What would a hockey season be without some wild travel adventures?
After a strange day that involved multiple trips to Denver International Airport, multiple trips to Dollar Rent a Car and another trip to the Cherry Cricket for a Cricket burger, we are finally back in North Dakota.
We were originally booked for Tuesday night but found a way to grab the last two standby seats on a flight to Fargo tonight. Despite the awful weather and the whole not-able-to-use-your-heat thing, it’s good to be back.
On Saturday night, UND played a pretty strong all-around game, but only had a 3-0 loss to show for it. UND outshot the Pioneers badly — by 18 — but couldn’t come away with any points.
One strange note is that UND’s three biggest shot advantages this season came at BU, at BSU and at Denver. UND didn’t win any of them (0-1-2).
Biggest shot advantages this season
+28 tie at BSU, 1-1
+27 tie at BU, 3-3
+18 loss at DU, 3-0
+17 win vs. NMU, 3-1
+16 win vs. BSU, 4-2
One sign that I think is encouraging: Four of the team’s top five shot advantages this season have come in the last seven games.
That means UND is starting to dictate play and not relying on its goaltender to win a game each night, as UND often did early in the season (see: Clarke Saunders vs. Omaha and Duluth; Zane Gothberg vs. Western Michigan twice).
Yes, they’ve lacked the finishing part, but playing like this gives UND a much better chance at winning games night in and night out. The 10-game unbeaten streak shows that.
Right now, one line seems to be setting the tone night in and night out and the rest of the players follow — the Derek Rodwell, Stephane Pattyn, Connor Gaarder line.
They have consistently played in the offensive zone and done a lot of things well. When you have those guys going, it becomes contagious and the rest of the team follows. No surprise that the coaching staff started that unit this weekend.
A few topics that I know will be discussed:
1. Officiating. It was not a good night for the stripes. Overall, the NCHC officials have done a nice job this season, but Saturday was not one of those nights. Nobody had a clue what was a penalty.
2. The power play. UND’s has really been up-and-down this season. Despite some good chances early, it went 0-for-6 on the night. When you are having one of those evenings where nothing seems to be going in, you have to hope you can cash in with the extra man and open the floodgates a little bit.
3. The shutout. One UND player mentioned that he didn’t think UND got to the blue paint enough to take away the eyes of Sam Brittain and to pounce on rebounds. Hakstol liked the team’s effort, but hoped they could find a way to get one to go.
I’ll have a bit more on a travel blog later on, but it’s time to retire for this evening.