Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Gameday: It's Time to Stretch

Here we go, college hockey fans. We’ve officially hit the stretch run.

Tonight and Saturday, the No. 2 UND men’s hockey team takes on the Colorado College Tigers from the Ralph Engelstad Arena in a National Collegiate Hockey Conference two-game tussle.

This weekend’s series finds these two teams pretty much where they were when they faced each other back in October, with North Dakota near the top of the national rankings while CC continues its search for consistency.

UND entered that early-season series in Colorado Springs with the sting of a stunning 5-1 opening-night loss to Bemidji State still fresh on their minds, but rolled the Tigers 3-1 and 7-2 to earn a sweep.

Since then, not much has changed for the Green and White as they’ve rolled to a 16-5-2 record and a No. 4 Pairwise ranking.

Colorado College has started to show signs of life, earning their first NCHC win of the season last weekend against NCHC-leading Nebraska-Omaha.

The Tigers lost Saturday night’s game against the Mavericks 4-1, but outshot UNO 28-14.

UND rounded out their non-conference season in the Dave Hakstol era with a dominating 7-1, 5-0 weekend sweep over Niagara this past weekend to earn a stellar 9-1-1 record out of the NCHC.

Terrible Tendies

As these two teams dig in for the race to the postseason, the Tigers will look to slow UND’s No. 6 nationally-ranked offensive attack that is clipping at 3.48 goals per game.

To find success this weekend, CC will need to find someone to step up between the pipes.

Freshman Chase Perry and sophomore Tyler Marble have both started 12 games this season for a Tiger team that’s allowing the fourth-most goals per game in country, averaging 4.00 goals allowed per game.

The netminding duo have put up some pretty paltry numbers this year that finds both Perry and Marble in the bottom five out of 79 qualifying goalies in save percentage (Perry .884, Marble .880) and goals against average (Perry 3.64, Marble 3.95).

Junior forward Cody Bradley (8g, 10a –18 points) and dynamic sophomore defenseman Jaccob Slavin (2g, 8a –10 pts) lead the Tiger offense.

Dynamic Depth

Junior forward Drake Caggiula continues to lead UND offensively with 24 points (9g, 15a) while senior assistant captain Mark MacMillan carries the goal scoring lead with 11 for the Green and White.

Depth has been UND’s calling card this season with 10 players entering this weekend’s series with double-digit point totals. Two more, defenseman Troy Stecher and forward Bryn Chyzyk, both of who have missed significant time with injuries, have nine points on the season.

Welcome Back?

Speaking of injuries, UND may have finally turned the corner in a good way as Stecher (leg), junior Colton St. Clair (upper-body injury) and freshman Trevor Olson (mononucleosis) all returned to practice this week. While all three are still very much questionable for this weekend, a return for these three key cogs could prove huge for UND as the stretch run rolls on.

The Man, the Myth, the McIntyre

UND's Zane McIntyre
Defensively for North Dakota, as it has been all season, it starts and ends with goaltender Zane McIntyre.

The junior from DDC’s hometown of Thief River Falls, Minn., was lights out last weekend against Niagara, stopping 42-of-43 shots and was one Friday night softie away from a pair of shutouts.

McIntyre (16-5-2) is tied for most wins in the country and places 10th nationally in both goals against average (1.87) and save percentage  (.933).

The Pick

While CC has certainly grown as a team since these two played in October under first-year head coach Mike Haviland, the Tiger’s goaltending situation looks to be much too shaky to slow a high-flying offense like UND’s.

The Green and White are coming off a weekend that saw them put up 12 goals and DDC expects UND to continue to put pressure forward this weekend.

Throw in North Dakota’s No. 8 ranked defense (allowing just 2.09 goals per game) in front of a goaltender in McIntyre playing better and better by the weekend, this weekend has sweep written all over it.

DDC expects to CC to bring intensity and hustle all weekend, but in the end, UND is playing too well to pick against them.

UND SWEEPS 4-1, 5-2.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Roses and Thorns: Breathing Easy

UND senior forward Mark MacMillan pots a power play
goal on Saturday night. Photo Credit: UND Sports
This past weekend had all the makings of a Pairwise disaster for the UND men’s hockey team.

The Green and White had little to gain and a lot to lose in the rankings with a loss to dead-last ranked Niagara. A loss in either game would have sent UND hurdling down the rankings.

A 7-1, 5-0 sweep later, North Dakota and its fans can breathe easy.

The Green and White dominated the lowly Purple Eagles for a full 120 minutes Friday and Saturday and closed out their non-conference play for 2014-15 with a stellar 9-1-1 record.

Here’s what stood out to DDC in his weekly Roses and Thorns:


No. 1 – Zane McIntyre

The junior netminder was a late, third-period softie on Friday short of back-to-back shutouts on the weekend. Although not tested very much all weekend, McIntyre was nearly perfect, stopping 42-of-43 shots and recording his first shutout of the season and the fourth of his career. With the solid weekend, McIntyre’s .933 save percentage is now best in UND single-season history. Already UND’s career leader in save percentage (.927) and goals against average (2.06), we’re running out of superlatives for the all-world goalie.

No. 2 – Slump Breakers

A trio of players broke slumps on Saturday night when Michael Parks netted two goals on Saturday, his first since Dec. 5, Mark MacMillan scored twice and added an assist, recording three points after having just one in five games and Wade Murphy got his first point of the season with an assist in the third. It was great to see the top liners get going again and even better to see the hard-working Murphy finally find the scoresheet.

No. 3 – Senior Captains

What a weekend from UND’s senior captains. Stephane Pattyn scored twice (1g Friday, 1g Saturday), Parks netted two on Saturday and McMillan added four points (2 goals on Saturday, 2a) for an eight-point weekend for the core of the team. On Saturday, all five goals came from the captains. After a cutesy first period for UND that saw too many passes and waste chances, the seniors turned up the heat and found the next three times in the second to pace the sweep. Huge statement from a great group.

No. 4 – UND’s “fourth” Line

The recently-formed line of Austin Poganski, Connor Gaarder and Brendan O’Donnell was dominant on Friday night recording three goals (two from Poganski and one from O’Donnell) and five assists for eight points. A lot can be said for chemistry and these three found each other all night. The freshman Poganski was in the right spot on both goals after big bounces while seniors Gaarder and O’Donnell meshed very well together. DDC would like to see this line stick together.

No. 5 – Bryn Chyzyk

The junior forward scored UND’s first and last goals on Friday night and each goal showed Chyzyk’s growth as a player this season. Chyzyk’s first was a blend of speed and power as he beat the NU netminder 1-on-1. His second, Chyzyk ripped a laser past the goaltender on a short-side wrister, both gorgeous in their own right. This may have been said previously, but if the Virden, Manitoba native doesn’t wear a letter next year for UND, something is wrong.

UND's Stephane Pattyn leads the team back to the bench after celebrating a goal on
Niagara University's Jackson Teichroeb on Friday. Photo Credit: Grand Forks Herald.


No. 1 – Lack of Grit for Niagara

For a team that lacks talent, DDC fully expected to see Niagara play a slow, defensive type game in an attempt to plug the middle against an explosive UND offense. That wasn’t the case on the weekend as the Purple Eagles attempted to play an up-tempo, run and gun style that North Dakota blew up right from the beginning of the weekend. That type of play probably works in Atlantic Hockey. Well, no actually, it probably doesn’t since NU has three wins on the year. Hard to believe that was a tournament team just two years ago.

No. 2 – NU Defenseman

Sorry to beat a dead horse on this one, but it’s hard to find a thorn for UND this weekend, so DDC will stick with Niagara. Going out on a limb here… The Purple Eagles are awful on defense. Head coach Dave Burkholder could have easily deployed pylons this weekend. The NU defensemen got blown by wide several times this weekend and left their goaltenders out to dry on multiple goals. Not a good performance from the team from Niagara Falls. DDC must say that the NU D-Man’s feed to North Dakota’s Steph Pattyn for the senior’s Friday night goal was pretty nice.

So, that’s it. Thanks for stopping by and check back in later this week as UND prepares to start the stretch run, welcoming the CC Tigers to the Ralph, this coming weekend.