Monday, December 7, 2015

Roses and Thorns: Pulverizing the Pios

NCHC Standings:
1) UND, 7-1-0, 21 pts; 2) SCSU, 6-2-0, 18pts;
T-3) UMD,4-3-1, 13 pts; T-3) Omaha, 4-3-1, 13 pts;
5) DU, 3-2-1,10 pts; 6) Miami, 2-7-1, 7 pts;
T-7) CC, 2-6-0, 6 pts; T-7) WMU, 2-6-0, 6 pts.

So, DDC has been busy with a bunch of stuff of late and if you've missed the blog over the last couple of weekends, consider this an official apology.

Once piece of housekeeping before the recap. DDC wants to take a second to mention his Twitter and Blogosphere buddy, RWD (if you don't know who she is, follow Runnin' With the Dogs for all the best Minnesota Duluth hockey tidbits) and her awesome fundraiser for local food shelves all over the country. Check it out and help out a great cause and hashtag #FromTopShelfToFoodShelf all over social media. Sorry there wasn't a blog before this weekend, RWD. DDC hopes you'll take more if this helps at all!

On to the matters at hand.

Across the college hockey world, a prime cliche is used on a nightly basis of "playing a complete 60 minutes." Period by period, teams look to execute at their best level. A full weekend's effort would be considered a "complete 120 minutes."

The UND men's hockey team certainly lived up to this cliche this weekend.

The No. 4 Green and White battled the No. 9 Denver Pioneers in an important National Collegiate Hockey Conference series at the Ralph Engelstad Arena and while doing everything here to not sound trite, UND took DU to the woodshed.

Again, it the was the vaunted CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz leading the way. Boeser scored twice while Caggiula and Schmaltz both netted a goal en route to a 5-1 win on Friday night as the trio racked up six points. On Saturday night, UND got some serious secondary scoring as Austin Poganski potted a pair of goals, then the CBS buried the Pios late, as Caggiula and Boeser scored 27 seconds apart in the third period, pacing a 4-0 win and a pulverizing series sweep.

Here's what stood out from what was possibly the best 120 minutes of dominating hockey DDC has ever seen in his weekly (kind of, of late) Roses and Thorns series recap.


No. 1 -- CBS line

Duh. This line racked up 10 points this weekend (Caggiula, 2g, 2a; Boeser, 3g; Schmaltz, 1g, 2a) and was a whopping +15 for the series, but the impact wasn't just on the scoresheet against Denver. The trio's compete level really stood out on the defensive end all weekend as they shut down the Pioneers with a tenacious forecheck and backcheck. Schmaltz was an absolute horse, consistently stick checking DU players and leading offense the other way. This line is constantly facing the top groups of defenders and lines, but nothing is slowing this group down. The chemistry, the playmaking ability and the cold-blooded scoring punch has UND on a roll, right now. It's one thing for this line and team as a whole to be better then any particular team in regards to talent, which they have been all season, but it's a whole different to outwork them. UND fans are seeing both, right now and it's certainly been a treat.

No. 2 -- Austin Poganski

UND So. F, buries a short-handed tally with 0.6 left in the first period on Saturday.
Poganski netted three goals on the weekend. (Photo: Eric Hylden, GF Herald).

As much fun as it has been to watch the CBS line dominate teams over the course of this season, UND has lacked a bit of secondary scoring, of late. Well, sophomore Austin Poganski certainly had something to say about that, this weekend. The St. Cloud native netted three goals in the series, including both game-winning goals. Poganski was particularly good in front of the net, using his big frame to slam home two of his three. The other was probably his biggest one, on Saturday. UND dominated DU in the first period, outshooting the Pios 19-3, but the game was scoreless until Poganski stole the puck at the UND blue line, skated in alone and potted a short-handed goal with just 0.6 left in the period. Much like the CBS line's performance, Poganski's impact wasn't just in scoring as he drew a couple of penalties on Friday, using his heavy skating and hard effort and joined his teammates in the forechecking barrage. Great weekend for the sophomore.

No. 3 -- Cam Johnson

It's easy for a goalie to get a bit overshadowed when the team in front of him is dominating all over the ice, but without the sophomore netminder, this weekend could have been much different for UND. Johnson wasn't overwhelmingly tested at any point in this series, but made key saves in both games to lead the Green and White to the sweep. Johnson has allowed just three goals in the last four games, all starts, after returning from an early-season injury last weekend in East Lansing. The Michigan native stopped 44 of 45 shots in the series, earning his first-career shutout on Saturday and is showing the ability to become UND's true No. 1 netminder.  Back-to-back NCHC goaltender of the weekend honors should be on tap for Johnson.

No. 4 -- Compete level

If DDC wasn't so lazy before the series to do a preview, he would have honestly picked a split for this weekend. It was a top 10 battle pitting two bitter and long-time rivals in an important conference series. Let's make one thing clear.... Denver is good. In fact, they are really good. However, UND was flat out better in every single phase this weekend and it started from the drop of the puck on Friday and didn't stop until the final buzzer on Saturday. Like previously mentioned, it's one thing to have more talent and play better than a team on a particular weekend, but it's another to outwork the other team. The Green and White won nearly every battle in all three zones, shutdown Denver with a sterling 10 for 10 penalty kill that actually outscored the Pios 1-0 for the series and scored back-breaking goals when needed. Head coach Brad Berry really had his team ready to play this weekend. That was a special level of play UND had in this series.


No. 1 -- It's only December?!

Head coach Brad Barry after UND's 4-0 win on Saturday:
"I think tonight, we took another step as a team,"
Berry said."I talked to the guys after the game,
and we're not done. We're not done yet.
We have two games to go before Christmas.
We have a good thing going here."

This was a statement series for UND. If the college hockey world didn't know enough about the Green and White coming into this weekend, they certainly know them now. This wasn't a non-conference series against a pairwise-busting opponent. This destruction was against the No. 9 team in the country and bitter rival, Denver. DDC's only thorn this weekend is the fact that it's only December and as everyone knows, banners aren't hung for December sweeps, regardless how impressive. As unlikely as it may seem by the way this team is playing of late, there are going to be bumps in the road. However, when times to get tough, UND will be able to look back on this dominating series and know that they have the capability to dominate any team they face. What an impressive weekend. Consider this blogger blown away.

There's just one more series remaining for UND in 2015 as they travel to Duluth to take on the Bulldogs in another NCHC battle, this coming Friday and Saturday.