It wasn’t the prettiest weekend by the North Dakota men’s hockey team, but coming away with a split in St. Cloud is nothing to be ashamed of. Friday night’s game started with UND playing dominant hockey for a good part of the 1st period however a bad bounce off of a stick saw the Huskies go up 1-0 5 minutes into the 2nd period. Drake Caggiula, who is one of the top point scorers in the nation, tied it up by snagging a puck out of midair and scoring as he subsequently one-timed it from his hand to stick. Unfortunately, the scoring for UND stopped there and the Johnny Brodzinski line continued to wreak havoc on UND’s defense connecting for 2 more goals to complete a 3-1 SCSU win. Last week, I highlighted Brodzinski as a player to watch and obviously the Sioux did not mind him closely enough as he was given too much time and space all night that lead to the final 2 goals.
It seems as though the Brodzinski problem was addressed between games as Saturday he became nearly invisible while only getting 2 shots off as opposed to the dozen plus he had the previous night. This allowed UND to get out to an early lead with Trevor Olson’s 1st collegiate goal and allowed the visiting North Dakota fans to get into the game early. Olson’s line with Simonson and Poganski may have been the most consistent of the night, which is promising for a line of 3 freshmen playing together in their first semester.
It never gets old listening to fans of the green and white take over as they so often do in opposing rinks. If you didn’t have visual, commentary, or a goal horn it would be tough to differentiate who scored each goal at the “Home of the Huskies”. This type of devout fandom serves UND well at home and especially in, what are supposed to be, hostile arenas.
Brendan O’Donnell followed up Olson’s goal with a beauty of his own. Driving down the right wing he faked the shot, made the husky defender go down, walked around and sniped the top corner or the net on St. Cloud’s goaltender. At this point, it seemed that North Dakota was rolling however a Patrick Russel goal a minute after taking a 2 goal lead tightened things up a bit. Trevor Olson tallied his 2nd collegiate goal and 2nd of the game driving to the net 47 seconds after Russell’s goal to make it 3-1. Joey Benik was able to add the 5th goal of the period approximately 14 minutes in and that would be all the scoring that was done in the game. UND hemmed up SCSU all over the ice and ended up outshooting them still by a 39-29 margin. This left North Dakota with a split that was quite obviously important as evidenced by the above picture taken after Saturday’s win.
Omaha @ UND
Last year saw the season series split between these two teams with 2 splits at each team’s rink. As everyone knows the head coach, Dean Blais, of the UNO Mavericks is the former Fighting Sioux coach of 10 years leading them to 2 national titles in 1997 and 2000. The fact that he is such a legendary coach among the Grand Forks locals and that most of the UND coaching staff coached under him adds something extra to this series.
The final game these teams played last year was the most memorable, in all the wrong ways. An early goal by UNO was quickly extinguished by North Dakota goals by Derek Rodwell, Drake Caggiula, and Jordan Schmaltz and UND seemed headed for a tidy series sweep at home… but Blais and the Mavericks had other ideas. In an argument between Blais and the referee whether to send a player to the penalty box, Dean Blais was kicked out of the game for the first time in his college hockey coaching career. This seemed to light a fire under his team who went on to score 5 unanswered goals, including a Josh Archibald natural hat trick, to rout UND 6-3. This was also one of the biggest goaltending disparities I’ve seen from a Friday to Saturday night as Clarke Saunders basically stole a game on Friday and subsequently gave it back on Saturday.
UND is not looking for the same type of roller coaster ride this season and would prefer a couple of wins to continue their hot 9-3-1 start that has seemed so elusive in previous years. But Omaha may have other designs as they are off to a similarly hot 7-2-1 start, including a win against Minnesota Duluth last Saturday.
The battle between Zane McIntyre and the uncharacteristically hot Ryan Massa will highlight this series as leading into this year Mass was a sub .900 save % goaltender. It’s tough for me to think UND gets off to a fast start on Friday at home until they prove to anyone differently. For Saturday night, I have to think Zane will pick up a shutout soon here so I’ll say he does it on the backend of the series.
UND Wins Shootout 4-3, UND WINS 3-0
Around the NCHC:
WMU @ Shillelagh Tournament: WMU has shown signs of life the last couple of weeks. I say they beat a struggling Ohio State and lose to Union the next night.
SCSU @ Bemidji: The Beavers have struggled as of late and the Huskies are battle tested. SCSU Sweeps
This week’s Through These Doors episode: