reason why this won't continue this weekend against the Beavers.

Expect a high-energy, physical series as these two teams know how their opponent likes to play. UND's playmaking ability and dominant defensive corps should show through this weekend. After a shaky start, allowing two goals on his first three shots faced, netminder Cam Johnson played well the rest of the way. If the Green and White get a similar effort from Johnson against the Beavers, UND's offensive ability should take a hold of this series.

UND SWEEPS 5-2, 4-2

Head back to the blog after this weekend's series to see how it all went down.

Thanks for reading.

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