The Providence College Friars came into Grand Forks last weekend with a lot of hype after making it to the regional finals last year and being voted as the preseason Hockey East league champions. However, on Friday night, North Dakota made it look as though that didn’t mean a whole lot to them. As I predicted in my previous blog, the Sioux opened the scoring less than 10 minutes into the game. Luke Johnson scored a powerplay goal seven minutes into the game by taking the puck through the neutral zone, skirting some Providence defenders along the boards, and beating John Gillies from a bad angle off the far post. Once this goal was scored, the brick wall that is John Gillies began to crumble. In the second period North Dakota tallied two more goals. The first being a Michael Parks goal off a rebound into a wide open net and the second being a one-timer by Nick Schmaltz from behind the net to Paul Ladue. This was followed up by 3 more goals in the 3rd period to cap off an impressive 6-1 manhandling of the visiting Friars. Gillies was yanked in the midst of all that, as so many highly touted goaltenders have been while visiting The Ralph.
As expected, Saturday played a little tighter and closer checking with goals from Luke Johnson and Austin Poganski to give the Sioux a 2-1 lead heading into the 3rd period. It seemed like North Dakota might be able to hold on for the sweep however a weak shot along the ice got tipped by Nick Saracino of Providence College with 38 seconds left to tie the game up. Unfortunately, this made my prediction of a 2-2 tie on Saturday come to fruition.
A quote that struck me as odd from Providence’s coach Nate Leaman was after the game, he stated that he was “…disappointed they didn’t win”. As I’ve said before, I don’t claim to be a great hockey mind. However, being down a goal with under a minute to go in one of the most hostile buildings in college hockey doesn’t give me the impression that Mr. Nate Leaman had North Dakota right where he wanted them. If you’re 38 seconds away from being swept and happen to get a good tip to tie the game up, I’d probably take the tie and get on the plane feeling pretty fortunate. It seemed slightly conceited(or maybe just delusional) for Coach Leaman to come out and say this but I guess that’s the attitude they work with at Providence College. Best of luck with that.
Moving forward, I would be absolutely ecstatic to get paired against the Friars come NCAA tournament time, as I think they are unable to handle the relentless attacking we provide from our blue line. Zane also proved he’s the better of the goalies this weekend when Gillies had to be saved from his own goal crease after the sieve let in 4 goals on Friday night.
Air Force Academy Falcons @ University of North Dakota
This weekend Grand Forks residents are treated to a one game series on Saturday against the Cadets from the Air Force Academy. The last time these two teams played was the ice breaker tournament in 2011-2012 season which was also the 10 year anniversary of opening of the Ralph Engelstad Arena. That game saw North Dakota win a tightly contested 4-3 game on the backs of a pair of Brock Nelson 3rd period goals. Air Force always seems to be a team that never backs down from a challenge and has shown they are rarely an easy out when they make their way into the NCAA tournament. It seems as though the discipline and perseverance needed for their chosen career path also carries onto the ice in the Falcons’ play. The Falcons won their last game against the RIT Tigers 4-3. However this was preceded by 4 straight losses. Cole Gunner(what a sweet Air Force name) leads the Falcons in scoring with 2 goals and 5 assists on the year so he’ll be one guy to keep an eye on. Neither of the goalies for the Falcons surpass an .880 save percentage though and both give up in excess of 3 goals per game.
This makes me think that North Dakota should be able to win this game handily after what transpired against Providence College last weekend. However, this is one of those games where UND needs to impose their will early and score a couple of goals to not give the Falcons any hope in an upset. Getting pucks to the net and not relinquishing odd man break outs will be paramount in this one game series. That being said…
UND ROLLS 5-1
PREDICTION UPDATE: I went a sizzling 9-3 last week in predictions which improves my total record to 16-8.
Around the NCHC:
UNO @ Cornell: Nebraska Omaha surprised me coming out of the gates as I had predicted them finishing poorly in the NCHC in my preseason poll. They visit Ithaca, NY this weekend to kick off Cornell’s season. I think Omaha pounces on them early and doesn’t relent, simple as that. UNO SWEEP
SCSU vs. Minnesota(Home and Home): This should be a fun series to watch between the old WCHA I-94 rivals. Minnesota has not been beat this year yet but they haven’t faced a team as battle tested as the Huskies thus far. St. Cloud State hands Minnesota their first loss this weekend. SPLIT
Boston College @ Denver: Denver has the home ice this weekend, although that barely matters because their fans are as exciting as a wet paper towel. Boston College is coming off 3 straight wins and Denver is coming off a split in Duluth. I think this series has split written all over it with some good old home town reffing being cooked up just how the Pioneers like it. SPLIT
Miami @ UM- Duluth: Duluth coming off the aforementioned split with Denver and Miami splitting with St. Lawrence after grossly outshooting the opponent. Duluth plays terrible at home and Miami is playing well but just hasn’t had the results yet. Miami wins and ties
There is no episode of ‘Through These Doors’ this week which I think is just ridiculous. Let’s go Sioux!