Weekend Preview – “And North Dakota has done it again!”

“…And there’s the difference between the two, Wisconsin’s players are on the bench and North Dakota’s players are still trying to get into it” said the Wisconsin announcer.  This, of course, was the famous water bottle incident where Cary Eades was squirted with a water bottle and started a brawl that saw many Badger players beat down to the chagrin of the aforementioned announcer.

If you looked at “the difference between the two (programs)” in the modern era, you would see a Badger program that could use a water bottle incident to wake up their AD Barry Alvarez to the plight of the once prominent program.  If you’ve been ignoring hockey completely for the past year(looking at you Badger fans), Wisconsin won 4 games all of last season.  Last season, North Dakota failed to reach 4 wins in a MONTH only in December and that’s because they only played 4 games and went 3-1.  It almost seems difficult to field a college hockey team that only wins 4 times in a season, let alone a “powerhouse” such as the Wisconsin Badgers.  But what’s the saying? The bigger they are… the more fun it is to watch them become irrelevant… or something like that.

UND is coming into this weekend with an unbeaten 6-0-2 record after playing their first 7 of 8 games on the road.  The most recent series was finished last weekend in Colorado College with a sweep of the now 0-8 Tigers.  This is another once proud program that has really struggled lately.  They finished dead last in the NCHC last year and I would bet most everything I own that they’ll repeat that accomplishment this year.  At least they’ll get a good draft pick… er, that’s how it works, right?

Some hard hitting stats: CC is 57th out of 60 teams in Goals/Game at 1.38.  They are also 51st out of 60 in Goals Against/Game at 3.75.  Mike Haviland was brought into help turn the team around after they let go former coach Scott Owens but he has yet to do so.  At this point CC doesn’t look comfortable in its own skin playing in the NCHC and it’s getting to the point where I’m starting to feel bad for them.

Friday’s tilt started out with newly healthy freshman Shane Gersich collecting a rebound and roofing it where Grandpa keeps the whiskey 4:11 into the 1st period.  UND followed this up with a Power Play tipped goal by Chris Wilkie off a Bryn Chyzk shot to make it 2-0.  CC made it competitive a couple minutes into the 2nd with Teemu Kivihalme scoring a PPG.  However, UND responded with a SHG by Rhett Gardner in a 3 on 1 break set up by Troy Stecher’s tenacious play.  A couple more goals by the green and white and an inconsequential 2nd goal by CC resulted in the 5-2 convincing win for UND.

Saturday started out much the same and saw Christian Wolanin score a weak goal on goalie Tyler Marble from the half wall.  To be completely honest with you, I don’t remember a whole lot of the remainder of the game.  For one, it was pretty uneventful, save a 2nd Gersich goal on the weekend, and secondly I was at a soirée that left me slightly incapacitated.  But the Sioux came away with the sweep in the Springs and all was right with the world when I woke up on Sunday morning.

UND v Wisconsin (Grand Forks, ND @ Ralph Engelstad Arena)

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Unlike at the Kohl Center, fans will pack the seats for this matchup.  However, they will be packing the seats because of the #1 ranked UND hockey team and the nostalgia of the epic showdowns these two sides have experienced.  But as stated above, this is not the same Wisconsin team that we’ve come to know.  There is no Ryan Suter,  Joe Pavelski, or Dany Heatley on this team.  Arguably their best players at the moment are Minnesota high school product Grant Besse and Freshman Luke Kunin.  And just this week their was speculation that the latter would be packing up his bags for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.  He dispelled the rumors by tweeting that he can’t wait to play North Dakota this weekend.  Whether or not he decides to continue with the team after that may depend on their performance this week.

Statistically, Wisconsin is 40th in the nation in scoring at 2.30/game and 37th in the nation in Goals Against at 2.91/game.  One of the lone bright spots in otherwise dark world for Badger fans is their power play, which is clipping along at 22.22% which is good for 16th in the nation.  North Dakota will need to stay out of the box which has been a problem so far this year taking 12.24 minutes in penalties per game.  The leader in these penalties is Assistant Captain Drake Caggiula, who is averaging 5 minutes in the box every game.  Caggiula will be watching from the sidelines as the NCHC doled out a questionable one game suspension for a hit on a CC player last Saturday night.

Another area of concern, you would think, is UND starting its 3rd string walk-on goalie.  I said this last weekend though and this was far from the truth.  Junior Matt Hrynkiw looks better with each save and currently sports a healthy 5-0 record, with a 1.48 GAA and an equally impressive save percentage of .942 which are 11th and 14th in the nation, respectively.  If he keeps up these numbers it will be difficult to replace him, even if your 3rd round draft pick is healthy and ready to go.  Hrynkiw has earned that net and claimed it for himself so I say let him take it as far as he can.

Although the fans will be treated to some scuffles this weekend, I don’t think we will see another ‘Water Bottle Incident’ between these two teams as in this day in age it would probably result in the whole team being thrown in jail.  However, I do think we’re going to continue to see the freshman shine for UND and the impressive defensive core skate circles around the hapless Badgers.

UND 4-2, 3-0

Gameday song:

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