Saturday night rewind

Five notables from around the country:

1. St. Cloud State finally snapped Union’s 22-game unbeaten streak, becoming the first team to beat the Dutchmen since January. The Huskies won the game 3-2 and outshot Union 39-24.

2. Miami outshot St. Lawrence 53-11, but it wasn’t until Shot No. 53 that the RedHawks earned the victory. Sean Kuraly scored in overtime to give Miami a series split. Clearly St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton was fantastic this weekend, giving the Saints a chance on two nights that they were badly outshot.

3. Minnesota Duluth and its talented group of forwards finally got to Denver goalie Evan Cowley on Saturday night, chasing Cowley in the third period after allowing five goals. All four lines got on the scoresheet for the Bulldogs.

4. A third different opponent blew out Colorado College for the third game in a row. This time, it was New Hampshire beating the Tigers by four goals. The Tigers have allowed 19 goals in their last three games.

5. After going 170-plus minutes without a goal, Western Michigan snapped that stretch and went on to hand Alaska Fairbanks its first loss of the season. Nolan LaPorte scored a pair of power-play goals for the Broncos.

NCHC top performers

OT winner — Sean Kuraly, Miami
3 points — Nolan LaPorte, WMU (2 goals, 1 assist)
2 points — Colton Hargrove, WMU (1 goal, 1 assist)
2 points — Cody Bradley, CC (1 goal, 1 assist)
2 points — Austin Farley, Duluth (1 goal, 1 assist)
2 points — Cal Decowski, Duluth (1 goal, 1 assist)
2 points — Sammy Spurrell, Duluth (1 goal, 1 assist)

UND 2, Providence 2

Providence scored an extra-attacker goal with :38.3 seconds left in regulation and UND made the tie hold up by killing a Friar power play at the end of overtime. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Herald column on MacMillan’s absence

USCHO

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • As disappointing as it was for the team to give up a late, tying goal, in the end, a win and a tie against Providence will be a good result for the team.
  • While Providence provided an opportunity to gain in the Pairwise, the rest of UND’s nonconference opponents will only provide a chance to plummet with losses. UND’s final four nonconference opponents currently have a combined record of 2-22. Both of those wins are by Air Force, which comes to The Ralph on Saturday.
  • I thought both goaltenders were outstanding and as advertised on Saturday. Jon Gillies came up big for the Friars several times. Zane McIntyre did the same, most notably gloving a golden chance off the stick of Niko Rufo during the third period.
  • Bryn Chyzyk is clearly at a different level than last season. He’s a lot faster. He has been showing that on the penalty kill and he showed it by torching a Friar defenseman on the outside, leading to Austin Poganski’s first-career goal.
  • Troy Stecher made his case for NCHC defenseman of the week by registering two assists on each night.
  • With Tucker Poolman settling in on defense, the coaching staff has more difficult decisions to make on the blue line for the Air Force game.
  • Providence defenseman Kyle McKenzie blocked eight shots himself on Saturday night. UND blocked 11 as a team. In all, Providence had 26 blocked shots to UND’s 11.

Friday night rewind

Five notables from around the country:

1. The home woes continued for Minnesota Duluth in the only NCHC league game of the evening. The Bulldogs dropped to 1-7 in their last eight home games (they’ve won just 3 of their last 16 AmsOil Arena games), dropping a 3-1 decision to Denver. Pio goalie Evan Cowley apparently wants to make fans forget about Sam Brittain quickly. Cowley’s numbers are: 3-0, .972 save percentage, 0.68 goals-against average.

2. Miami outshot St. Lawrence 42-16 at home and lost 5-4. Jay Williams allowed 5 goals on 16 shots and three-point nights by Blake Coleman (2 goals) and Austin Czarnik (3 assists) weren’t enough.

3. In one of the highlight games, Union beat St. Cloud State 5-1 to extend its unbeaten streak to 22 games. The Huskies, who actually outshot Union 36-27, didn’t score until there were five seconds left in the game.

4. Western Michigan’s goal drought has reached 158 minutes, 42 seconds, after getting blanked 1-0 by Alaska (Fairbanks). The Nanooks, by the way, are now 5-0, while Western is 1-4 overall and 0-3 at Lawson. The big question facing the Broncos coming into the season was scoring. That appears to be playing out that way.

5. UND nonconference opponents Lake Superior State, Niagara and Wisconsin are a combined 0-16 right now after Lake State and Niagara’s losses on Friday night. Those could be big games, because they could be RPI killers if UND loses them.

Top NCHC performers

4 points — Drake Caggiula, UND (1 goal, 3 assists)
3 points — Blake Coleman, Miami (2 goals, 1 assist)
3 points — Jordan Schmaltz, UND (3 assists)
3 points — Austin Czarnik, Miami (3 assists)

UND 6, Providence 1

Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Herald column on the goalies

USCHO

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • Top concern coming out of the game is the health of Mark MacMillan, who left late in the second period and did not return. According to a couple of friends who had a better view than I did, it sounds like he was cut with a skate near UND’s bench.
  • This was UND’s first win over a top-five team in The Ralph since beating Michigan State 6-0 in the Hall of Fame Game to open the 2007 season.
  • It’s early but Paul LaDue is tied for the national lead in points by a defenseman with seven. The only NCHC player with more points right now is Omaha’s Jake Guentzel (nine).
  • UND has four shorthanded goals this season (most in the nation). That’s how many the team had all of last season. Union and Duluth both have three shorthanders this season.
  • UND’s power play is up to 31 percent thanks to a 2-for-5 performance against the Friars.
  • UND won the faceoff battle 26-20. Connor Gaarder (8-5), Stephane Pattyn (5-2) and Nick Schmaltz (5-2) led the way.
  • The only player in UND’s lineup who did not register a shot on goal was Troy Stecher, who played a terrific game.
  • I’m guessing the coaching staff would like to get Keaton Thompson in tonight, but the big problem is, who do you take out?
  • I didn’t think UND would be able to beat Jon Gillies clean with shots from the dot, but Luke Johnson did just that in the first period. Johnson can really shoot the puck and he showed it on that play.
  • Nick Schmaltz did a terrific job protecting the puck in the offensive zone a few times. As he adds strength, he’s only going to be more and more difficult to handle.
  • If UND is able to finish the sweep of Providence tonight, it will have its first five-game winning streak in October since the Hrkac Circus team of 1986-87.

Saturday night rewind

Five highlights from around the country:

1. Omaha continued to stay hot early this season, sweeping Western Michigan on the road. The top line of Jake Guentzel-Dominic Zombo-Austin Ortega now has 21 points in four games this season. Guentzel leads the way with nine of them.

2. In Denver’s first weekend without NCHC goalie of the year Sam Brittain, the heir apparent, Evan Cowley, stopped 40 of 41 shots (.976, 0.51) in leading Denver to a sweep of RPI. The lone goal allowed by Cowley was a power-play tally with :35 left in the game.

3. As expected with so many new players, Wisconsin is off to a tough start, dropping to 0-4 after getting swept by Northern Michigan. The Badgers have just 3 goals in 4 games this season. The Badgers now have two weeks to prepare for UND.

4. Union finished off a sweep of Maine with a 5-2 victory, setting up a key nonconference showdown against St. Cloud State next week in upstate New York. Union will take a 16-game winning streak and a 21-game unbeaten streak into that series. Its last loss came in January.

5. The Alaska schools are a combined 7-0-1 to start the season after the teams went 3-0-1 against Penn State and Air Force this weekend in Fairbanks.

In Colorado Springs, UND was dominant in its 7-2 win over Colorado College from the start to the end of the game. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Colorado Springs Gazette

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • On Friday night, I thought Colorado College played a fairly even game with UND and that goaltender Zane McIntyre was a huge difference-maker. Saturday was completely one-sided from the start as UND won nearly every puck battle. The lack of compete from CC is likely why they held a players meeting after the game.
  • UND used the Olympic ice sheet to its advantage on the power play, going 5-for-11 on Saturday and 6-for-16 on the weekend.
  • Mark MacMillan will surely be the NCHC offensive player of the week with his five-point night and seven-point weekend. On top of that, MacMillan went 14-4 on faceoffs as UND dominated that category 34-21.
  • In the first period, CC had just one shot attempt between the dots. It came from Hunter Fejes, who was ejected by the end of the frame. In the second period, the Tigers got one shot on goal between the dots. It was the easiest 40 minutes that McIntyre has had in a while.
  • Johnny Simonson registered his first college point and came so close to getting his first goal. He rang two shots off the post. Simonson, a scratch in the season opener, is starting to leave the coaches no choice but to play him, much as Mario Lamoureux did as a youngster. Simonson now has worked his way onto the second power-play unit.
  • Tucker Poolman, who scored his first-career goal, also has worked his way onto the power play.
  • In past years, I’ve written about UND’s inability to score on five-minute major power plays. That obviously was not the case Saturday as UND tallied four goals on the two majors. MacMillan said after the game that the key is playing with urgency, instead of relaxing because of the extra time.
  • The seniors came up big this weekend for UND, combining for 6 goals and 14 points.
  • The biggest area of concern is the health of Drake Caggiula, who left the ice after a hit by Christian Heil, who was penalized for contact to the head. Caggiula did not return and there were no updates available at the end of the game.
  • Colorado College now has to go on the road for 13 of its next 14 games. It has just one home game between now and January 16. That’s a tough way for a young team to start the season.

Friday night rewind

Five highlights from around the country:

1. Miami showed its offensive firepower against in-state rival Ohio State, scoring five times in a 5-1 win. The series finale shifts back to Oxford. Sean Kuraly led the RedHawks with 3 points.

2. Minot’s Bryce Schmitt scored his first goal of the season for Lake Superior State, which rallied to within a goal three times against Notre Dame, only to fall 5-3.

3. New Hampshire sent Michigan to an 0-2 record by dominating the Wolverines 5-1 on Friday night.

4. Evan Trupp’s brother, Hayden, scored the shootout winner to lead Alaska Anchorage to the championship game of the Brice Alaska Goal Rush against rival Fairbanks. Hayden also scored against the Badgers last weekend.

5. Colgate continues to look impressive with a 3-0 win over a good Northeastern team.

UND topped Colorado College 3-1 in the series opener at World Arena on Friday night thanks to three goals in the span of 3:25 and a great performance by goalie Zane McIntyre. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Colorado Springs Gazette

Colorado Springs Gazette notebook on UND’s crowd

Colorado Springs Gazette column

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • My general thoughts were that UND made several miscues and that the team has things to clean up after this one, but it did all the things it needs to in order to win games. Zane McIntyre was great in goal. The team played hard. The forwards got to the top of the crease. All three goals were scored at the top of the crease.
  • Several players have talked in the last week about how they need to play to win games. I think they are starting to remember how hard they had to work last season to win.
  • CC goalie Tyler Marble gave up three quick goals in the first period, but I actually thought he played very well. UND was all over CC at the start of the second and he held the Tigers in the game.
  • UND coach Dave Hakstol was not happy with the penalties his team took in the second period. You could tell by his reaction on the bench that he didn’t like the call against Luke Johnson on the top of the crease, but he made a point in the postgame to say that the others were the correct calls and they were all bad stick penalties by his team. Hakstol thought the penalties really cost the team energy.
  • From CC’s perspective, I thought the line of Hunter Fejes, Cody Bradley and Luc Gerdes was really good tonight. Fejes had a good freshman year but was unnoticeable as a sophomore (when he didn’t score any goals). He was all over the ice on Friday.
  • Two of UND’s unsung players for this game were Troy Stecher and Gage Ausmus. Right now, Ausmus is making himself a must-have in the lineup, especially due to his play on the penalty kill. Stecher was terrific there as well.
  • Mark MacMillan registered eight shots in the first two periods alone for UND.
  • Faceoff numbers weren’t in the final stat packet, so I don’t have those.
  • Tonight, UND will look for its first October sweep since 2010, when it won the first two games in Bemidji’s Sanford Center. No player on the current roster has been part of an October sweep.

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.

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.

*****

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.

Thoughts from the first 60

Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

USCHO

UNDsports.com

On Sunday morning, I posted five things I’m looking forward to checking out during the exhibition game against Manitoba. Here’s how I thought they played out:

1. Who will earn a spot on the D-corps?

Good question. The coaches got their first look at all eight blue liners in exhibition action, but to me, everyone made their case to be in the lineup. There are no clear-cut decisions here. Gage Ausmus only played 1 of the team’s last 14 games last season, but he was back in the lineup and clearly played with an edge, attempting to give the team a physical presence that the other blue liners (outside of Andrew Panzarella) don’t. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out during the season.

2. Who will be the No. 2 goaltender?

Since Cam Johnson played a period and Matt Hrynkiw did not play at all, that answers our question for now. To start the season, Johnson will be the No. 2 guy. He looked very confident between the pipes during his 20-minute stint. He only could have helped solidify that No. 2 spot with his performance.

3. The Nick Schmaltz debut

Nick was pretty much exactly as advertised. He set up his linemates all over the ice. He had two primary assists because of beautiful feeds and he could have had several more if not for Manitoba goalie Brendan Jensen robbing Drake Caggiula a couple times in the second period. Jensen also robbed Nick in front. Strength is definitely something Nick will be working on while at UND, but his skill level is going to help big time, especially on the power play.

Some scouting reports have questioned Nick’s effort level at times, but I’m wondering if maybe he’s a little bit like Jordan, who could possibly look like he’s not trying at times simply because he’s just so smooth. The effort level was clearly there all night tonight.

4. Can Wade Murphy find a spot?

A couple of times this fall, I saw Murphy snipe a couple of shots for goals. Now, we’ve seen it in a game. Yes, Nick made a nice feed to set him up, but Murphy made a great shot to finish the play. Coach Dave Hakstol mentioned Murphy as one of the players who played well. I think we will see him in the lineup Friday night.

5. Who will be on the power play?

One unit was Mark MacMillan, Michael Parks, Stephane Pattyn, Paul LaDue and Nick Mattson. The other unit was Nick Schmaltz, Drake Caggiula, Luke Johnson, Jordan Schmaltz and Keaton Thompson. That means rookies Austin Poganski and Tucker Poolman are probably not starting the season on the power play, but that could change some time during the next sixth months.

Other notes:

  • Manitoba’s Josh Elmes, who played briefly for the Fargo Force last year, was injured early in the game and went to Altru to get stitches, I was told. Strangely enough, he walked back from Altru to the Ralph. I got a text from someone who saw “a Manitoba player walking over the Columbia overpass with gear on.” A strange sight for sure.
  • UND’s first period was a big disjointed and ugly, which is probably to be expected for the first time out. But slowly, UND started sustaining more and more and dictating the game.
  • Special teams ended up being good for UND. It went 3-for-6 on the power play and shut out the Bisons on five chances.
  • Hakstol was pleased with the play of Bryn Chyzyk. He brought a lot of pace to his line.
  • As Hakstol said after the game, it’s a good starting point for the team, but there’s lots of work to be done to get the team to where it was at the end of last season.
  • Former UND forward Taylor Dickin started on the top line for the Bisons. He took the majority of Bisons faceoffs, but did not register a shot in the game.

Quick thoughts on UND’s exhibition

The UND women’s team played its first exhibition game of the season Saturday night and beat the Toronto Junior Aeros 9-1. It’s difficult to judge the level of competition, but for reference, St. Cloud State beat them 3-0 a day earlier.

Anyway, here are a few impressions from the team’s first outing:

  • Offense is going to be the big question mark for this team, so putting up nine goals is a good start, especially considering the fact that the team was missing three of its top players — Meghan Dufault, Becca Kohler and Halli Krzyzaniak — who are all at the Canadian National Team camp.
  • Gracen Hirschy is going to do a little bit of everything for this team. Hirschy is going to play both forward and defense. Coach Brian Idalski said he’s not sure how he’s going to list her. “She’s a hybrid,” he said.
  • One reason for moving Hirschy up is because UND is so deep on the blue line. With Northeastern transfer Jordan Hampton joining the D-corps, UND had six strong blue liners Saturday night, and it will add Krzyzaniak next weekend.
  • Leah Jensen is finally healthy and that’s a good thing for UND. She’s been injured much of her time at UND, but was one of the team’s top forwards this season.
  • Amy Menke’s minutes were limited, likely to keep her healthy for this week’s upcoming nonconference games.
  • One play that Idalski and the coaching staff is really going to like is Kayla Gardner’s goal. She drove the net hard, went to the far post and was rewarded for it. In the past, not enough players would go hard to the net like that.
  • It was tough to get any sort of read on the goaltenders. All three of them played but faced very minimal work.

Saturday night rewind

CINCINNATI — After 81 minutes and 28 seconds, Connor Gaarder picked up a rebound, moved the puck to the top of the crease, patiently waiting for goalie C.J. Motte to open his pads, then slipped the puck five-hole to send UND to the Frozen Four.

After the goal, Gaarder slid on his back toward the boards, where his teammates piled on top of him.

On the bench, Stephane Pattyn turned and hugged trainer Mark Poolman. Right beside them, the three coaches embraced.

After exchanging hugs and handshakes on the ice, UND skated over to a section of UND fans, acknowledged them, then crowded in front of them for a team picture.

Gaarder is the improbable goal scorer and Philly is the improbable destination for the 2013-14 team.

There was plenty of coverage of the Midwest Regional. Here are some stories:

Grand Forks Herald gamer

Grand Forks Herald sidebar on Zane Gothberg

WDAZ’s breakdown with Dan Corey and myself

Big Rapids Pioneer

USCHO gamer

USCHO story on Gaarder

College Hockey News on Gothberg

College Hockey News on Gaarder

Some other thoughts and stats on the regional final:

  • This was the longest NCAA tournament game in UND history. It also was the first double overtime game since the 2011 Final Five title game against Denver. Matt Frattin scored the winner for UND in that game.
  • Gaarder will now go down in history along with Chris Porter and Andrew Kozek for scoring a dramatic overtime goal to send UND to the Frozen Four. One common theme among the three: All of them scored five-hole. Porter beat Minnesota’s Jeff Frazee five-hole on a wraparound. Kozek beat Wisconsin’s Shane Connolly on a rebound through traffic.
  • Saturday was also the birthday of Gaarder’s father, Tim. Solid birthday gift from his son.
  • On Twitter, I saw a photo of Gaarder’s grandparents (former Vikes coach Jerry Burns) watching the game from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Apparently, they made a restaurant open early so they could go watch.
  • UND has now reached the Frozen Four as a No. 1 (twice), No. 2 (twice), No. 3 (once) and No. 4 (once) seed under coach Dave Hakstol, who is 14-4 in NCAA regionals (six Frozen Fours, eight regional title games in 10 years).
  • I thought that the Cincinnati regional would be a flop. It wasn’t, though. I was very impressed by how many local hockey fans showed up. I saw lots of Cincinnati Cyclones jerseys. That was not the case last year in Grand Rapids. Someone told me at the hotel that they just talked to a father, who drove four hours with his son from Cleveland to introduce him to college hockey. They were treated with three great, down-to-the-wire games.
  • This doesn’t happen often at regionals, but UND’s fan base was probably the third largest there. Ferris State and Wisconsin both had good crowds. Ferris fans could drive there.
  • One other positive is that downtown Cincinnati really seemed to embrace the tournament. There were lots of signs around town. They had a member of the visitor’s bureau at our hotel to help people. Maybe that’s part of why they got locals to come out. Miami University hosted it and, not surprisingly, did a nice job.
  • The biggest downside was that the ice clearly was getting bad at the end of the UND-FSU game. Players were falling down all over the place when they tried to turn. It was one of those games where you hoped the game-winner wasn’t going to come when a player fell.
  • I thought Ferris State was outstanding in this game and probably deserved a better fate. I don’t expect any UND fans to be apologizing. They’ve been on the other end of these games multiple times.
  • Ferris was as advertised — they blocked a ton of shots and made it very difficult for UND to generate offense. In the third period and overtime, the Bulldogs really started to crank up the offense. That’s when Zane Gothberg was so clutch.
  • The all-tournament team certainly should have included Gothberg, but we have to vote on it with 10 minutes to go in the third period. Gothberg’s best play was after the ballots were already in. At the time of voting, Motte had allowed 1 goal in six periods.
  • Dillon Simpson now leads the nation with 107 blocked shots and nobody will catch him in that category this season. To illustrate how impressive that number is, Jordan Schmaltz is second on the team in blocked shots with 58.
  • And in case you were wondering, Skyline Chili > Gold Star Chili.

UND marches on

CINCINNATI — For the third week in a row, UND played a must-win game in order to keep its season alive. And for the third time, UND was able to do that thanks to a 5-2 win over Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

WDAZ (Dan Corey and I discuss the game)

Wisconsin State Journal

College Hockey News

USCHO

Cincinnati Enquirer

Other notes:

  • With the win, UND will play in its ninth regional final in 11 years, and its eighth in 10 years under coach Dave Hakstol.
  • UND’s last meeting against Ferris State was the 2003 regional. Ferris, with star forward Chris Kunitz, won that game 5-2. The Bulldogs are 5-2 all-time in the NCAAs.
  • Surprisingly, this was Rocco Grimaldi’s first multi-goal game at UND (two of his three goals were empty netters). He joked in the press conference afterwards about it. “Because the goalie was out, that really helped me. I guess that was my issue. There was a goalie in net for the last couple years.”
  • Mark MacMillan had a terrific game for UND with a goal and two assists. Linemate Michael Parks had a goal and an assist. Players complimented Parks’ zone entry on the GWG in the third period.
  • I thought that Wisconsin controlled the first period of the game and that Zane Gothberg kind of kept UND in it. But after Grimaldi scored to make it 2-1 at 6:45 of the second period, the game changed. UND outshot the Badgers 27-13 in the final two periods.
  • UND’s penalty killers did a terrific job on Wisconsin’s big first unit of Jake McCabe, Nic Kerdiles, Michael Mersch, Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes.
  • Mersch, Wisconsin’s top goal scorer and a guy who has hurt UND in the past, had a couple of Grade A chances, but missed the net, including one after Nick Mattson fell at the offensive blue line.
  • Faceoffs were 33-33, but MacMillan won a couple of key ones at the end. One led to Grimaldi’s first empty-net goal.
  • Dillon Simpson is tied for second nationally with 101 shot blocks. He’s only two behind the national leader now.
  • This was clearly a tough loss for the Wisconsin players. This was a year they had anticipated since 2011 being a great one, and they wanted to make a run at a national championship. They will lose nine seniors and possibly a couple to early to the NHL.