Women’s final: UND 5, Ohio St. 2

Notes: UND goes with the same lines as it has been using.

First period

UND 1, Ohio State 0 — Josefine Jakobsen (Tanja Eisenschmid) 2:36. UND gets on the board on its first shot of the game. Jakobsen comes on a rush up the left side and wires a shot past Danczak on the far side from the circle.

Second period

UND 1, Ohio State 1 — Kari Schmitt (Kayla Sullivan) 10:02 (pp). UND’s shutout streak ends at 297:51 when Schmitt’s shot from the point bounces on the ice and kicks over Amsley-Benzie’s pad for a power-play goal.

Ohio State 2, UND 1 — Sara Schmitt (Danielle Gagne, Kari Schmitt) 13:34 (pp). The Buckeyes cash in on the power play again as Dufault’s clearing attempt is intercepted at the point by Kari Schmitt. She puts the puck into the scoring area and her sister puts a rebound past Amsley-Benzie.

Ohio State 2, UND 2 — Andrea Dalen (Kayla Gardner, Tanja Eisenschmid) 19:54. UND ties the game with just 5.5 seconds left in the second period. Gardner comes on a rush up the left side and throws a pass to the slot area, where it gets through Schmitt and comes to Dalen. The captain hammers a shot off of the goalie’s shoulder and in.

Third period

UND 3, Ohio State 2 — Andrea Dalen (Samantha Hanson) 8:54. Hanson ends a strong shift by getting the puck at the point and firing it toward the slot. It deflects off of a Buckeye defenseman to Dalen, who quickly snipes a backhand before Danczak can get over.

UND 4, Ohio State 2 — Meghan Dufault (Amy Menke) 18:51 (en). Menke fights off a couple of checks and gets the puck to Dufault for the empty-netter.

UND 5, Ohio State 2 — Andrea Dalen (Halli Krzyzaniak) 19:33 (en). Dalen finishes off the hat trick by firing one into the empty net from the circle.

UND’s lines

51 Becca Kohler–19 Meghan Dufault–21 Amy Menke
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–25 Leah Jensen
15 Kayla Gardner–11 Shannon Kaiser–13 Layla Marvin
16 Tori Williams–14 Marissa Salo–4 Sam LaShomb

6 Gracen Hirschy–18 Halli Krzyzaniak
22 Tanja Eisenschmid–8 Samantha Hanson
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

Ohio State’s lines

7 Kayla Sullivan–6 Tahylor Kuehl–19 Danielle Gagne
24 Claudia Kepler–27 Lauren Spring–17 Julia McKinnon
18 Julianna Iafallo–26 Kendall Curtis–16 Melani Moylan
9 Bryanna Neuwald–23 Katie Matheny–14 Maggie Rothgery

22 Sara Schmitt–13 Jessica Dunne
10 Kara Gust–21 Alexa Ranahan
20 Kari Schmitt–8 Dani Sadek

39 Stacy Danczak
32 Kassidy Sauve
35 Selena Hunter

Friday morning reading

It’s already the last home regular-season series of the season. Each week, we’ll see how many goals this team can achieve. All are still in front of them.

The first step is trying to secure home ice for the 13th year in a row. I wrote a little about that in today’s UND notebook.

If they do that, they will have their attention on achieving something new each weekend for as long as the season lasts: the Penrose Cup, trying to reach the conference tournament for a 13th straight season, trying to win the postseason championship for the fourth time in six years, trying to reach the Frozen Four for the seventh time in 11 years and, ultimately, trying to win No. 8.

This weekend’s series will provide a unique challenge.

If there’s one team that’s had UND’s number during the last few years, it’s St. Cloud State. If there’s one team that hasn’t struggled at The Ralph, it’s the Huskies.

UND is 0-3-1 in its last four home games against the Huskies and 1-4-1 in the last six. The last time UND has beaten St. Cloud State in The Ralph was Oct. 29, 2011.

It’s tough to point your finger at one reason for UND’s recent struggles against them. The games have been all different varieties. But in two of the Huskies’ last four games in REA, they really held down UND’s shot totals and offensive scoring chances.

UND will try to keep the offense rolling in a weekend that’s bound to be an emotional one.

It’s Senior Weekend. The seniors will be highlighted after Saturday night’s game.

I wrote about one of them for Thursday’s paper. As one player told me, “You’ve never met someone like him, and you’re never going to meet someone like him again.” It’s Connor Gaarder. Read that story here.

My Q&A this week is with another member of the senior class, captain Stephane Pattyn. He talks about his career, including his memory of the comeback win over Minnesota in the Final Five.

The St. Cloud Times has a preview of the series here, highlighting the Huskies late-season charge that could get them home ice.

I think the big key to watch in this series is special teams. St. Cloud State has the No. 3-ranked power play in the nation. It looked good in St. Cloud earlier this season. If UND gives the Huskies too many opportunities, it could spell doom.

The other big key is Jonny Brodzinski. He has had some big games against UND. In the first series between the teams this season, Brodzinski was allowed to shoot the puck 16 times. He scored twice and the Huskies won. The second night, he had one shot attempt through two periods and UND built a lead. He has one of the best shots in the league and UND needs to be aware of him.

On to the picks…

Miami at Denver: The Pioneers are without Zac Larraza tonight and the RedHawks are heating up. Even though Denver has been significantly better at home, I’m going to say that Miami goes out there and gets back into the NCHC race with a sweep. Miami 4-3, 4-2.

Omaha at Duluth: Omaha is 1-4 in the last five games and is trying to avoid a late-season tailspin, which has been common in recent years (though not so much last season). The Bulldogs are at home and fighting for home ice. Duluth 5-4, Omaha 3-2.

Western Michigan at Colorado College: I really liked the way the Broncos played last weekend, but will they be able to use their usual physicality as effectively on the big ice sheet? I’m not sure. I think the Tigers grab a tie out of this series. Western Michigan 3-0, 2-2 tie.

St. Cloud State at UND: The Huskies have had success recently against UND, but this UND squad has been very difficult to beat. St. Cloud State may be able to do it once, but not twice. St. Cloud State 3-1, UND 4-2.

**************************************************************

Things have been going well on both the men’s and the women’s side lately. The two teams have combined for an 18-2-2 record since mid-January.

The playoffs start at 2 p.m. today for the women in The Ralph. They are hosting Ohio State in a best-of-three series.

The spotlight is on goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie, who comes in with a shutout streak of 267:49 and four consecutive shutouts. She blanked the Buckeyes in back-to-back games during the last series between the teams.

Amsley-Benzie was recognized on a national level Thursday, becoming UND’s third-ever player to be a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award.

Does she have a shot to win? Well, it hasn’t been easy for goalies, but she does have the numbers to back it up. She also has that 4.0 in chemical engineering. And, as coach Brian Idalski said, has anyone in the country sort of put a team on their back like Amsley-Benzie?

UND needs to win this playoff series to keep its season alive. And if it does win, UND will host the Final Faceoff next weekend in The Ralph (UND may need to win that, too, to get in the NCAAs).

That’s about it for now, I’ll leave you with a good episode of Through These Doors that focuses on the senior class.

High praise from Murray

Western Michigan coach Andy Murray, who spent a decade as an NHL head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues, had high praise for this year’s UND hockey team.

After last weekend’s series in Kalamazoo, Murray told the Gazette that UND is “maybe the best team I’ve coached against” during his four years in the college game.

Read that comment in this story here.

I think one of the difficulties that this team presents for Murray and other coaches is in preparation and game-planning. Coaches usually know which players they need to use their top guys against.

While Tucker Poolman, Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks are listed as UND’s top line, it could be argued that the “fourth line” of Brendan O’Donnell, Connor Gaarder and Austin Poganski has been UND’s most effective unit in the past four weeks.

Another challenge is that this team has the ability to play a number of different styles of game. If you want to get up and down the rink, UND is OK with that. If you want to play a tough, hard-hitting, physical game like Western Michigan, UND is OK with doing that, too.

The critical part of the season is approaching and how these next few weeks play out will go a long way into determining where this team falls in terms of great ones, but its current winning percentage is nearly identical to the great Pony Express team of 2010-11.

Weekend rewind

The formula wasn’t much different from the second half of this season. UND played two very tight, highly contested games, but found a way to come out ahead in both of them.

One night after coach Dave Hakstol told me in postgame that one of this team’s best traits is that they don’t get rattled if bad things happen, that they have a next-shift mentality, his team proved him to be right.

After allowing back-to-back extra-attacker goals to tie the game, UND went out and won Saturday’s game in overtime. Here’s the game story from it.

In talking with Virg Foss this week, he brought up a good point that this team has kind of taken on Hakstol’s personality: They don’t get too high. They don’t get too low. Nothing really rattles them. They work extremely hard and play extremely hard. So far, that’s led to a remarkably strong record for a team that’s really void of superstars on the national level.

Some other thoughts from the weekend:

  • Nick Mattson showed great poise on the game-winning goal. Everyone in the arena was waiting for him to shoot that puck, but he saw a lane that nobody else did. He got the puck to Drake Caggiula, who apparently has been working on his top-shelf backhand.
  • Nice Saturday night for Paul LaDue: Goal, assist, +1, game-high five blocked shots, team-high four shots on goal.
  • Tucker Poolman, once again, was not on the power play. I asked Hakstol after the game about that move. He said that, starting with Omaha, a lot of these teams pressure the point men hard, and he wanted to have one lefty, one righty on D for the power play. LaDue and Jordan Schmaltz are both righties, so they take the power-play time. Hakstol said he’s been pleased with Poolman’s play and has been looking to get him more ice time, and he’s been seeing more on the penalty kill. But for now, the lone reason he’s off the power play is because the coaches don’t want two righties out there.
  • UND held Western’s No. 5-nationally ranked power play to one goal on eight chances (that was a 6-on-4 goal, too). It doesn’t get any easier this weekend as St. Cloud State’s power play ranks No. 3 nationally.
  • There’s a lot to like about that Western Michigan team. They are big and physical. They need a little better finishing around the net. I don’t think anyone wants to play the Broncos first round of the playoffs. If you do get by them, you’re going to be in the ice bath all week.
  • Mark MacMillan is one point shy of 100 for his career. Michael Parks needs nine to get there.
  • Zane McIntyre was a major difference-maker in the series. He made a huge save on a partial breakaway by Colton Hargrove to start overtime. He didn’t allow an even-strength goal all weekend (all three were extra-attacker). He has played some great games in that building.
  • After the game Saturday night, the players were already talking about senior night and senior week. Clearly, it’s an important one for them. Probably especially so with this big senior class.

Thirty-five years ago today

Former Sioux forward Dave Christian was busy 35 years ago today playing part of what’s widely known as the biggest upset in sports history.

Christian had 8 points in 7 games in the Olympics for Team USA. He came to UND from Warroad High School and went on to play for the Winnipeg Jets later in 1980.

Here’s the last minute of the Miracle on Ice.

Gameday final: UND 3, WMU 2, OT

TONIGHT’S VIEWING: NCHC.tv. Lineup notes: No changes for UND. Lone change for WMU is McKee in for Hadley on RW on the fourth line. Full lines and live chat are below.

First period

No scoring.

Second period

UND 1, Western Michigan 0 — Michael Parks (Mark MacMillan, Jordan Schmaltz) 9:40. Hafner gets caught in the corner trying to play the puck and MacMillan centers it to Jordan Schmaltz. He appears to have some net to look at, but he misses wide as Hafner dives back into position. The puck goes back to the corner and MacMillan quickly sends it right back out front to Parks, who taps it in before Hafner can recover from diving after Schmaltz’s attempt.

Third period

UND 2, Western Michigan 0 — Paul LaDue (Connor Gaarder, Nick Mattson) 4:20. UND strikes for a four-on-four goal. Off the draw, Mattson tries to set up Gaarder in the slot. The puck gets away from Gaarder, but LaDue spots it, steps in, picks it up and snaps it glove side for his first goal in 25 games.

UND 2, Western Michigan 1 — Will Kessel (Taylor Fleming, Frederik Tiffels) 16:27 (pp) (ex). Fleming launches a point shot through traffic that deflects off Kessel and beats McIntyre on the far side with 3:33 to go.

UND 2, Western Michigan 2 — Justin Kovacs (Will Kessel, Taylor Fleming) 19:29 (ex). Western pulls the goalie again and gets its third extra-attacker goal of the weekend. The Broncos throw a puck to the slot area, where eventually Kovacs finds it and snaps it past McIntyre to tie the game with 30.7 seconds remaining.

Overtime

UND 3, Western Michigan 2 — Drake Caggiula (Nick Mattson, Paul LaDue) 3:31. LaDue’s blast from the point is blocked and goes to Mattson at the other point. Mattson spots Caggiula in the slot area and makes a great feed to get it there. Caggiula, with his back to the goal, flips a backhand high over Hafner just as he did a night earlier.

Live Blog Men’s Hockey at Western Michigan

UND’s lines

3 Tucker Poolman–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
29 Bryn Chyzyk–9 Drake Caggiula–27 Luke Johnson
28 Stephane Pattyn–8 Nick Schmaltz–17 Colten St. Clair
21 Brendan O’Donnell–13 Connor Gaarder–14 Austin Poganski

4 Keaton Thompson–24 Jordan Schmaltz
20 Gage Ausmus–2 Troy Stecher
5 Nick Mattson–6 Paul LaDue

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson

Western Michigan’s lines

17 Justin Kovacs–10 Josh Pitt–16 Nolan LaPorte
14 Colton Hargrove–8 Sheldon Dries–21 Kyle Novak
26 Michael Rebry–25 Willem Nong-Lambert–22 M
19 Frederik Tiffels–29 Will Kessel–12 Aidan Muir

9 Chris Dienes–20 Taylor Fleming
13 Neal Goff–15 Scott Moldenhauer
24 Paul Stoykewych–7 Kenney Morrison

55 Lukas Hafner
1 Frank Slubowski
30 Phil Bridges

Friday night rewind

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — UND is back alone in first place after Friday night thanks to a 3-1 win at Western Michigan and losses by Omaha and Miami. It was another nondescript win for UND, which keeps moving forward.

If you look at UND’s best teams in recent history, they have all had a dominant line that opponents feared.

Since 2000, three teams have finished with a winning percentage better than .700. Here they are and their top lines:

In 2010-11 (.761), there was the Trupp-Malone-Frattin line.

In 2003-04 (.768), there was Murray-Parise-Bochenski.

In 2000-01 (.728), there was Bayda-Panzer-Lundbohm.

This year’s team (.750) is threatening to to reach that mark, too, yet there’s not a single line that’s dominant or one that others have to game plan around. That’s what makes this team so interesting.

They aren’t blowing through opponents, they aren’t racking up huge stats, but it’s clear that they are very difficult to beat.

As I wrote in today’s game story: UND has lost just one time in the last 10 games, and it took not only overtime, but a five-on-three power play in overtime to do it.

I think part of it speaks to the parity these days in college hockey. Nobody in the country is blowing through teams on a nightly basis. In fact, while I say that UND isn’t blowing out opponents, it ranks top five nationally in goal differential.

Goal differential

1. Michigan Tech 1.97
2. MSU-Mankato 1.65
3. Boston University 1.45
4. North Dakota 1.30
5. Robert Morris 1.29

The only other teams in the country above one are St. Lawrence (1.06) and Minnesota (1.03).

The other thing it speaks to is UND’s ability to find different ways to win. Obviously, they are getting very good goaltending from Zane McIntyre, who may wind up being a Hobey top-10 finalist. They defend very well. And they get enough out of their forward group (and you never know which line it’s going to be).

After getting that season-opening wake-up call against Bemidji State, UND has lost just five times in 29 games, which is pretty remarkable.

The lack of a big, dominant line or a big-time goal scorer hasn’t been any sort of problem for UND this season.

Other notes from Friday:

  • The NCHC would have six of its eight teams in the NCAA tournament if it ended today. St. Cloud State shot up to No. 14 in the Pairwise after beating Omaha on Friday night. This is why league officials decided on a 24-game league schedule. More nonconference gives the league an opportunity to build up strong non-league records and get more teams in the NCAAs like this.
  • UND’s defenders did a nice job helping out McIntyre when he needed it. There were a few times that Western had loose pucks in scoring areas and UND’s defenders tied up the Bronco forwards.
  • Western’s power play entered the weekend ranked No. 1 in NCHC and No. 5 nationally, but UND held them scoreless on four chances. That was a key to the game. Three of the four power plays came when the game was tied or within a goal.
  • Drake Caggiula added another one to the highlight reel with his top-shelf backhand from in tight [WATCH ALL OF THE GOAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE].
  • How many shutouts has McIntyre lost in the last five minutes of games?
  • Mark MacMillan’s shooting percentage is at a ridiculous 27.6 percent. That’s probably because most of his goals come from the top of the crease, but even so, that’s definitely an outlier.
  • Tucker Poolman had his best game at forward in a while. It wasn’t only the setup to MacMillan for UND’s first goal. He was a nightmare for Western in the neutral zone.
  • UND radio play-by-play guy Tim Hennessy has been under the weather all weekend, and he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to call last night’s game, but he made it through. If he cannot finish tonight’s game, Western Michigan’s backup radio guy, Kory Lee, will do it. Interestingly enough, Lee is a Grand Forks native and a former UND hockey stick boy.

Gameday final: UND 3, WMU 1

TONIGHT’S VIEWING: CBS Sports Network, DirecTV 221, Dish Network 158. No webcast. Lineup notes: UND goes with the same lineup. LaPorte is in for Western. Hafner starts in net.

First period

UND 1, Western Michigan 0 — Mark MacMillan (Tucker Poolman, Michael Parks) 17:27. UND gets a nice transition goal to open up the scoring. Parks makes a great touch pass in the neutral zone to send Poolman and MacMillan in the zone on a 2-on-1. Poolman makes the perfect pass and MacMillan one-times it before Hafner can get over.

Second period

UND 2, Western Michigan 0 — Drake Caggiula (Nick Schmaltz, Jordan Schmaltz) 12:49 (pp). Nick has the puck in the right circle and dishes to Caggiula, who is on top of the crease. Hafner goes down and Caggiula gets the puck up and under the bar from in tight for the power-play goal.

Third period

UND 3, Western Michigan 0 — Troy Stecher (Nick Schmaltz) 11:36. The Broncos are putting on the pressure and Pattyn buries a Bronco forward in the slot area, who was looking for a rebound. There’s no call and UND goes the other way with numbers and Stecher snipes it glove side.

UND 3, Western Michigan 1 — Aidan Muir (Kyle Novak, Shelden Dries) 19:26 (ex). Western ruins McIntyre’s shutout bid as Novak circles the net and centers it out front for Muir, who one-times it past McIntyre.

UND’s lines

3 Tucker Poolman–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
29 Bryn Chyzyk–9 Drake Caggiula–27 Luke Johnson
28 Stephane Pattyn–8 Nick Schmaltz–17 Colten St. Clair
21 Brendan O’Donnell–13 Connor Gaarder–14 Austin Poganski

4 Keaton Thompson–24 Jordan Schmaltz
20 Gage Ausmus–2 Troy Stecher
5 Nick Mattson–6 Paul LaDue

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson

Western Michigan’s lines

17 Justin Kovacs–10 Josh Pitt–16 Nolan LaPorte
14 Colton Hargrove–8 Sheldon Dries–21 Kyle Novak
26 Michael Rebry–25 Willem Nong-Lambert–23 Aaron Hadley
19 Frederik Tiffels–29 Will Kessel–12 Aidan Muir

9 Chris Dienes–20 Taylor Fleming
13 Neal Goff–15 Scott Moldenhauer
24 Paul Stoykewych–7 Kenney Morrison

55 Lukas Hafner
1 Frank Slubowski
30 Phil Bridges

Friday morning reading

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — That’s really nice that it has warmed up to 13 degrees in Grand Forks. Because it’s currently -14 here in the Zoo.

Sorry Bronco fans, we brought the weather with us.

UND flew to Kalamazoo on Thursday morning and held a practice at Lawson Ice Arena during the afternoon. Sources say that Dave Hakstol actually scored a shootout goal this week on Zane McIntyre.

And former Kalamazoo Wing Brad Berry won the shootout in the town he spent six years as a player and where he started his coaching career. Seems fitting.

It’s not the same arena where the K-Wings play, though. That venue is currently being occupied by the U.S. Curling Nationals. They are down to the semifinals now. Former UND student Joe Polo is among the semifinalists.

It’s a busy week in town and it has been a busy week for the NCHC. The league office made a pair of suspensions this week — one on UND’s last opponent and one on UND’s next opponent.

NCHC commish Josh Fenton took some time out to answer some questions facing the league, including Arizona State, the officiating program, full cost of attendance stipends and first-round travel. Read his answers here.

NCHC assistant commissioner Joe Novak is expected to be on hand for this weekend’s UND-WMU series in Lawson Ice Arena.

WMU officials say that Friday’s game is a near sellout and that they are selling just standing-room only tickets for Saturday’s game. Western Michigan coach Andy Murray hopes a revved up crowd is an advantage for the Broncos.

Although Western is out of the race for the Penrose Cup, the team is keeping its hopes high as it heads down the stretch.

What are the keys to this series?

1. Goaltending. That’s always the case, but I think it’s an extra interesting matchup this weekend. Zane McIntyre stole two games here last season. If you recall, Western outshot UND fairly handily both nights, but Zane was the difference both times.

I thought that Western had the best 1-2 punch in goal in the NCHC coming into the season, but both guys have been up-and-down. Lukas Hafner’s stumble in the outdoor game re-opened the door for Frank Slubowski, who made his first start in three months last week. Whoever plays this weekend, the Broncos need a good performance.

2. Handling physicality. The Broncos were the most physical team in the NCHC last season and I thought it caught some teams off guard. I don’t think UND has any problem with playing that style of game, which is good, because it will need to this weekend. Western won’t be quite as physical Friday night without suspended 6-foot-5, 250-pound Mike McKee, but I’d expect to see Josh Pitt back in the lineup with McKee out.

3. Staying out of the box. Western’s power play has been potent this year, ranking fifth in the nation and first in the NCHC. Nolan LaPorte, the team’s top power-play point producer, did not play last weekend but practiced this week. Junior defenseman Kenney Morrison is believed to be one of the most coveted NHL free agents on the market. He’s an offensive specialist.

4. Find a difference-maker. There wasn’t much time and space last time these teams played in Lawson. Rocco Grimaldi created a lot of it, though. He was the best player on the ice and was a huge difference-maker in that series. He’s gone. UND needs to find another one, whether it’s one of the Schmaltz’s, Paul LaDue, Drake Caggiula or Michael Parks.

On to the picks….

Minnesota Duluth at Miami: Should be a great matchup between arguably the two best groups of forwards in the league. Duluth has won four of the last five. Miami is on a five-game unbeaten streak. Miami 4-2, Duluth 5-4.

Omaha at St. Cloud State: Omaha wants to avoid another late-season meltdown, and at this point, it doesn’t appear to be coming. The Mavs appear solid in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. But I keep waiting for St. Cloud State to make its push. Maybe it starts this weekend. St. Cloud State 4-3, 3-3 tie.

Denver vs. Colorado College: The Tigers have been outscored 11-1 by their rivals this season. There’s not much left to play for but the Gold Pan. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it won’t be staying in the Springs this year. Denver 4-0, 2-1.

UND at Western Michigan: UND’s last three road trips have ended in splits. But I sense that this is a team that wants to make its late-season push. I think both games will be tight, low-scoring affairs. UND 3-2, 2-2 tie.

******************************************

Back in Grand Forks, the UND women’s team finishes its regular season against last-place Minnesota State-Mankato.

All it’s going to take is a single point for UND to clinch home ice for a fifth consecutive season. One victory will be enough to secure third place as well. Two wins would secure a 20-win season.

UND has started to monitor the Pairwise Rankings ever-so-slightly and this team could shockingly make a run all the way to the NCAA tournament.

How did this team go from 4-7-1 to this point? Here are the top five reasons.

We may not know UND’s first-round opponent until Sunday, as four of the eight WCHA teams conclude play on Sunday afternoon. One key series to watch is Ohio State and Minnesota Duluth.