Two weekends ago, it was the Green and White beating Lake Superior State and tying Maine for an Ice Breaker Invitational championship. This weekend for the first time ever, North Dakota travels to Burlington, VT to take on the Vermont Catamounts Friday and Saturday night.
Things have changed a lot in the past two weeks as the Green and White will be down two more skaters as freshmen Shane Gerisch (mono) and Joel Janatuinen (concussion) stayed in Grand Forks. Starting goaltender Cam Johnson (leg) also did not make the trip to Burlington. Junior goalie Matt Hrynkiw will be in the nets this weekend with freshman Bob Anderson backing him up.
Here's a breakdown of UND's final tune up before a run of National Collegiate Hockey Conference games in this week's "Who? What? How?" series preview.
Players to Watch
|UND Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw|
UND:Sr. F, Drake Caggiula, 1g, 5a -- 6pts; Jr. D, Troy Stecher, 1g, 4a -- 5pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser, 3g, 0a -- 3pts, So. F, Nick Schmaltz, 0g, 3a -- 3pts; Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw, 1-0-1, 2.82 GAA, .879 SV%.
UND is 3-0-1 all-time against the Catamounts, including a home sweep to start the 2013-14 season. This series marks the first time North Dakota has played Vermont in Burlington.
North Dakota looks to go unbeaten in its first five games for the first time since 2009-10 and through six games since 2002-03.
Vermont has racked up 26 penalty minutes in their first three games, but is 12 for 13 (92.3%) on the penalty kill. UND has struggled on the kill so far, going 9 for 14 (64.3%).
How'd they get here?
No. 1 UND is 2-0-2 on the season, tying 4-4 on Friday night in Bemidji and winning 5-2 in Grand Forks last weekend against Bemidji State.
Vermont dropped two games at home last weekend to Nebraska Omaha, 4-3, 3-1 to fall to 1-2-0 on the year. The Catamounts opened their season with a 3-0 victory over Minnesota in Minneapolis.
|Vermont topped Minnesota 3-0 in Minneapolis to start their 2015-16 campaign.|
The PickThis one comes down to goaltending.
DDC watched Vermont down the Golden Gophers to start their season on the right foot and was impressed with their team speed and effort level. However, UND's scoring punch has shown some potency early on this year as freshman Brock Boeser, senior Drake Caggiula and sophomore Nick Schmaltz look like a dominant top line for the Green and White. DDC gives the defensive nod to North Dakota, as well as the Green and White has been dynamic on the blue line and carries a veteran group led by junior Troy Stecher. Vermont holds the edge between the pipes and this will be difference maker. Junior Mike Santaguida has plenty of experience in the college game for Vermont, while UND's Matt Hrynkiw is still looking to provide full confidence for the Green and White faithful.
If Hrynkiw can play the way he did against Bemidji State in Saturday night's win, giving a solid 19-save effort while his offense took control late, the Green and White should sweep. However, Hrynkiw's first action in the 4-4 tie on Friday, in which he relived an injured Cam Johnson and let up two quick goals, looms as a serious question mark. Rebound control and net presence are needed for the junior to lead UND to two wins this weekend. DDC thinks UND gets one this weekend, on the heels of a more talented offensive punch. Which way will it go?
Vermont wins on Friday 4-3 and North Dakota earns the split on Saturday, 5-2
Check back in later to see how it all went down in Burlington.