Weekend Notes- ‘Plus Minus’

UND vs. WMU(UND sweep 3-1, 3-2 OT)

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Luke Johnson scoring on a rebound

–       Hard fought series, the Broncos threw their NCAA leading weight around and I’m sure the Sioux have some bumps and bruises to show for it. Thankfully, no one came away with any serious injuries that will keep them out of the games this week. I’d prefer not to play them in the 1st round of the playoffs purely for health reasons.

–       UND gained a 3 pt lead on the NCHC conference race. I did a few predictor scenarios and I believe with 2 splits the green and white could grab at least a share of the Penrose assuming all other teams split with each other and sweep CC and WMU.

–       It worries a little that UND has blown 2 goal leads in two straight Saturdays.  I hope this does not become a trend because we don’t want that in our heads when they take the ice in Fargo at the end of March.

–       Drake Caggiula continues to be masterful with his 2 backhand goals this weekend. Someone on twitter said Drake is college hockey’s equivelant of Pavel Datsyuk, I’d say that fits about perfectly.

–       For being name the Lawson Lunatics, the games in Kalamazoo had quite a few empty seats in them.  I wonder if the record of the team and their position in a tough NCHC conference has an effect on this because from what I saw the Broncos played a very entertaining style of hockey.

–       Zane got back to being his confident, relaxed self this weekend. He probably should have had a 1 goal weekend but some lapses at the end of each game bumped his GAA up lightly.

SCSU @ UND

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Photo Credit to Eric Classen of undsports.com

–       St. Cloud comes up to Grand Forks off a huge sweep of Nebraska Omaha.  The sweep vaulted them into NCAA tourney contention at #14 in the Pairwise Rankings, the Huskies will be playing for their tournament lives this weekend so expect some desperate play.

–       A lot of complaints about why St. Cloud State is in at just above .500 while teams like Harvard, Yale, and Vermont are out as of today with better overall records.  The pairwise is a mathematical formula people, it hasn’t changed this year so trying to see any bias in it is futile.  The NCHC has been flat out better than every other conference this year. This makes up for last year’s struggles where barely 3 teams made the tourney.

–       SCSU sports an average 2.87 GPG while UND sits at 3.42.  A big component of playing to those averages will be limiting Mr. Brodzinski for the Huskies. Friday night of the series earlier this season saw Johnny get a ton of chances and cash in, thus SCSU won.  Saturday, however, UND focused in on him and held him without a shot on goal and won the game. Are we sensing a theme?

–       Interesting stat that I came across is that only one UND player is in the – category of +/- and that is Steph Pattyn at -3. In comparison, St. Cloud has 10 players at a – including Brodzinski at a -6.  I believe this shows how well rounded UND’s scoring is. There is no 4th line that dumps pucks in and tries to wear down opponents, they’re trying to score on every shift.

–       North Dakota comes into the series slightly behind Mankato in Pairwise.  MSU goes up to Houghton to play Michigan Tech which would make me believe a split is coming.  If UND can somehow jump Mankato by the end of the season they could lock in the coveted 1st round matchup against the AHA tourney winner autobid which is almost always the weakest team in the tournament. To me, that’s goal #1 for this team.  The Penrose and NCHC playoffs take care of themselves if we accomplish the #1 Pairwise rankings.

–       Finally predictions, UND wins a couple very close games 4-2, 3-2. Some may call a sweep bold but I’ll be at the games in my newly stitched Naumenko jersey(favorite player growing up) so that should put us over the top both nights.

That’s all for today folks. Thanks for reading and Let’s Go Sioux!

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Weekend Predictions- ‘Let’s Get At It’

“Let’s get at it, let’s go play” said Dave Hakstol at his weekly press conference.  The Sioux hockey coach seemed to be tired of the same old questions that he hears hundreds of times a season.  I can’t say I blame him, because I’m getting sick of hearing them too, let’s go play and allow the game to do the talking.  A week off is good for a hockey team to get rest but it is bad for reporters that seem obligated to ask tired questions with tired answers to fill their quote quota.

Let’s go over one of these questions that will undoubtedly be asked to every player multiple times:

“What makes this series exciting?”  They say a pictures worth a thousand words so here’s a full feature for the reporters:

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By my count, that’s 4,000 words which should be enough for a multi-page feature, you can thank me later.

Entering this series, both teams are sitting inside the NCAA tournament field.  The University of North Dakota currently at #2 and Denver University at #9.  Both teams are scoring at a fairly decent clip with UND leading at 3.44 goals per game to Denver’s 3.00. UND currently has 12 players with at least 10 points while Denver has 9 players with at least 10 points. Because of the scoring depth that seemingly comes from every line, I’ll give the edge to UND in the offensive category.

On defense, the teams are identical with both allowing 2.15 goals per tilt.  Denver has had a rotation of goalies with Tanner Jaillet having 9 wins and Evan Cowley with 7.  Recently, Jaillet has taken the reins but the goalie rotation seems to depend on which way the wind(and pot smoke) is blowing in Colorado lately.  On the other side, Zane McIntyre has earned all 19 of the Sioux wins this year.  Because of the more steady presence on the back-end I have to give the defensive edge to UND as well.

Denver has the slight edge going 22.5% to North Dakota’s 20.9% and they’re PK is slightly better at 87% to 85%.  On the penalty kill, Denver has allowed 11 goals on 89 chances while UND has allowed 17 on 112 chances.  So while it may look like Denver is the better team on the face of the statistic, it does not tell the whole picture.  As has been widely reported, North Dakota leads the nation in short-handed goals with 9.  Meanwhile, Denver has only managed one goal while down a man.  So, UND has a -8 goal differential while killing penalties this year, while Denver is a -10.  I’d prefer UND’s -8 differential myself if I have to choose.  Because of this I’m going to call special teams a wash as the Pios have better power play numbers.

I could see this series coming down to the wire for both games, similar to the UNO series a couple of weekends ago.  However, this time the good guys will be on home ice where they are 11-3-2 on the year.  Denver has definitely struggled on the road going a measly 4-5-2.  That’s a pretty awful road record for a team looking to get some road wins.

UND 4-3, UND 3-1

 

 

 

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Weekend Reactions- ‘Blais Spike’

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The Century Link Center aka ‘The Clink’ was as full as it had ever been last weekend.  This was mainly due to the biggest stage UNO had every played on in their relatively short history as a program. UND came into the series ranked the #1 team in the USCHO poll and #2 in the Pairwise, UNO also held a top 5 spot in both polls which was a program first, especially this late in the season.  To top it all off, the game was on national TV with CBS broadcasting Friday’s game.  The pressure was all there for one team to show a crack in the armor or wilt under intense pressure but it seemed neither batted an eye.  I had predicted a UND sweep with two 1-goal games with one being decided in overtime.  Well, fact is stranger than fiction, because both teams doubled down and had two OT games with UNO taking Friday 3-2 and UND winning the thriller on Saturday 4-3.

Friday’s game began about as well as could be expected for UNO with Tyler Vessel making a nice toe drag move around a recently returned Troy Stecher and then flipping a backhand shot under goalie Zane McIntyre’s armpit. Omaha was able to extend the lead to 2 goals in the 2nd frame with an Avery Peterson goal 2:46 into the period.  Following this goal, North Dakota seemed to flip a switch that stayed on the rest of the series.  In this game at least, it seemed that UNO also flipped a switch to fall into prevent defense, with shot attempts being 34-9 in the 3rd period. It was only a matter of time before the dam broke on the Mavericks.  

It began with a Brendan O’Donnell shot that went wide of the goal and off the end boards 3:23 into the final period.  It came out to Luke Johnson who snuck it in the near side of the net before Ryan Massa(who may have overplayed the puck) could slide over.  The tying goal came in a similar fashion to the Air Force finale earlier this year.  A UND powerplay and extra man provided a 6 on 4 for the Sioux to create a goal mouth scramble. Similar to the game against the Falcons, a loose puck made its way to the side of the net where Drake Caggiula banged it home.  The difference from the Air Force game, however, was former UND coach Dean Blais ‘Gronk-spiking’ his unsuspecting water cup onto the bench.  Any Sioux fan who knows Blais from his time at UND got a good chuckle out of that, including yours truly. Blais knew his team had let a huge game slip away.  The OT had a couple good chances both ways and displayed some more fire from each team.

However, with 2 minutes left the referees gifted a 5 on 3 to UNO, something rarely seen in OT.  I tweeted something to the effect that they had just handed UNO the game.  Sure enough, with the 5 on 3 expiring a pass found Austin Ortega in front of the goalie for a re-direct past Zane.  The expected result after giving a team a 2 man advantage on the ass end of a furiously played 65 minutes of hockey.

The loss was disappointing, no doubt, but encouraging in the sense that it showed UND can dominate long periods of time against any team in the country.

Saturday night, UND did what any good team does after a difficult loss, they learned from it and became stronger.  A back and forth game on Saturday night started out with Mark McMillan, the guilty party on Saturday night for the 5 on 3, scoring a couple of goals. Coincidentally, each of the goals was answered by Jake Guentzel.  The 2nd goal being perhaps Zane’s softest of the year. Three minutes into the period with UND playing strong hockey Guentzel essentially passed the puck from the half boards to Zane, who didn’t get his stick down quick enough.  It was a tough shot to the gut for a team that had played so well defensively all game but the resolve they game back with is good foreshadowing for a deep playoff run.

Five minutes after the tying goal, the General batted a puck out of midair to take the lead back 3-2.  Like he’s done so many times Captain Pattyn scored a huge goal at a crucial time. It looked as though the green and white may be able to hold onto this lead but a Brian Cooper powerplay goal with under 4 minutes left knotted the game once again, another punch to the gut.  Then with 7 seconds remaining and an offensive zone faceoff, the Sioux allowed an offensive push that led to a breakaway for UNO.  Zane calmly gloved the breakaway shot and flung it onto the ice as if he was insulted by the attempt. As he has always done, Zane shrugged off a tough goal and came back even stronger.

Overtime was very much in favor or UND and came to a crescendo with Brendan O’Donnell taking a pass from Gaarder near the dot and sniping it over Massa’s shoulder before he could react. It was a fitting end to a hard-fought series. North Dakota outshot UNO 77-65 on the weekend but powerplays were a huge factor with UNO going 3 for 7 and UND 2 for 10.

This weekend’s series showed the boys in green can take a few punches to the mouth and come back swinging rather than cowering in a corner somewhere. This series will be great experience to draw on where they find themselves down in an NCAA tournament game, and if they are to make a run at national championship #8 for the program, they will most likely be placed in similar situations.

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Weekend Predictions- ‘The Fighting Sioux Way’

“We’re playing with a lot of confidence… and if we’re playing the way we want to be playing  it’s just part of the Fighting Sioux way that the rest will follow” That was senior forward Connor Gaarder speaking to what has made UND successful in their 6 game home stand to kick off the new year.  If the Sioux players are still willing to use the name and logo, they obviously want to keep it alive.  I believe as fans we have the responsibility to do the same, but I digress.  The home stand saw the Sioux go 5-1 following a sweep that included a 2-1 and 5-3 win against the NCHC’s last place Colorado College Tigers last weekend.

The middling Friday night performances looked to continue for the University of North Dakota when a wrist shot from the point was tipped in by Alex Roos at 4:01.  However, this would be the last time a puck left a Tiger stick and subsequently met the back of North Dakota’s net.  I would argue that it was probably the ugliest win of the year.  The difference being Zane McIntyre making crucial saves and 2 individual efforts that lead to UND goals. The first at 16:23 of the 2nd period when Michael Parks took the puck from the defensive to the offensive zone all alone, held the puck along the boards, then fed a pass to Mark McMillan in the slot who made no mistake.  The second individual play at 6:37 of the 3rd saw Michael Parks take a rushed CC pass on the power play, chip it past the Tiger defender Jacob Slavin, and deke out Tyler Marble so badly, Parks had the entire net to score on.

It was another game the Sioux found a way to pull out a win even when they didn’t have their best.  This is a great sign for the team, especially when they get into the postseason and one loss spells the end of their season.

Saturday night’s first period was a roller coaster seeing Luke Johnson and Stephane Pattyn score only to be answered promptly by a CC goal.  Then, similar to Friday, Michael Parks made a play to hold onto the puck and fed Mark McMillan in the slot for the goal.  8:41 into the 3rd period Bryn Chyzyk created a carbon copy of his goal a weekend earlier by sniping a wrist shot short sided over the goalie’s shoulder beneath the dots.  A late goal by CC with a pulled goalie made the game interesting.  However, a Caggiula walk in empty net goal allowed The Ralph to fire off the rest of the fireworks for the weekend.

UND @ UNO

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The UNO Mavericks have always been a thorn in North Dakota’s side, at least in the regular season.  A few bad losses, however, does not a heated rivalry make.  Sure, UND and UNO have had their dust ups and fun games but no significant postseason match ups. Despite all this, the Mavericks fan base has dubbed this week as “Hate Week” because UND is coming into town.  Maybe someday this rivalry will invoke a hate reaction to me, but at this point UNO is a good matchup who I enjoy playing.

The numbers seem to favor UND in this matchup, with the Sioux outpacing the Maverick’s scoring by a 1/2 goal per game and allowing a 1/2 goal less per game. North Dakota also seems to have the advantage on the power play with a 5% advantage in PP goals and a couple of percentage points more efficient at killing penalties.   It is worth stating that UNO’s strength of schedule is at #3 and North Dakota’s is #13, no doubt because of the weak performances of the out of conference opponents.

This makes for a very interesting matchup and will no doubt produce some up and down hockey with all the scoring anyone could hope for.  One can only hope that it is done by the team in green and white. I say special teams makes the difference here and I say UND will score at least one goal shorthanded.

UND 4-3 OT, UND 3-2

 

This week’s great episode of the Through These Doors:

 

 

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Weekend Predictions- ‘Niagara Falls’

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I stole my title from the Grand Forks Herald because I thought it was clever. I feel like I have an excuse every weekend for not posting a full recap but this week it’s because I’m sick. So without further ado, here goes nothing:

Niagara @ UND Notes         
–       Games went as expected with a couple of blowout wins by UND, 7-1 Friday & 5-0 Saturday
–       I commented in the 1st period of Friday night that it seemed like a 20 minute powerplay for the Sioux to start the game. The Purple Eagles hardly had a chance to touch the puck, much less score.

–       UND outshot Niagara 2 to 1 on the weekend

–       The Sioux converted on 25% of PP for the weekend going 1 of 4 each night, Niagara went 0 for 6 in the series

–       2 players I predicted would add more goals in the 2nd half, Bryn Chyzyk and Austin Poganski, each scored 2 goals on Friday night

–       I had to admit this but the games were somewhat boring as Niagara was essentially beat halfway through each one, but don’t think I’m complaining about it.

–       Zane McIntyre wasn’t tested a lot but did make a few nice doorstop saves off rebounds.  The one goal he let in was not a good one but wasn’t a big deal as the game was already 7-0.  The Niagara coach actually was upset his players celebrated the goal but you can’t blame them, it was the one thing they could celebrate all weekend.

–       Despite Niagara having the worst pairwise ranking in the nation, the 2 wins actually moved UND up 2 spots to #4 in the nation

#43 Colorado College Tigers @ #4 University of North Dakota

–       CC won it’s first conference game in 10 attempts last Friday against UNO and outshot the Mavericks heavily in Saturday’s loss

–       The Tigers only have 5 wins in 20 games while North Dakota only has 5 losses in 23 games

–       Colorado College is 1-11-1 away from World Arena while the Sioux are 9-3-2 at home this year

–       North Dakota is scoring 3.5 goals a game while CC is allowing 4.0 goals a game

–       The two CC goalies, Chase Perry and Tyler Marble, sport a 3.64 and 3.95 GAA respectively. Zane McIntyre currently sits at 1.87 GAA.

–       CC has played the 9th toughest schedule in the nation according to KRACH rankings and UND has played the 12th toughest

Sioux sweep 3-2, 5-1

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UND player breakdowns

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I put together this list of my thoughts on each UND player at the halfway point of the season:

#2 Stecher- Was arguable the best dman on both ends of the ice before his lower body injury. The team will be loaded on the back end once again when he’s healthy in a few weeks.

#3 Poolman- This kid can do it all. He’s big, he scores huge goals (See:LSSU Friday night game), and he’s the trainer’s son.

#4 Thompson- Has made some nice plays this year, most recently, the pass to Brendan O’Donnell against UMD to tie Saturday’s game at 1. Look for him to get some points in the goal column in the 2nd half.

#5 Mattson- Jekkyl and Hyde, he would most likely be in the lineup every night for every team besides this year’s UND team.  He’s shown flashes of his playmaking in the Denver game but has also had lapses on the D end to cost him playing time. I hope this senior shows what he can really do down the stretch.

#6 Ladue- Automatically one of my favorite Dmen because he’s a fellow Grand Forks native but this kid can play too.  He has 10 points on the year which is good enough for 2nd on the team for dmen.

#7 Murphy- Seems a bit snake-bitten, would like to see him finally bury one and watch the floodgates open.  Seemed more comfortable in the UMD series and Saturday may have been his best game in a UND sweater.

#8 Schmaltz- Buccigross would type something about sauce and being a mayor of some Dangleburbia but this kid has vision.  I could score goals with this kid on my line.

#9 Caggiula- Direction-changing, jock strap hanging, goalie maming bad ass… that is all

#10 Simonson- Again a GF native so got my local glasses on but love the grit, now let’s get a bar down instead of a bar out and we’re talking.

#11 Olson- A force anytime he steps on the ice.  He doesn’t back down to anyone and he can score goals in the dirty areas… in other words, a Sioux hockey player.

#13 Gaarder- Hero who punched our ticket to Philly last year, no quit in him and scores big goals. Once OT started against Ferris State he was the only player to score for our team the rest of the tourney.

#14 Poganski- Big forward who has a bright future at UND. Hard to believe he’s only scored once so far, more will come.

#15 Parks- Try and take the puck from him, I dare you. One of the best players with the puck along the wall and in the dirty areas. Oh and his wraparound is the best in the biz.

#16 MacMillan- Consistently beats defenders to the outside and scores big goals on highlight reel moves.

#17 St. Clair- Gritty, something our team has desperately missed on Friday nights lately. Colten can’t get healthy soon enough.

#20 Ausmus- Tough player to play against, won’t let anyone past him and will add some offense when needed.

#21 O’Donnell- Most recent Hat Trick Club inductee, also when he can get it off he has a wicked wrister

#22 Panzarella- Coaches consistently go to him to add grit to our lineup when we’re playing soft, can also play Forward without skipping a beat which is rare

#24 Schmaltz- Has great games and average games, I’d like to see more of the great every night because it’s obvious he has it in him.  Huge producer on the offensive side, just need to work on his own zone and he’ll be unstoppable.

#26 Sanderson- Ultimate team-player, hasn’t seen a ton of ice time but every time he does he’s gotten better. Exhibition game against U18 was his best yet. He also rocks the fish bowl, which is neat.

#27 Johnson- Another good GF kid. Sniper, give him time and space and he’ll beat the goalie from damn near anywhere. A little more work on him creating that time and space and less stick penalties and possibly a top line player next year.

#28 Pattyn- The General, sticks up for teammates, scores big goals and lays opponents out. When he feels like it will also take a trip to Danglesburbia (See: UNO Saturday night game)

#29 Chyzyk- Competes hard for every puck, has made it impossible not to put him on the ice. 3 goals thus far but wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish with 10.

#30 Hrynkiw- Undersized backup goalie, ask his goalie coach how that worked out for him.

#31 McIntyre- One of the top 5 goalies in UND history, probably top 3 but I’m going to wait until he wins a national championship or two so I can put him at #1

#33 Johnson- Struggled out of the gates but looked 100x better against U18 team. Now that his feet are wet he should be solid from here on out.

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Weekend Predictions- ‘Green Out’

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Been a busy week as I’m in the process of buying a house after moving back to Grand Forks, so I’m going to make my recap and prediction short and sweet.

UMD v. UND recap

–       I thought the refs were the story of Friday night, which is never good.  It started early with the no-goal call after a UND player was pushed into the goalie. It ended with a phantom hook on a Bulldog player that The Ralph showed on the jumbotron.

–       Also from Friday, Zane was the one guy that you can say played well. There was too much trouble getting out of our own zone with sloppy passes and drop passes that got broken up by UMD fore-checkers.

–       Despite it feeling like we’d never score, Connor Gaarder looked as though he would re-spark the team with a wrister coming down the left boards that went off the post and in.  The next 30 seconds felt like we would take the lead with some very good chances.

–       All momentum and crowd energy was killed once the Duluth defender dangled around our player on the PP and made a good pass for a one-time goal. 

–       Saturday night felt like we may be up for a rough weekend after UMD opened the scoring as so many teams have at The Ralph this year.  However, before and after this it was all North Dakota. Brendan O’Donnell scored the first of his trio of goals by wristing a puck through traffic to tie the game up in the 1st period.

–       Despite “OD” having the first hat trick at The Ralph since Connor Gaarder did it against BU a couple years back, Mark MacMillan provided the play of the game. Driving down the right wing, he deked the puck inside a trailing defender and lifted it under the armpit of UMD’s goalie.  I was on the opposite side of the rink but was astonished he got lift on that puck as he seemed to have no room to maneuver.

–       OD capped the scoring with a rocket one-timer to send the Sioux fans hats all over the ice.  I wanted to throw my newly acquired green beanie but I was in the last row of the 1st deck which would have required a ‘Henry Rowengartner’ sized arm.

UND v. Niagara predictions

– WEAR YOUR GREEN SIOUX ATTIRE TO BOTH GAMES THIS WEEKEND! The Ralph is having a “green out” which is really cool if enough fans participate. The white outs against the Gophers were always very fun to see. If you don’t have green Sioux attire, go buy the glow in the dark shirt The Ralph is selling especially for this series. If you don’t have money, paint yourself green and show up naked.

–       Niagara is very bad numbers-wise. 3 wins, 1-8-1 away from home & that sole win coming against Bentley, 1.95 GPG, 4.00 GAPG, 7% Powerplay and 74% Penalty Kill. The only thing they are better at UND is being old, average age of 22yr 6 mo while UND is at 21yr 8 mo.

–       If the NCAAs started today, Niagara would be the first team to never be considered because they’re #59 in the Pairwise rankings. There is 59 total NCAA hockey teams for those of you keeping score at home.

–       However, UND also gave up an early 4-1 lead to LSSU(#54 in PWR) and was 30 seconds away from losing to Air Force(#53 in PWR) only to score a SHG in OT to win with 10 seconds left. So no win is guaranteed.

–       Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Jim Dahl’s PWR outlook for this week yet but I’d venture a guess that losing or even tying one of these games would not bode well for UND. If I had to take an uneducated guess, I’d say it would drop us from #6 in pairwise to right around the bubble(#13-#16).

–       Let’s hope that’s not what the green and white have at the top of their minds once the puck drops. Play Niagara the same as you would Duluth last Saturday and all will be fine. Finish checks, get in their face, and create havoc in front of the net.

Sioux Sweep 5-2, 4-0

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