Who is getting to the net?

One of the big differences between UND’s 5-1 loss and 2-1 win over Bemidji State on the weekend was the team’s ability to get to the net. UND rarely got to the prime scoring area on Friday night, but scored both goals from there on Saturday.

In looking at shot charts, I tallied up shot attempts and shots on goal from the area below the dots and between the circles. So, very close to the crease area.

What you’ll find is an astounding difference between the two nights. UND had more than three times the shot attempts and the shots on goal from the crease area on Saturday than Friday.

FRIDAY NIGHT
First period (1 shot attempt, 0 shots on goal)
Shot attempts – Drake Caggiula 1
Shots on goal – None

Second period (1 shot attempt, 0 shots on goal)
Shot attempts – Bryn Chyzyk 1
Shots on goal – None

Third period (5 shot attempts, 5 shots on goal)
Shot attempts – Luke Johnson 1, Caggiula 1, Wade Murphy 1, Paul LaDue 1, Nick Schmaltz 1 (G)
Shots on goal – Johnson 1, Caggiula 1, Murphy 1, LaDue 1, N. Schmaltz 1 (G)

Total game – 7 shot attempts, 5 shots on goal

SATURDAY NIGHT
First period (13 shot attempts, 10 shots on goal)
Shot attempts – Johnson 2, Colten St. Clair 2 (G), Michael Parks 2, Mark MacMillan 1, Jordan Schmaltz 1, Connor Gaarder 1, Brendan O’Donnell 1, Trevor Olson 1, Johnny Simonson 1, Troy Stecher 1
Shots on goal – Johnson 2, St. Clair 2, Parks 1, MacMillan 1, J. Schmaltz 1, Gaarder 1, Olson 1, Stecher 1

Second period (8 shot attempts, 5 shots on goal)
Shot attempts – Caggiula 4, Chyzyk 2, Parks 1, Stephane Pattyn 1 (G)
Shots on goal – Chyzyk 2, Caggiula 1, Parks 1, Pattyn 1 (G)

Third period (4 shot attempts, 2 shots on goal)
Shot attempts – Johnson 1, N. Schmaltz 1, Chyzyk 1, MacMillan 1
Shots on goal –  Johnson 1, N. Schmaltz 1

Total game – 25 shot attempts, 17 shots on goal

Another question is who is getting attempts from down low the most? Luke Johnson has four shots on goal from the top of the crease area, while Drake Caggiula has attempted six.

This will be something to watch this weekend in Colorado Springs.

Random updates

The UND women’s team made an appearance on CBS This Morning, trying to push the team bus after it got stuck in Mankato, Minn., over the weekend.

It appears the team had a lot more success with the Mavericks than it did moving the bus. It needed a tow truck for help. Here’s the video.

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The Florida Panthers drew an announced crowd of 7,311 for their game against the Ottawa Senators tonight. UND drew about 3,000 more for its exhibition game this season and 4,500 more for the Bemidji State game. Miami is a notorious front-runners town, and clearly that’s hurting the Panthers right now.

Florida drew an announced crowd of 11,419 for the home opener and is averaging 9,365 in its two home games this season.

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Speaking of drawing fans, the Sioux Falls Stampede drew 10,678 for their home opener in their new building, the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

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The Mayor’s Manor blog has an updated scouting report on Paul LaDue. Read that here.

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The new WCHA administration handed out its first suspension of the season — a one-game ban to Alaska Anchorage forward Brett Cameron for contact to the head.

The quick decision is not something we came to know under the old administration. I know that I covered a situation where a player’s suspension wasn’t announced until Thursday, the day before the weekend series. Nothing used to happen quickly.

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An Alabama Huntsville team that has gone 2-48-1 in its last 51 games and is 0-2 this season received eight votes in this week’s USCHO poll. I wouldn’t be surprised if that voter loses his ballot in the future. It’s one thing to have differing opinions, but there’s no justification for voting for the Chargers in the poll.

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UND will depart for Colorado Springs on Wednesday night. That’s one day earlier than normal travel. The team will be able to have some extra hours to adjust to the altitude.

Saturday night rewind

UND gained a series split with a 2-1 victory over Bemidji State in the Sanford Center. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Bemidji Pioneer

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • Clearly, UND had a much better effort on Saturday. The team started getting back to the way it needs to play to win games. There’s still a ways to go, but it was a good step in the right direction.
  • This game reminded me of several others that I’ve covered in Bemidji — tight, low-scoring, physical one-goal win for UND.
  • Two unsung players of the game: Gage Ausmus and Troy Stecher. I thought both played very well. Ausmus is in the lineup to add physicality. He definitely did that. He was a very key player on the penalty kill. Stecher had one of his most dynamic games at UND.
  • GF Central’s Johnny Simonson got in the lineup and I would definitely expect to see him back in on Friday. He added a little bit of everything. He created some scoring chances and he played with an edge. Growing up in Grand Forks, he certainly knows the style of game that’s expected. On top of that, he went 8-4 on faceoffs, the only guy on the team with a winning record on draws.
  • Speaking of faceoffs, it was not a great night for UND, going 32-39. It was 20-29 through two periods if I recall correctly. Like last season, this is an area that UND will need to work at. I don’t think they have any naturally dominant faceoff men like a Corban Knight, Brad Malone or Chris VandeVelde.
  • On Friday night, UND had 9 shot attempts from the prime scoring area for the entire game. On Saturday, UND had 14 shot attempts from the prime scoring area in the first period alone. Coach Dave Hakstol said that the team was “on a different planet” in regards to creating opportunities down low.
  • I thought Bemidji State’s defensemen made more mistakes on Saturday. They gave the puck away at bad times here and there, though it didn’t come back to hurt them. UND could have put this game away a lot earlier, but BSU goalie Andrew Walsh stoned Drake Caggiula and Brendan O’Donnell on clean breakaway attempts.
  • Colten St. Clair said he thinks that his goal may have gone off a Bemidji State player and in. If so, UND got a nice bounce there, but that’s what happens when you’re around the net.
  • There’s always a strong UND contingent in Bemidji for games, but I think there were even more UND fans than I’ve seen in the past there. The Sanford Center was packed.
  • I think that Bemidji State has a bit more skill than last season. Brendan Harms looked very good this weekend and could have a big season. The defensive corps is pretty good there, too.

Dufault, Kohler continue hot streak in Mankato

Where will the offense come from this season for the UND women’s hockey team?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Meghan Dufault and Becca Kohler.

After a weekend sweep of Minnesota State-Mankato, Dufault and Kohler have now combined for 17 points in four games. During Friday’s 5-0 win, Dufault had a hat trick and Kohler had four assists. During Saturday’s 2-1 win, Kohler scored.

Last season, you could tell that Kohler was on the verge of breaking out. A power forward, her development has taken a bit longer than Dufault, but it appears that she has arrived.

Kohler already has four goals this season. She scored five all of last year. She already has nine points this season, seven shy of last season’s total.

The other area that has allowed UND to get off to a 3-1 start is special teams. Peter Elander’s power play has scored 5 goals on 11 chances (45.5 percent), while Erik Fabian’s penalty kill is a perfect 18-for-18.

While UND beat the Mavs by only one goal on Saturday afternoon, UND was outshooting them 35-4 after two periods and 49-9 for the game. That’s taking care of business against a bad team.

This weekend, the test gets a little more difficult. Minnesota Duluth, which won a shootout against top-ranked Minnesota on Saturday, comes to The Ralph. After that, UND plays Minnesota and Wisconsin. So, it’s a daunting stretch and we’ll probably know a lot more about UND after that.

But if Dufault and Kohler can continue to produce, it will give UND a big lift.

Gameday final: UND 2, BSU 1

Notes: I’VE TWEETED AND RE-TWEETED A BUNCH OF TV INFO. SEE IF YOU CAN FIND YOUR INFO HERE: www.twitter.com/schlossmangf. In Grand Forks, it’s Channel 597. UND changes just about everything except for the Caggiula-Johnson-Schmaltz line. Simonson, Olson and Poolman will make their college debuts.

First period

UND 1, BSU 0 — Colten St. Clair (Connor Gaarder, Brendan O’Donnell) 14:17. O’Donnell and St. Clair enter the zone on a partial 2-on-1. They execute a give-and-go. Walsh shuts down St. Clair from a bad angle, but the rebound drops on top of the crease. Gaarder takes one swing and the puck comes out to the side of the crease, where St. Clair snipes it from just across the end line.

Second period

UND 2, BSU 0 — Stephane Pattyn (Troy Stecher, Gage Ausmus) 16:19 (sh). The Beavers start a 4×3 power play. Ausmus chips the puck out of the zone to Stecher, who gets it on the right wing with one defenseman in the play. Right as he crosses the blue line, the matching minors to Pattyn and BSU’s Rendle end and he comes out of the box. Nobody on BSU sees Pattyn and everyone is playing Stecher on the right wing. Stecher slides the pass over to Pattyn, who has a wide open net.

Third period

UND 2, BSU 1 — Myles Fitzgerald (Gerry Fitzgerald, Brett Beauvais) 4:18 (pp). On power-play chance No. 7 of the night, the Beavs finally capitalize. One of the triplets, Myles, finds a rebound out front and puts it away. Beauvais starts the madness with a shot from the point.

Live Blog UND at Bemidji State

UND’s lines

28 Stephane Pattyn–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
9 Drake Caggiula–27 Luke Johnson–8 Nick Schmaltz
21 Brendan O’Donnell–13 Connor Gaarder–17 Colten St. Clair
29 Bryn Chyzyk–10 Johnny Simonson–11 Trevor Olson

5 Nick Mattson–3 Tucker Poolman
6 Paul LaDue–24 Jordan Schmaltz
20 Gage Ausmus–2 Troy Stecher

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson

Out of lineup: Austin Poganski, Coltyn Sanderson, Wade Murphy, Keaton Thompson.

Bemidji State’s lines

23 Markus Gerbrandt–11 Nate Arentz–18 Brendan Harms
9 Phillip Marinaccio–13 Cory Ward–8 John Parker
17 Leo Fitzgerald–21 Gerry Fitzgerald–26 Myles Fitzgerald
15 Jordan Heller–27 Mitch Cain–19 Phil Brewer

28 Brett Beauvais–4 Sam Windle
20 Sam Rendle–7 Matt Prapavessis
25 Ruslan Pedan–12 Graeme McCormack

30 Andrew Walsh
1 Michael Bitzer
33 Reid Mimmack

Friday night rewind

Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Herald column

Bemidji Pioneer

UNDsports.com

USCHO

Last year, around late November/early December, it became clear how UND needed to win games. In a blog post after the St. Lawrence split on Thanksgiving weekend, I wrote:

This team’s margin for error is small. If its goaltenders don’t play well, they will lose. If the team doesn’t execute well, it will probably lose. If it has some bad breaks or bounces go against it, a loss is likely.

So, right now, the challenge for this team is to navigate that small-margin-for-error path to victory.

It needs to play desperate. It needs to get good goaltending. It needs to execute as well. It needs to get some contributions from everyone.”

UND went 21-6-1 en route to making the NCAA Frozen Four after that loss to St. Lawrence. It was one of the top records in the nation during that span. Because of that run — and all of the returning players — there has been lots of talk about this year’s team.

But I think everyone — the players included — forgot exactly how UND made that run.

UND was generally not blowing away opponents. It was using the formula above. The team played desperate. Its defensive corps made it difficult for opponents to score. The goaltending was there. Everyone was chipping in and it led to a lot of down-to-the-wire wins.

I think, over the summer, the players forgot exactly how hard that team needed to grind every night to win games.

Now, I do not think it’s possible for teams to just pick up in the fall with the exact toughness and mentality from the previous season. I think that’s something that has to be built through a season of experiences.

But what was shocking on Friday night was how far UND was from that point. I’m not sure if there was one real redeeming part or bright spot Friday night.

The defensemen, who were so great at the end of season and expected to be a big strength this season, were getting caught out of position on almost every other shift. Yes, the coaching staff wants the ‘D’ to be involved in the offense, but they did not pick their spots well Friday. I don’t remember the last game I covered where UND’s opponent had so many odd-man situations.

Up front, UND wasn’t very dynamic. The line of Drake Caggiula, Luke Johnson and Nick Schmaltz combined for 10 shots on goal. Other than that, there wasn’t much.

The first line made up of all seniors — Brendan O’Donnell, Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks — combined for just two shots on goal in the game (both from outside the dots). That line did not even attempt a shot in the second period. If those seniors are going to play together, they need to be more of a factor offensively.

The line listed as No. 2 on the chart — Stephane Pattyn, Connor Gaarder and Wade Murphy — only generated one shot on goal. And the fourth line of Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson and Austin Poganski didn’t generate a single shot.

So, three of UND’s forward lines combined for just three shots on goal. UND is not going to win games with those types of numbers.

If you look at the shot charts, UND had just one shot on goal from the prime scoring area during the first two periods. That made for a very comfortable first start for Bemidji State rookie goalie Michael Bitzer.

Clearly there are going to be lineup changes today. It will be interesting to see exactly how many. But it will be more interesting to see if UND can take a step back toward that grinding personality that last season’s team developed.

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On another note, UND’s loss to Bemidji State was just one part of a disastrous day for the NCHC in nonconference play.

St. Cloud State lost to Colgate (ECAC)
Western Michigan lost to Canisius (Atlantic Hockey)
Miami lost to Bowling Green (WCHA)
Duluth lost to Minnesota (Big Ten)

Colorado College beat Alabama Huntsville (WCHA), but it took a late, third-period goal to break a tie and give the Tigers the win. Since Huntsville went 2-35-1 last season, that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

The lone team to have a really good day was Omaha, which topped MSU-Mankato (WCHA).

It’s only one day of a long, five-month season, but the NCHC definitely does not want to fall into the trap of having a bad nonconference record again this season.

Gameday final: BSU 5, UND 1

TV: Midco Sports Network; NCHC.tv. The game is NOT on Fox College Sports. Notes: UND going with a similar lineup to last weekend’s exhibition contest. Beaver freshman Michael Bitzer of Moorhead gets his first college start in The Ralph. Full lines and live chat are below.

First period

Bemidji State 1, UND 0 — Brendan Harms 11:26 (sh). Ward starts a shorthanded rush, but dumps the puck in the corner. He goes after it, fights off a hit and the puck goes to the right circle, where Harms is standing all alone. He blasts one just inside the post ofr a shorthanded goal.

Second period

Bemidji State 2, UND 0 — Brendan Harms (Markus Gerbrandt) 9:09. After a turnover, Gerbrandt gets the puck in the left circle with a 3-on-2 rush, he spots Harms, the trailer, and hits him. Harms fires one past McIntyre for his second of the game.

Bemidji State 3, UND 0 — Markus Gerbrandt (Ruslan Pedan) 15:46 (pp). Pedan launches a shot from the point that McIntyre stops. It falls right by his feet, but he doesn’t know where it is. Gerbrandt finds it and knocks it home for a power-play goal.

Bemidji State 4, UND 0 — Sam Rendle (Phillip Marinaccio) 17:35. Another defensive breakdown for UND, another goal for BSU. An odd-man situation and Marinaccio finds Rendle wide open in the high slot for a five-hole goal.

Bemidji State 5, UND 0 — Charlie O’Connor (Mitch Cain, Phil Brewer) 17:50. McIntyre gets pulled and Cam Johnson lets in a soft one just 15 seconds into his college career. O’Connor throws a bad angle shot at the net that gets under Johnson.

Third period

Bemidji State 5, UND 1 — Nick Schmaltz (Paul LaDue, Drake Caggiula) 13:08 (pp). LaDue is open for a shot in the high slot. Bitzer stops it and leaves the rebound just to the side of the net. Nick jumps on it and sneaks the puck underneath Bitzer to break up the shutout bid.

Live Blog Men’s Hockey vs Bemidji State (Friday)

UND’s lines

21 Brendan O’Donnell–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
28 Stephane Pattyn–13 Connor Gaarder–7 Wade Murphy
9 Drake Caggiula–27 Luke Johnson–8 Nick Schmaltz
29 Bryn Chyzyk–26 Coltyn Sanderson–14 Austin Poganski

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

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

Scratches: Tucker Poolman, Johnny Simonson, Trevor Olson, Colten St. Clair, Andrew Panzarella

Bemidji State’s lines

23 Markus Gerbrandt–11 Nate Arentz–18 Brendan Harms
9 Phillip Marinaccio–13 Cory Ward–8 John Parker
17 Leo Fitzgerald–21 Gerry Fitzgerald–26 Myles Fitzgerald
22 Charlie O’Connor–27 Mitch Cain–19 Phil Brewer

28 Brett Beauvais–4 Sam Windle
20 Sam Rendle–7 Matt Prapavessis
25 Ruslan Pedan–12 Graeme McCormack

1 Michael Bitzer
30 Andrew Walsh

Friday morning reading

Good morning and welcome to the regular-season opener. If you want to watch tonight’s game, it will be on Midco Sports Network (27, 622 HD) and NCHC.tv. No Fox College Sports tonight.

UND coach Dave Hakstol has been at the helm for a decade now, but I don’t think a lot of people know how he was raised, how he ended up at UND as a player and how he ended up in coaching.

So, I wrote a lengthy piece that’s hopefully sort of a behind-the-scenes look at what UND’s head coach is really like. The story started to get pretty long so I have a ton of info that didn’t get in.

Some of the random notes that didn’t get in the story:

1. Hakstol’s mother, Theresa, often follows UND hockey games through the live chat. I asked her about that and she said that she can always tell what’s happening in the games. “I read the comments, I disregard some of them, and I never tell Dave about them.” She also comes to Grand Forks about three times a year to watch weekend series and hang out with the grandchildren.

2. If Hakstol is on a road trip, he said that there’s a 70 percent chance he’s listening to NHL radio, a 20 percent chance he’s listening to news and a 10 percent chance he’s listening to music. He likes to turn up the tunes late at night.

3. Hakstol’s favorite movie is Last of the Mohicans. He enjoys action movies with a little bit of history or dumb, mindless comedy. His listens to a bit of every type of music outside of hip hop. And he’s been watching The Blacklist on TV lately.

I’ll find more and post it later.

The season opener is against Bemidji State, a team that UND earned a win and a tie against last season.

The Beavs have not played an exhibition game yet, so this will be their first action of the year. I’d expect UND to try to push the pace in the first period, especially. UND wasn’t real sharp in the first period against Manitoba as it got its bearings. I’m sure it would like to jump out to a lead while the Beavs do the same.

I think most UND fans will remember Cory Ward from last season. He scored two of BSU’s three goals on rocket shots. He’ll be a guy to watch. UND won’t want to give him time and space because of his outstanding release.

Bemidji State’s top defenseman will be Matt Prapavessis, who should be one of the WCHA’s best blue liners this season.

I’m also curious to watch some of Bemidji State’s freshmen. This is a highly touted class. Brett Beauvais was the BCHL defenseman of the year last season. He should be part of a D-corps that will be much improved.

The Beavs also are bringing in a set of triplets. The Fitzgeralds. They are famous for being in the movie Baby Geniuses. They will all play on the same line against UND. Myles and Gerry finished 2-3 in the BCHL in scoring last season.

The Bemidji Pioneer’s preview story notes that Moorhead’s Michael Bitzer will get the start tonight, while Andrew Walsh will play in Bemidji on Saturday.

This series has one different twist this year. Typically, the Friday night game has been in Bemidji and Saturday has been in Grand Forks. It is reversed this season.

Around the league….

Colgate at St. Cloud State: Perhaps the highlight series in the country as a very good Colgate team comes to St. Cloud. The Huskies swept Colgate last season. Both teams have a lot of players back and could make NCAA tournament runs. Split.

Minnesota Duluth at Ice Breaker: The Bulldogs open with Minnesota today, then will play either Notre Dame or RPI. The Bulldog-Gopher matchup should be a good one to watch — both sides with plenty of high-end forwards. Tie.

Miami at Bowling Green: A critical nonconference series for the NCHC. Miami’s Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber can start their Hobey campaigns. Miami sweep.

Western Michigan at Canisius: Again, another critical nonconference series for the league. It cannot start losing to Atlantic Hockey teams like it did last season. Broncos sweep.

Huntsville at Colorado College: The Tigers went 0-9 last year in nonconference play. They have a 14-game winless streak going in nonconference dating back to a 6-2 win over Air Force on Oct. 19, 2012. That should end tonight against a Charger team that went 2-35-1 last season. Tiger sweep.

MSU-Mankato at Nebraska Omaha: Speaking of teams that have struggled in nonconference, Omaha hosts Mankato in the Battle of the Mavs. Omaha went 3-7 in nonconference play last season, including a loss at home to Bentley. Mankato returns a huge portion of the roster, making this its year to try to make a run. Mankato win and tie.

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The UND women’s team travels to Mankato, where they’ve had a fair bit of success lately.

Coach Brian Idalski plans to continue playing both Shelby Amsley-Benzie and Lexie Shaw in goal. He talks a bit about both of their strengths in this story, which also points out how eerily similar their stats were last season.

The Mavs are in a bit of a rebuild this season after losing eight seniors, including four of the five top scorers. The one top scorer that returned is fifth-year senior Kathleen Rogan, who should lead them in offense this season. If UND can slow down Rogan, it would be big for this weekend.

After dropping a critical nonconference game against Vermont last weekend, UND needs to start working its way toward the NCAA tournament by having a good weekend in Mankato.

That’s it for now.

The 2014 recruiting podcast

If you are into podcasts and like listening at work or wherever, I teamed up with Bucky’s Fifth Quarter’s Andy Johnson, a scout for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL, to talk about the freshmen coming into college hockey this season.

Who are the top recruits? Which ones could make instant impacts? What should you be looking for?

Give the podcast a listen if you wish.

Chorney, 10 others make opening day roster

A total of 11 former UND players are on opening day NHL rosters, including defenseman Taylor Chorney, who was called up by the Pittsburgh Penguins this morning.

Five of the 11 players are captains of their teams.

Opening day NHL rosters

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (C)
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild (A)
Matt Greene, Los Angeles Kings (A)
Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils (A)
T.J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues (A)
Chris Porter, St. Louis Blues
Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabres
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders
Matt Frattin, Toronto Maple Leafs
Brad Malone, Carolina Hurricanes
Taylor Chorney, Pittsburgh Penguins