With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer still slugging it out on the courts at the Australian Open, I’m hitting the road to Fargo along with Tom Miller to catch a flight to Denver for this weekend’s series in Magness Arena.
Most of the NCHC teams have been on rollercoasters this year, and UND and Denver are the two teams that have been the hottest as of late.
UND is unbeaten in the last nine. Denver has lost just twice in its last 15.
For starters, the Herald unveiled a new-look website that’s designed to be much easier to read on mobile devices. As you would expect, we’re working through a lot of kinks in the system right now, so bear with us as we do that.
I wrote a notebook for today’s paper, touching on a number of subjects, leading with the friendship of UND’s Paul LaDue and Denver’s Matt VanVoohris. Although VanVoohris is listed as from Edina, he was actually born and raised in Grand Forks about three houses down from LaDue.
This week’s “Get to Know” segment also is with LaDue, but I don’t see that on the site right now. It might get posted later in the morning.
As most people probably saw earlier this week, Zane Gothberg sustained a lower-body injury in practice and will be out for at least a couple of weeks. That means Clarke Saunders is the guy right now.
Some UND fans may remember Saunders’ outstanding performance in Magness Arena last season. One interesting side note is that he actually stole a game in Magness while he was at Alabama Huntsville, too. Saunders made 41 saves to help the previously 1-21-1 Chargers to a stunning win.
One big similarity between these teams is how much their defensive corps factor in the scoring.
Nation’s top-five scoring D-corps
2.69 ppg — New Hampshire
2.68 ppg — North Dakota
2.65 ppg — Wisconsin
2.64 ppg — St. Lawrence
2.62 ppg — Denver
When you look at just goals by the defensive corps, Denver is even more impressive. Defenseman Joey LaLeggia has more goals (9) than anybody on UND’s team. Defenseman David Makowski has the same number of goals as UND’s leader, Rocco Grimaldi (8).
One player to keep an eye on for the Pioneers is rookie forward Trevor Moore. He has nine goals in the last 15 games.
On the UND side, Mark MacMillan has been playing well since his return to full health. He has two goals and two assists and is plus-5 in four games. Previously, he had three goals, two assists and a minus-8 rating in 14 games.
On to predictions for the weekend…
UND at Denver: Since 2003-04, these teams have split every series in Magness Arena but one. I think that’s a pretty safe bet here between two teams who are playing pretty well. Split.
Miami at Colorado College: Two teams that desperately need victories. The Tigers have 1 win in 21 games since Day 2 of the season. Miami, the preseason league favorite, is 3-8-2 in its last 13 games. I think the RedHawks finally get things right in the Springs. Miami sweep.
St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth at North Star College Cup: The Bulldogs open with the Mavericks, the Huskies take on the Gophers. I’m going to say Gophers beat the Bulldogs in the finals and the Huskies take out the Mavericks in the third-place game.
On the women’s side…
UND begins life without Olympians this weekend as Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani are scheduled to depart Grand Forks for Europe. They will make a stop in Finland before going to Sochi.
It will be interesting to see if Meghan Dufault or Leah Jensen are in the lineup this weekend. Neither were at practice earlier this week when I stopped.
I’m expecting some low-scoring games this weekend against a Bemidji State squad that’s pretty good defensively. That shouldn’t bother UND, which has been quite pleased with the play of freshman goaltender Lexie Shaw.
Shaw is putting up some of the best numbers in the country right now. Here’s a story about her play in today’s paper.
Well, that’s all for now. Off to Fargo. Catch you from Denver.