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.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Roses and Thorns: A Sight Unseen... A Title

The UND men's hockey team left the ice in Portland, Maine on Saturday night a bit deflated.

They had just dominated the Maine Black Bears for three periods, out shooting their Hockey East foe 45-20 and carrying play throughout, but lost in a shootout following a 1-1 tie. Despite the barrage of pressure and shots, the Green and White could only once beat Black Bear freshman goaltender Rob McGovern, leading to the tie.

However, on the back of a 5-2 win on Friday afternoon against Lake Superior State and Maine's tie and shootout win over Michigan State, a surprising and welcomed guest joined the UND locker room -- The Ice Breaker Invitational trophy.

Seemingly unaware that they had won the tournament, the Green and White celebrated a wholly successful weekend.

For the first time since in longer than he can remember, DDC did not get a chance to see even one second of this weekend's games as neither game was broadcast in any format. Seriously. No coverage... not even a highlight.

So, on the word of media and the sweet, silky voice of UND's play-by-play radio announcer Tim Hennessy, here's your sight unseen Roses and Thorns column for this weekend's play.


No. 1 -- Cam Johnson

UND sophomore goalie
Cam Johnson

Eleven seconds into the game on Friday, the sophomore goaltender seemingly had allowed his first goal in the
season. However, the quick strike was disallowed and UND fans everywhere breathed a deep breath. But, two goals on the first three Laker shots, Johnson was having flashbacks to his only start in his freshman year as LSSU took a 2-0 lead just six minutes into the game. This go-around with the Lakers would be different. Shaking off the demons of being pulled last year in Grand Forks against LSSU, Johnson settled down and did not allow another goal in 21 shots faced, pacing a 5-2 win. Johnson was solid on Saturday in limited work, allowing just 1 goal on 20 shots in a 1-1, Ice Breaker Invitational clinching tie. Cheers to Johnson.

No. 2 -- Freshman Chemistry

Again, DDC did not get to see them in action, but every media member raved about the line of freshman Shane Gersich, sophomore Nick Schmaltz and freshman Brock Boeser. Gersich scored his first career goal on Friday and the trio of Gersich, Schmaltz and Boeser had noticeable (again, DDC didn't see it, but he trusts the eyes of the media) chemistry on Saturday. Schmaltz had several set ups to his linemates, particularly Boeser who had eight shots on goal in the game. Don't forget about the other freshman, too. Chris Wilkie scored his first career goal on Saturday, UND's only tally in the 1-1 tie. It's exciting to see (well, hear) about a young group playing with a lot of chemistry just two games into the season.

No. 3 --  Brad Berry

Down 2-0 in his first game behind the bench as head coach just six minutes in, Brad Berry called his timeout. The Green and White took the pause well and ran away with a 5-2 victory. After the game, Berry talked about his first-ever timeout. "I thought, 'This coaching thing is pretty tough.' ". Well, UND took care of business the rest of the way and Berry got his first-career head coaching win.


No. 1 -- What Year is This?
"I thought 'Great Scott! No video coverage from the Ice Breaker
Invitational?!' I told Marty, 'we better not come Back to the Future!' "
-- Dr. Emmett L. Brown's direct quote in an exclusive to DDC.

Seriously. It's 20-frickin'-15.

How was there no video coverage of these games this weekend?!

When Doc and Marty McFly come Back to the Future later this week on October 15th, they will be ashamed of the Ice Breaker Invitational not having a way to showcase these games to fans of college hockey. If you don't get the reference, Google it. DDC feels bad for you.

Thank you, Mr. Tim Hennessy and UND athletics for letting us hear these games. Shame on you, Ice Breaker Invitational officials.

Head back to the blog later this week as the Green and White play a home-and-home, non-conference series with Bemidji State.