At 8 a.m., I’ll begin my first trip to Oxford, Ohio, for the big showdown between No. 6 UND and No. 1 Miami.
For those that don’t know, Oxford is a small town (about half the size of Grand Forks) near the border of Ohio and Indiana. Because it is homecoming weekend, all the hotels in town have been booked for some time, and I was about to stay 40 minutes away. Luckily, a room just opened up and I’ll be able to stay in town.
The hockey game will be the big deal on homecoming weekend. The football team is 0-6. It is playing against 1-6 Akron. I just looked at available tickets and I can get a seat in Row 7 (which I will probably do) for the football game. Nobody seems too excited about it. Big Ben isn’t coming back any time soon.
Miami plays at Steve Cady Arena in the Goggin Ice Center, a facility that opened in 2006 and seats about 3,600. It should be sold out for the first-ever NCHC matchup.
I talked with CBS Sports analyst Dave Starman, who will be calling tonight’s game. He said that this matchup was hand-picked as the NCHC opener.
Look at the recent history of the teams. They rank 2-3 nationally in wins since 2005-06. They are the only teams to have a .600 winning percentage every year since then. They rank 1-2 in most consecutive NCAA tournaments.
I noticed that Starman also wrote a breakdown of the series for College Hockey News. He gives some scouting reports on each team and some of the players (he’s very connected as he works as a scout for the Leafs). Read his report here.
For Thursday’s paper, I wrote a story on defenseman Troy Stecher. Of the four incoming defensemen, he is the only one that went undrafted and he didn’t receive a lot of buzz before arriving on campus. But he was arguably UND’s best rookie defenseman last weekend.
I’ll also throw out the prediction that Stecher will some day wear a letter at UND, just as he did in Penticton. Read that feature here.
This week’s player in the spotlight is goalie Clarke Saunders. Get to know what he’s like a little bit off the ice in our weekly Q&A segment. Saunders has as much personality as anyone on the team, so check out the video of him answering the questions.
The Dakota Student has a story on UND’s first road trip. UND made the trip to Ohio via charter plane Thursday.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has a story about the beginning of the new league with quotes from NCHC commish Josh Fenton, who will be in Oxford for the series.
What should fans expect to see from Miami this weekend?
Well, there’s a reason everyone picked the RedHawks to win the NCHC. They are very, very deep up front. Riley Barber and Austin Czarnik are the two big guns that attract the headlines. Sean Kuraly is a guy many may remember from the World Juniors. Very good player.
Those of you who go to Fargo Force games will remember Jimmy Mullin. He’s a third-liner on this team. So is Blake Coleman, who dominated the USHL for 92 points three years ago.
So, common logic says the way to beat Miami is outscoring them. Well, not really. The RedHawks finished second nationally last year in team defense, allowing just 1.74 goals per game.
A couple of side notes to this series:
- We could see a battle of the co-USHL goalies of the year. In 2011-12, UND sophomore Zane Gothberg shared the honor with Miami’s Ryan McKay.
- Miami forward Alex Wideman and UND defenseman Nick Mattson were roommates when they played for the Indiana Ice.
- Miami freshman forward Anthony Louis is their version of Rocco Grimaldi. He’s only 5-foot-7, but very dynamic and capable of highlight-reel plays.
Around the NCHC this weekend…
Minnesota Duluth at Colorado College: This is the second half of the doubleheader tonight on CBS Sports. This will be the opener for Colorado College, the only NCHC team that has yet to play a regular season game. Although the Bulldogs didn’t score a lot opening weekend against a tough Tech team, I’m still high on them. Duluth wins and ties.
Denver at Alaska Goal Rush: The Pioneers, who have yet to allow a goal this season, will go play two teams who aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts. How long can Sam Brittain keep his shutout streak going? That one is tough to predict. But I will say the Pioneers take two.
Western Michigan at Alaska Goal Rush: The Broncos are 0-2 and have yet to score a goal this season after getting swept by a very good Notre Dame team. I think they get a win up in Fairbanks, but not two. Broncos split.
Nebraska Omaha at Northern Michigan: Both teams stubbed their toe on opening weekend. The Mavs lost to Bentley; Northern Michigan got swept at Wisconsin. I think the Mavs bounce back. The WCHA’s nonconference struggles continue. Omaha sweeps.
North Dakota at Miami: The RedHawks are No. 1 for a reason. They’ve only lost 3 of their last 29 home games. And their veteran squad has to be a favorite over a young UND team. But UND showed enough good signs Week 1 that I think it can go to Oxford and get a game. Split.
The UND women are back at home this weekend, hosting Ohio State (7:07 tonight and 7:07 p.m. Saturday, 1440 AM).
The Buckeyes have had a tough go in their last couple trips to Grand Forks, going 0-4, losing by a combined score of 26-6. Ohio State hasn’t won in Grand Forks since 2009. UND also has made The Ralph a tough place to play. The women are 15-1-1 in their last 17 games at home.
In today’s paper, I wrote about rookie defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak — one of the big pieces in making this year’s D-corps the best UND has ever had. Read her story here.
On to the pick. I was expecting last week to be a little more bumpy than it was for this UND team, which never allowed the Bulldogs to sustain much pressure. I think UND builds from that and sweeps Ohio State.
Bonus pick? Since Tom Miller is covering the game, I predict Josefine Jakobsen to have a big weekend. I think every time Miller has filled in for me, Jakobsen has been the star. Her parents flew to Grand Forks for the first time ever last week and they are staying through this weekend, so they will be able to take in two more games.
That’s all for now. Catch you from Ohio. Hopefully.