Coming into the 2015-16 campaign, on the heels of their second-consecutive Frozen Four appearance, expectations were high once again, but many questions loomed.
The Green and White were replacing seven seniors, all of which who had carved deep roles in the UND program, with 11 freshmen. The team lost two more to the professional ranks, one being Mike Richter award-winning goalie Zane McIntyre. And most importantly, UND came into this season with a new head coach as Brad Berry took over for long-time bench boss Dave Hakstol, who left to coach the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers.
Then came the injuries.
With third-round draft pick Matej Tomek already out with a nagging, off-season injury, UND lost starting goaltender Cam Johnson to a leg injury, vaulting third-string goalie Matt Hyrnkiw, who had not played a single second in the college game, to starter. Senior forward Colten St. Clair, freshmen Shane Gersich and Joel Janatuinen also added to UND's growing injury list.
Sounds like a recipe for a disastrous start, right?
Well, through six non-conference games, the No. 1 Green and White are unblemished and have answered all the questions.
UND looks to continue its special start this weekend as they travel to Colorado Springs to take on the Colorado College Tigers in their first National Collegiate Hockey Conference series of the year, Friday and Saturday night.
Here's what to look for this weekend from World Arena in DDC's weekly "Who? What? How?" series preview.
Players to Watch
|Colorado College Sr. F,|
Sr. F, Drake Caggiula 2g, 6a -- 8pts; Sr. F, Bryn Chyzyk 5g, 1a -- 6pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser 4g, 2a -- 6pts; Jr. D, Troy Stecher 2g, 4a -- 6pts; Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw 3-0-1, 1.76 GAA, .933 SV PCT.
For the first time since 2002, UND is undefeated through six games (4-0-2). With a sweep this weekend, the Green and White would be unbeaten through eight games for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the last time UND won a national championship.
UND has won 10 out of the last 11 against Colorado College, including a sweep last season in Colorado.
Matt Hrynkiw's 1.76 goals against average and .933 save percentage ranks him 16th and 13th in the country, respectively.
Colorado College's 1.50 goals per game scoring places them 52 out of 54 in the country.
|UND Fr. F, Brock Boeser has lived up to his first-round NHL draft pick billing|
so far this season. The Burnsville, Minn. native has been a spark plug so far
this season, coming into this weekend with 4 goals and 2 assists on the year.
How'd they get here?
No. 1 UND is unbeaten on the season at 4-0-2 and is coming off a sweep of Vermont in Burlington last weekend, 2-0, 5-2.
Colorado College is 0-6 early on in the year and was blanked in back-to-back losses last weekend 3-0 and 5-0 at Boston College.
This is the first NCHC series for both teams.
|UND Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw|
While the defensemen have certainly done their job, carrying a NCAA seventh-best goals per game against average of just 1.5 goals per game, the story has been the offense. Sporting the 14th best scoring attack (3.67 goals per game) in the country, UND has peppered opponents with shots, ranking fourth in the NCAA in shots per game with 38.
On the other side of the ice, Colorado College has struggled, scoring just 1.5 goals per game.
Simply put, The Tigers don't look to have the offensive guns to keep pace this weekend against UND. DDC thinks Hyrnkiw and the defense in front of him will do enough and the goals keep coming for the Green and White.
UND SWEEPS, 5-1, 4-2
Check back after this weekend to see if UND stayed unbeaten in Colorado.