Thursday, November 19, 2015

Friday Gameday: New Name, Same Game

It's certainly been an interesting week for the UND men's hockey team.

A decades long battle to officially replace the beloved Fighting Sioux nickname came to an end on Wednesday as the UND brass announced Fighting Hawks as the newly chosen moniker.

DDC isn't quite ready to transition and will refrain from doing so until he shakes his jitters of replacing an icon that's close to his heart.

For North Dakota, unfortunately, they do not have the luxury of waiting. We are... Fighting Hawks.

In all reality, nothing has changed for the Green and White and business is at hand. Despite all the nickname hoopla, UND has it's hands full this Friday and Saturday night as they travel to St. Cloud and the Herb Brooks Arena to take on their long-time rival, the St. Cloud State Huskies.

These two teams know each other very well.

Dubbed "The no-sweep series" by DDC's friend, former colleague and the best college hockey writer in the biz, Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, the stats are flat out insane. Since the 2001-02 season, UND and SCSU have played at least one two-game series. None of those series have resulted in a sweep for either team. In another oddity, during a 10-year span from 2002-03 to the 2012-13 season, the Green and White went 0-8-2 on Friday night and 10-0 on Saturday. Can any of that change this weekend?

The Huskies topped UND in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semis 3-1 last season, but, just eight days later, the Green and White earned the biggest win between the two, beating SCSU 4-1 in the Western Regional Final in Fargo, to advance to the Frozen Four.

First place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is on the line this weekend and here's what to watch for in DDC's "Who? What? How?" series breakdown.


Players to watch

SCSU Sr. F, Joey Benik


So. F, Patrick Russell, 6 goals, 6 assists -- 12 points; Sr. F, Kalle Kossila, 2g, 10a -- 12 pts; Sr. F, Joey Benik, 7g, 3a -- 10 pts; So. F, Judd Peterson, 6g, 3a -- 9 pts; Jr. G, Charlie Lindgren, 7-2-0, 1.49 goals against average (6th in the NCAA), .944 save percentage (7th in the NCAA).


Sr. F, Drake Caggiula, 4g, 9a -- 13 pts; So. F, Nick Schmaltz, 2g, 11a -- 13 pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser, 7g, 5a -- 12 pts; Sr. F, Bryn Chyzyk, 6g, 3a -- 9 pts; Jr. D, Troy Stecher, 2g, 7a -- 9 pts; Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw, 8-1-1, 1.81 GAA (10th in NCAA), .920 SV PCT.


Standout Stats

UND leads the country in shots allowed, giving up just 22.25 shots per game. On the offensive end, the Green and White also lead the country in shot margin with a +176.

The "CBS line" of Drake Caggiula (+16), Nick Schmaltz (+15) and Brock Boeser (+13) ranks 1st, 2nd and 4th respectively in the NCAA in plus/minus rating.

St. Cloud State is 6th in the NCAA in goals per game with a whopping 4.10 mark. UND isn't far behind, scoring 3.58 goals per game. Defensively, the Huskies are third in the NCAA in goals allowed, averaging just 1.50 goals against. Again, the Green and White are not far behind with a 7th-best NCAA mark of 1.83 goals against per game.

UND topped SCSU 4-1 last March in the West Regional Final in Fargo
to advance to the Frozen Four. (Photo credit: St. Cloud Times)


How'd they get here?

This weekend's series in St. Cloud is a match up of the top two teams in the NCHC and two top 10 teams in the national rankings.

No. 3 UND (9-1-2, 4-0-0-0 NCHC) swept Miami last weekend 6-2 and 4-3 in OT.

No. 7 St. Cloud State (8-2-0, 4-0-0-0 NCHC) is on a four-game winning streak including a sweep against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., 5-2 on Friday and a whopping 11-1 on Saturday. The 11-goal explosion set a NCHC record for goals in a game.

The Pick

It's time for DDC to, for the first time publicly, embrace something he's avoided for the duration of his time writing this blog.

For far too long, DDC has hidden behind a facade, a smokescreen, a masquerade. After years of non-biased nonsense, it's time to admit it.

I am DDC and I am a homer.

Man, that felt good.

The history, the statistics, the rivalry all scream split, but DDC won't hide anymore.

Let's get this straight. Both of these teams are very good. This series will be tight. Both teams are solid defensively and can flat out light the lamp, but DDC feels this Green and White squad has that killer instinct and that was evident last Saturday against Miami.

UND dominated the RedHawks throughout, but trailed 3-2 with time ticking down in the third. Then, the killer instinct, the dynamic, cold-blooded, game-breaking scoring ability took over and North Dakota got it done.

It's time for the Green and White to shake off a week to forget and exercise the "No-sweep series" demons.

This is a statement series for both teams that could go a long way towards a Penrose Cup title. DDC thinks UND makes the statement this weekend and, for the first time in 17 years ... sweeps the Huskies in St. Cloud.

UND SWEEPS, 4-3, 4-2

Come back after the series and see if the homer call held up. Thanks for reading.

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