“It’s obviously a great feeling to hang a banner. This program is built on excellence and winning…but our goal is to hang a green one, not a white one”. This line was uttered by Stephane “The General” Pattyn’s quote from the presser on Wednesday in referring to the importance of winning the Penrose Cup. For those of you not familiar with the color scheme at The Ralph, white banners represent league championships and the seven green ones symbolize the highly coveted national championships that act as a ‘high water mark’ in the program’s history. To me, that puts this week in perspective and really reminds you of what is the main focus of this team. That being said, UND would still enjoy collecting the inaugural NCHC league championship on the way to claiming that 8th green colored banner.
#9 University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux vs. #21 Western Michigan University Broncos(Grand Forks, ND @ The Ralph Engelstad Arena)
In the last 10 years, the University of North Dakota is 14-0-6 on senior weekend or the last home regular season series of the year. Let me put it another way, they have not lost a game in the last home weekend of a season since March 2nd of 2003! Just to drop a little more nostalgia on you, some names you might recognize on that team were Parise, Genoway(Colby not Chay), and Bochenski.
Well, Zach Parise will not be playing for the home team this weekend(unfortunately), but there will be a couple of other up-and-coming potential stars that would like to keep the aforementioned streak alive. In order to accomplish this, it will take a hard-nosed effort from everyone involved. As Dillon Simpson was quoted in the Wednesday press conference, the Sioux sweep in Kalamazoo at the end of last year was probably the toughest 2 games played all year. I don’t interpret that to mean the Broncos are the most talented or fastest teams in the nation…but I think you could argue they are the most taxing. Andy Murray’s team seems to hit you over and over again in the hopes of, by the end of the game, you don’t want to be hit anymore. This reminds me a lot of a team I used to watch…the Sioux.
I believe the keys to winning this weekend will be to match Western Michigan’s intensity and penetrate their defense carrying the puck into the zone. One thing that other teams could learn from UND’s loss on Saturday is that if you are able to keep the green and white to the outside and get good goaltending, they can be beaten. However, this is much easier said than done and I don’t believe the Broncos have the guys on the back-end to accomplish it. Another area where North Dakota got into trouble last weekend was going to the penalty box against the potent powerplay of the SCSU Huskies. Western Michigan does not bring that table and is a pathetic 12.35% with the extra man, good for 4th worst in the nation. The 3 teams below them, you ask? Colorado College, Niagra, and Alabama-Huntsville. So I don’t see WMU making the Sioux pay for penalties.
Sioux 4-1, Sioux 5-3
Other Picks in the Penrose Cup race:
#28 Omaha @ #17 Duluth: Both teams are coming off a sweep of the two worst teams(record-wise) in the league. It feels like Omaha is coming on strong and Duluth is not lights out in their own building by any means.
UNO 3-3(Shootout Win), UNO 5-3
#41 Miami @ #26 Denver: Denver coming off a split with WMU and Miami getting swept by UMD at home. Sam Brittain is the difference in this one as on the other end of the ice Miami is a mess on who their goalie is.
Denver 3-1, Denver 4-2
#3 St. Cloud State @ #48 Colorado College: The smart money would be on SCSU coming off a win against North Dakota and feeling right at home on the Olympic-sized sheet in Colorado Springs. But I’m going to say CC surprises SCSU in the first game, partly because of the elevation and because I don’t want to share a cup with the mutts.
CC 4-3, SCSU 5-2
If the results go as I predict the final NCHC standings would be:
#1 UND 48
#2 SCSU 45(by virtue of the 4th tiebreaker)
#3 UNO 45
#4 Denver 38
#5 UMD 35
#6 WMU 34
#7 CC 27
#8 Miami 17
I leave you with the wonderful production of ‘Through These Doors’ that gives you an in-depth look at the UND hockey team: