For as average as UND has been in the first half of seasons, December has not been part of that.
UND is 19-1-2 in December in the last five years (the lone loss being in overtime) and is 10-0-2 in the last 12 December games.
This year, UND is 2-0, but it has a huge test this weekend at Magness Arena, a place that UND has not swept since 2003. Nearly all of the series in Magness have been splits.
Traditionally, it has been a fan-friendly place for UND with tons of alums in the area. Denver ditched the ticket policy it had a year ago, where fans couldn’t purchase single-game tickets (they instead had to buy a group deal of 25+ or get tickets to three other weekends).
Many UND fans seemed to just get the 25 and distribute them among friends. It certainly didn’t keep the fans out.
I think this series is a great one for the NCHC.
A lot of in-conference rivalries have died off, but this is one that has been heated for the past decade, and it’s important to stay intact.
In fact, one Denver player told the Denver Post that North Dakota’s visit is his “favorite weekend of the year.”
For Thursday’s paper, I wrote about a few of the incidents that have happened in this rivalry, including George Gwozdecky’s infamous walk across the ice. Isn’t that what comes to everyone’s mind when thinking about this rivalry?
Speaking of Gwozdecky, I think his absence leaves a tiny void in this rivalry. His personality was great for it. I never got a sense that many UND fans hated Gwozdecky. I think they loved to hate him, and they were sad to see him go.
For today’s paper, I wrote a larger piece on goal scoring in college hockey hitting an all-time low this season. Is it a problem? Or are games entertaining enough as is? What say you?
There’s also a “Get to Know” segment with Austin Poganski. The freshman says that he hated hockey after his first day of practice as a kid and quit for that season. He gave it another try the next year, and that was a good decision.
What’s the scouting report on Denver?
UND can sort of look in the mirror. The Pioneers are getting outstanding goaltending from Evan Cowley, who took the reigns from Sam Brittain. Cowley is at .922 and 1.98. For UND, Zane McIntyre has been very good (.929, 1.94).
On the defensive corps, both teams are exceptionally skilled. UND fans are quite familiar with Joey LaLeggia and Nolan Zajac. Will Butcher also is turning into the standout he was projected to be when he committed.
UND will counter with a very good D-corps, but one that’s without Troy Stecher. Who replaces Stecher? That’s hard to say. Nick Mattson brings skill and power play ability to UND’s lineup. Andrew Panzarella brings the grit and the penalty killing ability. Those attributes may decide who plays.
The good news is that Bryn Chyzyk continued to practice this week and it’s likely that he’ll play in the series opener tonight. Chyzyk is off to a nice start to the season and will help UND’s penalty kill. That’s crucial because Denver has the league’s top power play.
Up front, I think DU is like UND. They are not as skilled as Miami or Duluth, but they have a lot of really good players, including Ty Loney, who is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing four games. Loney has played some of his best hockey against UND, tallying six points in the last six games in the rivalry.
Predictions for this weekend…..
Colorado College at Western Michigan: Colorado College is 1-10 in its last 11 games and 0-8 on the road this season. It has been a disastrous start. Western Michigan is only 1-4-1 at home this season. I say the Tigers get a point but not a win. CC 2, WMU 2; WMU 5, CC 2.
Minnesota Duluth at Michigan Tech: Probably will be Tech’s most challenging opponent to this point in the season (yes, Mankato is good, too). But the Bulldogs have been getting my No. 1 vote in the polls, and I think they will prove why this weekend. Duluth 4-1, 3-2.
St. Cloud State at Omaha: The Huskies don’t have many breaks in the schedule this season, do they? Another weekend, another tough series in Omaha. The Huskies haven’t been able to gain any traction this season with a sweep yet, and I don’t see it coming against a good Mavs team. St. Cloud State 4-1, Omaha 4-2.
UND at Denver: Expecting a good crowd and very good entertainment between these teams. When has there ever been a boring game at Magness? Exciting games are the norm and so are splits. Denver 3-1, UND 4-2.
Lastly, I will leave you with the video that never gets old. Thanks to Pat Sweeney for the great call.