There’s nothing like the feeling of being “home”. It means that you belong somewhere that provides you a sense of security and seems to be all your own. It’s not defined by what address you live at or where you happen to currently be. When people ask where I’m from, without question I answer Grand Forks(followed by puzzled looks and questions on Mount Rushmore). No matter if I lived in Colorado for four years or in Minneapolis the past three years, every time I return to Grand Forks, ND it feels as though I’ve returned to my “happy place.” It’s not a feeling easily summed up for me in words, but one that I’ve decided can no longer be pushed aside. So with much enthusiasm, I will be returning to my hometown of Grand Forks, ND on November 14th of this year(just in time for the Miami series!). What this means for you readers(thousands upon thousands I’m sure), is that I will be covering the team from a more first-person perspective and hopefully providing a more accurate gauge of the Sioux hockey team, the fans, and the community that I can’t provide living in Minneapolis watching Dan Hammer and ‘Kober’ via webcast. Also, I won’t have to keep stealing pictures from the Grand Forks Herald for my posts.
Similarly, the UND hockey team is coming home this weekend to play their first full series at their happy place… or at least it should be. We all know how the first home game of the year went. That was the definition of being TOO comfortable at home. Perhaps North Dakota should rent hotels at the Ramada Inn and bus to the game so they can mirror the results shown in last weekend’s series against Colorado College. A 3-1 win on Friday night was led by two Mark McMillan goals in the first period as well as a goal by Brendan O’Donnell. That’s all the visiting team would need as the Tigers could only muster 1 goal on goaltender Zane McIntyre. I was expecting more fight from the Tigers on Saturday but instead it appeared they changed their names to the kitty cats and played just as soft. This is where UND showed they are very much who they were last year. A team that can work the puck around the zone and score in bunches from the blue line. A couple of goals by Paul Ladue and hat trick by Mark McMillan provided all the firepower needed to overpower Colorado College by a final score of 7-2.
The task in front of UND this weekend is playing the #5 nationally ranked Providence College Friars. A fan that doesn’t venture outside the NCHC bubble may think this is a fluke ranking but this is a team that needs to be taken seriously. Their foundation starts with one of the best goalies in the nation in John Gillies. He had a rough start to the season letting in 5 goals on 25 shots to the Ohio State Buckeyes but recovered nicely the following night for a 26 save outing with only 1 goal against. Last season Providence road Gillies to the regional final where they lost to the Union Dutchmen in their bid for a Frozen Four… and we all know how their season ended.
I believe that North Dakota needs to stay out of the box and eliminate a lot of the stick penalties that they’ve taken the first 2 series in order to take some of the pressure off Zane. Also, an early goal wouldn’t hurt either so the crowd doesn’t start to get anxious and wonder why this hockey team won’t score goals at home. I believe UND gets that early goal within the first 10 minutes tonight and rides it to a win and a tightly contested tie on Saturday.
UND 3-2, TIE 2-2
I went 6-4 with my predictions last week so my overall predictions sit at 7-5.
Around the NCHC
St. Cloud State @ Union: St. Cloud State should have a strong team this year and I believe by the end of the year they will be a better team than Union. However, Union has surprised people with their start despite losing quality players to graduation and early signings. This leads me to think Union will grab a win Friday with the Huskies rebounding Saturday. SPLIT
Alaska @ Western Michigan: WMU is coming off being swept at home and now face an Alaska Fairbanks team that has not lost yet this year… but they also haven’t left Alaska. I think the Broncos win a game on their home ice and let up on Saturday. SPLIT
Colorado College @ Boston College, New Hampshire: Colorado College is not playing with much confidence and going into a tough place to play after getting swept at home. However I think they can sneak a win out of UNH. Lose @ BC, Win @ UNH
St Lawrence @ Miami: After scoring 16 goals in their first 4 games, including 10 against Niagra, St. Lawrence looks to have no trouble putting the puck in the net. However, Miami has the firepower to stay with them. This one is a gut feeling, Miami Sweep.
Denver @ UMD: Both of these teams have shown flashes in their opening games of the years. I think Minnesota Duluth will give Denver’s new goalie all he can handle though in the only week’s NCHC matchup. UMD Sweep.
Again, I’ll leave you with this week’s episode of Through These Doors: