Thursday, November 19, 2015

Friday Gameday: New Name, Same Game

It's certainly been an interesting week for the UND men's hockey team.

A decades long battle to officially replace the beloved Fighting Sioux nickname came to an end on Wednesday as the UND brass announced Fighting Hawks as the newly chosen moniker.

DDC isn't quite ready to transition and will refrain from doing so until he shakes his jitters of replacing an icon that's close to his heart.

For North Dakota, unfortunately, they do not have the luxury of waiting. We are... Fighting Hawks.

In all reality, nothing has changed for the Green and White and business is at hand. Despite all the nickname hoopla, UND has it's hands full this Friday and Saturday night as they travel to St. Cloud and the Herb Brooks Arena to take on their long-time rival, the St. Cloud State Huskies.

These two teams know each other very well.

Dubbed "The no-sweep series" by DDC's friend, former colleague and the best college hockey writer in the biz, Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, the stats are flat out insane. Since the 2001-02 season, UND and SCSU have played at least one two-game series. None of those series have resulted in a sweep for either team. In another oddity, during a 10-year span from 2002-03 to the 2012-13 season, the Green and White went 0-8-2 on Friday night and 10-0 on Saturday. Can any of that change this weekend?

The Huskies topped UND in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semis 3-1 last season, but, just eight days later, the Green and White earned the biggest win between the two, beating SCSU 4-1 in the Western Regional Final in Fargo, to advance to the Frozen Four.

First place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is on the line this weekend and here's what to watch for in DDC's "Who? What? How?" series breakdown.


Players to watch

SCSU Sr. F, Joey Benik


So. F, Patrick Russell, 6 goals, 6 assists -- 12 points; Sr. F, Kalle Kossila, 2g, 10a -- 12 pts; Sr. F, Joey Benik, 7g, 3a -- 10 pts; So. F, Judd Peterson, 6g, 3a -- 9 pts; Jr. G, Charlie Lindgren, 7-2-0, 1.49 goals against average (6th in the NCAA), .944 save percentage (7th in the NCAA).


Sr. F, Drake Caggiula, 4g, 9a -- 13 pts; So. F, Nick Schmaltz, 2g, 11a -- 13 pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser, 7g, 5a -- 12 pts; Sr. F, Bryn Chyzyk, 6g, 3a -- 9 pts; Jr. D, Troy Stecher, 2g, 7a -- 9 pts; Jr. G, Matt Hrynkiw, 8-1-1, 1.81 GAA (10th in NCAA), .920 SV PCT.


Standout Stats

UND leads the country in shots allowed, giving up just 22.25 shots per game. On the offensive end, the Green and White also lead the country in shot margin with a +176.

The "CBS line" of Drake Caggiula (+16), Nick Schmaltz (+15) and Brock Boeser (+13) ranks 1st, 2nd and 4th respectively in the NCAA in plus/minus rating.

St. Cloud State is 6th in the NCAA in goals per game with a whopping 4.10 mark. UND isn't far behind, scoring 3.58 goals per game. Defensively, the Huskies are third in the NCAA in goals allowed, averaging just 1.50 goals against. Again, the Green and White are not far behind with a 7th-best NCAA mark of 1.83 goals against per game.

UND topped SCSU 4-1 last March in the West Regional Final in Fargo
to advance to the Frozen Four. (Photo credit: St. Cloud Times)


How'd they get here?

This weekend's series in St. Cloud is a match up of the top two teams in the NCHC and two top 10 teams in the national rankings.

No. 3 UND (9-1-2, 4-0-0-0 NCHC) swept Miami last weekend 6-2 and 4-3 in OT.

No. 7 St. Cloud State (8-2-0, 4-0-0-0 NCHC) is on a four-game winning streak including a sweep against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., 5-2 on Friday and a whopping 11-1 on Saturday. The 11-goal explosion set a NCHC record for goals in a game.

The Pick

It's time for DDC to, for the first time publicly, embrace something he's avoided for the duration of his time writing this blog.

For far too long, DDC has hidden behind a facade, a smokescreen, a masquerade. After years of non-biased nonsense, it's time to admit it.

I am DDC and I am a homer.

Man, that felt good.

The history, the statistics, the rivalry all scream split, but DDC won't hide anymore.

Let's get this straight. Both of these teams are very good. This series will be tight. Both teams are solid defensively and can flat out light the lamp, but DDC feels this Green and White squad has that killer instinct and that was evident last Saturday against Miami.

UND dominated the RedHawks throughout, but trailed 3-2 with time ticking down in the third. Then, the killer instinct, the dynamic, cold-blooded, game-breaking scoring ability took over and North Dakota got it done.

It's time for the Green and White to shake off a week to forget and exercise the "No-sweep series" demons.

This is a statement series for both teams that could go a long way towards a Penrose Cup title. DDC thinks UND makes the statement this weekend and, for the first time in 17 years ... sweeps the Huskies in St. Cloud.

UND SWEEPS, 4-3, 4-2

Come back after the series and see if the homer call held up. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Roses and Thorns: Dynamic, Game-Breaking, Cold-Blooded Goal Scoring

Following the UND men's hockey team's exhibition win over Manitoba, the DDC wrote in his Roses and Thorns column that this year's team might have something that had been lack over the last handful of years in Grand Forks: dynamic, game-breaking, cold-blooded goal scoring.

If there was any doubt that the 2015-16 Green and White lack that special knack, one play may have put that all to rest.

UND raced out to a 5-0 lead on Miami on Friday night, but gave up back-to-back goals in the third period to make the game interesting. Then, one play put the college hockey world on notice that this North Dakota squad has a scoring punch that is something to behold.

Any questions?

The goal had Grand Forks, social media and the college hockey world buzzing. But, UND didn't stop with that goal and 6-2 win.

On Saturday night, despite being heavily out shot, Miami looked to hush all the hype and scored a goal with just under 6 minutes to go in the third to take a 3-2 lead. But, once again, the cold-blooded scoring punch rang true for UND when Nick Schmaltz buried the game-tying goal with an extra attacker to tie the game at three and Luke Johnson scored just 1:23 into overtime to give the Green and White a National Collegiate Hockey Conference sweep, 4-3.

Here's what stood out from this weekend's series at the Ralph in DDC's weekly Roses and Thorns column.


UND Sr. F, Drake Caggiula leads the Green and White with 13 points (4g, 9a)
this season. The senior paces his vaunted "CBS line" with sophomore Nick
Schmaltz and freshman Brock Boeser. (Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald.

No. 1 -- The CBS line

Honestly, DDC could just go ahead and say "see above" and point you to the attached video, but that would diminish the impact that the line of Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser had again this weekend. Leading the way once again, this line racked up 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) including a 1 goal, 3 assist Friday night from both Schmaltz and Boeser. DDC's friend told him earlier this past week before the Miami series that he thinks Schmaltz might be the best passer he's ever seen in college hockey. His opinion is one that DDC respects pretty much more than any, but he was hesitant to give Schmaltz that honor. However, after this weekend, it really is becoming hard to argue. Couple the play-making touch of Schmaltz with the pure scoring from Boeser and Caggiula, UND has something special this season.

No. 2 -- Rhett Gardner

With heralded freshmen of the likes of Boeser, Shane Gersich and Chris Wilkie coming into the program, the big-bodied Gardner was a bit of an afterthought. After a goal in each game against Miami, the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native appears to be carving out a big role with this UND squad. With a team full of scoring touch, Gardner is adding a net-front presence and that showed against Miami. Gardner tipped in a Troy Stecher point shot on Friday and buried a pass from Caggiula on the door step on Saturday, netting his second and third goals of the season. As the Green and White continue on their schedule with defenses keying on UND's elite scoring, greasy, tough-guy goals from guys like Gardner and Austin Poganski will be very important.

No. 3 -- Tucker Poolman 

Speaking of big bodies... after missing the previous four games with a leg injury, the sophomore defenseman got back in to the lineup this weekend and Poolman did not miss a beat. The East Grand Forks native was a plus 4 and assisted on UND's first goal on Saturday night. With junior d-man Paul LaDue missing Saturday's game with an injury, Poolman logged heavy minutes and was on the ice for all four of UND's goals. Fans of the Green and White know what this guy is capable with his rocket of a slap shot from the point, but Poolman showed his lock down defensive ability this weekend.


No. 1 -- Injuries

UND Jr. D, Paul LaDue

Even though it may turn out not to be a serious one, LaDue's injury in the second period on Friday is certainly a cause of frustration for UND. LaDue has had a bit of a slow start to the 2015-16 season, but potted his first goal of the season on Friday night before leaving before the start of the third. Early indications are that LaDue may not miss any time, but if he does, the junior will be the ninth player to sit because of injury this year for the Green and White.

No. 2 -- Special Teams

Miami came into this weekend's series boasting the nation's third-best penalty kill and despite UND notching a power play goal early in the first period on Friday, the Green and White struggled the rest of the weekend, going a total of 1 for 7 with the extra man. The penalty kill didn't fare any better, allowing three power play goals in the series. After a nice stretch of penalty kill play over the previous two weekends, UND reverted to its early-season struggles a bit and are a dismal 79.1% while down a man on the season. With the scoring touch that the Green and White have shown this season, 14.3% on the power play certainly isn't a game-breaking number. These two areas will need to improve going forward.

There you have it. Come back later this week as UND travels down I-94 to take on rival St. Cloud State from Herb Brooks Arena in St. Cloud. Thanks for reading.