Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Gameday: Youth vs. Experience

One point stands between National Collegiate Hockey Conference foes No. 1 North Dakota and No. 5 Nebraska Omaha.

That one point was earned by the Mavericks back in November when these two played to a 2-2 tie in Grand Forks. The difference maker in that shootout victory for UNO was one more save by goaltender Ryan Massa, and by that slimmest of margins, we bring ourselves to this weekend’s tussle.

The Mavericks lead UND in the conference by that single point, while the Green and White are ahead in the national polls. Along with their respective rankings, the two teams are No. 2 and No. 4 in the Pairwise headed into this weekend’s showdown in Omaha.

What will this weekend bring? No one’s sure, but local media in Omaha has played this series as the biggest in UNO history, dubbing it “North Dakota Hate Week.”

If the series lives up to its billing, this should be some fun hockey tonight and Saturday.

Youth Movement

UNO sophomore goalie
Ryan Massa
The Mavericks, 15-6-3 overall, are led up front by a dynamic group of forwards. Sophomore Austin Ortega paces a UNO attack that features underclassmen as 8 out of their top 10 scorers. Ortega is Omaha’s top point getter with 25 and his eight game-winning goals lead the country.

The Mavericks are scoring 3.04 goals per game, good enough for 15th.

Although limited to just one start since Jan. 1 due to a concussion, the UNO sophomore Massa continues the youth leadership between the pipes.

Massa is 10-3-3 on the year with a 1.99 goals against average and the nation’s No. 8 save percentage at .936.

Despite the stellar numbers in net, UNO has been very average this year defensively, allowing 2.46 goals a game, good for just 26th best in the nation.

Off last week, Omaha split with CC, losing 4-3 and winning 4-1 despite being outshot 28-14, on Jan. 16-17.

A Top Down Team

UND Junior. Goalie
Zane McIntyre
While it’s UNO’s youth that leads the way for the Mavericks, UND’s leadership comes from the top.
The Green and White attack features 8 out of 10 scorers being upperclassmen.

Junior Drake Caggiula continues to carry the team lead inA points with 26, tied with senior Michael Parks. Fellow senior Mark MacMillan leads UND in goals with 13. His .62 goals per game mark is good for seventh best nationally while the team’s 3.48 goals per game is tied for sixth.

UND (18-5-2, 9-4-1 NCHC) earned a sweep last weekend with 2-1 and 5-3 wins over Colorado College.  Much of the credit for last week should go to junior netminder Zane McIntyre.

The Thief River Falls, Minn., native came up huge on Friday night, making four saves without his goal stick in the last eight minutes to earn the victory.

On the season, McIntyre’s 18 wins (18-5-2) is the most in the country while his 1.89 goals against average and .933 save percentage rank him 10th and ninth nationally.

A Second Look

So much is on the line in this series both in the NCHC and nationally, so DDC decided to take a deeper delve into the stats.

One particular jumped out – shots.  While shots aren’t always an end-all, be-all statistic, they can certainly tell a story.

Coming into this weekend’s series, UNO is a -110 in shots, meaning the Mavericks’ opponents have 110 more shots this season. UND is a +90. 

Nebraska Omaha is also averaging 30.54 shots allowed a game. 

Another statistic that stood noteworthy was special teams. UNO boasts a subpar 16.4% on the power play, good for 33rd in the country. UND is 21% with the man advantage, which is 13th. On the penalty kill, UND is 15 with a steady 86.4% while UNO is 27th at 83.9%.

The Pick

Like DDC said earlier, shots aren’t always the perfect indicator of team play, but, DDC’s guess … UNO won’t want UND’s 6th best offense firing 31 shots a game on net this weekend.

It’s easy to expect a high-paced and tight-checking game this weekend with UNO and former UND head coach Dean Blais and DDC thinks we’ll see just that.

Omaha came into this season with a young team and a lot of question marks. Those question marks have turned into consistent, dynamic play. The new question is, can this continue?

There’s something to say for a team that has seen these types of series many times and one who’s new to the party. DDC thinks UND’s experience is what paces the play in this important, NCHC series.

The upperclassmen get it done as North Dakota sweeps and takes ascends to the top spot in the conference.

UND SWEEPS 3-2, 3-1 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Roses and Thorns: Taking Care of Business

NCHC Standings
1) UNO, 9-4-1 (1 SO win), 29 points. 
2) UND, 9-4-1, 28 pts.
3) UMD, 8-5-1, 25 pts.
4) Miami, 8-6-0, 24 pts.
5) Denver, 7-6-0, 21 pts.
6) WMU, 4-7-3 (3 SO wins), 18 pts.
7) SCSU, 5-8-1, 16 pts.
8) CC, 1-11-1, 4 pts.
This past week, DDC heralded the weekend series between UND and Colorado College as the start of the stretch run.

And down the stretch, only one thing matters regardless of standings, rankings or records – wins.

UND took care of business this past weekend with two hard-fought National Collegiate Hockey Conference victories, 2-1 and 5-3, earning a sweep and grabbing six very crucial NCHC points in front of the Ralph Engelstad Arena faithful in Grand Forks.

The two wins, coupled with a 1-1 weekend for Minnesota State, vaulted UND into the No. 1 national ranking and more importantly, moved North Dakota to No. 2 in the Pairwise rankings, which mimic the NCAA tournament selection process.

Here’s what stood out to DDC this past weekend in this week’s installment of Roses and Thorns.


No. 1 – Zane McIntyre

With eight minutes to play on Friday night and UND nursing a tight 2-1 lead, McIntyre lost his goal stick. Like he has all season, the junior netminder kept his cool making two stops. Then, with an empty net and the game in the waning seconds, it happened again. With his goal stick next to the net and the Tigers feverishly pushing for a tying goal, McIntyre again shut the door and closed out the win. McIntyre wasn’t perfect on Saturday night giving up three goals, but still led the way and helped bring UND the sweep with 25 saves. DDC has said it before and will say it again – as Zane goes, so goes the Green and White.

UND's Luke Johnson and Mark MacMillan celebrate as Johnson nets a goal
on CC's Tyler Marble on Saturday, (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

No. 2 – Connor Gaarder

Is it possible to not record a point on a weekend and be the best player on the ice? DDC thinks so. The senior assistant captain played with speed and power all weekend, leading the team with eight shots on goal. Gaarder found open ice for chances and led rushes throughout. Depth is a huge key to UND’s success and the Edina, Minn., native leads the way for this team.

No. 3 – Senior Leaders

Speaking of leadership, the core of this North Dakota team is led by the top and UND’s seven seniors showed it this weekend. Mark MacMillan scored twice to run his team-high goal total to 13 and Michael Parks chipped in with the game-winning shorthanded goal (UND’s nation leading 9th) on Friday and added an assist on Saturday to pace the attack. The senior group had nine points and was a +9 this weekend. What a class.


No. 1 – Trap Defense

UND's Zane McIntyre and Andrew Panzarella defend against CC's Alex Roos
and Hunter Fejes on Saturday. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

Colorado College may have laid the blueprint for the rest of the NCHC to slow North Dakota, this weekend. The Tigers played very well defensively, plugging the middle against the speedy UND squad. Eventually, the Green and White speed and play-making ability found ways to earn the zone both nights, winning the battles on the boards and grinding out goals, but, CC showed lots of grit all weekend in two hotly-contested contests. UND will have to continue to win end-board battles the rest of the way, because this weekend showed how to at least slow down North Dakota.

No. 2 – Slumping Schmaltz

The play-making freshman Nick Schmaltz has struggled a bit since returning from the World Junior tournament during the Christmas break. When at his best, Schmaltz leads rushes and dishes all over the ice to open teammates. DDC sees a player that may be trying to do too much for his team. A moving back to center this weekend may be just what Schmaltz needed.  The talent is there and no one is arguing that, but UND needs the freshman to start backing that up with points. DDC is very interested to see what the forward plays like this weekend.

Up next for the newly crowned No. 1 team in the country is a monster-sized series with NCHC-leading Nebraska-Omaha. UND trails the Mavericks by just one point in the conference standings and a sweep either way could lead the way to a conference title and the Penrose Cup.

Come back later this week for the breakdown of what should be one heck-of-a series in Omaha.