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.”

UNDsports.com — 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.

Gameday final: UND 3, SCSU 1

TONIGHT’S VIEWING: Midco Sports Network (GF 27/622 HD), Fox College Sports Atlantic, DirecTV 608, Dish Network 449. Notes: No lineup changes for UND. Full lines and live chat are below. Huskies go with Peterson for Bertsch up front and Rabey for Ilvonen on D.

First period

UND 1, St. Cloud State 0 — Austin Poganski (Connor Gaarder, Brendan O’Donnell) 7:53. O’Donnell has the puck below the goal line and made a centering party to Gaarder, who put a backhand on the net. Lindgren kicked the rebound near the goal line and Gaarder swatted at it again. Lindgren stopped that one, but Poganski made a diving attempt and slid the puck underneath Lindgren’s glove.

Second period

UND 2, St. Cloud State 0 — Connor Gaarder (Tucker Poolman, Keaton Thompson) 6:58. UND gets the puck down low and Poolman shoots from an angle. The rebound comes out to the post and Gaarder picks it up and wraps it. Lindgren gets caught on his own player, Oliver, and can’t get across.

UND 3, St. Cloud State 0 — Nick Mattson (Paul LaDue) 19:19 (pp). Another senior. Mattson stays red hot and blasts a point shot through a screen to give UND a three-goal lead.

Third period

UND 3, St. Cloud State 1 — Ethan Prow (Judd Peterson, Joe Rehkamp) 4:43 (pp). The Huskies win a draw and get the puck to Prow at the top of the zone. He walks it until he spots a lane through traffic and fires one past McIntyre.

UND’s lines

3 Tucker Poolman–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
29 Bryn Chyzyk–9 Drake Caggiula–27 Luke Johnson
28 Stephane Pattyn–8 Nick Schmaltz–17 Colten St. Clair
21 Brendan O’Donnell–13 Connor Gaarder–14 Austin Poganski

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

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

St. Cloud State’s lines

16 Jimmy Murray–11 Kalle Kossila–22 Jonny Brodzinski
9 Joey Benik–13 David Morley–63 Patrick Russell
42 Blake Winiecki–37 Joe Rehkamp–17 Judd Peterson
4 Ben Storm–27 Nick Oliver–6 Daniel Tedesco

28 Andrew Prochno–12 Ethan Prow
5 Nathan Widman–40 Tim Daly
7 Niklas Nevalainen–2Jarrod Rabey

35 Charlie Lindgren
45 Rasmus Reijola

Women’s final: UND 2, OSU 1, 3 OT

Notes: No lineup changes for UND. Ohio State makes a change in net, one of many changes for the Buckeyes.

First period

No scoring.

Second period

UND 1, Ohio State 0 — Samantha Hanson (Meghan Dufault) 9:03. Dufault wins a draw cleanly back to Hanson, who blasts a slap shot through a Jensen screen to give UND the first lead.

UND 1, Ohio State 1 — Kayla Sullivan (Danielle Gagne, Sara Schmitt) 19:23. UND gets outnumbered down low and Gagne feeds Sullivan for backdoor tap-in to tie the game.

Third period

No scoring.

Overtime

No scoring.

Second overtime

No scoring.

Third overtime

UND 2, Ohio State 1 — Amy Menke (Meghan Dufault, Becca Kohler) 3:17. UND punches its ticket to the Final Faceoff with a two-on-one goal in transition. Dufault, coming up the left side, feeds Menke, who buries it to end the second-longest game in program history.

UND’s lines

51 Becca Kohler–19 Meghan Dufault–21 Amy Menke
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–25 Leah Jensen
15 Kayla Gardner–11 Shannon Kaiser–13 Layla Marvin
16 Tori Williams–14 Marissa Salo–4 Sam LaShomb

6 Gracen Hirschy–18 Halli Krzyzanaiak
22 Tanja Eisenschmid–8 Samantha Hanson
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

Ohio State’s lines

18 Julianna Iafallo–6 Taylor Kuehl–19 Danielle Gagne
24 Claudia Kepler–27 Lauren Spring–17 Julia McKinnon
26 Kendall Curtis–7 Kayla Sullivan–16 Melani Moylan
9 Bryanna Neuwald–13 Jessica Dunne–14 Maggie Rothgery

22 Sara Schmitt–2 Cara Zubko
10 Kara Gust–21 Alexa Ranahan
20 Kari Schmitt–8 Dani Sadek

32 Kassidy Sauve
39 Stacy Danczak
35 Selena Hunter

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

UNDsports.com — 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.

Nick Schmaltz goal makes SportsCenter

Nick Schmaltz’s highlight-reel goal in the first period of last night’s 3-2 win over St. Cloud State made SportsCenter’s Top 10 list. It checked in at No. 8.

In case you missed it, here’s the highlight from UND with Tim Hennessy and Steve Olson on the call. “You had hands like that, didn’t you, Oly?” “If I did, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Also, Goon posted the CBS Sports version of the goal. That’s Ben Holden and Dave Starman with the call.

Women’s final: UND 5, Ohio St. 2

Notes: UND goes with the same lines as it has been using.

First period

UND 1, Ohio State 0 — Josefine Jakobsen (Tanja Eisenschmid) 2:36. UND gets on the board on its first shot of the game. Jakobsen comes on a rush up the left side and wires a shot past Danczak on the far side from the circle.

Second period

UND 1, Ohio State 1 — Kari Schmitt (Kayla Sullivan) 10:02 (pp). UND’s shutout streak ends at 297:51 when Schmitt’s shot from the point bounces on the ice and kicks over Amsley-Benzie’s pad for a power-play goal.

Ohio State 2, UND 1 — Sara Schmitt (Danielle Gagne, Kari Schmitt) 13:34 (pp). The Buckeyes cash in on the power play again as Dufault’s clearing attempt is intercepted at the point by Kari Schmitt. She puts the puck into the scoring area and her sister puts a rebound past Amsley-Benzie.

Ohio State 2, UND 2 — Andrea Dalen (Kayla Gardner, Tanja Eisenschmid) 19:54. UND ties the game with just 5.5 seconds left in the second period. Gardner comes on a rush up the left side and throws a pass to the slot area, where it gets through Schmitt and comes to Dalen. The captain hammers a shot off of the goalie’s shoulder and in.

Third period

UND 3, Ohio State 2 — Andrea Dalen (Samantha Hanson) 8:54. Hanson ends a strong shift by getting the puck at the point and firing it toward the slot. It deflects off of a Buckeye defenseman to Dalen, who quickly snipes a backhand before Danczak can get over.

UND 4, Ohio State 2 — Meghan Dufault (Amy Menke) 18:51 (en). Menke fights off a couple of checks and gets the puck to Dufault for the empty-netter.

UND 5, Ohio State 2 — Andrea Dalen (Halli Krzyzaniak) 19:33 (en). Dalen finishes off the hat trick by firing one into the empty net from the circle.

UND’s lines

51 Becca Kohler–19 Meghan Dufault–21 Amy Menke
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–25 Leah Jensen
15 Kayla Gardner–11 Shannon Kaiser–13 Layla Marvin
16 Tori Williams–14 Marissa Salo–4 Sam LaShomb

6 Gracen Hirschy–18 Halli Krzyzaniak
22 Tanja Eisenschmid–8 Samantha Hanson
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

Ohio State’s lines

7 Kayla Sullivan–6 Tahylor Kuehl–19 Danielle Gagne
24 Claudia Kepler–27 Lauren Spring–17 Julia McKinnon
18 Julianna Iafallo–26 Kendall Curtis–16 Melani Moylan
9 Bryanna Neuwald–23 Katie Matheny–14 Maggie Rothgery

22 Sara Schmitt–13 Jessica Dunne
10 Kara Gust–21 Alexa Ranahan
20 Kari Schmitt–8 Dani Sadek

39 Stacy Danczak
32 Kassidy Sauve
35 Selena Hunter

Friday morning reading

It’s already the last home regular-season series of the season. Each week, we’ll see how many goals this team can achieve. All are still in front of them.

The first step is trying to secure home ice for the 13th year in a row. I wrote a little about that in today’s UND notebook.

If they do that, they will have their attention on achieving something new each weekend for as long as the season lasts: the Penrose Cup, trying to reach the conference tournament for a 13th straight season, trying to win the postseason championship for the fourth time in six years, trying to reach the Frozen Four for the seventh time in 11 years and, ultimately, trying to win No. 8.

This weekend’s series will provide a unique challenge.

If there’s one team that’s had UND’s number during the last few years, it’s St. Cloud State. If there’s one team that hasn’t struggled at The Ralph, it’s the Huskies.

UND is 0-3-1 in its last four home games against the Huskies and 1-4-1 in the last six. The last time UND has beaten St. Cloud State in The Ralph was Oct. 29, 2011.

It’s tough to point your finger at one reason for UND’s recent struggles against them. The games have been all different varieties. But in two of the Huskies’ last four games in REA, they really held down UND’s shot totals and offensive scoring chances.

UND will try to keep the offense rolling in a weekend that’s bound to be an emotional one.

It’s Senior Weekend. The seniors will be highlighted after Saturday night’s game.

I wrote about one of them for Thursday’s paper. As one player told me, “You’ve never met someone like him, and you’re never going to meet someone like him again.” It’s Connor Gaarder. Read that story here.

My Q&A this week is with another member of the senior class, captain Stephane Pattyn. He talks about his career, including his memory of the comeback win over Minnesota in the Final Five.

The St. Cloud Times has a preview of the series here, highlighting the Huskies late-season charge that could get them home ice.

I think the big key to watch in this series is special teams. St. Cloud State has the No. 3-ranked power play in the nation. It looked good in St. Cloud earlier this season. If UND gives the Huskies too many opportunities, it could spell doom.

The other big key is Jonny Brodzinski. He has had some big games against UND. In the first series between the teams this season, Brodzinski was allowed to shoot the puck 16 times. He scored twice and the Huskies won. The second night, he had one shot attempt through two periods and UND built a lead. He has one of the best shots in the league and UND needs to be aware of him.

On to the picks…

Miami at Denver: The Pioneers are without Zac Larraza tonight and the RedHawks are heating up. Even though Denver has been significantly better at home, I’m going to say that Miami goes out there and gets back into the NCHC race with a sweep. Miami 4-3, 4-2.

Omaha at Duluth: Omaha is 1-4 in the last five games and is trying to avoid a late-season tailspin, which has been common in recent years (though not so much last season). The Bulldogs are at home and fighting for home ice. Duluth 5-4, Omaha 3-2.

Western Michigan at Colorado College: I really liked the way the Broncos played last weekend, but will they be able to use their usual physicality as effectively on the big ice sheet? I’m not sure. I think the Tigers grab a tie out of this series. Western Michigan 3-0, 2-2 tie.

St. Cloud State at UND: The Huskies have had success recently against UND, but this UND squad has been very difficult to beat. St. Cloud State may be able to do it once, but not twice. St. Cloud State 3-1, UND 4-2.

**************************************************************

Things have been going well on both the men’s and the women’s side lately. The two teams have combined for an 18-2-2 record since mid-January.

The playoffs start at 2 p.m. today for the women in The Ralph. They are hosting Ohio State in a best-of-three series.

The spotlight is on goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie, who comes in with a shutout streak of 267:49 and four consecutive shutouts. She blanked the Buckeyes in back-to-back games during the last series between the teams.

Amsley-Benzie was recognized on a national level Thursday, becoming UND’s third-ever player to be a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award.

Does she have a shot to win? Well, it hasn’t been easy for goalies, but she does have the numbers to back it up. She also has that 4.0 in chemical engineering. And, as coach Brian Idalski said, has anyone in the country sort of put a team on their back like Amsley-Benzie?

UND needs to win this playoff series to keep its season alive. And if it does win, UND will host the Final Faceoff next weekend in The Ralph (UND may need to win that, too, to get in the NCAAs).

That’s about it for now, I’ll leave you with a good episode of Through These Doors that focuses on the senior class.

High praise from Murray

Western Michigan coach Andy Murray, who spent a decade as an NHL head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and the St. Louis Blues, had high praise for this year’s UND hockey team.

After last weekend’s series in Kalamazoo, Murray told the Gazette that UND is “maybe the best team I’ve coached against” during his four years in the college game.

Read that comment in this story here.

I think one of the difficulties that this team presents for Murray and other coaches is in preparation and game-planning. Coaches usually know which players they need to use their top guys against.

While Tucker Poolman, Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks are listed as UND’s top line, it could be argued that the “fourth line” of Brendan O’Donnell, Connor Gaarder and Austin Poganski has been UND’s most effective unit in the past four weeks.

Another challenge is that this team has the ability to play a number of different styles of game. If you want to get up and down the rink, UND is OK with that. If you want to play a tough, hard-hitting, physical game like Western Michigan, UND is OK with doing that, too.

The critical part of the season is approaching and how these next few weeks play out will go a long way into determining where this team falls in terms of great ones, but its current winning percentage is nearly identical to the great Pony Express team of 2010-11.

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.