‘Burn the ships’

Mark MacMillan had surgery Wednesday afternoon and will be out for the foreseeable future — and very possibly the rest of the season.

It’s just one more wrench that has been thrown at this year’s senior class.

They’ve been hit with things ever since they arrived on campus four years ago as a hodge-podge group, but they’ve always responded.

Here’s the story of how Mario Lamoureux and Hernan Cortes shaped this year’s senior class and why MacMillan’s injury won’t change their expectations.

 

Exactly how good is UND?

Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog kicked off a debate today about this year’s UND hockey team. How good is this team?

Yahoo’s Ryan Lambert is skeptical based on advanced stats.

I read the piece and thought about it a bit and have mixed thoughts.

For starters, I’ve been saying since the beginning of the year that I don’t think this team is super dominant. They aren’t blowing out opponents. The margin for error is not as great as the 2010-11 team.

That being said, the results speak for themselves. Since the season-opening loss to Bemidji State, this team has been incredibly consistent — probably the most consistent team I’ve covered in a decade.

We’re not at the beginning of the season, either. North Dakota has been doing this for five months. That’s too long for an anomaly.

I told my roommate last week that this UND hockey team is a lot like his tennis game.

When you see him play tennis, he looks all right, but he doesn’t look like a world-beater. When you get on the court and play him, he’s a big-time grinder, he plays extremely hard and it takes a lot of energy to be able to win each point against him. He doesn’t give up any point easily. If you’re lucky enough to beat him, you’re going to be absolutely spent by the end of the match, and your next one probably isn’t going to go well.

UND may not look like the greatest team in the country, and its advanced stats may not reflect it, but this team grinds super hard, plays extremely hard every night and it takes just about everything for an opponent to come out with a win. It takes so much that it has been virtually impossible to do it again the next night.

Maybe that’s why nobody has beaten UND on a Saturday night in 17 tries this season. Maybe that’s why it has been 16 months since UND has lost consecutive games.

My thoughts on some of the advanced stats:

***UND’s overly high shooting percentage: This team doesn’t have many guys who can beat goalies from the dots or out, and a lot of players don’t try. Mark MacMillan has a ridiculous 26.2 shooting percentage, but it’s not because he’s getting lucky or because he has an amazing shot. It’s because he doesn’t attempt many low percentage shots. When was the last time you saw MacMillan try to beat a goalie with a wrister from the dot? He doesn’t try it often. He scores around the net. I think a lot of the players know if they attempt snap shots from outside the dots that it’s probably futile, so they don’t attempt unless there’s traffic. Michael Parks is another who doesn’t try that very often.

***UND’s very average puck possession numbers: UND plays a puck possession game and I’m sure it would like those numbers to be higher. That being said, I do think there are times when this team gets ahead and decides it’s not going to allow any opponents Grade A chances or odd-man rushes. You can bomb away from the outside, but that’s not a good method of operation against Zane McIntyre.

***Zane McIntyre covering up weaknesses: I don’t think anyone who has followed UND this season would argue this point. If UND does not have McIntyre, is it the No. 1 team in the nation? Probably not. He has put together a fantastic season and has been the difference in multiple games. That being said, I don’t think UND has to rely on world-beating goaltending to win games.

Can UND win a national title if McIntyre has a bad game in the NCAAs? Probably not. But can anybody in the country this year overcome bad goaltending to win a national title? Probably not.

In short, I agree that this team is not simply overwhelming opponents with its superior talent. I agree it doesn’t have such skill that it can play bad games and win. But after watching this team do the exact same thing to opponents for five months, I’m confident it’s not smoke and mirrors, either.

Simonson out this weekend

Well, we know one guy who won’t be filling Mark MacMillan’s spot this weekend.

Johnny Simonson, who practiced for a bit on Tuesday, was held out Wednesday and will not play this weekend at Miami University. UND coach Dave Hakstol said he is out with an illness.

That means the most likely options to fill the open spot up front appear to be Trevor Olson or Coltyn Sanderson.

UND players, specifically Michael Parks and Brendan O’Donnell, talked about the loss of MacMillan and how they respond to that during today’s presser. More on that coming.

The seniors also talked about trying to win Penrose outright. The last two seasons they had a chance to win the league championship on the final night of the regular season but didn’t finish it off. This time, they at least got the share, but they want it for themselves.

MacMillan listed as ‘out indefinitely’

Mark MacMillan will have surgery tomorrow and the school is listing him as “out indefinitely” with a “lower-body injury.”

That means the school is not willing to say he’s out for the season yet, nor is the school listing the exact nature of the injury.

Obviously, UND has to be holding out hope that he could come back for the NCAA Frozen Four if the team is fortunate enough to make it. It would be hard to see him coming back soon from surgery, whatever the operation is.

Without MacMillan, UND will need to bring one forward back into the lineup. It is most likely to be Trevor Olson, Jonny Simonson or Coltyn Sanderson.

MacMillan is the team’s leading goal-scorer, top faceoff man and top penalty killer.

What are UND’s options without MacMillan?

It has been almost a month and a half since UND has made a change to any of its forward lines. They have stuck for the last nine games as UND has gone 7-1-1, clinching a share of the Penrose Cup as NCHC champs.

But they will have to change soon.

Mark MacMillan, the team’s top-line center and leading goal scorer, was injured Saturday night blocking a Jonny Brodzinski shot. The school has not yet commented on whether MacMillan is done for the season, but all signs are pointing that way.

Regardless, he’s certainly not playing any time soon and UND has to try to fill the shoes of its leading goal scorer, top penalty killing forward, top defensive forward and top faceoff man.

What do you do?

My first thought is that you DO NOT want to break up the Brendan O’Donnell, Connor Gaarder, Austin Poganski line. That has arguably been UND’s best and most consistent unit during the last month. You leave that one together.

I’m thinking that it makes sense to move Nick Schmaltz from third-line center up to the top line. He was very good last weekend and may be ready for more responsibility. We’ll see if he can handle the defensive side.

Plus, then you have a pass-first guy in Schmaltz with two pretty good finishers in Tucker Poolman and Michael Parks. I also think MacMillan’s injury solidifies that Poolman stays up front for the rest of the year (if that wasn’t solidified already).

If you move Schmaltz up, that leaves a hole up the middle on the third line between Stephane Pattyn and Colten St. Clair. Here’s where the coaches could get creative.

Option No. 1: Move Jonny Simonson to center on the third line. Coach Dave Hakstol said a couple weeks ago that Simonson was pushing hard to get in the lineup. Simonson was solid on draws earlier this season. He could jump in there.

Option No. 2: Move Pattyn from wing to center on that line and bring in a winger like Trevor Olson or Andrew Panzarella. I don’t see Wade Murphy coming back in the lineup. I think they’d go with a more physical body for that spot and make it an all-out grind line. Olson hasn’t played in a long time. Panzarella has practiced at D almost all season, so he would have an adjustment to make, but UND reached the Frozen Four a year ago with Panzarella playing forward. Both Olson and Panzarella are right-handed shots, though, and one would have to play off wing.

It’s probably wrong, but here’s my best guess for Friday’s lines:

Poolman – NSchmaltz – Parks
Chyzyk – Caggiula – Johnson
Pattyn – Simonson – St. Clair
O’Donnell – Gaarder – Poganski

Mattson – LaDue
Thompson – JSchmaltz
Ausmus – Stecher

McIntyre

Let’s see your lines, couch coaches….

Playoff tickets on sale

Ticket packages for UND’s first-round NCHC playoffs series (March 13-15) are now on sale.

Series ticket packages are reserved seating and are $50 for adults, $30 for youth, and $20 for UND students. Adult and youth series packages may be purchased in person at the UND Box O​ffice at Ralph Engelstad Arena or online at http://ticketmaster.com/artist/821823.

UND students may purchase up to four series packages and must do so in person at the UND Box Office at Ralph Engelstad Arena. A valid UND student ID must be presented with each game ticket to gain admittance into each game.

Season-ticket holders already received their NCHC quarterfinal tickets as part of their season-ticket package.

Any unclaimed student tickets will become available to the general public Friday at 10 a.m. Central.

Single-game tickets for the NCHC quarterfinals will go on sale to the public on Tuesday, March 10th at 10 a.m.

The NCHC quarterfinals take place March 13, 14 and 15 (Game 3 if necessary). Game times are 7:37 p.m. on Friday and 7:07 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. UND’s first-round opponent will be either Colorado College or Western Michigan.

If UND gets one point this weekend against Miami, it will host Colorado College. If Miami sweeps, UND will host Western Michigan.

UND clinches share of Penrose

Two things are for sure after this weekend’s sweep of St. Cloud State: 1. UND will host a first-round series in two weeks. 2. There will be a Penrose Cup celebration in Ralph Engelstad Arena at some point.

UND clinched at least a share of the Penrose Cup, taking a six-point lead over Miami, which happens to be next weekend’s opponent.

If UND takes one point from Miami, it will clinch the league’s No. 1 overall seed, it will win the Penrose Cup outright and UND will play Colorado College in the first round of the NCHC playoffs.

If Miami sweeps UND, then the teams are declared co-champs, but Miami will have the No. 1 seed for the playoffs and North Dakota will host Western Michigan in the first round.

UND cannot drop below No. 2 in the league standings.

For starters, here are some stories about Saturday’s victory:

Grand Forks Herald — Pattyn requests black jerseys for home game

St. Cloud Times — “They do what championship teams do,” Motzko says

USCHO — “In three wins they have against us, their fourth line has five goals.”

UNDsports.com — Fans roar for great penalty kill and seniors

Other notes:

  • I have nothing on Mark MacMillan’s health at the moment. I will update the blog as soon as I have something confirmed.
  • I’ve been on the students’ case for the last two years, but they had a great turnout this weekend. It led to an attendance of 12,004, the largest in Ralph Engelstad Arena since March 2, 2013.
  • The crowd was definitely into the game. The largest roar came as UND killed a five-on-three power play for a full two minutes. UND’s MacMillan, Troy Stecher and Drake Caggiula all jumped in front of Jonny Brodzinski’s shot, which may be the heaviest in the league. That sequence explains why this team has an extremely impressive 24-6-3 record right now.
  • Everyone in the postgame interviews talked about how loud it got during that kill and how much the team fed off of the fans’ energy.
  • Read my game story to see how they chose to wear black jerseys. I believe it’s the third weekend and fourth game they’ve done so. Interestingly enough, all have come vs. St. Cloud State. I believe they wore them for both games after Ralph Engelstad died. They wore them in December 2010 against the Huskies and scored five goals in the first period that night.
  • During the Senior Salute, the students changed “Sioux forever” at the last class to wear the Fighting Sioux jersey.
  • Tucker Poolman returned to the power play on Friday and he played some ‘D’ on the penalty kill as well Saturday. Poolman still leads the team in power-play goals with five.
  • When MacMillan went out, Stephane Pattyn took his place on the power play. He didn’t take draws, but he went to the front of the net, where he excelled at the end of last season.
  • It had to be a special weekend for Connor Gaarder. His brother, Casey, flew home from Thailand for the first time in more than a year for Senior Weekend and Connor scored a goal both nights.
  • UND continues to roll on Saturdays. It is now 15-0-2 on Saturdays this season.
  • UND is 11-1-1 in the last 13 games with the lone loss being the overtime game in Omaha, where the Mavs had a lengthy five-on-three power play.
  • Last night’s loss eliminated St. Cloud State from home-ice contention. The Huskies, Broncos and Tigers all will be on the road. UND is the only team to clinch home ice so far.

Gameday final: UND 3, SCSU 1

TONIGHT’S VIEWING: Midco Sports Network (GF 27/622 HD), Fox College Sports Atlantic, DirecTV 608, Dish Network 449. Notes: No lineup changes for UND. Full lines and live chat are below. Huskies go with Peterson for Bertsch up front and Rabey for Ilvonen on D.

First period

UND 1, St. Cloud State 0 — Austin Poganski (Connor Gaarder, Brendan O’Donnell) 7:53. O’Donnell has the puck below the goal line and made a centering party to Gaarder, who put a backhand on the net. Lindgren kicked the rebound near the goal line and Gaarder swatted at it again. Lindgren stopped that one, but Poganski made a diving attempt and slid the puck underneath Lindgren’s glove.

Second period

UND 2, St. Cloud State 0 — Connor Gaarder (Tucker Poolman, Keaton Thompson) 6:58. UND gets the puck down low and Poolman shoots from an angle. The rebound comes out to the post and Gaarder picks it up and wraps it. Lindgren gets caught on his own player, Oliver, and can’t get across.

UND 3, St. Cloud State 0 — Nick Mattson (Paul LaDue) 19:19 (pp). Another senior. Mattson stays red hot and blasts a point shot through a screen to give UND a three-goal lead.

Third period

UND 3, St. Cloud State 1 — Ethan Prow (Judd Peterson, Joe Rehkamp) 4:43 (pp). The Huskies win a draw and get the puck to Prow at the top of the zone. He walks it until he spots a lane through traffic and fires one past McIntyre.

UND’s lines

3 Tucker Poolman–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
29 Bryn Chyzyk–9 Drake Caggiula–27 Luke Johnson
28 Stephane Pattyn–8 Nick Schmaltz–17 Colten St. Clair
21 Brendan O’Donnell–13 Connor Gaarder–14 Austin Poganski

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

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

St. Cloud State’s lines

16 Jimmy Murray–11 Kalle Kossila–22 Jonny Brodzinski
9 Joey Benik–13 David Morley–63 Patrick Russell
42 Blake Winiecki–37 Joe Rehkamp–17 Judd Peterson
4 Ben Storm–27 Nick Oliver–6 Daniel Tedesco

28 Andrew Prochno–12 Ethan Prow
5 Nathan Widman–40 Tim Daly
7 Niklas Nevalainen–2Jarrod Rabey

35 Charlie Lindgren
45 Rasmus Reijola

Women’s final: UND 2, OSU 1, 3 OT

Notes: No lineup changes for UND. Ohio State makes a change in net, one of many changes for the Buckeyes.

First period

No scoring.

Second period

UND 1, Ohio State 0 — Samantha Hanson (Meghan Dufault) 9:03. Dufault wins a draw cleanly back to Hanson, who blasts a slap shot through a Jensen screen to give UND the first lead.

UND 1, Ohio State 1 — Kayla Sullivan (Danielle Gagne, Sara Schmitt) 19:23. UND gets outnumbered down low and Gagne feeds Sullivan for backdoor tap-in to tie the game.

Third period

No scoring.

Overtime

No scoring.

Second overtime

No scoring.

Third overtime

UND 2, Ohio State 1 — Amy Menke (Meghan Dufault, Becca Kohler) 3:17. UND punches its ticket to the Final Faceoff with a two-on-one goal in transition. Dufault, coming up the left side, feeds Menke, who buries it to end the second-longest game in program history.

UND’s lines

51 Becca Kohler–19 Meghan Dufault–21 Amy Menke
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–25 Leah Jensen
15 Kayla Gardner–11 Shannon Kaiser–13 Layla Marvin
16 Tori Williams–14 Marissa Salo–4 Sam LaShomb

6 Gracen Hirschy–18 Halli Krzyzanaiak
22 Tanja Eisenschmid–8 Samantha Hanson
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

Ohio State’s lines

18 Julianna Iafallo–6 Taylor Kuehl–19 Danielle Gagne
24 Claudia Kepler–27 Lauren Spring–17 Julia McKinnon
26 Kendall Curtis–7 Kayla Sullivan–16 Melani Moylan
9 Bryanna Neuwald–13 Jessica Dunne–14 Maggie Rothgery

22 Sara Schmitt–2 Cara Zubko
10 Kara Gust–21 Alexa Ranahan
20 Kari Schmitt–8 Dani Sadek

32 Kassidy Sauve
39 Stacy Danczak
35 Selena Hunter