Friday night rewind

HOCKEY TALK: If you are in Fargo, I’ll be on 970 AM with Dom Izzo from 10:20 to 11 a.m. today. So tune in if you wish.


FARGO — Yep, this is the team we’ve watched all season along.

Finding a way to win a hard-fought game against a good opponent? Check.

Getting enough timely plays offensively to win it? Yep.

Winning a game that advanced stats say UND should have lost? Yep.

Zane McIntyre playing terrific and losing a shutout bid in the last couple of minutes? Yep, that happened again, too.

It all means that UND is in the NCAA regional championship for the ninth time in 11 years under coach Dave Hakstol and the 10th time in 12 years overall. This is the second straight senior class that will have not only played in every NCAA tournament, but also will leave campus having never lost in the first round even.


Herald – Game story, photo gallery, video of UND presser

Herald – UND gives fans something to cheer about this time

Bonus quotes — Pecknold, Hakstol comment on game – UND advances to regional final with win

USCHO – UND wins in electric atmosphere

College Hockey News – UND turns the page

Other notes and comments:

  • Shot attempts in this game were lopsided in favor of Quinnipiac (73-43), but if you look at the shot chart, most of them came from the outside. The defenders did a great job in front of the net, making it difficult to get Grade As on goalie Zane McIntyre.
  • That being said, UND didn’t generate a ton of Grade As, either. In the second period, UND only attempted two shots in the prime scoring area. It scored on one. The other goal came when Garteig misplayed a shot from the corner by Bryn Chyzyk.
  • Shot blocks were 28-7 in favor of UND. All but three players had a blocked shot.
  • Quinnipiac spent about 15 minutes of this game on the power play, but couldn’t get anything to go until a 6×4 conversion with just 1:26 remaining.
  • Even-strength shots on goal were: UND 18, Quinnipiac 15.
  • McIntyre nearly scored a goal with just over a minute to go. Devon Toews picked it out of the air with his stick on a great play or else that was headed for the net. McIntyre would have been just the fourth to do it in NCAA history.
  • Wade Murphy was back in the lineup and nearly scored the first goal of the game on a toe-drag-and-shot. He played a solid game.
  • Tucker Poolman was the No. 1 star of the game for me. I thought he was fantastic shift in and shift out. His goal was huge, but he did so much more than that.
  • The Connor Gaarder line, which has been UND’s best in the last month and a half, had a relatively quiet game, registering only one shot.
  • Troy Stecher, who got the hard hat, had an assist, blocked three shots and registered a plus-three rating.
  • Sam Anas, who played limited minutes, actually led Quinnipiac with five shots on goal. QU coach Rand Pecknold estimated that he was at 60 percent. Anas had a couple of nice offensive plays, where you could see some flashes, but he also struggled greatly at times.
  • Goaltending is big at this time of year and UND clearly had the better goaltending tonight. I thought McIntyre was tremendous again, while Bobcat goalie Michael Garteig let in a tough one.
  • UND got two more shorthanded goals tonight — after having a long break in between them — for 11 on the season. Only seven to go to catch the Hrkac Circus (yep, not gonna happen).
  • UND lost the faceoff battle 39-33. Luke Johnson was 9-17, but I didn’t think it felt that bad. He won some key faceoffs on special teams and when he lost faceoffs, he wasn’t losing them clean.
  • The officials were from the WCHA.
  • Paul LaDue got a game misconduct at the end of the contest. For those asking, he is fine to play tonight.

Postgame quotes

Here are a few postgame quotes from the head coaches. If you want to watch UND’s presser, we have video here.

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold:

“I just want to congratulate North Dakota, I thought they were very committed tonight. I haven’t gotten a final stat sheet yet but through two periods they had 21 blocks and that’s impressive, I would assume they had over 30 in the game and anytime you get a team to commit to that you’re going to do well.

“Shot attempts were 50 to 27 for us, again that’s not the score, but we played well tonight I was happy with when we were down 2-0 our guys kept battling. We had the five (minute major) and we killed that off. You know, I was really happy. Did everything go our way? No. You know we had that fluke second goal that just killed us but we didn’t quit and battled. North Dakota played well, they deserved to win. I thought we played well tonight. It wasn’t our best game. I want to thank our seniors Alex Barron, had a great three years with us and Justin only had one, those guys did a great job for us. Our two captains Danny Federico and Matthew Peca are as good of players and as good of people that I’ve ever coached.”

Pecknold on Sam Anas:

“Yeah, we weren’t really sure all week if the knee was going to swell up or not. I know the media wanted to know but we didn’t know until noon today. He wasn’t himself, we got down and he wanted to play, he kept telling me he was fine, he was probably like 60 percent, I would say. But he made some plays and we needed to score some goals but I probably played him more than I wanted to. The plan was to give him power plays and odd shifts, the O-Zone drop. But we got behind and I used him a little more than I wanted to. But like I said he was about 50 to 60 percent.”

Pecknold on the crowd:

“I didn’t think it was intimidating. I really thought it was a great atmosphere. I got to give it to North Dakota, they have some of the best fans in the country. Obviously the arena is great, it’s really a good venue. Having been on the committee before, it is a battle to keep neutral sites and obviously this was not a neutral site, but hey, we were the 14 seed so you have to go on the road and take your lumps. If we would have gotten a little bit higher up and had a better regular season, we wouldn’t have to come here and play, but I thought it was great. The city of Fargo has been outstanding, our hotel Best Western has been great. I have never been to Fargo before. I’ve obviously been to Grand Forks but it was a great experience.”

UND coach Dave Hakstol:

“Well, when you get to this time of year, this is the kind of game that you expect. This was a fast-paced game, it was a hard-nosed game, and it was a good, tight battle. Our guys battled and worked hard, I thought executed at key times of the game, and to a man, really worked hard together, and that was our goal coming in. Twenty minutes ago now, we’ve turned the page and started to look forward to tomorrow night’s game.”

Hakstol on UND’s bounce-back game:

“We weren’t looking for a bounce-back. We were just coming to win a hockey game. Everybody’s made an awful lot of it, and I’ve heard an awful lot about last week. Teams have ups and downs and reasons why you have ups and downs. I think we’ve said it about a hundred times, we turned the page a week ago, and this group of guys has been able to do that through the season, whether it be good or bad results. Last weekend has very little to do with this weekend. It’s part of the season and that’s why it does have something to do with it, but tonight’s performance is a credit to the guys in our locker room. You heard them speak about it and their will to win.”

Hakstol on the atmosphere:

“It was awesome. Right from walking in the building a couple of hours before the game, right through the end of the final buzzer. What a tremendous atmosphere for our players to have the opportunity to play in. As I said yesterday, you’re not guaranteed anything at this time of year. Playing in an environment like this in your home state, because the teams are so good, everybody that we’re playing has been in these environments before but no question tonight we wanted to try and take advantage of this opportunity and I thought our guys acquitted themselves pretty well with that in mind.”

Saturday night rewind

Someone walked out of the press box last night and asked, “Do the fans miss J.T. Miller?” Probably not. For the second year in a row, Connor Gaarder is scoring big goals in big games for UND.

The Edina native who came to UND as a late-summer, nonscholarship walk-on.

Grand Forks Herald – Big Game Gaarder does it again for UND

Grand Forks Herald – With UND, fans just assume trips to Twin Cities

Colorado Springs Gazette – Tigers season ends with another tough loss

USCHO – Gaarder’s late goal lifts UND – When Gaarder scores, it’s usually a key goal

Other notes:

  • UND’s opponent is in the process of being decided. If Miami beats Western Michigan, UND will play St. Cloud State in the semifinals. If Western Michigan wins, it will be the Broncos against UND. Game time will be decided late Sunday or early Monday.
  • Troy Stecher made the most underrated play of the game and saved the win in the waning seconds. A CC player was backdoor and had an open net to shoot the puck into, but Stecher got his stick on it to deflect the puck out. That was going in otherwise.
  • Austin Poganski keeps coming up big for UND, too. He isn’t getting the recognition of Gaarder, but he has made a couple of brilliant setups for Gaarder’s goal, including the saucer pass over the stick of Tiger defenseman Aaron Harstad.
  • Zane McIntyre’s glove save on Cody Bradley’s penalty shot is easy to forget about as well because of the end of the game, but that possibly saved the game for UND, too.
  • UND’s first-round winning streak is at 13 years now. The next closest is Miami with five.
  • UND is still trying to find its way without MacMillan, but it has won four of five since he went down, if you include the game he was injured.

Friday night rewind

For the ninth year in a row, UND won Game 1 of its first-round playoffs series. This time it was a 5-1 victory over Colorado College. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald – Mattson stays red hot, propels UND to victory

Grand Forks Herald – UND still searching for forward combinations

Colorado Springs Gazette – CC on brink of elimination after loss

USCHO – UND moves a step closer to NCHC Frozen Faceoff – Mattson turns it up for UND

Other notes:

  • If UND closes out the series, the team will bring the Penrose Cup on the ice for the fans to enjoy. If it loses the next two games, they won’t be doing that at all.
  • UND remained No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings. I just don’t see any way that UND can drop out of being a top seed in NCAAs. Now, it will be aiming for No. 1 overall.
  • UND didn’t seem particularly pleased with its play, especially early in the game. As the game progressed, UND got more dominant. This also may be a product of CC basically using just three forward lines and wearing out at the end. CC’s forth line wingers are defensemen and they hardly saw the ice.
  • UND’s leading scorers since Dec. 13: Nick Mattson 17, five players tied with 12. Mattson has a huge lead in that department. He was really good on Friday and it showed in the scoresheet with 3 more points.
  • Connor Gaarder continues to come up huge for UND. Not only did he score for the fourth time in five games, he also did a terrific job filling in for Mark MacMillan in the faceoff dot. Gaarder went 13-4 on draws.
  • The coaching staff moved Luke Johnson back to center for the first time since Jan. 23, and he responded with a terrific game. Johnson was very involved from start to finish.
  • Gage Ausmus finished with nine blocked shots, which I believe is a high this season for any UND player in a game.
  • Nick Schmaltz has seemed more inclined to shoot the puck the last three weekends. I’m wondering if his wrist injury was a problem for longer than we knew about and that was why he wasn’t shooting before.
  • I’m curious to see who gets the call in net for Colorado College. I’m not sure that Tyler Marble played poorly, but you want him to see through that screen on Paul LaDue’s goal from just inside the blue line. Chase Perry was very good in his 12:53.
  • UND’s student section really rattled Tiger defenseman Aaron Harstad in the box, who was yelling at students for half of his time in the box. Eventually, another Tiger skated over to the box and said something. Harstad then stopped yelling at fans.
  • Funniest penalty box sign of the night was one with an arrow pointing at the visitors’ box saying, “This guy cheered for the Russians in 1980.”
  • UND has won six straight games against Colorado College going back to last year’s Game 2 loss in overtime. UND is 9-1 against the Tigers in the last two seasons.
  • Since 2008, UND is 7-0 in Game 1s and 3-4 in Game 2s. It’s always difficult to end another team’s season, which is what UND will be aiming to do tonight.

Playoff night: 8 items to know

The playoffs are going in all college hockey leagues but the Big Ten. In each of the five leagues, home teams went 3-1 on Friday night. Here are 10 quick items to know about the evening:

1. North Dakota increased its nation-leading number of home wins to 15, while Colorado College dropped to 1-16-2 on the road this season. The Tigers, with one road win all year, now need to win back-to-back to keep their season alive.

2. Poor Huntsville goalie Carmine Guerriero stopped 76 consecutive shots to open Friday night’s playoff game against Tech, and held the Huskies off the scoreboard for 118 minutes, 48 seconds… and still lost. Tech won 1-0 in triple overtime.

3. Nebraska Omaha dropped to 2-12 in its last 14 playoff games and is at risk of being bounced out of the first round for the fifth straight season after a 2-1 double overtime loss to St. Cloud State. Omaha has 2 wins in 10 games since Dominic Zombo went out with an injury (the wins were home games vs. WMU and CC).

4. Ty Loney had a hat trick for Denver and scored the game-winner with less than five minutes left in the third to give the Pioneers a home win over Duluth. It’s Denver’s fifth straight NCHC playoff victory.

5. Western Michigan took a 3-2 lead against Miami early in the third, but the RedHawks rallied for a win on goals by Kevin Morris and Blake Coleman. Miami is threatening to reach the Frozen Faceoff for a second straight season. Western has not beaten Miami yet this year in five tries (0-4-1) after going 4-0 against them last season.

6. Air Force lost to RIT 2-1 in the AHA playoffs. Grafton’s Chad Demers scored the lone goal for the Falcons, who need to win tonight to keep Demers’ college career going.

7. The defending national champions are on the ropes. Union lost to Quinnipiac in triple overtime tonight. One more loss this weekend to the Bobcats and the Dutchmen will become the sixth defending champ of the last 10 years to fail to make the NCAAs a year after winning it all.

8. MSU-Mankato scored six… yes, SIX, power-play goals in hammering Lake State 9-2. The Lakers may want to stay out of the box in Game 2.

Friday night rewind

OXFORD, Ohio — Mark MacMillan’s absence was definitely noted on Friday night, but once again, this UND team found a way to get a victory.

The stats may not always say that this team is dominant — UND got outshot 44-27 by Miami tonight — but clearly it is finding other ways to gain advantages against its opponents.

Zane McIntyre obviously is one of them. He was terrific yet again in making 43 saves. It can be hard to measure work ethic and grit in statistics, but this team has that, too.

UND won the Penrose Cup outright on Friday night. You can watch the trophy presentation by NCHC commish Josh Fenton in the locker room and see photos along with my game story here.

All of the sudden, this team has the best record in college hockey at 25-6-3. We’re approaching two months since the last time anybody has beat this team in regulation.

This team’s winning percentage (.779) is better than any UND team since 1998-99 (32-6-2, .825). Nick Schmaltz turned 3 years old during that season.

So, we can debate their talent, skill, puck possession stats, Corsi stats, etc., all day long, but the bottom line is that UND has been extremely difficult to beat this season. Friday was a great example of that.

Some notes:

  • To explain all the “Penne Rosa” stuff, Nick Schmaltz accidentally called the Penrose the “Penne Rosa” during a postgame interview about a month ago. Apparently, word got back to the locker room, because they joked about that quite a bit tonight.
  • UND’s first-round opponent is clinched. UND will host Colorado College for a second consecutive season in the first round. The Tigers took it to Game 3 last season before falling 4-3 to UND.
  • Seeds No. 1 (UND), No. 6 (St. Cloud State), No. 7 (Western Michigan) and No. 8 (CC) are all set. Spots 2-5 are all up for grabs. Duluth, Omaha, Denver and Miami all could end up in any of those four spots.
  • Not surprisingly, UND struggled in the circle without MacMillan, going 32-43. Connor Gaarder was the top guy at 9-5. Colten St. Clair, who hasn’t played center in a long while, struggled at 2-10.
  • Gaarder, who now has the game-winning goal in three straight games, centered the only line that stayed together through the MacMillan injury. Coach Dave Hakstol on Gaarder: “The guy’s just a gamer. He’s a money player.”
  • It has been 319:28 since an opponent has scored an even-strength goal against UND. (This is why UND loves playing five-on-five). UND has scored 11 straight even-strength goals since the last one an opponent got to go.
  • UND has reached 25 wins in eight of Hakstol’s 11 seasons at the helm.
  • Since returning from Christmas to a 4-1 loss to Minnesota Duluth, UND is 12-1-1. The only loss came in overtime. If UND can win or tie in tonight’s series finale, it will reach two months since the last regulation loss.
  • A lot of people were asking about the shattered glass behind the UND bench. Apparently it broke after a Miami fan was pounding on it to celebrate the RedHawks’ power-play goal in the second period. It was replaced after the game.
  • Trevor Olson returned to the lineup for the first time in nearly three months. You could tell he was rusty at times.
  • UND asked the league to bring its full roster here in case they won the Penrose Cup, but they did have to declare which two players were the extras eligible to play. The extras are Andrew Panzarella and Johnny Simonson. Wouldn’t be shocked to see either tonight.
  • Sean Kuraly continues to play well against UND. He has six goals in eight games vs. UND. He also went 12-4 on draws.
  • I thought UND managed the third period very well. Although the shot totals say 18-5 Miami, the RedHawks hardly had any quality looks in the last 12 minutes of the game.
  • How about Tucker Poolman? He played forward at 5×5, defense on the power play, and he played shifts at both forward and defense on the penalty kill. The coaches sure seem to feel comfortable with him playing any role. He also was taking shifts at the end of the game protecting the lead.
  • On television, apparently the Nick Schmaltz setup for Brendan O’Donnell in the third period appeared to go in the net. The press box is at that end of the arena and I didn’t think it came close. On replay, it appears that his pass got all the way through and hit the far post and came out.
  • I asked Gaarder if Nick Schmaltz knows the name of the trophy yet. He said: “I don’t think any of the freshies do.”

UND clinches share of Penrose

Two things are for sure after this weekend’s sweep of St. Cloud State: 1. UND will host a first-round series in two weeks. 2. There will be a Penrose Cup celebration in Ralph Engelstad Arena at some point.

UND clinched at least a share of the Penrose Cup, taking a six-point lead over Miami, which happens to be next weekend’s opponent.

If UND takes one point from Miami, it will clinch the league’s No. 1 overall seed, it will win the Penrose Cup outright and UND will play Colorado College in the first round of the NCHC playoffs.

If Miami sweeps UND, then the teams are declared co-champs, but Miami will have the No. 1 seed for the playoffs and North Dakota will host Western Michigan in the first round.

UND cannot drop below No. 2 in the league standings.

For starters, here are some stories about Saturday’s victory:

Grand Forks Herald — Pattyn requests black jerseys for home game

St. Cloud Times — “They do what championship teams do,” Motzko says

USCHO — “In three wins they have against us, their fourth line has five goals.” — Fans roar for great penalty kill and seniors

Other notes:

  • I have nothing on Mark MacMillan’s health at the moment. I will update the blog as soon as I have something confirmed.
  • I’ve been on the students’ case for the last two years, but they had a great turnout this weekend. It led to an attendance of 12,004, the largest in Ralph Engelstad Arena since March 2, 2013.
  • The crowd was definitely into the game. The largest roar came as UND killed a five-on-three power play for a full two minutes. UND’s MacMillan, Troy Stecher and Drake Caggiula all jumped in front of Jonny Brodzinski’s shot, which may be the heaviest in the league. That sequence explains why this team has an extremely impressive 24-6-3 record right now.
  • Everyone in the postgame interviews talked about how loud it got during that kill and how much the team fed off of the fans’ energy.
  • Read my game story to see how they chose to wear black jerseys. I believe it’s the third weekend and fourth game they’ve done so. Interestingly enough, all have come vs. St. Cloud State. I believe they wore them for both games after Ralph Engelstad died. They wore them in December 2010 against the Huskies and scored five goals in the first period that night.
  • During the Senior Salute, the students changed “Sioux forever” at the last class to wear the Fighting Sioux jersey.
  • Tucker Poolman returned to the power play on Friday and he played some ‘D’ on the penalty kill as well Saturday. Poolman still leads the team in power-play goals with five.
  • When MacMillan went out, Stephane Pattyn took his place on the power play. He didn’t take draws, but he went to the front of the net, where he excelled at the end of last season.
  • It had to be a special weekend for Connor Gaarder. His brother, Casey, flew home from Thailand for the first time in more than a year for Senior Weekend and Connor scored a goal both nights.
  • UND continues to roll on Saturdays. It is now 15-0-2 on Saturdays this season.
  • UND is 11-1-1 in the last 13 games with the lone loss being the overtime game in Omaha, where the Mavs had a lengthy five-on-three power play.
  • Last night’s loss eliminated St. Cloud State from home-ice contention. The Huskies, Broncos and Tigers all will be on the road. UND is the only team to clinch home ice so far.

Friday night rewind

UND checked Goal No. 1 off the list Friday night by securing home ice for the first round of the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season, a remarkable run when you look at streaks of other teams around the country. It also inched up to No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings, passing MSU-Mankato. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald — Homeward bound again

St. Cloud Times — UND holds off St. Cloud State

USCHO — UND hands Huskies loss in front of 11,900 — UND wins another nail-biter

Other notes:

  • UND cannot win the league title outright tonight, nor can it clinch the No. 1 seed. It could clinch a share of the Penrose with a victory AND a Denver win over Miami.
  • UND extended its unbeaten streak to six games. It has one loss in the last 12.
  • The Connor Gaarder, Austin Poganski, Brendan O’Donnell line continues to have its way with opponents. They combined for 12 shots on goal (Gaarder a career-high seven). They had more shots on goal than the rest of UND’s forward lines combined (10).
  • Since Jan. 24 (the last eight games), UND’s leading scorer is….. Nick Mattson. Yes, the senior defenseman has come up big. He has 10 points in the last eight games. Nobody else on the team has more than seven during that stretch. Mattson also has a team-high plus-7 rating during the last eight games.
  • UND coach Dave Hakstol said his team “got their asses kicked” the last two periods in the faceoff circle. St. Cloud State’s top three faceoff men, Kalle Kossila (20-5), David Morley (9-5) and Jonny Brodzinski (4-0) went a combined 33-10 in the circle. Total faceoffs were 41-24 SCSU. The Huskies dominated UND in faceoffs in St. Cloud earlier this season, too.
  • The faceoff disparity was a major factor in St. Cloud’s success on the power play. The Huskies always were able to set it up right away. Kossila also won a clean draw with 6.5 seconds left to the right guy — Brodzinski — but his shot was blocked. That was UND’s biggest problem area.
  • Brodzinski had seven shots on goal and hit a post. That’s got to be too many for UND’s liking.
  • The power play kept St. Cloud State in the game. Both of the Huskies’ goals came with the man advantages, where they were 2-for-4. St. Cloud State now ranks fourth nationally in power play percent.
  • Goalie Charlie Lindgren also had a very strong game. UND had chances to put this away, but he was up for the task.
  • The UND men’s and women’s teams are now a combined 20-2-2 since mid-January. Both have key home games today (2 p.m. and 7 p.m.).
  • Remember to stick around after tonight’s game for the senior tribute.

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.

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.