Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Gameday: On the Road Again

For the second time in three weekends, the No. 1 UND men's hockey team forges east for two
non-conference tussles.

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
Jr. F, Mario Puskarich, 3g, 1a -- 4pts; Jr. F, Brady Shaw, 1a (highest returning scorer from 2014-15); Sr. D, Alexx Privitera, 1g (second highest returning scorer from 2014-15); Jr. G, Mike Santaguida, 1-2-0, 2.03 goals against average, .917 save percentage. Sr. D, Dan Senkbeil played two seasons with UND before transferring to Vermont following the 2012-13 season. Sr. D, Yvan Pattyn captains the Catamounts and is the younger brother of 2014-15 UND captain, Stephane Pattyn.


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%.


Standout Stats

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 Pick

This 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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Roses and Thorns: Beaten Up, but Still Unbeaten

DDC's first Roses and Thorns column of the 2015-16 season, after UND's 6-2 exhibition win over the Manitoba Bisons earlier in October, had only one thorn -- injuries.

In that column, DDC noted he hoped injuries never made the thorn section again this season.

Welp. So much for that.

The No. 1 UND men's hockey team earned a tie and a win in a non-conference, home-and-home series against Bemidji State, 4-4 on Friday in Bemidji and 5-2 on Saturday in Grand Forks to stay unbeaten on the season at 2-0-2, but certainly had its share of losses.

The Green and White, already down freshman goaltender Matej Tomek and senior forward Colten St. Clair to injuries coming into this past weekend, lost freshman Joel Janatuinen to an apparent concussion and starting goalie Cam Johnson to a leg injury on Friday night.

Johnson's injury led to junior walk-on goaltender Matt Hyrnkiw finishing off Friday's game and getting the start on Saturday, Hrynkiw's first college hockey action in his career.

Hrynkiw struggled a bit on Friday, allowing two goals in the third, but played well on Saturday, to earn his first win for UND.

Here's what else that stood out from this weekend's series.


No. 1 -- Matt Hrynkiw

DDC was certainly down on the junior after Friday night's tie, as Hrynkiw looked incredibly shaky early on. The netminder allowed a goal on his first shot faced and struggled with rebound control, leaving several chances for Bemidji State. Despite the struggles, Hrynkiw made a couple of really important saves, including one in overtime, to hold on for the tie. The junior came back on Saturday and played well, making 19 saves, including nine in the third period, to pace the UND win. Hrynkiw will likely be back in the net this coming weekend in Vermont and will need to play well behind the Green and White.

UND Fr. F, Brock Boeser notched a hat trick, his first three goals with North
Dakota, in UND's 5-2 win on Saturday. (Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald)

No. 2 -- Brock Boeser, Nick Schmaltz and Drake Caggiula

These three came into this season as possibly, the best three scorers for UND, but did not play together until Saturday night. After a nine point (4g, 5a) performance from that line that saw Boeser notch a hat trick, his first three goals for UND, the Green and White might be hard pressed to break up this line. The trio dominated the Beavers, controlling play and creating chances throughout. With the shaky goaltending situation, North Dakota will more than likely need steady goal scoring. This line absolutely brought that on Saturday night.

No. 3 -- Troy Stecher

The junior defenseman continued his stellar play this weekend, notching the game-winner on Saturday, his first of the year. Stecher was aggressive offensively on the play, pouncing on a loose puck outside of a net-front scrum, potting his goal through heavy traffic. The alternate captain has five points (1g, 4a) on the season and has shown tremendous offensive play all year.


No. 1 -- Injuries

UND Jr. G, Matt Hyrnkiw

Ugh. Outside of the aforementioned bumps, UND was also down freshman Shane Gerisch to illness, forcing freshmen Mike Gornall and Christain Wolanin into the lineup on Saturday. Wolanin, a defenseman, played left wing. The Green and White will need to carry a "next man up" mentality going forward, in particular in the nets. Hrynkiw is in the spotlight. He will need to improve to keep this UND team in games until Johnson and Tomek return.

Thanks for reading. Head back later this week as North Dakota prepares to again travel east, taking on the Vermont Catamounts in another important, non-conference series.