Penn State and Michigan are about to go to double overtime with the Nittany Lions out shooting the Wolverines 57-45… and this is just the first game of the weekend. The craziness of the conference playoffs has begun and so far have not disappointed, unless you count the 400 people who showed up for the game. Some people might call this karma for the money grab that was the Big 10 television network…err, i mean the Big 10 Conference. Just because you might make a lot of money in the areas unrelated to hockey does not mean you will create a great product. By the way, if you are a Fighting Sioux fan you want Penn State to win to help us out in the Pairwise.
A quick recap of last weekend’s series against Colorado College produced the following thoughts from me:
– Oddly enough UND’s most complete game was the 2nd game that was lost in overtime, the problem was coming out of the gates slow and letting CC gain a 2 goal lead for the 2nd straight night.
– The Ralph’s crowd seems to get worse every time I attend this year. I read an interesting comment on a website that UND has cracked down on inappropriate chants and monitoring any student that might show up drunk. I really hope they loosen the reins a little bit after this year and find a way to get the students back into it because the result has been unfortunate.
-CC mainly scored on tips, mental mistakes in our own end that led to turnovers, and one softie on Saturday. This makes me think that the issues are correctable and we will be able to jump on Miami if we correct them.
– Miami is coming in with a lot of confidence after sweeping St. Cloud, especially after the Huskies sent the 1st game to overtime with 0.1 seconds left and Miami still won the game in the extra frame.
As I type this Penn State has just won in double overtime, greatly helping North Dakota, jumping them 2 spots up to #11. You can read up on that on other teams to cheer for in the simple to use cheering guide that Dave Berger put together on siouxsports.com.
University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux vs. Miami University Redhawks (Target Center @ Minneapolis, MN)
Looking at the two schools’ last 2 games, and specifically their most recent in which North Dakota laid down a 9-2 drubbing of the Miami Redhawks in Grand Forks, one might think this game will be a cakewalk for the green and white. However, the Redhawks seemed to be a very different team last weekend, beating the St. Cloud State Huskies in two games to move on to the Frozen Faceoff.
Now this result has given many fans, pundits, & armchair coaches pause and even caused them to declare the Redhawks are going to knock off the #2 seed North Dakota. They will most assuredly point to Blake Coleman’s 8 goals in his last 8 games. However, I am not so sure that selectively looking at Miami’s result from last weekend shows the whole picture. In the last 8 games, Miami is 4-4, despite the ridiculous production from Coleman and their top offensive unit. This tells me that they are top-heavy and depend on that top unit to win games single-handedly. This is not the formula for winning in playoff hockey. I believe the approach for North Dakota should be to match Miami’s top line with their own, and anchored by the trustworthy Jordan Schmaltz and Dillon Simpson on the back-end. This will free up the other 3 North Dakota lines and especially the Pattyn-Rodwell-Gaarder unit to grind down the Redhawks and win the game.
Just because nothing seems to come easy for North Dakota this year, I would venture a guess that these games will follow suit. A strong start and a tenacious forecheck against the bottom 3 lines of Miami would be a good start. Also, the sea of green fans that will turn Target Center into ‘The Ralph of Minnesota'(apologies to Thief River Falls) will help tilt the ice so much the puck will practically drop into the net behind Miami’s goaltender, Ryan McKay. However of course, Miami does have some forwards that can shoot the puck so…
WMU vs. DU- In the game opposite North Dakota in the Frozen Faceoff is Western Michigan and Denver. It seems like Sam Brittain is really starting to pick it up lately and I don’t see the Broncos scoring more than 2 goals on him.
This of course will lead us to a rematch of the WCHA title games of 2011 & also 2012, in which the Sioux beat Denver 4-0, the night after the infamous 3 goal comeback against the Gophers to win 6-3. I think Brittain is the difference for Denver but I’m starting to believe Zane Gothberg is on that same level. UND wins in a squeaker…