Three will likely miss SCSU series

UND coach Dave Hakstol said three players will likely miss the St. Cloud State series this weekend.

Second line center Matt Watkins is doubtful with a leg injury, which he suffered last Friday night against Denver. Watkins was part of a three-person collision in neutral ice with a pair of Pioneer players. Hakstol declined to say how long Watkins may be out.

Sophomore forward Ryan Martens also is doubtful. Martens has been battling his injury for a few weeks now.

And freshman goaltender Anthony Grieco is out for this weekend, Hakstol said. Grieco did not travel to Denver last weekend.

A recruit, Hobey talk and trades

A few mid-week notes:

UND got a commitment from Fort Saskatchewan right winger Matt Frattin. The story is here. Stay tuned for more on Frattin the rest of the week.

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College Hockey News’ Adam Wodon says UND sophomore Ryan Duncan is making a run at the Hobey. And Inside College Hockey also gives Duncan props in their Hobey tracker. And CSTV also is mentioning Duncan in their Hobey watch. No longer is he being ignored.

St. Louis’ AHL affiliate could use T.J. Oshie, but as we know, players don’t like leaving college to play in the AHL.

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The NHL trading deadline was Tuesday and there was quite a bit of action:

Most notably, former UND defenseman David Hale was traded to the Calgary Flames along with a fifth-round pick in exchange for a third-round pick.

The St. Louis Blues grabbed Gopher forward Jay Barriball in a trade with San Jose. The Blues already have Mankato’s David Backes and with UND’s T.J. Oshie and Minnesota’s Erik Johnson on the way, are the Blues going to become a WCHA fan’s type of team?

The New York Islanders decided not to trade Jason Blake. He rewarded them by getting a hat trick in the first period.

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Drew Stafford has been getting national praise for challenging Ottawa’s Chris Neil in a fight after Neil elbowed Stafford’s teammate, Chris Drury. Stafford not only backed up his teammate, he gave the Sabres the win by scoring the deciding goal in the shootout. He also had the game-winning goal Tuesday night.

Travis Zajac isn’t ready to slow down.

Weekend review: Denver

What is it about the black jerseys? UND is 3-0 wearing black this season with wins against Dartmouth, Minnesota and Denver. Are they really lighter, like Nike Bauer claims? Does the team get a little boost when they walk in the locker room and see the black jerseys hanging up? Or is it a big coincidence?

Whatever it is, UND got a split against Denver this weekend by winning Saturday night after losing an overtime heartbreaker Friday. The Sioux remained eighth in the USCHO.com poll and more importantly, they are 10th in the PairWise. If you add the estimated secret bonus points in, they are ninth.

If the Sioux have a big weekend in St. Cloud, they could just about lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament. First, let’s look back at the Denver series.

Offense: B. It was more of the same from the Sioux. The top line was dominating, scoring five of six goals on the weekend. The rest of the forward lines didn’t generate a lot of production. Rylan Kaip got a goal Saturday and UND improved to 13-0-1 when getting a goal from a third or fourth line player.

Defense: B. Coach Dave Hakstol said he didn’t think his blue liners had a good night on Friday. They allowed some tap-in goals and Phil Lamoureux stopped back-to-back breakaways in the third period to bail them out. Saturday night was another story. Lamoureux didn’t have to make a whole lot of great saves because they did a great job keeping shots to the outside and keeping odd-man rushes down.

Goaltending: A-. The only goal Lamoureux may want another look at is Ryan Dingle’s backhand from the bottom of the right circle. The others, he didn’t have any chance. Lamoureux also made some big stops, including a pair of breakaways. Two shutouts in the last three games for Lamoureux. He’s still on his game.

Special teams: A. The penalty killers were key this weekend. They successfully killed all 11 DU power plays. It seems that the penalty kill is getting more and more comfortable each weekend. This weekend’s success was especially impressive considering the Sioux were without Matt Watkins — one of the team’s best. The first power-play unit was fantastic, as usual.

Road support: A+. As I said in the comments section in an earlier post, there were tons of Sioux fans in Magness Arena. It was basically just as loud when the Sioux scored as it was when the Pioneers scored. The only chants heard in the arena over the weekend were "Lets Go Sioux" and "Sioux Yeah Yeah."

Hanging out with blog readers: A. Among the Sioux fans in Denver were some blog readers. I even met infamous troller tooovssuxascks, who trolled in the DU student section with a bright green UND shirt. From the people at the Lazy Dog to those in the airport to those in the arena, it was good chatting with all of you.

The Paukovich-Bina factor: NA. It was non-existent. Players didn’t seem to have a lot of words for Paukovich. He was called for interference after taking a run down the ice and hitting T.J. Oshie, but the play seemed to upset ref Todd Anderson more than anyone. During Saturday’s handshake, Paukovich stopped and said a few words to Bina, who nodded his head. After the game, Paukovich said he’s happy to see Bina back on the ice. It appears the incident has been put to rest. 

Review of the three keys

1. Phil Lamoureux needs to outduel either Glenn Fisher or Peter Mannino. Pass. Lamoureux did it both nights. He had a better save percentage both nights than DU’s standout goalies. It was .943 for the weekend.

2. Get a goal from the second line. Fail. UND only got one goal from a line other than the Duncan-Toews-Oshie line, and it was Rylan Kaip and the third line. Can UND continue to win without getting consistent scoring from other lines?

3. Keep Denver’s third and fourth lines off the scoreboard. Fail/Pass. On Friday, Paukovich got on the board to tie the game. That was the only goal from the third or fourth line on the weekend. It was a big one, though.

Denver shot charts

Due to the tight deadlines because of the late starts (mountain time), I didn’t have time to get many extra comments. Almost all were in the stories, which are linked off to the right.

Here are the shot charts:

Friday night (4-3 OT loss)

First period

Second period

Third period

Saturday night (3-0 win)

First period

Second period

Third period

Gameday final: UND 3, DU 0

First period

UND 1, DU 0 — Ryan Duncan (T.J. Oshie, Robbie Bina) 17:17 (pp). Oshie threaded a pass from the left circle to Duncan, who was camped out at the right circle. With a lot of net to look at, Duncan buried it.

Second period

UND 2, DU 0 — Rylan Kaip (Robbie Bina) 6:57. Bina made a good play along the boards to keep the puck in the zone. He dropped the pass to Kaip who quickly fired a shot from the top of the right circle. Fabian provided the screen in front.

UND 3, DU 0 — Ryan Duncan (Brian Lee, T.J. Oshie) 11:56 (pp). With a delayed penalty call and UND on the power play, Duncan scored from behind the goal line, banking a shot off Mannino.

Third period

No scoring.

UND’s lines (The Sioux are in the black jerseys tonight)

16 Ryan Duncan–9 Jonathan Toews–7 T.J. Oshie
24 Chris Porter–29 Chris VandeVelde–14 Brad Miller
21 Erik Fabian–17 Rylan Kaip–26 Kyle Radke
10 Andrew Kozek–11 Darcy Zajac–25 Scott Foyt

2 Joe Finley–28 Robbie Bina
4 Taylor Chorney–22 Brian Lee
6 Zach Jones–5 Chay Genoway

1 Phil Lamoureux
30 Aaron Walski

Denver’s lines

39 Brock Trotter–15 Tyler Ruegsegger–19 Ryan Dingle
9 Rhett Rakhshani–22 Brian Gifford–21 J.D. Corbin
10 Ryan Helgason–12 Geoff Paukovich–14 Tom May
3 Steven Cook–6 Mike Handza–11 J.P. Testwuide

4 Chris Butler–27 Patrick Mullen
7 Adrian Veideman–8 Keith Seabrook
5 Andrew Thomas–25 Cody Brookwell

29 Peter Mannino
28 Glenn Fisher
30 Danny King

Gameday final: DU 4, UND 3, OT

First period

UND 1, DU 0 — T.J. Oshie (Ryan Duncan, Jonathan Toews) 17:49. Duncan controlled the puck in the right circle and fed a pass across the slot to Oshie, who one-timed the puck by Fisher from the left circle.

UND 1, DU 1 — Ryan Dingle (Ryan Helgson) 19:18. Helgason started a rush along the left wing and dumped the puck to Dingle, who fought off a check and lifted a backhand past Lamoureux from the bottom of the right circle.

Power plays in period — UND 0-2, DU 0-3

Note: Matt Watkins left the game with 11:30 left in the first period and has not returned.

Second period

DU 2, UND 1 — Tyler Ruegsegger (Ryan Dingle, Chris Butler) 6:57. Dingle brought the puck in the zone on a 2-on-1 and took the shot from the right wing. Lamoureux kicked the rebound out to the left side, where Ruegsegger was crashing the net.

DU 2, UND 2 — Ryan Duncan (T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews) 12:52 (pp). Oshie made an unbelivable play, walking around a Denver defenseman on the right wing and sending a pass across the slot from his back. Duncan buried it from the side of the crease.

UND 3, DU 2 — Jonathan Toews (Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie) 16:14. Duncan and Oshie did a give-and-go along the right wing before Duncan fed it across the crease to Toews, who tapped it in.

Power plays in period — UND 1-1, DU 0-2

Third period

UND 3, DU 3 — Geoff Paukovich (Tom May, Tom Helgason) 2:18. May beat Zach Jones along the board to create a 2-on-1. May fed the puck to Paukovich, who put it away.

Overtime

DU 4, UND 3 — J.D. Corbin (Adrian Veideman, Mike Handza) 2:18. Corbin tipped Veideman’s shot from the point high over Lamoureux.

UND’s lines

16 Ryan Duncan–9 Jonathan Toews–7 T.J. Oshie
24 Chris Porter–20 Matt Watkins–14 Brad Miller
21 Erik Fabian–17 Rylan Kaip–10 Andrew Kozek
26 Kyle Radke–29 Chris VandeVelde–11 Darcy Zajac

2 Joe Finley–28 Robbie Bina
4 Taylor Chorney–22 Brian Lee
6 Zach Jones–5 Chay Genoway

1 Phil Lamoureux
30 Aaron Walski

Denver’s lines

39 Brock Trotter–15 Tyler Ruegsegger–19 Ryan Dingle
9 Rhett Rakhshani–22 Brian Gifford–21 J.D. Corbin
10 Ryan Helgason–12 Geoff Paukovich–14 Tom May
3 Steven Cook–6 Mike Handza–11 J.P. Testwuide

4 Chris Butler–27 Patrick Mullen
7 Adrian Veideman–8 Keith Seabrook
5 Andrew Thomas–25 Cody Brookwell

28 Glenn Fisher
29 Peter Mannino
30 Danny King

Three keys to Denver

I would be willing to bet that nobody is heavily thinking about the fact that Robbie Bina and Geoff Paukovich will be on the ice together for the first time since the infamous check from behind. That’s how important this series is.

It will be followed across the country because of the national implications. The teams are tied for ninth in the PairWise. A sweep could springboard the teams in opposite directions. Or they could split and not solve a whole lot.

What does UND need to do in order to keep the longest unbeaten streak in the country?

1. Phil Lamoureux needs to outduel either Glenn Fisher or Peter Mannino. There’s no rotation for the Pioneers this season. Denver coach George Gwozdecky said he would play whoever is on his game — an attempt to keep both players on edge. Gwozdecky said he thought some players might have been too comfortable last season. The change has worked. The Pioneers have been outstanding in goal this season. If Lamoureux can out-do their goalie, it would nullify one of Denver’s biggest strengths.

2. Get a goal from the second line. You want to take some pressure off the Ryan Duncan-Jonathan Toews-T.J. Oshie line? The best way is to get consistent production from the Chris Porter-Matt Watkins-Brad Miller line. While Porter has sprinkled in a couple of goals lately, Watkins has been without a goal for 18 and Miller has been pointless in six.

3. Keep Denver’s third and fourth lines off the scoreboard. The Pioneers have relied on production out of the Rhett Rakhshani-Ryan Dingle and Tyler Ruegsegger-Brock Trotter lines, and it would be no surprise to see them get on the board this weekend. But if Denver starts to get scoring from its checking lines, too, it will spell trouble for the Sioux. UND’s third and fourth lines need to win the battle against Denver’s.

Weekend watch: Feb. 23-24

As the season nears the finish, we watch the PairWise rankings closely to see if UND will make the NCAA tournament.

As always, other games will have an effect on UND’s standing in the PairWise rankings (which is a tie for ninth). The biggest thing, still, is for the Sioux to have success against Denver. Because their final two series are against highly ranked opponents, there is an opportunity for the Sioux to solidify its position in the PairWise. If the Sioux falter, however, it could spell trouble when the NCAA brackets are announced on March 18.

If you’re wondering which games to follow outside of UND’s here are a few…

1. Colorado College at Minnesota State-Mankato
Sioux fans should cheer for: Mankato. This series will be the most important as far as the PairWise is concerned. Coincidentally, it’s also probably the most important as far as WCHA standings are concerned. The Mavs currently are 27 in the RPI. It would help UND a great deal if they jumped in the top 25 and became a Team Under Consideration (TUC) since UND holds a 3-0-1 record against them. The Mavs also could knock CC, currently an NCAA bubble team, down in the PairWise. Of course UND and CC are tied for fourth in the conference and it would help UND solidify home ice, too. Follow this one closely.

2. Quinnipiac vs. St. Lawrence (Friday) and Clarkson (Saturday)
Sioux fans should cheer for: Quinnipiac. The Sioux want the Bobcats to stay in the top 25 in the PairWise because of a 2-0 head-to-head record. Quinnipiac currently is tied for 21st and in danger of slipping out of that spot. The Sioux also have a win against St. Lawrence, but the Saints (15 in PairWise) aren’t in danger of dropping out of the top 25.

3. Bemidji State at Wayne State
Sioux fans should cheer for: Bemidji State. Again, UND has a 2-0 record against the Beavers, who are 30 in the RPI. UND would benefit if Bemidji State jumped into the top 25. Even with a sweep of Wayne State, I’m not sure if the Beavers would be able to do it. But with the conference tournament still remaining, it is possible that Bemidji State can get in the top 25 by NCAA selection time. If the Beavers don’t have success against Wayne State, it will kill their chances to wind up being a TUC.

4. Dartmouth vs. Cornell and Colgate
Sioux fans should cheer for: Dartmouth. The Big Green are hanging on at No. 21 in the PairWise. If they stay in the top 25, UND can add a win to the TUC. Cornell also is a bubble team right now and it wouldn’t hurt knocking the Big Red down.

5. Wisconsin at Michigan Tech
Sioux fans should cheer for: No clue. This will be a series to keep an eye on because of the implications in both the WCHA standings and the PairWise rankings. Here’s the way I see it. UND is 1-3 against Wisconsin and 0-2 against Tech (both are tied for 19 in PairWise). Either way, it would benefit UND if one dropped out of the top 25 in the RPI. Because Tech has to play at Minnesota and then against a top-five WCHA team in the first round, I think chances are better for the Huskies to fall. But can Sioux fans cheer for the Badgers, who are nipping at UND’s heels in the fight for home ice? UND will want both these teams to lose after this weekend. As for this one, it’s your call.

Keeping track of these games should hold you over until UND’s late 8:37 start. Enjoy.

Who would you choose?

Last night, the Minnesota Wild won another shootout. That’s 10 for the season, which is incredible.

The shootout was finished off by Mikko Koivu, who as always, roofed a backhand for the shootout goal.

The Wild have become the best shootout team in the NHL. And it’s not the guys you would think who are winning it for Minnesota. Superstar forward Marian Gaborik isn’t used in the shootouts. Pavol Demitra hasn’t had much success, either. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, despite his highlight-reel spin shot against Chicago, isn’t a regular.

It’s been Koivu and his backhand, Rolston and his slap shot, and of all people — sometimes scratched defenseman Petteri Nummelin.

It got me to thinking, if college hockey had shootouts and you were the UND coach, which players would you pick to have shoot? Lets go with the Wild’s formula of not necessarily using the top point scorers. That means no Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie or Jonathan Toews.

I’ll take Ryan Martens, Michael Forney and Robbie Bina.

Who would you pick?

Wednesday’s update

At his weekly meeting with local media, UND coach Dave Hakstol said he hasn’t finalized the travel roster yet, but forward Ryan Martens is doubtful.

Martens continued to practice with the no-hit jersey.

Freshman goalie Anthony Grieco wasn’t at practice Wednesday, but he was not addressed at the meeting. Grieco didn’t dress two weeks ago against Mankato. Last weekend against Duluth, he was in uniform but listed as the third goaltender.