|DDC turns 30 on Saturday and is |
feeling spry with no supplements needed.
Much like DDC's 29 years on this wonderful earth, it's been an up-and-down first half for the defending national champions. (Pretty much kidding with DDC's up-and-down life 😀)
The UND men's hockey team started their title defense 5-0 then went on a six-game winless streak, the Green and White's longest since the 2002-03 season. UND followed that up with an impressive sweep in St. Cloud for the first time since 1998 and then slipped again the next weekend as North Dakota lost and tied Michigan State, who entered that weekend near the bottom of the PairWise rankings. Last weekend, the upswing came back as UND topped rival Boston College 4-3 in the College Hockey Showdown game from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
So, in short, DDC really has no idea what the heck is going to happen as the No. 18 Western Michigan Broncos travel to Grand Forks to take on the No. 8 Green and White.
This is DDC's last "He's in his 20s, he wears it well and still doesn't need any Little Blue Pill or Geritol" series preview. Here's what to watch for as DDC brings back his "Who? What? How?" look of this last National Collegiate Hockey Conference tussle of 2016.
Players to Watch
|WMU So. Matheson Iacopelli|
leads the NCHC with 13 goals.
So. F, Matheson Iacopelli, 13 goals, 4 assists -- 17 points; Sr. D, Taylor Fleming, 0g, 13a -- 13 pts; So. F, Griffen Molino, 4g, 7a -- 11 pts; Fr. F, Wade Allison, 7g, 3a -- 10 pts; Sr. F, Sheldon Dries, 4g, 6a -- 10 pts; So. G, Trevor Grouch, 4-3-2, 3.07 goals against average, .894 save percentage.
So. F, Shane Gersich, 11g, 11a -- 22 pts; Fr. F, Tyson Jost, 7g, 10a -- 17 pts; So. F, Brock Boeser, 7g, 9a -- 16 pts (likely out this weekend); Jr. D, Tucker Poolman, 4g, 10a -- 14 pts; Jr. F, Austin Poganski, 3g, 7a -- 10 pts; Jr. G, Cam Johnson, 8-5-3, 2.24 GAA, .907 SV PCT.
The Broncos are 9th in the NCAA in goals per game with a 3.64 average and are 11th in power play at 22.1%.
Sophomore Matheson Iacopelli leads the NCHC with 13 goals for the year after scoring just once in his freshman season in 27 games played.
WMU has just one win in their last five games (1-2-2).
UND is 11th in the country in goals against, allowing just 2.31 goals per game and are 26th in goals scored with a 3.06 per game average.
UND is 15-1-0 all time against WMU, with their lone loss coming in 2013-14, costing UND a Penrose Cup title in the NCHC's first season. The Green and White won all four games between the two teams last season. Netminder Cam Johnson won all four of those games with a sterling 1.56 goals against average and .948 save percentage.
Sophomore forward Shane Gersich is tied with Omaha's Austin Ortega for the NCHC scoring lead with 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists).
Freshman forward has six points in his last five games (4 goals, 2 assists) including a pair of goals in two separate games (last week against Boston College and Nov. 25 at home against Michigan State).
How’d they get here?
No. 18 WMU (PWR: 11, 7-4-3; 3-4-1 – 11 points, 3rd in NCHC) fell 3-0 at home against St. Cloud State and tied 5-5, but won in a shootout to gain the extra conference point .
No. 8 UND (PWR: 7, 8-5-3; 2-3-1 – 8 points, 6th in NCHC) topped No. 3 Boston College 4-3 in the College Hockey Showdown game from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
|UND Fr. F, Tyson Jost celebrates one of his two goals in the Green and|
White's 4-3 win over Boston College last Saturday from Madison Square
Garden in New York City. (Photo credit: Russell Hons/UND Athletics)
This is a different looking Western Michigan squad from their recent incarnations as they can score goals (9th in the NCAA in scoring) and have beaten three ranked teams, including Denver.
On the other side of the ice, like DDC previously mentioned, UND has been wholly an up-and-down team. They've looked dominant at times and completely lost and uninspired at others.
The Green and White took to a big stage last weekend in NYC and outplayed the No. 3 BC Eagles, particularly when 5-on-5, and got scoring from their top-end players as well as third and fourth liners. This development will be huge for UND, going forward.
With Brock Boeser likely out for another weekend as he nurses an arm injury, Tyson Jost and Shane Gersich will need to continue to lead the way in the scoring department. Where UND gets tough to beat is when players like Trevor Olson, who scored his first goal in 57 games, the game winner against BC, find the back of the net.
Again, this isn't the plodding and overly physical WMU team that UND has seen in recent years and the Green and White will need to slow a Broncos squad that is scoring plenty of goals, this season.
UND must stay out of the penalty box as they have played very well when 5-on-5 this season but are a lowly 79.7% on the penalty kill and WMU is clicking with a 11th-best in the NCAA power play (22.1%). If the Green and White can stay out of the box and give open viewing lanes to Cam Johnson in net, UND has shown the ability to score enough goals and deny chances and win games.
UND GIVES DDC A "20-SOMETHING" FRIDAY WIN AND "DIRTY 30" VICTORY FOR A BIRTHDAY SWEEP, 4-2, 4-3.
There you have it. Thanks for reading and for all birthday gifts, feel free to comment and DDC will send you his address. Cheers!