You won’t hear this too often.
Denver’s captain says one of the keys to the game is keeping the UND fans out of it.
The game is being played in Denver.
Paul Phillips told USCHO in this story: “As crazy as it sounds, even though it’s a home game for us, it’s kind of like a home game for them. They bring so many fans with them and their fans are so loud. It’s real important that we can’t let their fans get into the game. We have to throw the first punch.”
For the second straight road series, UND fans will try to make it a home atmosphere when the teams play at Magness Arena in Denver.
It worked well in Omaha. I’m not sure how big of an impact it has had in Denver, since that’s one of the two WCHA towns where I have not seen a North Dakota sweep since I started covering the team (the other is St. Cloud).
The rivalry has been well documented. There has been some animosity between these teams and I think that’s, in part, because they are somewhat alike.
They both recruit a lot of the same areas — Western Canada, top USHL players and the NTDP. Heck, they are even both recruiting Greater Grand Forks (DU has a commitment from EGF’s Gage Ausmus).
Both teams have churned out a number of NHL players recently, as today’s Denver Post article details.
Both teams have found a way to be in the mix year in and year out, despite the challenges of early signings, young recruiting and departures to the CHL.
In the weekly On The Ice column, I discuss the top-end players both North Dakota and Miami had penciled in for this year: J.T. Miller, Stefan Matteau, Patrick Sieloff, Connor Murphy and Tyler Biggs. Considering both teams lost two star recruits weeks before they were supposed to arrive on campus, it’s maybe a bit surprising that both teams are ranked in the top six nationally.
You can throw George Gwozdecky in this group of overcoming big losses and having his team in the mix once again. Denver lost Beau Bennett, Jason Zucker and Drew Shore early last year. All three are in the NHL. Denver is still ranked No. 10 nationally.
Only four coaches have led their teams to NCAA tournament berths in each of the last four years: Dave Hakstol, Rico Blasi, Gwozdecky and Red Berenson (whose team will probably miss this year). All four coaches have had to deal with players being poached by the CHL and players signing early (and they’ve all dealt with it plenty). They’ve just done a nice job adjusting on the fly to the changes.
Speaking of changes, is it a little strange seeing a Zajac in a Denver uniform? Perhaps, but it has worked out well for the Pioneers. Nolan Zajac has been a top scorer for them this year and is even playing forward on DU’s potent power play. Read about Zajac in this story.
Did you know UND has two top draft picks who cruise campus in a minivan? Well, I didn’t either until this week.
Sports Info Director Jayson Hajdu has posted in the travel blog and says that former UND great Doug Smail is planning to be in attendance this weekend. You also never know when you’re going to see Denver Broncos captain Chris Kuper at Magness Arena. I’ve spotted him there a few times.
In case you missed Thursday’s story, I detailed how nonconference games are making a huge impact in the Pairwise Rankings this year. Read some of the examples here.
Also, if you didn’t see this piece by the founder of Deadspin about hockey fans, it’s a pretty good one.
On the women’s side, UND is in Duluth for a critical two-game series against the Bulldogs. UND will likely need to sweep Duluth to pass Wisconsin for the No. 8 spot in the Pairwise Rankings, the lowest you can be and still get in the national tournament.
The women have only allowed 15 goals in the last 10 games, and one big component to that is that they actually have Jordan Slavin for the stretch run. That’s something UND could not say the last two years. Slavin has high hopes for this team. You can read her final quote in this story here.
As for the future, UND’s recruits are doing well in the state tournament. Lisa Marvin has 16 points in 3 playoff games for Warroad, which plays in the semifinals this afternoon. Marvin is the sister of UND freshman Layla Marvin and daughter of former UND player David Marvin.
As long as there are no technical problems, we should have a pregame video blog this afternoon from Denver. But for now, I’ll leave you with this week’s episode of Through These Doors. It’s a good one – you get to hear about all of Danny Kristo’s superstitions.