Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Roses and Thorns: Moving on to Minneapolis

NCHC playoffs first-round results:

No. 1 UND sweeps No. 8 CC, 7-1, 5-1;
No. 2 SCSU sweeps No. 7 WMU, 4-3 (OT), 4-2;
No. 3 Denver sweeps No. 6 Omaha, 5-2, 4-3 (2 OT);
No. 4 UMD sweeps No. 5 Miami, 5-4, 3-1.
DDC noted in his "Who? What? Where?" preview of UND and Colorado College's National Collegiate Hockey Conference first-round playoff series that it's tough to end somebody's season.

The Green and White evidently didn't agree.

With a 7-1 drubbing on Friday followed by a 5-1 shellacking on Saturday, the UND men's hockey team put the Tigers out of their misery in front of a lively Ralph Engelstad Arena crowd and punched their ticket to the Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

For the 14th-straight season, the Green and White earned a berth in the conference postseason tournament with the last three in the NCHC.

North Dakota pounced on CC both nights with an aggressive pace and scoring punch that saw them pot six goals combined in the two first periods (two Friday, four Saturday).

It was a dominant weekend for UND as they turn their focus to the Frozen Faceoff that hasn't been very kind to the Green and White. North Dakota is just 1-3 in their two trips to the Target Center including two embarrassing losses last season.

Here's what stood out to DDC in this week's Roses and Thorns.


No. 1 -- Killer Instinct

Another cliche: Let a sleeping dog lie.

Well, Colorado College was just that having lost nine-straight games coming into the series and UND didn't give the Tigers a chance to wake up. The six goals combined in the two first periods buried CC before they even got a chance to get going. UND smelled blood from the drop of the puck on Friday night and never let the Tigers off the mat.

UND's Joel Janatuinen celebrates a goal on Saturday night. The Green and White
were dominant in every facet in the 7-1, 5-1 NCHC playoff sweep of CC, the team's
14th-straight first round playoff series win. (Photo credit: Jesse Trelstad, Grand Forks Herald)
One telling segment for DDC was the first period on Saturday. With Colorado College netminder Jacob Nehama laboring with an obvious injury, UND stepped on the Tiger's throat, dominating the play and peppering the CC net with 14 shots and four goals. North Dakota outshot CC 62-33 on the weekend. This killer instinct is huge for the Green and White. While there will be ebbs and flows in each game left, being able to put away a team when the momentum is clearly in their favor will be extremely important. CC was an inferior opponent this weekend and while games going forward will likely be much more tight, having this killer instinct to bury chances when their opposition is on the ropes could prove vital.

No. 2 -- Extra Man Eruption

UND Fr. D, Hayden Shaw
netted his first two career
goals against the Tigers.

UND has been an average power play team this season despite owning a Top 10 scoring offense. On Friday night, the Green and White exploded for four goals with the extra man. Luke Johnson netted a power play goal just four plus minutes into the game while Joel Janatuinen, Nick Schmaltz and Hayden Shaw added three more. Shaw's goal in the third period was the first in his career. UND looked comfortable with the extra man setting up their attack with precision passing and finishing their chances from all over the zone. The Green and White have shown the ability to dominate while 5-on-5 and with the rest of the season being one-and-done games, adding a significant power play could very well decide games. UND's penalty kill has been one of the best, if not the best, in the NCAA since the start of 2016 and pairing that with the type of power play they showed against CC will be a huge development.

No. 3 -- 'D' Does it's Job

UND allowed just 33 shots and Cam Johnson held the Tigers to two goals on the weekend as the Green and White flexed their muscles defensively. With captain and arguably the team's best stay-at-home defenseman Gage Ausmus out for the weekend due to injury, UND did not miss a beat. Hayden Shaw was great in this series, playing responsible defensively and adding his first two career goals. If Ausmus can't go this coming weekend at the Frozen Faceoff, UND knows it has a reliable substitution in either Shaw or Christian Wolanin. North Dakota sports the third-best goals allowed mark in the NCAA with a 1.86 average and as playoff games tighten up defensively, UND will lean on their blue line. The kind of effort they showed against CC will continue to be absolutely necessary.

No. 4 -- Depth Does it Again

UND Fr. F, Joel Janatuinen
had a three-point weekend,
with 2 goals and 1 assist.

The CBS line of Drake Caggiula (1 goal, 2 assists) , Brock Boeser (5a) and Nick Schmaltz (3g, 3a) were great this weekend tallying 14 points, but for the second weekend in a row, the depth of UND also stepped up with a huge series. The rest of the Green and White notched 22 points on the weekend, including two goals from Shaw, two assists from Paul LaDue and a three point weekend (2g, 1 a) by Janatuinen. As the CBS goes, so goes UND, but if the Green and White can see this kind of consistent depth scoring, they will be very tough to beat going forward.


No. 1 -- A Farewell to the Ralph

There's no more pure home-ice advantage for UND.

The Green and White turned out the lights on the Ralph Engelstad Arena for the 2015-16 season with another successful weekend and rounded out a tremendous home record. UND went 16-2-1 in front of the REA faithful this year and for the 14th-straight season, it ended in style with a first-round conference playoffs series win. For the four seniors, Caggiula, Coltyn Sanderson, Colten St. Clair and Bryn Chyzyk and any player potentially leaving for pro contracts, it was their last game at "The Palace on the Prairie." It's always tough to know that UND won't play again in Grand Forks until October, but hopefully, the next time the lights go on at the Ralph, an eighth green banner will join the 16th white one in the rafters.

So that's it. Check back later this week for DDC's preview of the NCHC tournament as UND travels down I-94 to Minneapolis for the Frozen Faceoff from the Target Center. Thanks again for reading.

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