UND had last weekend off from regular season games and an extra week to try to fine tune some things.
This early in the season, there are plenty of things to fine tune.
Although the penalty kill has been a huge strength for UND — it has killed 23 straight since allowing Vermont a power-play goal on the first chance of the season — assistant coach Dane Jackson says there are some tweaks to make on that unit. The power play is still adjusting a bit to the new format as well.
UND also wants to stop a trend this weekend. So far, it has taken a penalty in the opening six minutes of every game. That has put the team on its heels a couple times.
There may be a couple of changes to the lineup, but all signs are pointing toward Drake Caggiula being available to play in tonight’s series opener. That is great news after he sustained an injury that could have been bad. Caggiula has practiced this week.
This weekend’s opponent is the St. Cloud State Huskies — a program that has to be feeling pretty good about itself right now. The Huskies are coming off of the first Frozen Four berth in program history, their rink was just renovated, they are in the NCHC and they are unbeaten after the first two weekends of play.
The Huskies got a win and a tie against Bemidji State to open the season and swept Colgate last weekend. They were one of the only NCHC teams to take care of business in nonconference play.
The scouting report on them is that they are strong up the middle. Their four centers, Nic Dowd, Kalle Kossila, David Morley and Cory Thorson are all legit. They started Morley at wing on the top line to open the season, but have since moved him to center. It could help create mismatches on that unit. He’s a very skilled player.
On the back end, SCSU lost Nick Jensen, who may have been the WCHA’s best player last season. He was a big reason why the Huskies shut down UND in the series opener at REA last season. The two big names that remain are Andrew Prochno and Kevin Gravel. Jensen’s the only one they lost from that group, but it’s a big loss.
In goal, the Huskies have Ryan Faragher back. His first-career start was a 44-save shutout in the Ralph. His backup is former USHL standout Charlie Lindgren.
The St. Cloud Times had a story this week about Roseau’s Nick Oliver, who looks a lot better this season after working out in Grand Forks over the summer. Oliver scored a big game-winning goal late in the third period for the Huskies last weekend.
In Thursday’s paper, I wrote about all of the former Penticton Vees that are playing this weekend. There could be as many as seven of them on the ice tonight. And it just so happened that the Vees have the weekend off so their entire staff is making the trip to Grand Forks.
Another noteworthy item about this weekend is that UND’s all-time winningest coach, Gino Gasparini, will be honored prior to Saturday’s game. Gasparini made a huge impact on UND’s program. He also helped guide SCSU to the NCHC. Read about Gasparini in this story.
This week’s “Get To Know” segment is with junior forward Stephane Pattyn. Read it/watch it here.
Predictions around the NCHC…
Colorado College at Western Michigan: Since 1999 (the furthest I can go back with online stats), Colorado College has averaged at least 27.4 shots on goal per game for each season (see below). This season, the Tigers are averaging just 19. That’s not going to cut it against an Andy Murray coached team. Western Michigan sweep.
CC shots per game
Omaha at Denver: Omaha got swept last weekend at home by Cornell. Denver has lost three of the last four. Both teams are searching to find their way and get a win. Both teams get one. Split.
Canisius at Miami: Mayville native Keegan Asmundson, Canisius’ goalie, stole a game from Denver last weekend. He will need to be at the top of his game against a high-flying Miami team to do it two weeks in a row. Miami sweep.
Minnesota Duluth at Ohio State: The Dogs should have some confidence after beating Notre Dame last Saturday. Ohio State is 0-2 vs. the NCHC this year after getting swept by Miami. Bulldogs win and tie.
St. Cloud State at UND: Should be a good series. Expecting both games to be close. I say UND pulls it out one night. The other night, St. Cloud State wins a shootout.
The UND women get things started early this weekend with a 2:07 p.m. game today in Bemidji.
This will be a very challenging test for UND, as it will be playing without its top two scorers, Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani. Read about that here.
In the past, Bemidji State has trapped against UND and tried to clog things up in the neutral zone. UND would move Monique Lamoureux back to the blue line to help break the trap.
It will be interesting to see how much this year’s offensive defensive corps helps to break through Bemidji State’s tough defense. Halli Krzyzaniak and Gracen Hirschy are both very good offensively, and Samantha Hanson and Tanja Eisenschmid also can provide offensive skills.
This will be a good test for UND for February, when it will lose Karvinen, Tapani, Eisenschmid and defenseman Johanna Fallman to the Olympic Games.
Also of note, former UND assistant coach Maria Lewis has resigned as head coach of the Maine women’s team due to compliance issues and NCAA violations. Read that story here.
Check back this afternoon for any other pregame updates and hopefully, we’ll have a pregame video blog up. Have a good one.