Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Gameday: A Tussle at the Top

For a series in late October, it really doesn't get any better than this.

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).

Minnesota Duluth

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.


Standout Stats


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.

Minnesota Duluth

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 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 Pick

UND has been dominant against Minnesota Duluth in AmsOil Arena since its opening in 2010, posting a 6-1 record
in the Bulldogs' home rink. The Green and White spoiled the opening in December 2010, rolling UMD 5-0. UND hasn't
allowed the Bulldogs a goal against in AmsOil in 166 minutes, 23 seconds, not scoring since 2014.
This series is an interesting one in many aspects. On one side of the ice, you have UND who is undefeated, but not having seen the quality of UMD and on the other, the Bulldogs have played top competition all season and are still No. 2 in the country.

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.


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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Roses and Thorns: Oh Baby (Boy)! What a Start!

It's been quite a week for DDC both personally and in sports fandom as it was found out Tuesday that baby DDC No. 2 brewing in Mrs. DDC's belly is boy No. 1. While baby DDC No. 1 surely has embraced her father's love for the Green and White (and the Yankees, G-Men and Rangers, too), a baby boy brings about memories of Grandpa DDC's grooming in sports love and brings a smile to his face.

Baby DDC No. 1's recruitment for the (roughly) 2033-34 UND women's hockey team has been rampant since her March 2013 birth and baby DDC's No. 2 window for the 2037-38 UND men's hockey team is now open. Brad Berry, Dane Jackson, Matt Shaw... feel free to drop a comment. The roadmap to your team's success is traced to this blog.

In tandem with the personal news, DDC has been enjoying the No. 1 UND men's hockey team's start at defending their national title. While the first two weekends brought little resistance in Canisius and RPI, Bemidji State, who came into last weekend's series at the Ralph Engelstad Arena also undefeated on the season, came to play. However, the skill of the Green and White won the weekend as UND swept the Beavers 3-2, 5-4.

On Friday night, BSU came out and struck quickly, scoring the first two goals of the game, staking a 2-0 lead early. However, UND sophomore sensation Brock Boeser then entered the equation. Boeser ripped off a natural hat trick in a span of less than 20 minutes in the second and third, the last on a penalty shot with just over seven minutes left in the game, to get UND a 3-2 win. On Saturday, Boeser did it again, netting two goals as the Green and White held on late to earn the sweep, 5-4.

Here's what stood out to DDC in his first Roses and Thorns series review of the 2016-17 season.


No. 1 -- Brock Boeser

The Burnsville, Minn., native entered the series with BSU with seven points, leading the team, but just one of those were goals. While this development certainly wasn't a bad thing, REA crowds came accustomed to seeing Boeser score goals. Maybe he needed to see the Beavers, again? On the heels of his first-career hat trick last season against BSU, Boeser did it again on Friday and netted two more on Saturday. Boeser earned his second NCHC Offensive Player of the Week honor in three weeks, with the effort. The Alternate Captain now has 12 points on the season and his 2.40 points per game average is second in the country. Boeser scored from all over the ice on the weekend and it was just further evidence that UND absolutely has a NHL-type player on its team. Here's a video recap of Boeser's Friday night hatty, topped off by his game-winning penalty shot goal.

No. 2 -- Comeback Kids

It's been an odd trend for UND to not score the first goal this season as they have only done so in their season opener, but that hasn't prevented wins. The Green and White trailed 2-0 against BSU, but absolutely rolled in the second half of the game and came back to win. Again, they trailed the Beavers on Saturday, just 2:53 into the game, in fact. But again, UND roared back, potting five straight before holding on for a 5-4 win. While getting behind early isn't a great thing, the ability to fight off adversity and finding ways to win certainly is. 

No. 3 -- Welcome Freshmen

UND Fr. F, Zach Yon
netted his first-career
goal on Saturday night.

Exactly half of UND's goals from its national championship team from last season came from players that are not on their 2016-17 roster. Through five games this season, the Green and White freshmen forwards are doing their part to replace some of those goals. Roseau's Zach Yon netted a goal, the first of his career, on Saturday night. With that goal, all five of UND's rookie forwards have found the back of the net. Tyson Jost (2 goals) looks to be the big-time player that his draft stock indicated coming into the year while Ludvig Hoff has cemented his spot in the lineup with three points (1 goal, 2 assists). Cole Smith and Dixon Bowen both have scored, as well. This is a huge development for the Green and White and it's certainly been a welcomed start for UND's freshie forwards.


No. 1 -- Defensive Lapses

As previously mentioned, UND lost a lot of production from its national title squad and it wasn't just offensively. Losing the likes of Paul LaDue and Troy Stecher on the blue line has forced some inexperience into the lineup for UND and it has shown, at times. While the Green and White are allowing just 17.8 shots on goal per game, by far the best in the NCAA, it has seen some questionable defensive lapses and blunders that have left netminder Cam Johnson out to dry and have Johnson below a 90% save percentage, thus far. The blame can be spread around as not even the veterans have been immune to hiccups so far, but UND needs to find a reliant pairing from its freshman D-men. Junior Tucker Poolman and senior Gage Ausmus logged upwards of 30 minutes of ice time each night (not an official stat in NCAA hockey) and keeping these two fresh is important. UND needs more help on the backend.

No. 2 -- Slow Starts

"Wait a second, DDC. Didn't you just say that UND's four comeback wins so far this season is a good thing?" Sure it is, but it's definitely not ideal. Having the ability to fight off a slow start and find a way to win will do nothing but help this team as the season progresses, but as the schedule turns to NCHC play and tougher non-conference opponents, playing from behind will be a much tougher task. As the defending national champion and a perennial NCAA power, UND gets its opponents' very best from the drop of the puck night in and night out. That being said, digging early holes cannot continue to be a trend for the Green and White.

Keeping it 100

This was post No. 100 in Daddy Dump and Chase history and at last check, DDC has reached over 40,000 (WOW!) views. It's been so fun to do and from a grateful author, a simple thank you for reading!

Speaking of tough opponents and a rougher schedule, tune back in later this week as DDC previews a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2. UND travels to Duluth to take on the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, the newly dubbed No. 2 team in the country, in a huge NCHC schedule opening series. Come back and read post No. 101, please!