Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Gameday: A Special Start

Expectations are always high in Grand Forks when talking about the UND men's hockey team.

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:

Colorado College Sr. F,
Cody Bradley
Fr. F, Trey Bradley 3 goals, 1 assist -- 4 points; Sr. F, Cody Bradley 1g, 1a -- 2pts (leading returning scorer from 2014-15); Sr. F, Hunter Fejes 1g (second leading returning scorer from 2014-15); Fr. G, Jacob Nehama, 0-4-0, 3.95 goals against average, .904 save percentage; Jr. G, Tyler Marble, 0-2-0, 3.44 GAA, .877 SV PCT.


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.


Standout Stats

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.

The Pick

UND Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw
Entering the 2015-16 season, UND looked to be a team that would be led by a stellar defensive corps, returning five regulars to the lineup from last season, but would struggle a bit early on to find goals.

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.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Roses and Thorns: It Feels Good to be Wrong

It's not often that DDC picks against the UND's men's hockey team. DDC did just that this past weekend when the No. 1 Green and White traveled to Burlington, VT to take on the Vermont Catamounts, as he picked a split in this past weekend's series.

DDC's doubts were based around UND junior goaltender Matt Hrynkiw and his lack of experience in college hockey. Take a look at The Pick from this past weekend:

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.

In this case, it sure feels good to be wrong.

The walk-on and once third-string netminder had a stellar weekend. A sparkling 27-save shutout (Hyrnkiw's first in just his second career start) on Friday paced a 2-0 UND win. Saturday, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native had another 27-save performance, this time on 29 shots, leading the Green and White to a 5-2 win and a non-conference sweep. The two wins earned Hrynkiw National Collegiate Hockey Conference goaltender of the week honors.

DDC predicted the UND offense would earn a split and that side of the ice surely came to play in Vermont. Rookie Brock Boeser led all NCHC freshmen in points this weekend, assisting on a goal on Friday and following up with a goal and an assist on Saturday, to be named NCHC freshman of the week.

Here's what stood out to DDC in this week's Roses and Thorns column.


No. 1 -- Matt Hrynkiw

UND Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw
earned NCHC Goalie
of the Week honors

The questions were fair coming into this series. While he played well earning a tie and a win against Bemidji
State in his first action, the junior showed signs of nerves. He struggled a bit with rebound control and found himself out of position a few times against the Beavers. Boy, what a difference a little experience can make. Again, in just his second career start, Hrynkiw showed what it takes to be a big-time player at the college level, earning his first shutout. To put things into perspective, last year's Mike Richter award winner as the best goaltender in college hockey, Zane McIntyre had just one shutout all season. DDC was certainly impressed with Hrynkiw this weekend and that steady play could mean big things going forward for the Green and White.

No. 2 -- UND's Offense

It's becoming hard to not be continually excited about the scoring punch for UND. The Green and White again showed a dynamic scoring punch and carried the play throughout this weekend. Brock Boeser continued his impressive play, with his three-point weekend and senior forward Bryn Chyzyk continued his hot start, potting goals in both games to move his total to five (six total points) through six games. The line of senior Drake Caggiula (1g, 1a), sophomore Nick Schmaltz (2a) and Boeser (1g, 2a) tallied a seven-point weekend on the heels of a nine-point effort last Saturday against Bemidji State. UND has racked up a whopping 228 shots on goal through six games, an average of 38 per night and it's certainly been fun to watch early on.

No. 3 --  Still Unbeaten

For the first time since 2002, when Sioux great and NHL all-star Zach Parise was a freshman, UND is unbeaten through its first six games. It's a pretty incredible start for a team that came into the season with a new head coach, 11 freshmen and have been riddled with injuries. UND is 3-0 since Matt Hrynkiw took over as the starting goaltender. After six non-conference tussles, the Green and White kick off their NCHC schedule, traveling to Colorado Spring to take on Colorado College. Let's see how far this can go, shall we?

UND defenseman Tucker Poolman presses Catamount forward Anthony Petruzzelli
on Friday. The Green and White topped Vermont 2-0. (Photo Credit: Free Press)

No. 4 -- Vermont's Webcast

Free just so happens to be DDC's favorite price, but many times, free doesn't always mean great. Despite being just a one-camera play-by-play that did not provide replays, big props to Vermont's very clear webcast. After the broadcast debacle with ZERO live coverage of the games from the Ice Breaker Invitational to start the season, Vermont provided the Green and White faithful with a way to watch their team. Thank you, Vermont Athletics.


No. 1 -- Jimmer Held at Bay

DDC has pretty much got nothing here. UND earned a sweep with a former third-string goaltender, got continued scoring from all over their lineup and carried play in nearly every fashion for all six periods. So, the only thorn DDC has comes from the lack of production from a former Sioux. Senior Dan Senkbeil, who transferred to Vermont following the 2012-13 season, saw his first action of the season on Saturday, only contributing a slashing minor. DDC was pulling for the former UND fan favorite to find the back of the net, particularly as the Green and White carried a comfortable lead late. Cheers, Jim. This blogger wishes you well as you round out your college career.

There you have it. Come back to the blog later this week as UND gets it's NCHC season started in The Springs.