Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Gameday: North Dakota -- Back at Full Strength

For the past four games, the UND men's hockey team has played shorthanded.

Without two Hobey Baker Award candidates (Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz) and another regular forward (Chris Wilkie), many teams may have struggled. However, the Green and White did what they have done all year long -- found ways to get points and deliver, going 3-0-1 in that span.

And now, with all 23 skaters available for their crucial National Collegiate Hockey Conference series at Magness Arena against the No. 13 Denver Pioneers, No. 2 UND's four-game running penalty kill is back at full strength.

Caggiula and Schmaltz will rejoin freshman Brock Boeser, putting what could be college hockey's most dynamic group, the CBS line, back on the ice.

With the Green and White tied atop the NCHC standings with just eight games remaining in the regular season and playing a bitter rival, the timing could not be any better.

Here's what to watch for as UND and Denver battle, in this week's "Who? What? How?" series preview.


Players to watch


DU So. F, Danton Heinen
has 6 points (2g, 4a) during
a four-game point streak.

Fr. F, Dylan Gambrell, 7 goals, 19 assists -- 26 points (6th in NCAA in rookie scoring); Jr. F, Trevor Moore, 4g, 20a -- 24 pts; So. F, Danton Heinen, 10g, 10a -- 20 pts; Jr. D, Wil Butcher, 5g, 14a -- 19 pts; Sr. C, Quentin Shore, 8g, 6a -- 14 pts; So. G., Tanner Jaillet, 7-3-5, 2.52 goals against average, .916 save percentage.


Fr. F, Brock Boeser, 18g (2nd in NCAA in rookie goals, T-7 overall in NCAA), 13a -- 31 pts (T-3 in NCAA in rookie scoring); Sr. F, Drake Caggiula, 15g, 15a -- 30 pts, returns this weekend after missing the last four games due to injury; So. F, Nick Schmaltz, 3g, 24a -- 27 pts, returns this weekend after missing the last four games due to injury; Jr. D, Troy Stecher, 5g, 14a -- 19 pts; Sr. F, Bryn Chyzyk, 9g, 8a -- 17 pts; So. G, Cam Johnson, 13-1-1 (1st in NCAA in win percentage), 1.31 GAA (1st in NCAA), .948 SV PCT (1st in NCAA).


Standout Stats

UND So. G, Cam Johnson
leads the NCAA in all
major goalie statistics.
North Dakota can clinch home ice in the fiirst round of the NCHC playoffs with at least three points this weekend or if Omaha loses three points. The Green and White have hosted the first round for 13 straight years, the longest active streak in men's hockey.

UND goalie Cam Johnson has again taken over the statistical lead in all three major netminder categories, .900 win percentage, 1.31 goals against average and .948 save percentage.

Denver sophomore Danton Heinen, last year's NCHC rookie of the year is heating up. The forward has six points (2g, 4a) during a four-game point streak.

UND is allowing just 1.68 goals per game which is second in the NCAA.

North Dakota has the country's 7th best penalty kill at 86.4%. Over the past 12 games, UND leads the conference, with a sterling 95.8% mark, which includes 14 consecutive kills.

Holding the lead after two periods will be important this weekend as both the Pioneers and the Green and White have excelled in that aspect. Denver is 12-0-2 this year when leading after the second stanza and UND is 18-0-2. 


How'd they get here?

No. 2 UND (No.3 in PWR, 22-3-3, 13-2-1-1 -- 41 points, T-1st in NCHC) was off last weekend and swept Western Michigan in Kalamazoo two weekends ago. The Green and White have lost just once, a 4-3 OT decision at home against UNO, since November 21st (10-1-1).

No. 13 Denver (No. 12 in PWR, 13-8-5, 9-5-2-- 29 pts, 3rd in NCHC) was idle last weekend and split at Miami in their last action. The Pioneers are 6-1-1 in their last 8 games.

UND dominated Denver in a 5-1, 4-0 sweep in Grand Forks back in early December. The Green and White outshot the Pioneers 59-41 in the series.

The Pick

As previously noted, the Green and White rolled the Pios in Grand Forks earlier this season leading Denver head coach Jim Montgomery to say that UND was the best team he'd seen all season.

However, since that series in December and a couple more hiccups, Denver has seemingly righted the ship, going 6-1-1 in their last 8 games and no doubt, the Pioneers haven't forgot that drubbing at the hands of the Green and White.

UND and their vaunted CBS line of Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz
look to regain their impressive form this weekend against Denver. Caggiula
and Schmaltz have missed the last four games due to injury. (Photo Credit: UND Sports)

Freshman Dylan Gambrell has been impressive this year and grouped with Trevor Moore and Danton Heinen, the trio paces a strong forward corps that will test UND's No. 2 ranked defense this weekend.

While Denver is playing well, the return of the Green and White's CBS line will make the difference this weekend. Despite not playing with his dynamic linemates for the last four games, Brock Boeser has continued a torrid season and DDC expects a healthy Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz to bring UND back to its dominant form.

With a fully-healthy team in front of the NCAA's best statistical goalie, Cam Johnson, DDC believes the Green and White will come out with a renewed jump and take down the Pios this weekend.


There you have it. Come back early next week to see if UND regained its top form. Thanks for reading.