Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Roses and Thorns: No Need to Share

NCHC Playoffs First Round Matchups
Best-of-three series, at high seed:

No. 1 UND vs. No. 8 Colorado College;
No. 2 SCSU vs. No. 7 Western Mighigan;
No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 Nebraska Omaha;
No. 4 Minnesota Duluth vs. No. 5 Miami.
The UND men's hockey team clinched a share of the Penrose Cup with a sweep of Nebraska Omaha last weekend, but after the series, the team made it very clear that a share wasn't enough.

Needing just one point against Western Michigan to become National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions outright, the Green and White wasted no time at the Ralph this past weekend.

UND rolled the Broncos for the entire 60 minute affair, winning in 8-1 fashion on Friday to clinch the Penrose all alone, for the second straight season. The Green and White paraded the Cup around the Ralph in celebration.

With the trophy in hand, UND struggled a bit on Saturday to find the same scoring touch, but battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the first period to a 5-4 win and a sweep in their last regular season series of the season, their 11th sweep of the year.

The CBS line ripped the Broncos on the weekend, tallying 13 points in the series. Brock Boeser's six-point weekend (3 goals, 3 assists) led the freshman to the NCHC scoring title, the first for a rookie in UND history.

Here's what stood out to DDC in UND's sweep of WMU in his last regular season Roses and Thorns column of the season.


No. 1 -- Brock Boeser and The CBS

As the regular season closed, the CBS regained its form against Western Michigan. The line of Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser were incredible this weekend. Schmaltz's highlight reel goal that made it to No. 3 on SportsCenter's Top 10 was the lead, but the CBS didn't stop there. Boeser flashed his scoring touch here at :10 and at :55. Senior Caggiula also chipped in during his final regular season game for UND at 4:21 in this video, this time sniping the game-winner on Saturday to pace a dominant weekend for UND's top line. Boeser took the NCHC scoring title with a tremendous weekend, the first for a UND freshman. This line stirs the drink for the Green and White and with the playoffs kicking off this coming weekend, UND looks for more of the same as the skate for No. 8 starts.

No. 2 -- Sweet Send-Off for the Seniors

"That's tough," Chyzyk said after
UND's 5-4 win,  holding back tears.
"That's tough. Just thinking about
four years going through
your head. . . special place."

Senior night started off a bit rocky as WMU scored three goals on their first four shots of the game leading to starting goaltender Cam Johnson getting pulled in favor of Matt Hyrnkiw, stunning the REA crowd. Trailing 3-1 after the first period, Bryn Chyzyk entered the locker room and let the team know that it wasn't going to end like this. "Screw senior night," alternate captain Chyzyk told his teammates. "We need to win." In the second with Hyrnkiw in the net, Chyzyk responded accordingly, netting a short-handed goal to spark the comeback 5-4 win. Caggiula scored the game winner early in the third. It was a great weekend for the four as Sanderson chipped in two goals on Friday and St. Clair entered the lineup on Saturday after sitting out the night before. After the Saturday night win, the group watched their tribute video and emotions ran high. "Extremely emotional," Caggiula said of his final regular season home game. "It just exceeded everything I thought it could be. Even during the game, there were lots of ups and downs. Then, obviously, with it being senior night. . . it's pretty emotional seeing my mom cry before the game, so I've got to put a little on her. It's emotional but it's a special one." The group of seniors get one more go of it at the REA, in the first round of the NCHC playoffs this weekend against Colorado College.

No. 3 -- Offensive Explosion

UND netted 13 goals on the weekend, including eight on Friday in their highest output of the season. While the CBS line certainly did their part, the Green and White got plenty of secondary scoring against the Broncos. UND's fourth line scored four times on Friday, two each by Sanderson and freshman Chris Wilkie. Chyzyk, freshman Shane Gersich and juniors Paul LaDue and Troy Stecher rounded out the secondary scoring on Saturday. Eight goals from non-CBS players is a big deal for this team. Wilkie looked sharp on Friday and getting goals from the freshman who tied for the lead the USHL scoring title last year, is huge for UND going into the playoffs.

UND gathered with the Penrose Cup after a 8-1 win on Friday night that clinched the NCHC regular season title outright.
While the Penrose win is an important one for the Green and White, the team wants to accomplish much more. "There's other stuff out there for us," UND senior Coltyn Sanderson said after the win. "It's obviously a huge accomplishment, especially with the league we play in. At the same time, this program hasn't won a national championship in a long time. That's on our minds. I know it has been on mine for four years. It is now (on our minds) with the opportunity and skill within our room. That's the only thing we'll be satisfied with this year." (Photo Credit: Eric Hylden, Grand Forks Herald)


No. 1 -- Injuries

*Sigh*.... Oh the lovely injury bug makes another appearance in the Thorns section. After a dynamite, four-point night (1g, 3a) on Friday, freshman Nick Schmaltz did not play on Saturday despite skating in warm ups. Schmaltz, who was nicked up in the third on Friday, left the ice and was replaced by Joel Janatuinen, who UND head coach Brad Berry had to call from the dorms to hurry into the lineup. Also adding to the injury frustration, captain Gage Ausmus left in the third on Saturday after taking a slapshot to the foot. The junior defenseman rejoined the sqaud for senior send-off, but the injury is still a concerning one for UND. Schmaltz and Ausmus are two key cogs for the Green and White and their status will be something to watch as UND prepares for the NCHC playoffs.

What a weekend. It's time to strap in, folks. The playoffs are here. Come back later this week as DDC previews the first round of the NCHC playoffs.

Thanks for reading.

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