Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Gameday: DDC's Apology, A Quick Recap and Battling the Beavs

Sophomore forward Joel Janatuinen (25) celebrates his first goal in a hat trick performance on Saturday in UND's 5-2
win over RPI. Janatuinen has helped pace a Green and White attack that has lead to a 3-0 record. (Photo: GF Herald)
Did you all miss me? No? Well, DDC is sorry, anyway.

A busy schedule, including starting his MBA earlier this month, has led DDC away from his readers and for that, he is truly sorry! Time management, people!

Let's get right into it.

Since DDC last wrote, the defending national champion UND men's hockey team hasn't skipped a beat. Just in case those reading rely on DDC as their only way to follow college hockey (He knows better, but just in case), here's what's been happening with your Green and White.

Two Weeks In, Still on Top

DDC noted in his season preview that the three main storylines for the 2016-17 UND men's hockey team were defense, an emergence of a new, dominant top line and a battle between the pipes. Well, it seems that the script is going to plan for the Green and White.

Offense From Top to Bottom

UND So. F, Brock Boeser
leads the team in points
with seven (1g, 6a).
The CBS line of last season saw consistently dominant play. The only returner from that vaunted line, sophomore sensation Brock Boeser is starting his potential Hobey Baker campaign off on the right foot and freshman Tyson Jost is living up to expectations. Boeser tallied six points (1g, 5a) in an opening weekend 6-0, 4-1 sweep of Canisius, earning NCHC Player of the Week honors and added an assist in a 5-2 win over RPI last Saturday, leading the team with seven points on the year. Jost and Shane Gersich, who has filled out the top line in the first three games, are tied for third with four points a piece.

But, the top line isn't the end of the story. UND has seen scoring from all over the lineup through their 3-0 start, highlighted by sophomore Joel Janatuinen's hat trick against RPI last Saturday. The Espoo, Finland native is second on the team with five points (3g, 2a). Along with Janatuinen, the Green and White has gotten a big season start from another European product. Freshman forward and Norway native Ludvig Hoff scored his first-career goal last Saturday against Canisius and assisted on two of Janatuinen's goals against RPI to bring his point total to three (1g, 2a) through three games. In total, 16 players have tallied a point, so far and seven players are averaging at least a point per game. It's been a solid start for UND's depth to see scoring from all over the stat sheet.

The 'D' is Dominant

Through three games, UND's D corps hasn't allowed an opponent more than 17 shots, outshooting teams 118-42 and outscoring them 15-3. Cam Johnson has started where he left off his 2015-16 Mike Richter award finalist season, allowing just three goals (1.00 goals against average) and posting a 92.8 save percentage. With a couple of freshmen defenseman anchoring spots No. 5 and 6 in all three games, UND's defense is definitely doing its job. 

Bring On the Beavers

For the sake of length, DDC will forgo his usual "Who? What? How?" preview and will summarize who's to watch when UND takes on the Bemidji State Beavers this weekend from Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

After a relatively easy pair of weekends, the No. 1 Green and White will be tested against BSU. The Beavers are No. 18 in this week's poll on the heels of a 4-0 start after a pair of sweeps of WCHA opponents. The first came against preseason top pick Bowling Green 2-1, 4-1 on opening weekend and the second last weekend against Northern Michigan, winning 2-0 both nights.

Junior forward Myles Fitzgerald leads the Beavers with five points (1g, 4a) and sophomore forward Jay Dickman's team-leading two goals. Junior netminder and Moorhead native Michael Bitzer has dazzled through four games, starting in each, with a 0.50 goals against average and a 97.7 save percentage with two shutouts.

The Pick

The Beavers are coming into the weekend hot, just like the Green and White and they are looking to prove to the college hockey world that they are here to stay in 2016-17. This is always a tight series with two teams that know each other very well. After a couple of weekends where UND dominated, this series isn't going to come that easy.

DDC has been very impressed with UND's play through three games. This team has had a lot of contributions from top to bottom of their lineup and their defense has shutdown their opposition through three games.

While Bowling Green and Northern Michigan certainly are not weak opponents, BSU hasn't seen the depth of talent that UND will bring to the Ralph in this weekend's series. Plus, they are coming to UND's barn where they have lost just four times in their last 43 games at home (35-4-4).

The battle between the pipes will loom large in this one and while Bitzer has absolutely had a stellar start and has been a quality netminder in his career, Cam Johnson has proven his meddle on the big stage against top tier teams and DDC thinks this is where North Dakota has the advantage.


Thanks for coming back and cheers to another weekend of college hockey.