UND entered Christmas break by playing six consecutive strong games, leading to a five-game unbeaten streak. Then, the team was idle for 20 days.
Tonight, they are finally back at it against Holy Cross in nonconference action. Will the team be able to pick back up where it left off? How much rust will there be? Will there be any chemistry with some of the new-look line combinations?
Those are all questions that have to be answered this weekend (For those interested in tickets, they are just $15 for adults and there are about 1,000 seats available tonight, 400 for Saturday. And those at The Ralph tell me that the Vikes-Packers game will be on TVs in the concourses for those interested in following along there).
We already know a few of the lineup changes. Rocco Grimaldi is out (he’s playing for a gold medal in Ufa, Russia), while Michael Parks and Mitch MacMillan are in.
MacMillan hasn’t played a game in more than a year now, but will be paired with his brother Mark. Read what Mitch is saying about his return in this story.
There will be one other person out of the lineup with Parks and Mitch coming in. I would guess that’s Derek Rodwell, who had an operation and 25 stitches a couple weeks ago after getting cut by the skate of teammate Dan Senkbeil in Houghton, Mich.
This weekend’s opponent is Holy Cross. It’s their first trip back to Grand Forks since this happened:
Of Holy Cross’s traveling party to Grand Forks in 2006, only three are back this weekend — the head coach, the SID and the associate athletic director. Even so, they have some fond memories of their last trip here.
Interestingly enough, this week marked the first time that Holy Cross cracked into the national rankings since their last trip to Grand Forks. So, what do you need to know about the Crusaders? Here are a few notes:
- Their top line of Brandon Nunn, Kyle Fletcher and Rob Linsmayer is very potent. Nunn recently missed eight games with an injury. His first game back was Dec. 30, and he had two goals and one assist in a 5-4 win over Yale (that’s a Yale team that went to Colorado and swept CC and DU). Nunn is averaging 1.5 points per game
- The most recognizable name on the roster for people in this area is Jake Youso. He’s from International Falls and is expecting a good crowd of supporters to come to Grand Forks. Youso had originally committed to Minnesota (ironic that he picked Holy Cross, of all schools, to attend after things didn’t work out with Minnesota).
- Holy Cross has 10 freshmen on the roster, but they don’t count on them as much as their veteran players. Only two of the 10 rookies have played in every game (although expect to see three rookie D in the lineup tonight). Meanwhile, their top six scorers: senior, junior, senior, senior, senior and senior.
- Sophomore Matt Ginn is the guy in goal for the Crusaders. He’s started 14 of 16 games and posted a .909 save percent and a 2.90 goals-against average.
At this week’s press conferences, coach Dave Hakstol said he felt that UND’s second-half schedule might be even more difficult than it was in the first half. USCHO agrees. According to the numbers they researched, UND has the most difficult second-half schedule in the league.
This week’s Q&A is with assistant coach Brad Berry. I talked to Berry about his experience playing in the World Junior Championship and how much it has changed since 1985, when he won gold with Canada. Read that Q&A here.
Next week, I will try to catch up with Dane Jackson and chat about his induction into the Rochester Americans’ Hall of Fame. He might have some great stories (he captained a John Tortorella-coached team to a Calder Cup). I hope Jackson doesn’t answer everything: “Next question.”
Around the WCHA…
Colorado College at Nebraska-Omaha: Omaha returns home after getting swept at Quinnipiac last weekend. Colorado College has 1 win in its last 10 games. It should be two desperate teams playing in Omaha.
Northern Michigan at St. Cloud State: The Huskies have been average in nonconference play this year and this is their last shot at bettering that mark. After sweeping Wisconsin to open the season, NMU is 4-10-3.
Providence at MSU-Mankato: The Mavs have found their guy in goal in Stephon Williams. Providence lost its guy in goal (Jon Gillies is at the World Juniors). This is a prime chance for Mankato to continue raising its profile.
Western Michigan at Bemidji State: The Broncos were 11-3-1 and cruising toward a high seed in the NCAA tournament. Then, they scored just one goal in a three-game span, going 0-2-1. They will try to rediscover that offense against an up-and-down Beaver team.
Cornell at Denver: The Big Red already swept one Colorado team this year (CC), can they make another dent out in the Rocky Mountains? Denver snapped an eight-game winless drought by hammering BU last weekend. Then, the Pioneers lost rookie defenseman Dakota Mermis to the OHL. No worries, though. Goalie Juho Olkinuora (.944 save percent) is still there.
Wisconsin at Alaska Anchorage: The Badgers take a six-game unbeaten streak to Anchorage, where they will have a prime opportunity to extend that. Anchorage has just one win in the last 12 games and coach Dave Shyiak has to make sure this thing doesn’t implode.
On the women’s side, UND is in St. Louis to take on Lindenwood.
UND will play without Michelle Karvinen and Tanja Eisenschmid, who are both playing in international competition overseas. This one shouldn’t be a problem, though. Lindenwood has one win this year and UND hammered the Lady Lions 14-0 in The Ralph last season.
Coach Brian Idalski knows how important the first six games are in the second half — Lindenwood, Minnesota, Wisconsin. Read his comments here.
That’s it for now. Check back this afternoon for a video preview of this weekend’s action.