Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Roses and Thorns: A No Surprise Split

NCHC Standings:
T-1) UND, 5-1-0-0, 15 points; T-1) SCSU,
5-1-0-0, 15 pts; T-3) DU, 3-0-1, 10 pts; T-3)
UNO, 3-2-1, 10 pts; T-5) UMD, 2-3-1, 7 pts;
T-5) Miami, 2-5-1, 7 pts; 7) WMU, 2-4-0, 6 pts:
8) Colorado College, 0-6-0, 0 pts

Despite his homer pick of a UND sweep, the "no-sweep series" once again lived up to its billing and DDC is certainly not surprised.

North Dakota and St. Cloud State, the top two teams in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, both earned a win over the weekend at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. UND, paced by a hat trick by senior Drake Caggiula won a 4-3 contest on Friday, but the Huskies earned the split with a 6-1 victory on Saturday.

All things considered, this wasn't a terrible result for either team as the rivals leave the series the same way they entered -- tied a top the NCHC.

Here's what stood out to DDC in his weekly Roses and Thorns series recap.


No. 1 -- Drake Caggiula

The senior forward paced the vaunted CBS line along side Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser this weekend, notching his first-career hat trick on Friday night. Caggiula was a force in the opening game of the series, scoring his third goal, the eventual game winner, just 28 seconds into the third period as UND held on for the victory. The CBS line was dominant on Friday, tallying 7 points, led by Caggiula. As it has all season, as the CBS line goes, so goes the Green and White.

No. 2 -- Rhett Gardner

UND Fr. F, Rhett Gardner
Nursing a 4-3 lead with just five seconds left in the game, UND lined up for a decisive faceoff in their defensive zone. St. Cloud had dominated the dots all game and this was by far the biggest one of the night. Gardner stepped in, won a clean draw and UND held on for the win. The closing play wasn't the only mark that the freshman made in Friday's game as he netted another goal-front goal, his fourth of the season and added an assist. Outside of the CBS line, Gardner might be the Green and White's most consistent player of late. His heavy frame and offensive skill has had Moose Jaw, Sask., native on the ice a lot in the last handful of games for UND. A friend noted that Gardner is developing much like another familiar 22 for UND, Brad Malone. For fans of the Green and White, this would be a welcomed development. Gardner keeps impressing.

No. 3 -- Charlie Lindgren 

The St. Cloud State goaltender came into this weekend's series sporting numbers that had him among the top of the NCAA goalie stats and Lindgren certainly impressed. Despite allowing four goals on Friday, Lindgren made several big saves to keep it close. On Saturday, the Husky netminder was dominant, stopping 28 of 29 UND shots, including 16 in the third, to earn SCSU the split. With the game 4-1 in the third, UND peppered Lindgren as the Green and White pressed to get back in the game and Lindgren shut the door. Props to the first non-UND rose on the season.


No. 1 -- UND's Penalty Kill

This is becoming a bit of a trend for UND as the PK struggled, allowing 3 goals on 10 chances on the weekend. St. Cloud has a dynamic bunch of scoring forwards and they move the puck incredibly well on the power play and that hurt the Green and White, particularly on Saturday as the Huskies scored twice with the extra man. UND's lack of discipline has put this unit on the ice a lot this season and North Dakota has yet to find a consistent group of penalty killers. With the game tightening at 3-1 late in the second period, Trevor Olson took a silly, five minute interference penalty and SCSU cashed in and essentially sealed the game. This unit must find some consistency. A paltry 77.4% success rate on the PK just won't cut it.

No. 2 -- Concerns in Net

UND Jr. G, Matt Hyrnkiw

Following an injury to starting goaltender Cam Johnson, just two plus games into the season, Matt Hyrnkiw was pressed into duty and did well, losing just one game in his first nine starts. However, Hrynkiw seemed to fight the puck this weekend against a SCSU squad that has the most scoring touch UND has played against this season, leaving several juicy rebounds to St. Cloud sticks on Friday. That continued a bit on Saturday and the junior was pulled in the second period with UND down 3-0. Johnson relieved Hyrnkiw and didn't do much to assure anything going forward for the Green and White as he too allowed three goals. Not all the blame can be placed on Hyrnkiw for either result as he made several big saves on Friday with St. Cloud pressing late, but the rebound control has been somewhat of a problem all season. UND had the luxury over the past two seasons of a goaltender in Zane McIntryre that had the ability to steal games if the Green and White were struggling. Neither Hrynkiw nor Johnson have proven this ability so far this season. While both are certainly serviceable, UND will need to find more consistent play if they have hopes of hanging banner No. 8 in the rafters of the REA. Freshman Matej Tomek is still on the shelf with nagging injuries, but will get his shot in net once healthy as neither Hrynkiw or Johnson have truly taken the reigns.

So there you have it. Come back later this week as UND prepares to travel to East Lansing, Mich., for a non-conference, turkey day weekend series with Michigan State.