On Friday night the visiting team in St. Cloud seemed to be right at home and poised to claim at least a share of the NCHC League Championship and Penrose Cup. By all accounts, the green and white were playing like one of the best teams in the nation after they scored 5 straight goals then threw it in cruise control for the 3rd period to finish out the decisive win. However, on Saturday a combination of more sound defensive play by St. Cloud allowed them to squeak out a one goal win(save the empty-netter) to salvage a series split for the home-standing and now 4th ranked Huskies.
Friday night started out like 9 other games have for this year’s UND team, with the opponent scoring the first goal of the game. This did not worry me, and did not seem to worry the team, as they are now 8-2 when the opponent scores first. St. Cloud’s powerplay won a key faceoff about halfway into the first period and caught North Dakota’s defense with a poor rotation leaving Joey Benik all alone in front of the net. Joey “Ballgame” Benik, as referred to as by the CBS color commentator Ben Holden, made no mistake in pulling Gothberg over slightly allowing him to slide the puck five-hole for the opening goal. The first period then came to an end with chances on both ends but no indication whatsoever of the storm that was looming.
It started 5 minutes into the period with Paul Ladue making a beautiful blue line-to-blue line pass for Brendan O’Donnell who carried it into the zone and slid it to a streaking Connor Gaarder who made no mistake going ‘bar-down’ over Faragher’s outstretched glove. It was a statement goal that was an omen for the rest of what was to come. It’s funny because I was just commenting prior to the game that I had not heard a whole lot of Gaarder’s name lately…I need to start saying this more often. The next two goals were 50 seconds apart and damn near carbon copies of each other.
The first saw Grimaldi throw a shot at the goalie’s far pad that was kicked into the slot for an easy tally for Freshman Luke Johnson.
Fifty seconds later Jordan Schmaltz does what he does so well, walking around a defender, again throwing a shot to Ryan Faragher’s far pad, where it predictably assisted on a goal by Mark McMillan…and the route was on.
The fourth had Nick Mattson making a nice play to slide around a defender circle the net and find an inexplicably open Connor Gaarder where he buried his 2nd goal of the game, surrounded by 4 of his favorite Husky
To cap the scoring bonanza, Mark McMillan carried the puck down his off-wing and slid the puck into the crease area. Once the puck was in Caggiula’s reach he made sure to out-muscle his lowly SCSU defender to eventually bury the goal and lead to one of the coolest hockey pictures…
Saturday night was much more low-key while St. Cloud seemed better at keeping North Dakota to the outside and held North Dakota to their worst scoring night in the previous 7 games. That being said, Zane Gothberg played extremely solid all weekend and is really rounding into postseason form at the perfect time for his team.
So to recap, North Dakota has began to show they can score in bunches and Zane Gothberg is looking more and more confident every period. I was obviously a tinge disappointed in the split after Friday night. However that feeling quickly dissipated when I realized this team is peaking at a great time and looks more prepared to make a deep postseason then any other point in the season thus far.
Alaska Sweeps Ferris State
If it’s possible, my upset pick went TOO well up in Fairbanks. I had pointed out that I thought the Ferris State Bulldogs were precariously high in the standings, as shown by a couple of questionable losses, coupled with making the trip to AK could spell trouble. This led me to predict the home team, the Nanooks, would win one of the two games. However, they didn’t seem to think that was enough and ended up sweeping the previously fourth ranked Bulldogs by scores of 4-1 and 5-3. The 2 wins were bolstered by a two goal weekend by Garrick Perry. While the 25th ranked Nanooks will still need to win the WCHA Final Five conference tournament title to make the winter disco(‘the dance’ + hockey= get it?), they are gaining major confidence with these most recent wins.
The 2-2 weekend brings my total predictions record to a respectable(at least in my opinion) 15-11.
Other weekend notes:
– Notre Dame showed it is possible to beat Boston College by winning a 2-1 overtime game on Saturday. The shots were 21-20 Notre Dame and this may be the key to taking down the potent Eagles. Play a close to the vest game and score when the opportunity arises. I know what you’re thinking ‘easier said than done’, I know.
– UND moved up 1 spot to #9 in the Pairwise Rankings, which according to Jim Dahl’s pairwise predictions was the 2nd most likely result with a split last weekend.
– The last weekend sets up dramatically for the Penrose Cup. UND just needs more points in the final weekend than SCSU to win the cup outright barring an unlikely scenario where Omaha would win or share the cup with poor performances by UND and SCSU. If UND and SCSU both get the same amount of points out of the weekend, the cup is shared and UND would win the tiebreaker for seeding purpose. If UND is the 1 seed, Miami comes to Grand Forks and if SCSU is the 1 seed, CC will come to the Ralph. I’d prefer to see CC but I’d obviously rather get the cup and take my chances with Miami.