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.

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.