Apologies for the lack of updates later this week — I was having some troubles logging into the blog and posting.
But thankfully it’s working again because it is game day in St. Cloud and there’s a big showdown set between No. 4 North Dakota and No. 7 St. Cloud State in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
For starters, it sure sounds like Paul LaDue and Bryn Chyzyk should be ready to go.
They only participated in half of Tuesday’s practice, but were full participants Wednesday. The team left Thursday for St. Cloud.
The two goaltenders on the trip are Matt Hrynkiw and Cam Johnson, which means that Johnson is ready to go. This is the first trip that Bob Anderson did not make with the team.
Matej Tomek, whose workload was increasing each week to start November and even dressed for a game against Wisconsin, saw his workload decrease late last week, meaning he’s probably still a couple of weeks out.
UND has the luxury of being cautious with all of its players’ recoveries with the team’s depth and the way the team has been winning. Berry said that LaDue and Chyzyk wanted to practice the whole session Tuesday, but Berry didn’t want to risk any injury.
The coaching staff also was cautious with Tucker Poolman’s recovery. Poolman practiced for two weeks before returning to the lineup against Miami last weekend.
A few things stood out to me about this series as I typed up previews this week:
A) This is the only regular-season meeting between the two. In the last decade-plus of the old WCHA, they met twice a year. SCSU coach Bob Motzko seemed rather disappointed about it.
B) UND has a better winning percentage and national ranking than the Huskies, but St. Cloud State ranks ahead of North Dakota in every major category — offense, defense, power play, penalty kill and team save percentage.
C) Motzko raved about defenseman Ethan Prow, and said the team was unable to replace him during his four-game absence. St. Cloud State has amazingly outscored opponents 32-5 with Prow in the lineup.
D) Whoever scores the first goal of the weekend for UND — assuming they score… it didn’t go so well for MSU-Mankato in its trip to St. Cloud this year — will be the first to score as a Fighting Hawk. In our Ice Time page, I had a little fun going back and finding out who scored the first and last goals in the Ben Brien-designed Sioux logo (Chad Mazurak, Mark MacMillan) and other landmark UND goals.
UND coach Brad Berry said in today’s preview that he hopes his players aren’t taking in the “Fighting Hawks” announcements during games or the hoopla surrounding it, because he wants them to be dialed into the game.
That shouldn’t be difficult considering the atmosphere that’s usually in the National Hockey Center. According to the St. Cloud Times, tickets are scarce for this weekend’s matchup between the two teams to win the Penrose Cup thus far.
For Thursday’s paper, I wrote about the two Grand Forks Red River players on St. Cloud State’s roster, Jon Lizotte and Jacob Benson. I mainly featured Lizotte, who spends his summers racing a B-Mod and has been a big surprise to start the season for the Huskies.
Meanwhile, Mick Hatten wrote about the St. Cloud player on UND’s roster, Austin Poganksi. The power forward has emerged as a key player this year for North Dakota. Poganski was excellent in the series in the NHC last season.
I also did my weekly Q&A with Poganski, but that’s not online quite yet.
My three keys to the weekend for UND:
- Faceoffs on special teams. Last season, St. Cloud State destroyed UND on faceoffs on the power play. It led to a couple of goals on the power play, and that decided the game. UND has done a great job in the neutral zone and preventing good zone entries on the PK this season, which means they need to get clears.
- Cracking Lindgren. Husky goalie Charlie Lindgren has allowed 1 goal at home this season in 4 games. He’s probably not going to give UND any gimmes, like other opposing goalies have this season. So, traffic in front is going to be key.
- Cash in on power-play chances. Traditionally, St. Cloud State is a team that gives opponents very few power-play chances during a game. When you get one, you have to take advantage. Look for Poolman’s big shot from the point to be a key.
On to my weekly picks….
North Dakota at St. Cloud State (men): If you saw the blog earlier in the week, you saw how this series usually plays out. St. Cloud State on Friday, UND on Saturday. Sounds fine to me. SCSU 3-1, UND 4-2.
Denver at Wisconsin: Unfortunately for Wisconsin, after a great weekend in Grand Forks, the Badgers had to wait two weeks to play again. If they come back with the same effort, it won’t be easy for the Pios. But Denver’s high-end players may be too much. DU 4-0, 3-1.
Minnesota Duluth at Colorado College: The Bulldogs, my preseason No. 1 team in the nation, have just 1 win in the last 8 games. They sit at 3-5-3 overall. This trip to play 0-10 CC comes at the right time. Bulldogs 6-2, 4-2.
Omaha at Miami: Omaha is coming off of an open week. Can it still hold on to its magic of winning when getting outshot nearly every game? And can Miami rebound from a tough weekend in Grand Forks? 3-3, 2-2. Two ties.
Michigan at Boston University: Goaltenders at both programs are struggling and offenses are not. It could be a fun one in Boston. BU 5-3, 4-4.
Minnesota Duluth at UND (women): UND hasn’t proved that it can put together an entire weekend yet. It has not put together back-to-back performances yet. Until North Dakota can do that, it’s hard to pick anything but a split. UND 3-0, Minnesota Duluth 2-1.
This will be an interesting series for the UND, which will see the Shannon Miller-less Bulldogs for the first time ever. UND went 2-32 in its first 34 matchups against Miller, but in the last 12, UND has only lost once. The tide of the rivalry has completely shifted.
First-year coach Maura Crowell will try to help right the ship and swing that back in favor of the Bulldogs, who have played one of the country’s most difficult schedules.
UND has gone with Shelby Amsley-Benzie in goal for four straight games, and you have to wonder if coach Brian Idalski will ride the hot hand through a very key stretch of games.
Minnesota Duluth is a team that UND hopes to finish ahead of in the standings once again, so these ones are important.
After this, it’s a trip to Syracuse. Last season, UND was upset by Syracuse once at home, potentially costing the team a trip to the NCAA tournament.
After ‘Cuse, it’s Bemidji State. UND needs to sweep to win the season series, because the first one ended with a tie and a Beaver win. Bemidji State scored late in the third to tie it, then won it with 7 seconds left in overtime.
If UND wants to make a run at the NCAA tournament, it starts with this six-game stretch.
That’s it for now. I’ll soon post a link to the College Hockey Today podcast featuring myself and Nate Ewell from College Hockey Inc.