Thursday, January 21, 2016

Friday Gameday: Battling Tigers and a Bug

DDC wrote in his last column that the UND men's hockey team hasn't faced much in terms of adversity so far this season.

While that was meant in terms of adversaries on the ice, the Green and White could have more than just the Colorado College Tigers to battle Friday and Saturday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

UND is also battling the injury bug.

With freshman Chris Wilkie already out of the lineup last Saturday night due to injury, the Green and White saw Hobey Baker candidate Drake Caggiula leave the game after finishing a check. Caggiula is doubtful this weekend, said UND head coach Brad Berry at the team's weekly presser. Bad, right?

Well, it gets worse.

Fellow Hobey Baker candidate and CBS linemate, sophomore Nick Schmaltz, sustained an injury during practice this week and could join Wilkie and Caggiula in the stands.

Wilkie aside, UND could be without two players who have racked up 57 points thus far this season and are tied for first in the NCAA in plus/minus. Really bad, right? Again, it gets worse as this doesn't appear to be the same Tigers squad that the Green and White swept back in October.

Besides UND and St. Cloud, can you name the NCHC team with the best record since December 1? You guessed it, Colorado College. During that eight-game span, the line of senior Hunter Fejes and juniors Luc Gerdes and Sam Rothstein have racked up a whopping 26 points, including a sweep against Miami and a win over the NCHC-leading Huskies.

How will it all shake out? DDC has his take in this week's "Who? What? How?" series preview.


Players to watch

Colorado College
Sr. F, Hunter Fejes

Colorado College

Sr. F, Hunter Fejes, 9 goals, 5 assists -- 14 points; Jr. F, Luc Gerdes, 4g, 9a -- 13 pts; Jr. F, Sam Rothstein, 5g, 7a -- 12 pts; So. D, Teemu Kivihalme, 3g, 9a -- 12 pts; Fr. F, Trey Bradley, 7g, 4a -- 11 pts; Fr. G, Jacob Nehama, 5-10-0, 3.37 goals against average, .905 save percentage.


Sr. F, Drake Caggiula, 15 (T-8 in NCAA), 15a -- 30 pts (9th in NCAA) Likely out this weekend due to shoulder injury; So. F, Nick Schmaltz, 3g, 24a (3rd in NCAA) -- 27 pts; Fr. F, Brock Boeser, 15g (2nd in NCAA in rookie goals, T-8 in NCAA), 10a -- 25 pts (3rd in NCAA in rookie scoring); Jr. D, Troy Stecher, 5g, 14a -- 19 pts; So. D, Tucker Poolman, 3g, 11a -- 14 pts; So. G, Cam Johnson, 10-1-1 (T-1st in NCAA in win percentage), 1.28 GAA (1st in NCAA), .949 SV PCT (1st in NCAA).


Standout Stats

The "CBS line" of Drake Caggiula (+28), Nick Schmaltz (+28) and Brock Boeser (+22) ranks T-1st, T-1st
and T-6th respectively in the NCAA in plus/minus rating.

UND So. G, Cam Johnson
In the past eight games, the Green and White leads the NCHC in both power play (28.1%) and penalty killing (96.9%).

Despite losing for the first time in his college career last Friday night, UND goalie Cam Johnson continues to lead the country in all three major statistical categories, .875 win percentage (T-1st), 1.28 goals againstaverage and .949 save percentage.

UND is allowing just 1.67 goals per game which is third in the NCAA.

Colorado College ranks near the bottom in the NCAA in both goals per game and goals against per game, ranking 55th out of 60 (2.05) and 52nd out of 60 (3.59) respectively. 


How'd they get here?

No. 2 UND (19-3-2, 10-1-1 -- 30 pts, 2nd in NCHC) split at home against Nebraska Omaha, 4-3 OT and 5-1 last weekend.

Colorado College (5-17-0, 3-9 -- 9 pts, 7th in NCHC) was idle last weekend, but earned a split at St. Cloud two weeks ago, falling 2-1 on Friday and winning 5-2 on Saturday.

The Green and White swept the Tigers 5-2, 2-0 on October 30-31 in Colorado Springs.

The Pick 

Lack of scoring depth has been a bit of a problem so far this season for UND. Outside of the CBS line, the rest of the forwards in Green and White have notched just 36 goals in 24 games. With the injuries mounting, UND will need scoring depth.

Brock Boeser could be the only remaining member of the top line and while the freshman is in the midst of a seven-game goal scoring streak, frankly put, he can't do it alone.

With the forward grouping potentially depleted, a heavy onus is set on UND's blue liners. This is where DDC thinks the weekend will be made.

With injuries mounting, UND will rely on a talented blue line group, lead by
junior Troy Stecher, who is fourth on the team in points with 19 (5g, 14a).
(Photo credit: The Gazette in Colorado Springs)

The Green and White D corps paces the third-best defense in the NCAA in terms of goals allowed at 1.67 per game and has notched 66 points this season. Couple that with Cam Johnson, who is leading the country in every major goaltending stat, UND has the ability to lock teams down.

Fejes, Gerdes and Rothstein will be of a major concern for the Green and White, but the defense will carry the load this weekend.

UND SWEEPS, 3-1, 4-3

There you have it. Come back later to see if DDC's call is right. Thanks for reading.

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