Friday morning reading

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Happy Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday from Michigan.

There’s only one way to spend this American holiday in this state and that’s with the Detroit Lions. Amazingly, the Lions won this game and everyone went to grab their turkey in a good mood.


Now, I’m in East Lansing, where UND will meet Michigan State at 6:05 p.m. Central tonight. It will be the first meeting between these two teams in this city since 1980. The Spartans were in the WCHA back then.

North Dakota has a few connections to this place, though.

Goalie Cam Johnson, who could see his first start since Oct. 16, is from Troy. Freshman defenseman Christian Wolanin is from Rochester. Both Troy and Rochester are northern suburbs of Detroit.

Wolanin wasn’t shy in pointing out that none of the Michigan schools were interested in him, and he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about it. He’s rather fired up for this weekend’s series, as you could imagine.

Read Wolanin’s comments — and other info — in this Q&A.

Matt Greene is from nearby Grand Ledge, and his parents, Jim and Darcy, work at Michigan State University. Matt’s dream school was Michigan State, but he had his scholarship offer pulled when the Spartans transitioned to a new coaching staff. So, he ended up at UND and it worked out just fine for Greene and North Dakota.

In the 10 years since Matt signed with Edmonton, Jim and Darcy have been popped up at UND games here and there. They have traveled to Houghton to watch UND a couple of times, and that’s no short drive. Houghton is about eight hours away. So expect to see them around the rinks this weekend.

Josh Morton, the former executive of the UND Champions Club and former UND quarterback, now has a similar position at Michigan State. He said he’ll be at morning skate today to say hi to the team.

And more recently, former UND captain Dillon Simpson played at UND, while his father, Craig played for the Spartans.

This weekend’s series is a rare Friday-Sunday matchup. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first Friday-Sunday series since Dec. 2010 in Mankato. The Saturday game was postponed until Sunday because of a blizzard.

This weekend, the finale is Sunday because Michigan State hosts Penn State in football on Saturday afternoon (2:30 p.m. Central). Coach Brad Berry said the option to go to the game is there for the team, but he hasn’t fully decided yet if they’ll go. He says they have some business to attend to.

The above link lists a few questions that have to be answered for UND this weekend — scoring depth and goaltending.

I had a chance to watch Michigan State twice at the Ice Breaker Invitational in Maine and I saw a third game on television this season.

Here’s what you need to know about the Spartans:

  1. Goalie Jake Hildebrand is the reigning Big Ten MVP. He probably could have left school after this season, but didn’t. He can steal games.
  2. I don’t know if it’s a 100 percent done deal that Hildebrand will start both games. He was pulled in his last start a week ago and sophomore Ed Minney, who played at the NTDP, stopped 34 of 36 shots in his first-career action.
  3. Michigan State’s top skill players like J.T. Stenglein, Mackenzie MacEachern and freshman Mason Appleton were very good in the Ice Breaker. When they were on the power play, the Spartans moved the puck a lot.
  4. UND seemingly should have an advantage with depth. Michigan State’s lower lines were average, and this is where UND’s depth players need to be able to create momentum and score a little more.

In East Lansing, the Spartans seem excited about this nonconference matchup between traditional powers.

My three keys to this series:

1. Get two goals per game when the top line is not on the ice. Yes, this may be asking a lot, but I think UND is capable and it would be huge.

2. Stay out of the box. UND wants to play a possession game, but that can’t happen when you’re shorthanded. UND has allowed its opponents to have five power plays in four of the last five games. That’s a tad too many. Lower that number and you’ll lower Michigan State’s scoring chances.

3. Let Poolman bomb away from the point. Tucker Poolman has a tremendous shot, and the more he can get it off on the power play, the higher the chance of a goal — whether he scores himself or if the goalie can’t control a rebound.

This weekend’s picks…

UND at Michigan State: The Spartans have the advantage in net with a league MVP, but I like UND in all of the other spots (except maybe faceoffs, where MSU is .520 and UND is .502). UND 5-3, 2-1.

Belfast, Northern Ireland: Yep, we have four college hockey teams playing overseas this weekend. Should be an awesome, memorable experience for all involved. Especially UMass-Lowell, since I’m predicting the River Hawks to win the tourney that also features Brown, Northeastern and Colgate.

Colorado College vs. Air Force: Finally, the Tigers’ nightmare (and 15-game losing streak dating back to last season) should come to an end. CC 4-2, 2-2.

St. Cloud State at Minnesota: The Huskies are skilled, veteran and will be fired up for this series in Mariucci Arena. St. Cloud State 3-2, 4-1.

UND at Syracuse: The Orange were picked to win the CHA this season, so it won’t be an easy matchup. The returning players know that first-hand as they lost to the Orange last season and it may have cost UND a spot in the national tournament. UND 1-1, 3-1.

All right – I need to sleep off some more of the turkey hangover.

Friday morning reading

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Friday morning reading

The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team is at home tonight.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Never in the history of the UND men’s hockey program has it only been at home once through the first eight games of the season. But that’s where we’re at right now.

For the first time since knocking Colorado College out of the playoffs last season, UND will play a two-game series at The Ralph. This one comes against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Read what the players are saying about the road trip, the traditional rival and more in today’s preview.

What are some items that you may have missed during the last month while the team was away? What are some things that may not have shown up in the box score?

  1. Not only has Matt Hrynkiw been getting better with seemingly every game, he looks very confident. When I’ve interviewed him after games, he is not overly excited about what just happened. It seems like a Cinderella story to the college hockey world, but it seems like what’s happening is exactly what Hrynkiw thought would happen when he got his chance.
  2. I would say that Troy Stecher has been the best player on the team through the first month of the season.
  3. Rhett Gardner is quietly a very solid fourth-line center. He was a healthy scratch in the first game of the season, but he might not be again.
  4. The power play is still a work in progress and it hurts not having Tucker Poolman out there. Poolman, who has a rocket of a shot from the blue line, is doubtful for this weekend.
  5. One reason why UND’s penalty kill has improved in recent games is because it has done a better job at winning the initial draw and clearing the puck, rather than losing it and letting the opponent set up right away. If UND gets clears, it came make zone entries difficult on the opponent.

Wisconsin’s shocking fall from one of college hockey’s powers to winning just four games a season ago was widely discussed among fans.

Why did it happen? I examined that in this story.

The good sign for Wisconsin is that its numbers in several categories are way better than last season. In offense, the Badgers were 56th last year and are 39th so far this year. In defense, they’ve gone from 55th to 36th. The power play has gone from 51st to 15th, and the penalty kill has gone from 57th to 27th.

Wisconsin’s power play and penalty kill rank higher than UND’s. Yes, it’s only a month into the season, but these are signs that the Badgers should wind up finishing much better than last season (let’s be honest, it would basically be impossible to do worse).

When you look at the names on the roster and the pedigrees of the players, I do think that the Badgers will be a more skilled team than what UND saw last week against Colorado College.

Most UND fans are familiar with Grant Besse. Wisconsin also has a freshman named Luke Kunin, who could go high in next year’s draft (Kunin was the subject of major junior rumors this week). Seamus Malone had a very good career in the USHL playing under UND assistant coach Matt Shaw in Dubuque.

Jedd Soleway doesn’t have many goals, but the big power forward has scored in two of the three games he’s played against UND.

Three keys to victory:

1. Score early. The Badgers haven’t had a lot of success. If they can keep it tied or have a lead early, it could breed some confidence, especially after their sweep a week ago.

2. Continue getting steady goaltending. Hrynkiw has put UND in position to win every game that he’s started, and UND has come through and won every game. If he can continue at his current level, it would be big for UND.

3. Test Wisconsin’s goalie as much as possible. Matt Jurusik, who will presumably play tonight, is a young goaltender who was brought in at the last minute. Jurusik did not see many shots per game last year with a dominant Janesville team in the NAHL. It would be good for UND to test him as much as possible.

One other storyline this weekend will be UND’s top line. It features a center from Madison in Nick Schmaltz and a guy who was committed to the Badgers (and whose cousin captained the Badgers) in Brock Boeser. Here’s a very short Q&A with Boeser.

On to the picks….

Wisconsin at UND: Tonight seemingly presents a great chance for the Badgers to pull off a gigantic win and set the program back on track with UND missing Drake Caggiula, Tucker Poolman and the goalies. I think UND should have enough juice to get it done, though, at home. UND 4-3, 5-2.

Western Michigan at Miami: The Broncos bring the same physicality as the NCHC has come to expect with a little more skill. I think that’s enough to beat a Miami team that went 5-1-1 against Western last season. Miami 4-1, Western 3-2.

Minnesota Duluth at Omaha: How will Omaha respond after last weekend’s two losses in Kalamazoo? How will Duluth handle the new environment of Baxter Arena? This series has split written all over it. Omaha 4-3, Duluth 5-2.

Colorado College vs. Denver: It doesn’t get any easier for the Tigers. They have to play a Denver team that lost in the final seconds and in overtime last weekend against BC and BU. Denver 4-0, 3-1.

Minnesota at Notre Dame: The final Battle of the Lucias. Don has had the upper hand all along, but this time, Mario gets the best of his dad. 3-3 tie, Notre Dame 2-1.

Yale at Harvard: The Ivy rivalry will be a good one featuring one of the nation’s best forwards in Harvard’s Jimmy Vesey going against one of the nation’s top defensemen in Yale’s Rob O’Gara. Yale 3-2.

That’s it for now. Catch you later with the live chat from The Ralph.

Friday morning reading

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Hello from the base of Cheyenne Mountain here in Colorado Springs. Apologies for no posts earlier on, but I was having difficulties logging into the blog.

UND practiced here for about an hour today.


The good news: Both Shane Gersich and Joel Janatuinen were on the ice and sure appeared like they were ready to go tonight if called upon. Gerisch hasn’t played since opening weekend in Maine. Janatuinen hasn’t played since sustaining an injury Friday night against BSU. He has missed the last three games.

If Gersich and Janatuinen both go in tonight, the coaching staff will have a difficult decision on who to take out of the lineup. The first one would be Christian Wolanin going back to defense, but I’m not sure who the second one would be.

One guy who has made a case to stick in the lineup is Coltyn Sanderson. Believe it or not, this is his first trip to Colorado. He never made the travel roster before. Read about his routine for past Friday and Saturday nights when he didn’t make the travel roster.

The potentially bad news: Tucker Poolman is day to day (lower). He got nicked this week. He’s on the trip and may be all right to play tonight, but he’s not a 100 percent deal.

The four players who did not travel are Cam Johnson, Matej Tomek, Colten St. Clair and Danys Chartrand.

The weekly shootout winner was…. the goalies. They outlasted assistant coach Matt Shaw and Austin Poganski, stoning both of them twice in the third round. The only other players to get out of Round 1 were Hayden Shaw, Nick Schmaltz, Bryn Chyzyk and Paul LaDue.


One thing really stood out to me while I typed Colorado College’s roster and statistics for our weekly Ice Time page: I really don’t recognize many of these names.

For starters, they have 14 freshmen. Adding to that, a lot of them come from junior leagues that aren’t primary feeders to NCHC teams. So a lot of these guys are mysteries.

Colorado College finished last season 1-13-2 in the last 16 games. Then, it brought in an enormous freshman class.

Now, the Tigers are in a stretch where they play four of the nation’s top seven teams in consecutive weeks. Read about that stretch and what coach Mike Haviland is saying about his team here.

In the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Tigers are saying they need scoring from the upper classmen. One thing I found interesting is that, last weekend, Colorado College had their top three returning scorers — Cody Bradley, Hunter Fejes and Sam Rothstein — all on different lines. That might change this week as the Tigers were shutout twice against Boston College.


If you read my notebook, you’ll see that coach Brad Berry talked about some keys to this weekend’s series. He said he wants to make sure the F3 (third forechecking forward) doesn’t get too low in the zone on the big ice sheet, which in turn, could lead to odd-man rushes the other way. He also said he wants his team to remain aggressive on the forecheck.

In talking about special teams, Berry said he thinks his team has improved on the penalty kill because they’ve done a better job of winning the initial faceoff and getting the initial clear. Too often early in the season, UND lost a draw clean and the opponent was allowed to set up shop right away.

On the power play, Berry said he likes his team’s entries into the zone, but thinks they can execute at a higher level once in the zone. “I think that comes with the comfortability of our units together on guys playing together and knowing their routes and knowing their spots.”

Last year, UND was deadly on the power play with the big World Arena ice sheet. UND scored five power-play goals (four by defensemen) in a 7-2 Saturday night win.

If you want to listen to College Hockey Inc.’s Nate Ewell and I discuss hot topics in college hockey around the country, check out our podcast here.

On to the picks…

North Dakota at Colorado College: It occurred to me that UND hasn’t allowed an opponent breakaway on Matt Hrynkiw yet this season, and it has allowed very, very few odd-man rushes. If UND continues to play that well, it will make it very difficult for CC to generate offense. North Dakota 4-2, 5-2.

Denver at Boston College, Boston University: Should be a couple of fantastic matchups in Boston. Thatcher Demko enters the series riding back-to-back shutouts for BC. The Terriers need to find a replacement for goalie Matt O’Connor ASAP, because the Pioneers can score. Denver 3, BC 2; Denver 4, BU 3.

UMass-Lowell at Minnesota Duluth: Speaking of matchups between potential winners in Hockey East and the NCHC, this one should be good. The RiverHawks haven’t been challenged like they will be this weekend, though. Duluth 3-2, 3-0.

Omaha at Western Michigan: The Mavs have started the season red hot, while the Broncos have had mixed results. Western is 2-0 at home and 0-2-1 on the road. Luckily for the Broncos, these games are in the ‘Zoo. Western Michigan 3-1, Omaha 5-1.

Miami at St. Cloud State: We’ll see how St. Cloud State responds to losing a pair last weekend at Quinnipiac. And we’ll see if they can slow down Miami rookie Jack Roslovic, who has a point in each college game so far. St. Cloud State 3-2, 2-2.

Providence at Colgate: I think this is an interesting series between two teams who have lit up the scoreboard early this season. I gave the edge to the Friars in this one, even though they are on the road. Providence 3-2, 4-3.

Arizona State at Wisconsin: This series has to absolutely terrify Wisconsin and its fans. The Badgers should sweep, but if they don’t, it will be meltdown city in Madison. Wisconsin is 0-10-4 in its last 14 games dating back to last season, and badly needs to pick up two wins here. Wisconsin 3-1, 4-0.

The UND women’s series is already underway with Minnesota. UND lost the opener 5-1. Tonight is the Pack the Ralph game with $1 tickets. UND upset Minnesota 3-0 in the Pack the Ralph game a year ago, handing Minnesota its worst defeat since 2011.

That’s unlikely to happen tonight, but if UND can find a way to get an early lead and ride a hot goaltender, maybe it can pull another upset.

Here was my weekend preview that ran in Thursday’s paper.

That’s it for now. I’ll leave you with Through These Doors.

Friday morning reading

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Is it too early to start the movement to bring Vermont to the NCHC?

I know, I haven’t even been here for 12 hours yet, but I already love the town of Burlington and the feel of the old-school barn that is Gutterson Fieldhouse.

No, I wouldn’t trade Ralph Engelstad Arena — or pretty much any other venue in the NCHC — for it. But when you go most of the season through newer buildings that are designed relatively similar, it is kind of fun to throw in a change-up to a truly old-school place that’s unlike any other venue I’ve been to.

More seats on the ends than in the middle? Press boxes that almost hang over the ice? I think this could be fun.


Yes, there’s a FREE webcast for these games. I’ll have a link to it on my game day blog entry, which will be posted an hour and a half before puck drop. It’s also located on the Vermont athletics website.

However you follow the games, you’ll hear a lot of familiar names — from Pattyn to Jimmer to Privitera. Here’s some blurbs on all of them and their connections to UND hockey, led by Pattyn. He’s not called The General here, though. He has a different nickname.

In the Burlington Free Press, Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon says that UND is “mentally and physically tough.” He says the Catamounts need to kick their habit of slow starts in games.


UND will be shorthanded again this weekend.

Matt Hrynkiw is the starting goalie right now. He’s also a 4.0 (or darn close) while major in mechanical engineering. This semester, he’s taking Engineering Economy, Fluid Mechanics, Statistical Analysis, Materials Science and Design of Machinery.

Read about all about Hrynkiw: How he’s a third-generation goalie, how he found his way to UND and how he balances his challenging major with playing the spotlight position for the No. 1 team in the country.

He’s definitely an intriguing character for the UND men.

In addition to the scholarship goalies — Cam Johnson and Matej Tomek — staying at home, UND has a couple of good freshman forwards back in Grand Forks as well.

This week’s Q&A is with captain Gage Ausmus, who talks about a gruesome injury he sustained during his sophomore year of high school.

What are UND’s keys to victory this weekend?

  1. Limit Grade A opportunities. Last season, UND could push the envelope and give up odd-man rushes the other way with Zane McIntyre back there to stop them. That’s a recipe for disaster for unproven goalies. UND did a terrific job of that against BSU and needs to keep it up against the Catamounts.
  2. Get the Schmaltz line on the board. When fully healthy, UND has the ability to spread its top players throughout the lineup more. If it goes with the same lineup as Saturday night — loading up a line with Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser — that unit needs to produce.
  3. Manage the ups and downs on the road. It’s going to be a loud and packed building. When things go awry — and there are points in every game where adversity hits — UND can’t let it snowball.

On the women’s side, UND is off to St. Cloud State. The Huskies have fallen on hard times recently and UND has done a terrific job taking care of business against them, winning 20 in a row.

UND, 4-1-1, is coming off of a weekend where it only scored one goal against Bemidji State in a tie and an overtime loss. It will be trying to get back on track against the Huskies, who swept Merrimack before losing four games to national powers Minnesota and Wisconsin.

One benefit for UND is that defenseman Sam LaShomb has re-appeared as a key player for North Dakota. Last year was not a smooth one for LaShomb, but she’s now back on track.

Picks this week….

UND at Vermont men: I think UND has too much firepower up front to get swept this weekend, but too many question marks around the lineup to get a sweep. Vermont 4-3, UND 3-2.

UND at St. Cloud State women: Goals aren’t coming easy, but UND has dominated St. Cloud State in recent times. They’ll score enough to get by. UND 3-1, UND 2-1.

St. Cloud State at Quinnipiac men: This is the highlight series in the country this weekend. The Huskies will be playing without defenseman Ethan Prow, which is a tough hit. I think Charlie Lindgren finally gives up a goal this weekend (he has three shutouts in three games). SCSU 4-1, Quinnipiac 2-1.

Minnesota Duluth at Notre Dame men: For the third time in four years, the Bulldogs are off to South Bend. This may be their best team to make the trip there and they have a great shot to come home without losing a game. Minnesota Duluth 2-2, 4-2.

Air Force at Omaha men: The Mavs open up a new rink, which has been trouble in the West. UND lost its first game in REA. BSU lost its first game in Sanford. UMD lost its first game in AmsOil. Air Force 3-2, Omaha 5-0.

Miami at St. Lawrence men: The Saints have a shot to be a contender in the ECAC this season, but Miami and its class of standout rookies will be a tough out. Miami 4-1, St. Lawrence 3-2.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the full lineups and the live blog for the game. Come join for that. Until then, good night from Church Street in downtown Burlington.


Friday morning reading

On national television Wednesday night, North Dakota-Bemidji State weekend was kicked off the right way.

Matt Read scored a goal for Dave Hakstol in the NHL.

When those two were both in the college ranks, Read had a habit of scoring against UND, though he was never on a team that beat North Dakota.

I liked the way that UND coach Brad Berry characterized the series against the Beavs. He said it has a way of snapping you back into it. And it has surely done that a few times in recent history.

Remember that 1-0 loss back in 2011 on a lazy Sunday afternoon? It was an awful game to watch. UND didn’t play nearly at the level it was capable and lost to BSU for the first time in the modern era.

Down the hallway after the game, Ben Blood came out and spoke to the media and called out his team. UND was 4-7-1 at the time and had a series against a Colorado College team that was rolling and ranked No. 4. UND received no votes in the top 20 poll that week.

But after that reality check against the Beavs, UND remembered the style of play it needed to win. It swept the Tigers the next weekend and went on a remarkable roll.

Last year, UND may have entered the season feeling pretty good with a high ranking, coming off a Frozen Four trip. Then, the Beavs came into the Ralph and handled UND 5-1.

As I wrote after that game, I think UND forgot how hard it needed to work to win those games the year before. The Beavers snapped UND back into it, and North Dakota rolled to a Penrose Cup and another Frozen Four.

No matter the outcome, this has been a series that has reminded UND the effort level needed to succeed in college hockey. That’s just another reason why you’ll continue to see this series being played year after year.

The Beavers also know this series will challenge them, especially their young defensive corps. But after losing three key defenders from last year’s team, the youngsters stepped in and played well in BSU’s 3-2 win over then-No. 2 Minnesota Duluth.

For this week’s feature, I wrote about freshman Brock Boeser, who was very impressive during UND’s opening weekend at the Ice Breaker Invitational. Waterloo Black Hawks coach P.K. O’Handley said that UND’s coaching staff did a terrific job recruiting Boeser and getting to know him on a personal level.

This week’s Q&A is with Drake Caggiula, who said that the Fargo regional was “the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.” Read that here.

Both days will feature women’s-men’s doubleheaders with the UND and Bemidji State women’s teams squaring off at 2:07 p.m.

Don’t expect to see a lot of goals in those games. BSU’s Brittni Mowat and UND’s tandem of Shelby Amsley-Benzie and Lexie Shaw are some of the best goalies in college hockey.

This also should be one of the best matchups between these teams. They are both ranked in the top 10 and they are both undefeated, coming in with a combined record of 9-0-1.

Random predictions

North Dakota vs. Bemidji State (men): I think both games are close, but if UND plays like it did last weekend, I like its chances both nights. UND 3-2, 4-3.

North Dakota vs. Bemidji State (women): Mowat hasn’t allowed an even-strength goal in three-and-a-half games. She’ll be tough to crack for a team that has question marks offensively. BSU 2-1, UND 3-2.

Omaha at Vermont (men): Great matchup between Omaha, at its highest ranking in program history at No. 3, and Vermont, a sleeper in Hockey East. This is out in Burlington. Omaha 4-1, Vermont 3-2.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota (men): This is a home-and-home series. A year ago, the Bulldogs beat the Gophers four consecutive times in four different venues. And this Bulldog team should be better than last year’s. Duluth 4-3, 2-2.

MSU-Mankato at St. Cloud State (men): The Huskies have a lot of veterans, and they’re off to a great start by winning the tournament in Anchorage. But the Mavericks are too good to fall to 0-4. St. Cloud State 5-2, MSU-Mankato 3-1.

Upset special: Mercyhurst at No. 11 Michigan. Despite losing 11 seniors, Mercyhurst is off to a great start and the Wolverines haven’t played in two weeks.

A few other items that caught my eye:

***Tyson Jost a top-10 prospect per SportsNet

***As of Thursday afternoon, a total of 99 seats had opened up in the upper level for Saturday’s game against the Beavs.

***Seats were still available for tonight’s game in Bemidji.

***Burnsville’s Cole Borchardt walked again after a bad car accident last year. Borchardt is a good friend of Boeser.

***Wisconsin’s struggles have resulted in the plummeting of season tickets.

***Ralph Engelstad Arena will continue its jersey auction of authentic throwback jerseys. They are the same ones that they made for the jersey wall that leads into the UND locker room. This week’s auction will be a Ralph Engelstad 1948-49 throwback and a Dennix Hextall 1964-67 throwback. Check them out here.

Friday morning reading

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — I jumped on a plane with College Hockey Inc., executive director Mike Snee this afternoon in Minneapolis and flew to Fort Lauderdale.

After exiting the secure area, the first person I saw standing on the other side was UND coach Brad Berry.

As the evening progressed, I also saw Minnesota Duluth coaches Scott Sandelin and Jason Herter, College Hockey Inc.’s Nate Ewell and Boston University sports info director Brian Kelley, among others.

Yes, there’s a pretty good college hockey contingency on hand for this weekend’s NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla. For good reason, too.

This could be a pretty strong overall draft for NCAA players. One of those guys is UND incoming freshman Brock Boeser, who one NHL person told me will definitely go in the first round.

Boeser arrived in South Florida earlier this week to get some final pre-draft interviews done.

If you haven’t read Michael Russo’s piece on Boeser in the Star Tribune, I’d highly recommend checking it out. He details some of the tough times that Boeser has gone through in his young life.

I added on to that with some scouting reports on Boeser and comments from Berry about his top incoming forward recruit. Read that here.

The second UND player off the board should be goalie recruit Matej Tomek. The Slovakian is in South Florida with his family and said he’s not going to stress out about the draft. He’s looking at it like a vacation.

After Tomek, there are six guys who appear to be on the radar of NHL scouts, though it’s highly unlikely that all six will get selected. Here’s a quick breakdown on all of UND’s draft hopefuls.


1. How high can Boeser go?

Boeser could go higher than 20, which would put him in elite company at UND. The other guys to go in the first round and higher than 20 have been Jonathan Toews, Drew Stafford, Zach Parise and Landon Wilson. Once next year starts, all will be 10-year NHL vets.

2. Can Tomek make history?

Scouts seem to have different opinions on Tomek, who had a great start to last season but a slow finish (he admitted so himself to me this week). UND has never had a goalie picked in the first, second or third round of the draft, so Tomek could be making history.

3. Wilkie’s re-do

UND recruit Chris Wilkie decided to go back to the USHL for one more season before coming to college and it has paid off big time. Wilkie tied Boeser for the USHL lead in goals and scouts started circling back to have a second look at the Omaha product. After going undrafted a year ago, he’s back on the radars this year.

4. Hakstol’s draft

Usually, head coaches aren’t super involved with drafts in the NHL. They are busy with the current teams and are not scouting draft-eligible players. Hakstol, however, will have a much different perspective than most head coaches as he has been watching these guys on the recruiting trail. How much say will he have at the draft table?

5. Any UND guys to Philly?

It also will be interesting to see if Hakstol and the Flyers take any UND-bound players. Philly picks at Nos. 7 and 29 in the first round, which isn’t exactly Boeser territory. He’s not expected to go in the top 10, but he probably won’t last until 29.

6. Oshie on the move?

The NHL Draft is known for being a hot trading day, and one former UND player could be on the go. There is speculation that the Blues are dangling T.J. Oshie as possible tradebait. Will he still be a Blue at the end of the weekend?

7. Will someone take the smaller-sized Keane?

UND commit Jackson Keane, who will play in Sioux City next season, is very small in stature at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds. But he has raised the attention levels of scouts with his play. And with his father being a longtime, respected NHLer who wore an ‘A’ on his jersey, teams may be more interested in Keane’s upside than concerned with his size.

8. The D-men

UND has recruited very well on the back end, but the three draft-eligible players this season are all borderline guys. I’m going to say Gabe Bast from Penticton is the most likely to get picked. Christian Evers has good size and Andrew Peski put up good numbers.

9. How many NCAA guys will go early?

Jack Eichel will be off the board early, several others will follow. College hockey could have as many as seven or eight guys selected in the first round.

10. Who may turn pro after the draft?

The top two candidates are from Boston — Eichel will likely sign with the Buffalo Sabres and Noah Hanifin, a Boston College defenseman, will certainly get some pressure from whoever picks him up.

Thursday morning reading

BOSTON — A year ago today, UND lost a last-second game to Minnesota in the Frozen Four semifinals.

The players said all offseason long that they wanted to get back. Most teams say that. Most do not do it. This team did make it back, and tonight, they get another shot at doing it over.

Let’s be honest, there’s not a lot they would change from last year’s game other than the final few seconds. UND hopes to play a similarly complete game tonight and finish it off this time.

For starters, if you want to read some coverage today, go pick up a Herald. There’s 26 pages of college hockey in there, including three eight-page special sections. We break down most angles of the matchup between UND and BU, the profile of the goaltenders in Boston and there’s even a Q&A with Dave Starman.

Most of that stuff is not online.

For the stuff that is online…. check out all of the stories below for some video action to go along with it.

For starters, I wrote about UND’s recent history in the Frozen Four semifinals. It hasn’t been good. UND has lost five straight semifinal games going back to 2006. Can UND get past the semifinal pitfall this time? (Attached: Video of WDAY’s Dom Izzo and I breaking down the matchup).

I also compiled a notebook, where I touched on a lot of things from Wednesday’s practice, including an interview with Mark MacMillan, who watched practice from the bench in a track suit. Read that and watch locker room interviews/practice highlight footage here.

The Frozen Four this season has an East vs. West theme with the NCHC vs. Hockey East matchups today. The players talked to Tom Miller about the contrast in styles between the East and West. Read that here, and watch press conferences.

A lot of UND fans will be making their way to Boston today (or did last night) for the semifinal matchup. Perhaps none are more well known than Al Pearson. The Forum’s Chris Murphy wrote a story on Al and his battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

There’s plenty of national coverage out there, too, including stories from…

The Boston Globe (UND not fazed by BU’s home-ice advantage)

USCHO (UND selling out to block shots)

College Hockey News (Notebook)

And there’s lots more out there if you search around (especially on USCHO and CHN).

So, what should everyone expect tonight?

The big storyline revolves around UND trying to slow down BU’s top line, featuring Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Danny O’Regan. All three are extremely potent and offensive players, not just Eichel.

UND coach Dave Hakstol will have the last line change, so he can try to match lines if he wishes. If I had to guess, I’d say that he’s not going to super concerned about which forward line is out there with the Eichel line. There’s not much difference between UND’s forward lines anyway.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the coaching staff is paying close attention to matching ‘D’ though. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Troy Stecher, Gage Ausmus pairing would get the assignment most often. Both are very good in their own end and Ausmus can add some physicality.

UND certainly does not want to take many penalties tonight. BU’s power play is converting at 25.6 percent, ranking No. 2 nationally this season. UND did a pretty nice job, for the most part, in the regionals staying out of the box and took only one penalty in last year’s Frozen Four game.

The other key thing for UND is taking advantage when Eichel’s line isn’t out there. This is where UND needs to show off its depth. BU will definitely enjoy the ESPN TV timeouts, which are longer than the regular season, will allow more rest and will get Eichel’s line back on the ice more often.

The Vegas bookies say BU will win. The Terriers are -150 and UND is +115. Since my pre-tournament pick in the national championship game was Boston University and Providence, I can’t turn back now, can I?

BU 4, UND 2
Providence 3, Omaha 2
BU 4, Providence 1

I’ll pass along any updates from the afternoon and will shoot one more pregame video with Izzo.

Friday morning reading

FARGO — I certainly never thought I’d see the day where UND was playing hockey in Fargo in a venue that seats about a fifth of the demand of tickets, but that’s what will occur tonight in Scheels Arena.

Believe it or not, it’s NCAA tournament time. And in less than 48 hours from now, UND’s season will be over or else it will be booking a flight to Boston.

This team has cruised through the season without any points of real hardship. It never had to dig down deep and try to right the ship (unless you count the first game of the season).

The most consistent team that I’ve ever covered had very, very few ebbs and flows this season. It just cruised through, dropping on occasional game, but nothing ever to get concerned about.

Until now.

This team has finally hit a bump in the road for the first time since October 10. That night, UND lost to Bemidji State 5-1. The bad feelings lasted less than 24 hours as UND won the next night and proceeded to go on an eight-game unbeaten streak.

UND has hit its patch of adversity, going 0-2 last weekend at the Frozen Faceoff and losing three of its last five games.

How was this week of practice?

How do the players and coaches believe the team has responded to those defeats? Read that story here [plus photos of practice and video].

The only other time UND lost back-to-back games at the conference tournament before heading into the NCAAs under coach Dave Hakstol was 2009. That team ended up losing in the first round of the NCAAs to New Hampshire.

I actually thought that team came out of their funk and played fairly well in that game against UNH — and was a tenth of a second away from winning — but they still lost.

That’s the stat working against UND tonight.

The last five years that the old WCHA had a third-place game, the loser of that contest went on to lose in the first round of the NCAAs. And four of the five were higher seeds in the NCAAs.

It’s tough to win in the NCAAs when you don’t have momentum. But it’s not impossible. Two years ago, Yale got shutout in back-to-back games at the ECAC conference tournament, then ran off four in a row in the NCAAs.

UND will be playing an NCAA-experienced Quinnipiac team tonight that sure looks like it will have Sam Anas in the lineup.

UND will have Gage Ausmus in the lineup, which is different than last year. Ausmus had to watch the NCAA tournament a year ago and made a vow that it would never happen again.

If you need to know some facts about the teams in this West Regional, here are my capsules.

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold says their new arena in 2007 vaulted the team’s recruiting, and they’ll bring several high-profile players to Scheels Arena tonight, including former DU and BC recruits.

For Thursday’s paper, I wrote a column about Michigan Tech and MSU-Mankato, two teams who were afterthoughts in the old WCHA and could become fixtures on the scene after realignment. A lot of Husky and Mav fans were upset about the creation of the NCHC when it happened, but that should probably end this weekend.

The Herald also put together an eight-page special section with some photos of the arena, a quick preview on each team in the West Regional and some ways to follow the game if you’re not going. If you want to check that out, pick up a copy on a newsstand somewhere.

Okay, okay, so I have to make my picks. It’s Year 2 of Schlossman vs. the Quarter. I came out victorious in Year 1 thanks to my pick of Union to win it all last year. We’ll give it another go this season.


MSU-Mankato vs. RIT
Me: Mankato.
Quarter: RIT.
Comment: One of two games I feel comfortable about picking in the first round. If this was Robert Morris or Mercyhurst, I think an upset would be more of a possibility. But it’s not.

Omaha vs. Harvard
Me: Harvard.
Quarter: Harvard.
Comment: I really want to pick Omaha here, but I can’t until they win a playoff game. Just as I can’t pick UND over BC until they win one, I can’t do it for Omaha. 2-13 in the last 15 playoff games is too much to ignore.

Regional title game
Me: Mankato over Harvard
Quarter: RIT over Harvard
Comment: This Mavs teams is deep, veteran and explosive.


Miami vs. Providence
Me: Providence
Quarter: Providence
Comment: If Miami had its full complement of players, I’d pick them to make the national championship game. But losing Blake Coleman and possibly Riley Barber is too much to ignore, especially against a Friars team that hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game since January.

Denver vs. Boston College
Me: Boston College
Quarter: Boston College
Comment: Real tough game to pick. I thought Denver looked significantly better this weekend than it did a month ago. But Boston College’s defensive corps is hard to ignore.

Regional title game
Me: Providence over Boston College
Quarter: Providence over Boston College
Comment: Jon Gillies playing at home. I’m saying Providence is this year’s No. 4 seed to reach the Frozen Four.


Boston University vs. Yale
Me: Boston University
Quarter: Yale
Comment: OK, the quarter hasn’t picked a higher seed yet (heads for high seed, tails for lower seed). But this is the second first-round game I feel comfortable in picking. BU is too explosive.

Minnesota Duluth vs. Minnesota
Me: Duluth
Quarter: Duluth
Comment: Today, we’ll find out more about Minnesota. Did it turn the corner in the second half? Or did it rack up wins because it was playing against Big Ten teams? The Bulldogs are 3-1 against the Gophers this season. Two great offensive teams should put on a good show.

Regional title game
Me: BU over Duluth
Quarter: Duluth over Yale
Comment: I wouldn’t be surprised if BU, Duluth or Minnesota come out of this region, but I’ll give the Terriers the edge as they’ve been the most consistent of the three this season.


UND vs. Quinnipiac
Quarter: UND
Comment: I went back-and-forth on this one a few times. There’s the stat that says teams that lose third-place games lose in the first round. But UND also is playing in its home state, and as Hakstol said, this team doesn’t get too high when good things happen and doesn’t get too low when bad things happen.

Michigan Tech vs. St. Cloud State
Me: The Huskies. Okay, SCSU.
Quarter: SCSU.
Comment: You could see that this nucleus of players was going to be good for Tech a few years ago as the WCHA came to an end. I like that team quite a bit. But SCSU is hot right now and is getting Kossila and Prochno back.

Regional title game
Me: SCSU over UND
Quarter: SCSU over UND
Comment: UND looked extremely impressive in sweeping SCSU in The Ralph a month ago. Since then, I’ve had some questions creep in, and that was highlighted last weekend. I wouldn’t be shocked to see UND win the regional, nor would I be shocked to see them lose to Quinnipiac. So, I’m going to compromise and say they win one and lose to a team that’s had their number the last couple years.

Me: Providence over Mankato; BU over SCSU
Quarter: Providence over RIT; SCSU over Duluth

Me: BU over Providence
Quarter: SCSU over Providence
Comment: It’s not just Jack Eichel. BU has a lot of firepower, a solid D-corps and a goalie that can dominate a game (UND knows that well). And it’s a hometown Frozen Four.

Friday morning reading

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s the crazy time of year in college hockey with seasons on the line, championships up for grabs, early signings and awards being handed out all at once.

For UND, there’s no man busier than goalie Zane McIntyre.

It’s not just because he’s bidding to become the first North Dakota netminder in nearly 50 years to play in every game of the season. In the last 48 hours, he has been named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goalie, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the country’s best overall player and he has won the NCHC goalie of the year award.

Yes, it has become clear to everyone in Grand Forks this season that McIntyre is elite at stopping the puck.

But there’s a story behind the scenes that many probably don’t know: Zane was raised in a Thief River Falls trailer by a single mother who worked as many as three jobs to support the family.

His mother and grandmother have been deeply influential in his life and hopefully this story better explains why he decided to change his last name.

After today’s NCHC awards banquet, I also caught up with injured UND forward Mark MacMillan, who was named the league’s top defensive forward. Seems very appropriate for a guy whose career ended because he was making a great defensive play.

MacMillan tells us all about what happened on the play and what exactly happened to him in this piece here.

Speaking of the awards ceremony, here’s a quick rundown of the award winners with a lot of photos and some video of the event.

Today’s game is an afternoon semifinal at the conference tournament against St. Cloud State. I actually remember the last afternoon semifinal in the conference tournament against St. Cloud State.

It was 2007, and an 18-year-old kid named Jonathan Toews [who is still held in high regard at North Dakota, says ESPN] sniped a goal top shelf from in tight.

Today, the Huskies won’t be trying to stop a player like Toews. No, it will be trying to slow down UND’s forth line, which has outproduced every other line by far in the last three weeks. Read about that here.

Another player that the Huskies will try to slow down is Nick Mattson, the team’s leading scorer since December. Interestingly enough, Mattson says that “mindful meditation” played a big role in turning his season around. Read more about that here.

On the St. Cloud State side of things, Roseau’s Nick Oliver (who committed almost a decade ago) has been part of lifting the Huskies to new heights. He’s determined to get a win this weekend and keep the season going.

UND won’t be the only team missing a key player. The Huskies will be without defenseman Andrew Prochno, and could be without center Kalle Kossila. Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times details that in this story.

Kossila has dominated UND centers on draws this season, so both teams could be without their top faceoff men today. Prochno has been steady since his freshman season.

There was a lot made out of UND and St. Cloud State getting the early start time. Commish Josh Fenton explains it here.

UND and St. Cloud State have met four times this season, but a few things could be different without key players today.

Keys for UND:

1. Stay out of the penalty box. SCSU has the NCHC’s top power play and one of the top power-play units in the nation. They move the puck extremely well with the extra man and have hurt UND in those circumstances.

2. Win faceoffs. This goes hand-in-hand with special teams. They’ve been absolutely dominated by the Huskies at times in draws this season.

3. Get top players going. Michael Parks and Drake Caggiula have 3 points in the last 6 games. If they are on a line with Nick Schmaltz, they have to produce.

Keys for SCSU:

1. Goaltending. Yes, that’s always a key, but Charlie Lindgren needs to be better than he was in Grand Forks.

2. Match up better with the fourth line. The Huskies have been dominated by UND’s fourth line in 3 of the 4 matchups. They can’t let the Johnny Simonson unit do that today.

3. Play with the lead. UND has been miserable to play against this season once it gets leads. The Huskies can change the game if they get some early goals.

That’s about it for now. Check back on the Herald site often for more videos, photos and updates this weekend.

Also, check out College Hockey News’ wonderful Pairwise predictor to try to figure out where everyone will end up this weekend.

And check out Jim Dahl’s Twitter account for the best Pairwise info anywhere.

Catch you all soon.