It's a showdown of the No. 1 UND men's hockey team and the No. 2 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs from AmsOil Arena in Duluth, the first regular-season tussle between the nation's top two teams since 2008.
The Green and White come in undefeated, but a bit untested as they've beaten three teams, Canisius, RPI and Bemdiji State, with a combined seven wins. On the other side of that spectrum, the Bulldogs have proven their mettle against some of the NCAA's best, Michigan Tech, UMass-Lowell and Notre Dame, going 3-1-2.
It's the first National Collegiate Hockey Conference series for both teams and the points on the line aren't just for the polls as both are looking to start off on the right NCHC foot.
It's going to be a fun weekend against teams who know each other very well and here's what to watch for in DDC's "Who? What? How?" series preview.
Players to Watch
|UMD So. D, Neal Pionk|
leads all NCHC defensemen
with seven points (3g, 4a).
So. F, Adam Johnson, 4 goals, 3 assists -- 7 points; So. D, Neal Pionk, 3g, 4a -- 7 pts; Fr. F, Joey Anderson, 0g, 6a -- 6 pts; Sr. F, Kyle Osterberg, 3g, 2a -- 5 pts; Sr. F, Alex Iafallo, 2g, 2a -- 4 pts; So. G, Nick Deary, 1-0-2, 1.54 goals against average (6th in NCAA), .934 save percentage (T-10th in NCAA); Fr. G, Hunter Miska, 2-0-0, 2.73 GAA, .877 SV PCT.
So. F, Brock Boeser, 6g (T-2nd in NCAA), 6a -- 12 pts (2nd in NCAA); So. F, Shane Gersich, 3g, 5a -- 8 pts; Fr. F, Tyson Jost -- 2g, 5a -- 7 pts; Jr. D, Tucker Poolman, 1g, 5a -- 6 pts; So. F, Joel Janatuinen, 3g, 2a -- 5 pts; Jr. F, Austin Poganski, 2g, 2a -- 4 pts; Jr. G, Cam Johnson, 5-0-0, 1.81 GAA, .899 SV PCT.
The Green and White are allowing just 17.8 shots on goal per game, the best in NCAA by over three shots per game and are third in the country in shots on goal with 37.4 per game.
North Dakota is 6-1 all time at AmsOil Arena outscoring UMD 27-8 in those seven games including a pair of 3-0 shutouts last season. In fact, the Bulldogs haven't scored a goal against UND in 166 minutes and 23 seconds in AmsOil, the last coming in 2014.
With Zach Yon's goal in last Saturday's 5-4 win against Bemidji State, all five UND freshman forwards have scored a goal.
The Bulldogs haven't won a series against UND since 2008 and haven't swept the Green and White -- home or away -- since 1995.
Sophomore defenseman Neal Pionk's seven points (3g, 4a) leads all NCHC defenseman and Freshman goaltender Nick Deary is 6th in the NCAA with a 1.54 goals against average and 10th in the NCAA with a .934 save percentage.
This weekend's series will be UMD's fourth consecutive playing a team ranked in the USCHO.com poll at the time they played their opponent. So far this season, the Bulldogs have played No. 17 Michigan Tech, No. 8 UMass-Lowell and No. 5 Notre Dame.
How'd they get here?
No. 1 UND (5-0-0) swept Bemidji State in Grand Forks, 3-2, 5-4, coming from behind from early deficits in each game. Going back to last Thanksgiving, the Green and White have lost just four times in their last 35 games (29-4-2).
No. 2 Minnesota Duluth (3-1-2) lost an exhibition affair against the USA U-18 team 2-1, while playing all three goaltenders one period and outshooting Team USA 33-18. UMD split a home series against Notre Dame on October 14-15 winning 4-3 on Friday and falling 3-1 on Saturday.
The Green and White have had UMD's number of late in the regular season, including two sweeps last year, but Duluth knocked off UND in the Frozen Faceoff.
UND's Brock Boeser went absolutely nutty last weekend against BSU, netting his second-career hat trick on Friday and adding two more goals on Saturday and is kicking off his Hobey Baker campaign in style. The Green and White's top line of Boeser, sophomore Shane Gersich and freshman Tyson Jost have lit up the score sheet so far and are looking to cement themselves as one of the nation's top lines against a freshman goaltender in Nick Deary who came in highly touted and has brought that talent to the NCAA ice.
Will the Green and White continue its dominant play in AmsOil Arena? The Bulldogs are definitely aware of what UND has done to them in Duluth and overall in recent years and they will come out firing. UMD presents UND its first huge challenge of the year and despite going 5-0, the Green and White have had some big-time defensive lapses that have led to goals against. With a lineup chocked full of veteran scoring, the Green and White will need to tighten up defensively.
Another stat that could loom large is that UND has given up the first goal in 4-of-5 games this year. While they've come back to win in all four, falling behind against a UMD team that is getting solid netminding and features a defense with top D-men Neal Pionk and Willie Raskob, the Green and White need quick starts to get wins in Duluth.
With all of that said, DDC likes UND's depth so far as they have gotten scoring from all over the lineup. If they can get a couple goals from their bottom two lines, the top line of Boeser, Gersich and Jost could make up the difference. Until DDC sees UND falter, he's not going to pick against them.
UND SWEEPS AND CONTINUES TO MAKE AMSOIL ARENA ITS "REA EAST", 4-3, 3-1.
Thanks for reading and head back early next week to see who prevailed in the matchup of No. 1 versus No. 2. It should be a heckuva weekend.