Late Wednesday update

No real big surprises at today’s weekly presser, which is why I’m a bit late updating.

Freshman forward Nick Schmaltz remains out, but the team is thinking right now that it’s not going to be a longterm deal. Still could be a couple weeks. Everyone else appears a go for this weekend’s series at St. Cloud State.

One of the big changes last weekend was on the defensive pairings, where the coaching staff broke up the pairing of Jordan Schmaltz and Paul LaDue. UND coach Dave Hakstol said that he thought Schmaltz and Keaton Thompson had a good game together.

The one pairing they’ve left together is Gage Ausmus and Troy Stecher. I’d expected to see those two together in St. Cloud, but it will be interesting to see what the staff does with the other defensemen.

There was quite a bit of talk about UND’s recent struggles against St. Cloud State. UND has just one win in the last seven games between the foes. Check for more of that in Friday’s paper.

For today’s paper, I talked to Bryn Chyzyk, who has been arguably UND’s nicest surprise of this young season. He talked about how he’s grown up since getting suspended for a month from the team last season. Read that story here.

Quick reactions to Arizona State

Arizona State officially announced that it will launch a Division I program starting next season. It will play a hodge-podge schedule in 2015-16 involving both club and D-I teams. In 2016-17, it will play a full D-I schedule and it plans to be in a league for the 2017-18 season.

This alone is a major development for the college hockey world, but what it could mean for the future is even more significant.

Arizona State is going into this fully believing that they are not the last Pac-12 school to add hockey and that someday, perhaps in 15 years, there may even be a Pac-12 hockey conference. There’s a long way to go to get to that point, but it’s remarkable that we’re even talking about it.

My thoughts on the development:

1. As much as everyone criticized college hockey realignment, saying it would cause at least five teams to fold within five years, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the lost rivalries are a bad thing, but right now we’re at +3 for teams and college hockey is in an extremely healthy spot. I wrote about that in today’s column here.

2. What league are the Sun Devils going to play in? Both the NCHC and WCHA have had contact with them. The Big Ten hasn’t been interested in affiliate members, so I don’t think they’ll make a run, but it’s not out of the question.

The NCHC is the best fit for Arizona State travel-wise. It has two teams in the same time zone. The towns aren’t quite as difficult to reach as many WCHA destinations. The NCHC also helps improve the profile of Arizona State’s team, though there has to be the worry about jumping into a league that difficult. The Sun Devils may have a better chance to compete right away in the WCHA and to win conference titles.

3. Whatever conference Arizona State picks, it might only be a temporary home. The Sun Devils are hoping that there will someday be a Pac-12 hockey conference. If they are to join the NCHC, I’m guessing Arizona State will want an out-clause that would allow them to go to Pac-12, if it starts up, without having to pay the exit fee. I don’t see why the NCHC wouldn’t agree to that, though.

4. One buzz item from the day is that Arizona State is keeping its club coach as the men’s hockey coach. It’s entirely possible that this will be a one-year thing and they will hire someone else by the time the Sun Devils play their first full-fledged D-I schedule as Penn State did. But if not, they are certainly rolling the dice with a coach that has zero NCAA experience. It may work out just fine, but it’s a bold move.

5. Arizona State is expected to play in downtown Phoenix at the Suns’ arena to start. It will need to pursue an on-campus solution as fast as possible. Students won’t go to games if they are off campus. Ask CC.

6. Behind the scenes, College Hockey Inc., has done significant work to help make it possible for programs like Penn State and Arizona State to add men’s hockey, and it doesn’t get any credit. The organization is a wealth of knowledge and information for schools. Launching CHI and hiring the right people is one of the best moves the commissioners have made.

Grimaldi plays two games in one day

Former UND forward Rocco Grimaldi pulled off a very rare feat Tuesday — he played in an AHL game and in an NHL game in the same day.

Grimaldi started the day by playing a 2 p.m. game in San Antonio. After the second period, he was called off the ice. Because of an illness, he needed to fly to Los Angeles to play for the Florida Panthers that night.

It ended up being extra special for Grimaldi, who is from the Los Angeles area.

Grimaldi had three shots on goal during the first two periods of the AHL game. His team won 4-3.

In the nightcap, Grimaldi played 10:36 for the Florida Panthers, registering two shots, a hit and a penalty.

After the game, he told L.A. Kings Insider what the day was like.

Top line helps UND get a split

When the national polls come out this afternoon, UND could be ranked No. 1. Or it could be Boston University. Or Michigan Tech. Or Minnesota Duluth. Or Minnesota. Who really knows?

There are some items that appear to be shaking out across the country, but the top teams are still anybody’s guess.

UND was able to put itself in the mix by grabbing a series split against Miami with a 4-1 victory on Saturday night. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

USCHO

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • If UND does grab the No. 1 ranking, it would be the first time since the end of the 2011 season, when UND was in the top spot for seven consecutive weeks.
  • In my game story, I focused on the return of Mark MacMillan, who helped form the game’s most dominant line. Although the protective brace on his wrist is restrictive, it was hard for us to tell from up top. He had a great night for UND and now has 10 points in 4 NCHC games.
  • UND junior Drake Caggiula is now tied with four other players for the national lead in scoring with 16 points. Caggiula has 15 points in the last eight games.
  • Miami had an apparent goal disallowed in the first period. The supervisor of officials confirmed that it was the correct call as Miami’s Conor Lemirande used his stick to push Zane McIntyre back into his net, causing McIntyre to extend his leg and knock the puck in the net.
  • UND did a nice job on Miami’s top players, Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber. They combined for no points and a minus-6 rating this weekend.
  • UND kept the Troy Stecher and Gage Ausmus pairing together on defense (Stecher was fantastic once again this weekend), but mixed up the others. Jordan Schmaltz and Paul LaDue did not play together as LaDue moved to the right side with Nick Mattson, who re-entered the lineup for Tucker Poolman.
  • The only forward group that’s a lock to stay together is the top line. Spots are still up for grabs on the other lines.

Gameday final: UND 4, Miami 1

Tonight’s viewing: Midco Sports Network, Fox College Sports Central, DirecTV 608-1, DISH Network 447. Lineup notes: Wade Murphy and Nick Mattson are in for Austin Poganski and Tucker Poolman. Miami goes with Ryan McKay in net. Full lines and live chat are below.

First period

No scoring.

Second period

Miami 1, UND 0 — Anthony Louis (Ben Paulides, Alex Gacek) 1:07. Louis started a rush up the left wing and hit the trailer, Paulides. His shot is blocked, but Louis picks up the rebound in the slot and flips a backhand five-hole on McIntyre.

Miami 1, UND 1 — Mark MacMillan (Michael Parks) 3:47. Parks steals the puck from a Miami player in the zone, wheels around and spots MacMillan back door. Two RedHawk players go down to block the pass, but Parks somehow gets it through and MacMillan knocks in his sixth of the season.

UND 2, Miami 1 — Drake Caggiula (Bryn Chyzyk) 6:06. Caggiula scores a Goal of the Week candidate. Chyzyk sends Caggiula on a rush one-on-one with Paulides. Caggiula puts the puck between Paulides’ legs, skates around him and gets one-on-one with McKay. Caggiula makes a move to the backhand and slips it five-hole to give UND its first lead of the weekend.

UND 3, Miami 1 — Michael Parks (Mark MacMillan, Drake Caggiula) 15:22. MacMillan starts a rush up the right wing and threads a pass all the way across the ice to Parks, who launches a one-timer past McKay.

Third period

UND 4, Miami 1 — Drake Caggiula (Jordan Schmaltz, Nick Mattson) 9:07 (pp). UND whips the puck around, eventually getting it to Caggiula on top of the right circle. Caggiula snaps a shot through a MacMillan screen and five-hole on McKay.

Live Blog No. 7 Miami at No. 2 UND

UND’s lines

16 Mark MacMillan–9 Drake Caggiula–15 Michael Parks
28 Stephane Pattyn–27 Luke Johnson–7 Wade Murphy
21 Brendan O’Donnell–13 Connor Gaarder–17 Colten St. Clair
29 Bryn Chyzyk–10 Johnny Simonson–11 Trevor Olson

20 Gage Ausmus–2 Troy Stecher
5 Nick Mattson–6 Paul LaDue
4 Keaton Thompson–24 Jordan Schmaltz

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

Miami’s lines

22 Kevin Morris–26 Justin Greenberg–33 Andrew Schmit
14 Cody Murphy–25 Blake Coleman–42 Conor Lemirande
95 Anthony Louis–9 Sean Kuraly–12 Alex Gacek
10 Alex Wideman–7 Austin Czarnik–11 Riley Barber

58 Louie Belpedio–8 Matthew Caito
5 Chris Joyaux–28 Ben Paulides
27 Scott Dornbrock–2 Taylor Richart

35 Ryan McKay
1 Jay Williams

Miami ends UND’s streak

The series opener between UND and Miami ended up being just about everything we expected — lots of action up and down the ice and a game that came down to the final seconds.

This time, UND didn’t get that last-second magic in the Ralph and the team’s eight-game unbeaten streak is over. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Herald column on Miami’s return to REA

USCHO

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • Mark MacMillan did, indeed, return to the lineup Friday night, wearing a protective brace/cast thing on his wrist. MacMillan said the brace was a bit restrictive, which is likely why he played wing and not center. He still ended up taking five draws and winning three of them. MacMillan did not start the game on the power play, but he was out there for the last one in place of Stephane Pattyn. MacMillan did kill penalties.
  • MacMillan said his energy level was good. Since it was a wrist injury, he was able to keep skating and try to keep his fitness level up during his absence.
  • Paul LaDue also returned to the lineup and resumed his normal role.
  • The absence of Nick Schmaltz really showed up on the power play. UND had six chances there and ended up minus-1, which was the difference in the game. His setup ability was really missed there.
  • UND scored yet another shorthanded goal on Drake Caggiula’s breakaway. That’s seven for the season. The record is 18 by the Hrkac Circus team.
  • Miami did a nice job blocking shots. Shot blocks were 19-7 Miami. Sean Kuraly, who had a hand in every RedHawk goal, led the way with three.
  • Since the formation of the NCHC, UND and Miami have played five regular-season games. Kuraly has scored in four of them.
  • I don’t think UND has played anyone with Miami’s speed yet this season. The RedHawks gave UND some trouble with their speed, as expected.
  • Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was Miami’s physicality. I don’t recall the RedHawks playing a very physical game last season.
  • Connor Gaarder had a team-high five shots on goal for UND.
  • Luke Johnson led the way in faceoffs for UND, going 11-7, helping to hold Austin Czarnik to a 10-16 mark.

A few other things that happened Friday night:

1. Minnesota Duluth ended Minnesota’s 17-game home unbeaten streak (15-0-2) with a 3-0 win. The last team to beat Minnesota in Mariucci was…. Duluth last season. Final shots in Friday’s game were 38-17 Bulldogs.

2. Michigan Tech moved to 9-0, the best start in school history, with a 2-1 win over Bemidji State. The Beavers outshot the Huskies 36-22 in that game. It’s possible that the Huskies could take over the nation’s No. 1 ranking if they win tonight’s series finale.

3. Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist to lead BU to a 3-1 win over Maine. Eichel has at least a point in every college game. It should soon make for a good discussion: Could Jack Eichel win the Hobey as a freshman?

4. Denver beat Colorado College 8-1 in a game that had eight misconducts and over 100 penalty minutes. The Tigers have lost seven games in a row.

5. Union’s winless streak is now at 6 games, coming directly on the heels of a 22-game unbeaten streak.

Gameday final: Miami 3, UND 2

Tonight’s viewing: Midco Sports Network, NCHC.tv. Lineup notes: Mark MacMillan and Paul LaDue return to the lineup tonight. Nick Schmaltz is out. As expected, Blake Coleman is back in for the RedHawks.

First period

Miami 1, UND 0 — Alex Gacek (Anthony Louis, Sean Kuraly) 3:09. After a couple of bad turnovers, Miami gets an offensive zone faceoff and makes UND pay. Louis cycles a puck in the corner and it ends up going to the inside of the left circle, where Gacek spins and shoots one just inside the post.

Miami 2, UND 0 — Sean Kuraly (Alex Gacek, Matthew Caito) 4:15 (sh). Miami executes a 2-on-1 rush perfectly shorthanded. Gacek brings it up the left wing, freezes the defenseman Schmaltz and passes it over to Kuraly, who has an open net.

Miami 2, UND 1 — Michael Parks (Mark MacMillan, Drake Caggiula) 14:36. Parks collects the puck behind the net and quickly jams home a backhand wraparound before Williams can get over.

Second period

Miami 2, UND 2 — Drake Caggiula 1:22 (sh). UND scores yet another shorthanded goal when Caggiula takes it from Barber at the point, skates in and rips one off the post and in.

Miami 3, UND 2 — Sean Kuraly (Scott Dornbrock, Alex Wideman) 6:50 (pp). Dornbrock launches a point shot that takes a long bounce off the end wall right to Kuraly, who sneaks it behind McIntyre before he can get across.

Third period

No scoring.

Live Blog Men’s Hockey vs. Miami

UND’s lines

28 Stephane Pattyn–27 Luke Johnson–11 Trevor Olson
16 Mark MacMillan–9 Drake Caggiula–15 Michael Parks
21 Brendan O’Donnell–13 Connor Gaarder–14 Austin Poganski
29 Bryn Chyzyk–10 Johnny Simonson–17 Colten St. Clair

6 Paul LaDue–24 Jordan Schmaltz
20 Gage Ausmus–2 Troy Stecher
4 Keaton Thompson–3 Tucker Poolman

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

Miami’s lines

22 Kevin Morris–26 Justin Greenberg–33 Andrew Schmit
14 Cody Murphy–25 Blake Coleman–42 Conor Lemirande
95 Anthony Louis–9 Sean Kuraly–12 Alex Gacek
10 Alex Wideman–7 Austin Czarnik–11 Riley Barber

58 Louie Belpedio–8 Matthew Caito
5 Chris Joyaux–28 Ben Paulides
27 Scott Dornbrock–2 Taylor Richart

1 Jay Williams
35 Ryan McKay

Friday morning reading

You can bet that Miami University players have not forgotten about their last trip to Ralph Engelstad Arena.

It’s hard to forget a 9-2 beating — the program’s worst in 15 years. But that lopsided loss also marked the start of a turnaround for Miami.

The REA series ended a stretch where the RedHawks went 4-17-2.

The next weekend, standout forward Blake Coleman returned to the lineup and Miami’s fortunes started to turn. Coleman has scored a remarkable 15 goals in 18 game since returning. Team success has followed.

Miami ran to the NCHC title game last season and is now off to a 7-3 start this season.

Clearly, it’s not all Coleman, but he does help. And good news for Miami: After Coleman had to sit out last weekend with an undisclosed injury, he is available for this weekend’s series against UND.

The top three things to watch for Miami this weekend:

1. The high-end forwards. I don’t know if any team in the country can match Miami’s top six forwards. Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber, Blake Coleman, Sean Kuraly, Anthony Louis and Alex Wideman are all big-time players. Minnesota Duluth, you could argue, may have the deepest group of forwards in the league, but I don’t think anyone can match Miami’s top six.

I thought that Miami could lose as many as three of them in the offseason, but they all came back to write a different ending to their careers. Don’t be surprised if one or two of them are in the Hobey mix by the end of the season. These guys can really put up the points when they have…..

2. Puck possession, puck possession, puck possession. That’s the name of the game in hockey these days and nobody is doing it better than Miami right now. The RedHawks rank No. 1 nationally in shot margin (+15.2 per game).

When this team gets the puck in the offensive zone, they can do special things and generate a ton of offense. That’s Miami’s biggest strength.

On the flip side, Miami’s biggest weakness last season was defending. The RedHawks, at times, had a lot of difficultly playing in their own end. So, if you forced Miami to play in its own end, you exposed its weakness and didn’t allow the RedHawks to play to their strength.

UND did that very well in Grand Forks last season and it will be a key once again.

3. The new D. One reason why Miami’s defensive corps has been better so far this season is because they are simply a year older. The RedHawks had no seniors and only one junior on D last season.

Another reason is freshman Louie Belpedio. The standout recruit from the NTDP adds some offense to the back end, an element the RedHawks lacked last season.

Overall, it should be a showdown between two teams that like to possess the puck and two teams that like to transition. In the past, we’ve seen some very exciting-to-watch games because of that. I’d expect more of that this weekend.

Some reading for today:

Friday notebook – Rico Blasi talks about Miami’s turnaround; Josh Fenton touches on Arizona State

Thursday feature – While many try to peg the next stars at age 15, there are still the Tucker Poolman stories out there

Q&A – Troy Stecher tells us why his nickname used to be ‘The Human Zamboni’

Injury update – Nick Schmaltz out; MacMillan and LaDue questionable

Familiar faces – Jim Scanlan and Leah Jensen to see each other on opposite benches

UAA beatings – After Anchorage lost to Ferris State 10-2 on Thursday night, Doyle Woody recalled epic UAA beatings, including one issued by ‘a dude named Zach Parise,’ and an great quote from Justin Bourne asking, “This only counts as one loss, right?”

Predictions…..

Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota: The only nonconference series of the weekend for the NCHC will be a home-and-home series. The Gophers are unbeaten in 17 straight at Mariucci Arena (15-0-2). The last home loss was to… Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 24. I’m going to go against conventional wisdom and say that each team gets one on the road. Duluth 4-3; Minnesota 4-1.

St. Cloud State at Western Michigan: After going a year and a half without getting swept at home, the Huskies have now been swept in two of three series there and are 2-5 in their last seven games at NHC. But they hit the road this weekend and I think they get back on track. St. Cloud State 3-2, 3-2.

Colorado College at Denver: Just a single game will be played tonight. Things are not going well in Tigerland, where they’ve lost six straight, and I don’t anticipate them getting any better against the Pios. Denver 4-2.

Miami at UND: I think we’ll see an exciting brand of hockey at The Ralph this weekend. One night, UND contains the RedHawks’ top players, the other night, it does not. Miami 4-1, UND 3-2.

*******************************************************************

The UND women’s hockey team  has gone through the heart of their schedule, facing off against Duluth, Minnesota and Wisconsin in back-to-back-to-back weekends.

Coach Brian Idalski said he was happy to get a breather after that with 13 days off to prepare for the next series. The players seemed to say that the time off was much-needed as well.

With a full roster, we’ll see how they regroup against Jim Scanlan’s group that just took five of six points against Minnesota. Bemidji State became the first team to win a series against Minnesota since the Badgers got a win and a tie in January 2011. They were the first team to win a series in Ridder since UND swept there in October 2010.

Both Bemidji State and UND have been getting outstanding goaltending this season, so this could be a low-scoring series.

That’s all for now.