Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Roses and Thorns: Bouncing Back for a Split

NCHC Standings:
1) SCSU, 10-3-1-1 -- 32 points; 2) UND, 10-2-0 -- 30 pts;
3) DU, 6-4-2 -- 20 pts; 4) UMD, 5-6-3-1 -- 19 pts:
5) UNO, 5-6-1 -- 16 pts; 6) WMU, 4-7-1-1 -- 14 pts;
7) Miami, 2-8-2-2 -- 10 pts; 8) CC, 3-9-0 -- 9 pts.
Simply put, the UND men's hockey team hasn't faced much adversity up to this point of the season.

Coming into this past weekend's series with Nebraska Omaha, the Green and White were 18-2-2 and were rolling with a 8-game unbeaten streak, having not lost a game at home in over two months.

That all changed on Friday night when Mavericks forward Austin Ortega potted his NCAA-best 7th game-winning goal in overtime, giving UNO a 4-3 win in front of a shocked Ralph Engelstad Arena crowd.

Faced with the possibility of being swept at home against a National Collegiate Hockey Conference rival, UND responded on Saturday night as it has done 18 out of the last 19 times following a loss since 2013, with a dominant 5-1 win and an important NCHC split.

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


No. 1 -- Coltyn Sanderson

After being a healthy scratch on Friday night, Sanderson potted his first-career goal in his 26th game with UND on Saturday night that turned out to be the game winner. DDC has been hard on the Saskatchewan native this season as the senior has fought to be in the lineup on a night-to-night basis, but credit Sanderson's hard work in his UND career for a special moment. It's a tough proposition for a senior to often find himself not in the lineup often, but Sanderson's character has never been in question for the Green and White. Truly a lunch pail type player, it was fun seeing No. 26 finally find the back of the net. Props to you, Coltyn. You deserve it.

UND swarms Coltyn Sanderson (center) after the senior notched his first-career
goal on Saturday night in a 5-1 win. (Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald)

No. 2 -- Special Teams

Despite giving up a power play goal for the first time in 30 chances down a man with UNO's only goal on Saturday night, UND's penalty kill was once again sterling this weekend against a potent offensive attack. The Green and White killed off 8-of-9 UNO power plays this weekend. UND also had a tremendous weekend when on the power play, notching two goals with the extra man in each game in the series, going 4-for-8 with the extra man. In the past eight games, the Green and White leads the NCHC in both power play (28.1%) and penalty killing (96.9%). This is a very important development for UND as both units has struggled at times during the season.

No. 3 -- Troy Stecher

With the high profile CBS line stealing most of the headlines for UND this season, junior defenseman Troy Stecher might very well be the Green and White's best overall player. The B.C. native tallied a goal and an assist in both games of the series to nab NCHC defenseman of the week honors for the second time this season. Stecher was an offensive spark plug all weekend, consistently involving himself in the scoring zone and generating several chances both nights. The defenseman's goal on Friday was special as he drove hard to the net and potted a highlight reel goal while sliding to the ice after being hit. On the defensive end, Stecher blocked three shots on Friday and on Saturday helped lock down UNO's top line of Ortega, Jake Guentzel and Jake Randolph, a trio who tallied 9 points the night before, to just 1 in the series finale. It was a dominant weekend for Stecher who extended his career-high point streak to four.

No. 4 -- Brock Boeser

UND Fr. F, Brock Boeser

While his vaunted CBS linemates had a relatively quiet weekend, Boeser continued to excel. The freshman forward racked up a four-point weekend with a goal and an assist each night, en route to NCHC rookie of the week honors for the third time this season. Boeser struggled a bit early on Friday as the CBS line slowly regained chemistry after not playing together for a month, but potted an important game-tying goal late. On Saturday, Boeser showed off his typical self, ripping home a laser wrist shot to give UND a 3-1 lead to bury the Mavericks. The Burnsville, Minn. native is now tied for the team lead with 15 goals and is second nationally among rookies. He has scored in seven-straight games. The freshman continues to be all the Green and White could have hoped for.


No. 1 -- Injuries

After a rocky start to the season on the injury front, UND had found a way to stay pretty healthy to this point in the season. In fact, the Green and White saw senior foward Colten St. Clair in the lineup for the first time this year, on Friday. However, the bug seems to have bitten again as freshman defenseman Christian Wolanin missed both games this weekend while freshman Chris Wilkie missed Saturday night's game. The biggest injury this weekend came to stalwart forward Drake Caggiula after finishing an open-ice check to UNO player led to an apparent shoulder injury. The extent of the injuries are unknown for all three, but Caggiula's clearly looms the largest. The senior has been dominant all season and UND will have a big spot to fill on the top line if he misses extended time.

Thanks for reading and stop back later this week and the Green and White prepares for a home series against the Colorado College Tigers.

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