Gameday live: Omaha 2, UND 1, 18:15 third

TONIGHT’S VIEWING: Midco Sports Network, NCHC.tv. Lineup notes: Nick Schmaltz is back in tonight. Playing RW instead of center. He was at center when he got hurt. Poolman back up at RW as well. LaDue is in. Full lines and live chat are below. Full lines and live chat are below.

First period

No scoring.

Second period

UND 1, Omaha 0 — Gage Ausmus (Drake Caggiula, Mark MacMillan) 7:43. Caggiula grabs the puck off the wall after a strong cycle by his line and spots Ausmus wide open at the top of the circle. Ausmus steps up and blasts one off the post. The rebound rifles out to the side of the net where Gallo and MacMillan are battling and the puck goes off of Gallo’s hand and trickles across the line.

UND 1, Omaha 1 — Tyler Vesel (Jake Randolph, Justin Parizek) 8:12. Omaha comes down and ties it on the next shift. Randolph makes a fantastic play, pulling the puck off the end wall and making a perfect spin pass with his backhand out front to Vesel, who one-times it in.

Omaha 2, UND 1 — Justin Parizek (Brian Cooper) 17:16. Omaha puts on the pressure and Parizek launches a shot from out by the boards. It goes off of LaDue and in on the far side.

Third period

Scoreless.

Live Blog Men’s Hockey vs. Omaha

UND’s lines

9 Drake Caggiula–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
17 Colten St. Clair–27 Luke Johnson–8 Nick Schmaltz
28 Stephane Pattyn–13 Connor Gaarder–3 Tucker Poolman
11 Trevor Olson–10 Johnny Simonson–14 Austin Poganski

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

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson
30 Matt Hrynkiw

Omaha’s lines

20 Jake Guentzel–14 Dominic Zombo–16 Austin Ortega
13 Jake Randolph–10 Tyler Vesel–25 Justin Parizek
12 David Pope–Avery Peterson–18 Jono Davis
17 Luke Nogard–19 Tanner Lane–9 James Polk

2 Brian Cooper–5 Joel Messner
4 Luc Snuggerud–28 Brian O’Rourke
24 Ian Brady–23 Grant Gallo

31 Ryan Massa
29 Kirk Thompson

Friday morning reading

The last time coach Dean Blais returned to the building that he helped build, he was ejected from the game for not sending a player to the penalty box after a bench minor.

Blais was baffled by the call. The UND coaching staff was not happy that Blais was ejected. And perhaps the league wasn’t pleased with it, either.

The official who ejected Blais, Andy Thiessen, never worked another game in the NCHC and is no longer on the league’s roster of officials.

So far, this trip has been better for Blais. He was able to spend Thanksgiving with family in Grand Forks (his wife is from Starkweather, N.D., and has children in GF and Fargo) before heading to The Ralph for Thursday’s practice.

Blais seemed pretty relaxed Thursday and he has a couple of good reasons for that.

1. Barring an improbable Huntsville sweep, Omaha will finish with a winning record in nonconference play for the first time in five years (since 2009-10 in the CCHA, Blais’ first at the helm). The Mavs are 4-1-1, which will finally put them in good position in the national picture. Their nonconference has killed their Pairwise in recent years.

2. He finally has a goalie. Read this story for details on Ryan Massa’s remarkable turnaround in numbers.

That’s enough to get any coach to feel better.

Omaha is in the middle of a stretch where it plays 10 of 12 games on the road. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The Mavs are undefeated on the road this season, going 5-0-1. After this weekend, the Mavs go to Miami.

The Omaha World Herald has a bunch of random info in this story, including Blais saying that his grandchildren were crying when he got ejected and that he believes it’s only a matter of time before Minnesota Duluth is the No. 1 team in the country.

Omaha split with the Bulldogs last weekend, but the Dogs outshot the Mavs 40-18 in the game that Omaha won.

For Thursday’s paper, I wrote about defenseman Troy Stecher, arguably UND’s most consistent early this season. Stecher said he knew almost nothing about college hockey until joining the Penticton Vees and meeting two kids named Mark MacMillan and Brendan O’Donnell. Stecher also talks about how he was once committed to Omaha.

This week’s ‘Get to Know’ segment is with Luke Johnson. He tells us the prank that he and cousin Paul LaDue play on each other at hotels all the time.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND

1. Will Nick Schmaltz play? I think there’s a chance. He didn’t look 100 percent at practice, but that doesn’t always stop guys from playing. We’ll find out at about 5:30 p.m. today.

2. Duluth East linemate battle. UND’s Trevor Olson and Omaha’s Jake Randolph formed a prolific high school line along with Duluth’s Dom Toninato at Duluth East. Olson and Randolph will be going head-to-head now.

3. Fargo Force goalie battle. Four years ago, Ryan Massa and Zane McIntyre formed Fargo’s 1-2 goalie punch. Now they are going head-to-head.

4. Austin Ortega’s comment. I don’t think there’s much controversy behind it and I don’t think it was all that inflammatory, but at least it was good for a funny screenshot.

5. Zombo’s last trip to REA. There’s a flag hanging in the upper bowl of The Ralph with the Number 6 and the name Zombo above it. It’s for Rick Zombo, the father of Omaha forward Dom Zombo. This is Dom’s last trip to The Ralph. He had four points in last year’s series in Grand Forks.

On to this weekend’s predictions…

Western Michigan at Notre Dame’s Shillelagh Tournament: The Broncos open with Ohio State and then will play against either Union or the Irish. The NCHC is 11-2 against the Big Ten this season, so I’m going with Western to win the first game, but not finish the job. Western Michigan 3, Ohio State 1; Notre Dame 4, Western Michigan 0.

St. Cloud State at Bemidji State: The Beavers have lost six games in a row, nearly all of them by a single goal. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t get any easier this weekend against a Husky team that has played top 10 competition nearly every single week. If the Huskies maintain their level, they get a sweep. St. Cloud State 4-2, 3-1.

Omaha at UND: Remember Black Friday last season? It truly was a dark day for UND. That’s when it lost to St. Lawrence in an uninspiring game, held a team meeting until midnight at the rink, and slowly started to turn around the season. I’m saying UND has another turkey hangover, but manages to get the split. Omaha 3-2, UND 3-2.

Finally, here’s this week’s episode of Through These Doors, which has an inside look at coach Brad Berry going through film with the players.

O’Donnell out, Schmaltz skates

One step forward, one step back for UND on the injury front.

Nick Schmaltz returned to the ice Wednesday and skated in practice. His status is still up in the air for the weekend, but the fact that he’s out there with the team is a good sign. He did not skate at all with the team last week.

Brendan O’Donnell, however, will not play. O’Donnell took a big hit along the boards in St. Cloud, but played the rest of the game. I’m not sure if that’s the hit where the injury occurred or not. UND coach Dave Hakstol said he’s out for the Omaha series and he did not skate Wednesday.

Bryn Chyzyk also continues to be out indefinitely. He sustained what a teammate described as a shoulder injury on Friday at St. Cloud. Defenseman Paul LaDue also didn’t skate Wednesday, but Hakstol did not mention him as out for this weekend, and nothing appeared visibly wrong with him so it could be a maintenance day as he’s still coming back from his leg injury.

Hakstol also said he liked what Tucker Poolman brought at forward last week and that he would be confident in putting him back there this weekend. So, don’t be surprised if the East Sider plays at least one game at wing.

There was a special guest at practice today in Paul Chadwick, who played for UND from 1977-81 and helped the team win a national championship in 1980. He currently lives in Vail, Colo., but will attend Friday’s game.

Chadwick had an interesting piece of trivia for me, too. If UND does play Arizona State in hockey, it will not be the first time that the program has played a game in Phoenix.

During Chadwick’s sophomore season, UND traveled to play Northern Arizona on the road (Dec. 8-9, 1978). Game 1 of the series was played in Phoenix. UND won 10-2. They went up the mountain to Flagstaff, Ariz., home of NAU, for Game 2.

Chadwick said it was brutally cold in North Dakota when the team left. When they got to Phoenix, local residents were in a panic because it was 40 degrees there. But the team enjoyed the big temperature difference and sat at the pool with their shirts off.

Big fish remain in the pond

College hockey recruiting has gotten pretty young, and it’s not often that there are uncommitted top prospects late in the game.

But with the early signing period gone, there are still three big, uncommitted prospects that pretty much every team would love to add for next season. Two of the are de-commits. Another hasn’t committed yet. Here’s a look at three potential late adds for teams:

AUSTON MATTHEWS, F, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ., U.S. UNDER-18

Rundown: Matthews is projected to go No. 1 overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s described as a game-breaking player who could have the same type of impact as Jack Eichel, the BU freshman who is currently leading the nation in scoring.

Former commitment: None.

Believed to be in the mix: North Dakota, Boston University, Boston College, Denver, Michigan and the WHL (Everett).

Of note: Matthews will have to accelerate his education in order to come to college next season.

BROCK BOESER, F, BURNSVILLE, MINN., WATERLOO (USHL)

Rundown: Potential late-first or early-second round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Boeser is currently the second-leading scorer in the USHL with 22 points in 16 games for the Waterloo Blackhawks.

Former commitment: Wisconsin.

Believed to be in the mix: North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin.

Of note: According to Bucky’s Fifth Quarter, Boeser is going to visit Wisconsin. His cousin is a former Badger captain. He plays on a line with Gopher commits in Waterloo. UND commit Hayden Shaw also is on that team.

MATTHEW TKACHUK, F, ST. LOUIS, MO., U.S. UNDER-18

Rundown: The son of former NHL standout Keith Tkachuk, Matthew is a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s a late 1997 birthdate and is the third-leading scorer on the U18s behind Matthews and Jeremy Bracco.

Former commitment: Notre Dame.

Believed to be in the mix: OHL (London), unknown colleges.

Of note: Tkachuk told Chris Dilks of SB Nation that he would start looking at schools again after the World U18s in April. Tkachuk would have to accelerate his education to go to school next season.

Lineup shifts work for UND

UND made several lineup shifts for Saturday night’s game against St. Cloud State and it resulted in a 3-2 victory over the Huskies. The lineup shifts addressed UND’s biggest problems from Friday night’s loss: faceoffs and scoring from Lines 2, 3 and 4.

Both of those items are discussed in my game story. Read that here.

There are still several storylines to follow as UND looks ahead to this weekend’s series against Nebraska Omaha.

1. On the injury front, Bryn Chyzyk missed Saturday’s game and was watching with his arm in a sling. One of his teammates let it slip at the presser that it’s his shoulder. He’s out indefinitely.

2. Mark MacMillan moved back to center Saturday. Coach Dave Hakstol said that MacMillan had been politicking to get back to center. Hakstol’s biggest concern was MacMillan wearing down over 60 minutes. His faceoff numbers did dip in the third period, but Hakstol was pleased with his play. I think he probably stays there.

3. Nick Mattson came back in on defense. I thought he didn’t look as confident as normal, and that’s bound to happen when you get scratched a few times. Through time, he’ll regain that confidence that makes him such a dynamic threat. UND is 6-1-1 in games that Mattson plays and is 3-2 when he does not.

4. Tucker Poolman moved up front for Saturday. Clearly that’s not his future. You could tell he wasn’t as comfortable up there as on the blue line, but he still was able to add a little bit up there.

5. It will probably be hard to keep Trevor Olson out of the lineup with the way he played with his fellow rookies. Speaking of that line, Austin Poganski had has best weekend yet. Maybe not surprisingly, he was at home.

6. UND had a rare 3-on-0 rush and was unable to bury a puck. Charlie Lindgren did make a great save on a shot by Michael Parks and Connor Gaarder just missed the rebound. I do not believe that I’ve ever seen UND work on a 3-on-0 drill at practice.

7. UND is 6-0-1 on Saturdays so far this season.

Saturday night high five

There wasn’t quite as much action on Saturday night as Friday, but there were still several notable results.

1. Michigan Tech’s stay at No. 1 is already over. The Huskies got swept by MSU-Mankato at Houghton, 2-1 and 3-2. The Huskies travel to Huntsville this weekend, then their schedule gets interesting: Minnesota Duluth, the GLI, Wisconsin and Northern Michigan.

2. The misery continues for Wisconsin. The Badgers dropped to 0-8 after losing to Colorado College and Denver. Wisconsin now has a chance to right the ship, playing only two road games between now and February — 12 of the next 14 are at the Kohl Center.

3. Minnesota Duluth’s six-game winning streak ended with a 4-1 loss to Nebraska Omaha, but the Bulldogs still were impressive, outshooting the Mavs 40-18 in that game. Omaha got Jake Guentzel back from injury this weekend and he provided an immediate impact with a goal and an assist Saturday.

4. Nick Ellis, not Jon Gillies, gave Providence a 1-0 win over New Hampshire with a 29 save performance. It was the first start of the season for Ellis.

5. Air Force beat Colorado College for the third time in four years, winning 3-1 on Saturday. Grafton’s Chad Demers had an assist and Air Force goalie Chris Truehl stopped 35 of 36.

Grimaldi scores first NHL goal

Rocco Grimaldi scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night for the Florida Panthers against the Nashville Predators.

Grimaldi’s goal came against Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

On the play, a shot from the wall hit traffic in front and popped out to Grimaldi, who one-timed it past Rinne to make it 2-1 Nashville. A few seconds later, the Panthers tied the game and stole a point.

Grimaldi has played seven games with the Panthers. The goal was his first NHL point.

Gameday final: UND 3, SCSU 2

TONIGHT’S VIEWING INFO: Charter (Ch. 426/823), Comcast (Ch. 999); NCHC.tv. Lineup notes: Chyzyk unable to go after sustaining an injury Friday night. Murphy is out. Olson is in. Poolman is playing forward. Mattson is in on D. St. Cloud State is going with Milan for Winiecki at forward and Nevalainen for Storm at D.

First period

UND 1, St. Cloud State 0 — Trevor Olson (Johnny Simonson, Austin Poganski) 2:53. Poganski corrals a puck in the slot area and does a turnaround shot, which goes to Simonson in the right circle. Simonson hits Olson on the other side of the crease and Olson has a wide-open net for his first-career goal.

UND 2, St. Cloud State 0 — Brendan O’Donnell (Colten St. Clair, Jordan Schmaltz) 4:10. St. Clair sends O’Donnell and Johnson on a 2-on-1 rush. O’Donnell, flying up the right wing, makes a quick stickhandle to get around Prochno, then snipes the glove-side corner of the net.

UND 2, St. Cloud State 1 — Patrick Russell (Jimmy Murray) 5:05. After a turnover in the neutral zone, Russell skates up the right wing on a three-on-one rush. LaDue takes away the pass and lets Russell shoot and he beats McIntyre on the Huskies’ first shot of the game.

Second period

UND 3, St. Cloud State 1 — Trevor Olson (Troy Stecher, Austin Poganski) 5:52. Poganski steals a puck from a Husky along the end wall and leaves it back for Stecher, who drives a shot on goal from a sharp angle. Lindgren kicks the rebound out to the slot, where the birthday boy finishes off his second of the game.

UND 3, St. Cloud State 2 — Joey Benik (Niklas Nevalainen) 13:29. Benik skates up the left wing and when he’s about two inches in front of the red line, he snaps one that beats McIntyre from a bad angle on the short side.

Third period

No scoring.

Live Blog No. 2 UND at No. 16 SCSU

UND’s lines

9 Drake Caggiula–16 Mark MacMillan–15 Michael Parks
21 Brendan O’Donnell–27 Luke Johnson–17 Colten St. Clair
28 Stephane Pattyn–13 Connor Gaarder–3 Tucker Poolman
11 Trevor Olson–10 Johnny Simonson–14 Austin Poganski

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

31 Zane McIntyre
33 Cam Johnson

Out of lineup: Nick Schmaltz (inj), Bryn Chyzyk (inj), Wade Murphy, Andrew Panzarella

St. Cloud State’s lines

9 Joey Benik–22 Jonny Brodzinski–13 David Morley
16 Jimmy Murray–11 Kalle Kossila–63 Patrick Russell
18 Garrett Milan–17 Judd Peterson–2 Jarrod Rabey
27 Nick Oliver–37 Joe Rehkamp–21 Brooks Bertsch

28 Andrew Prochno–40 Tim Daly
5 Nathan Widman–12 Ethan Prow
7 Niklas Nevalainen–26 Mika Ilvonen

35 Charlie Lindgren
45 Rasmus Reijola
33 Joseph Phillippi

Friday night high five

Five notable results from Friday night:

1. Minnesota Duluth rallied from a 2-0 third-period deficit to beat Nebraska Omaha 3-2. It marked the first third-period comeback victory for the Bulldogs in four years — a span of 46 games. The Bulldogs have now won six straight games, and the victories have come against Miami, Minnesota (2), St. Cloud State (2) and Omaha. They could be ranked No. 1 on Monday if they win tonight.

2. Alabama Huntsville knocked off Ferris State 3-2 on Friday night. It marked the third win in five games for the Chargers. Prior to that, they won three times in the span of 75 games.

3. Colorado College ended its seven-game winless streak with a 5-2 win over Wisconsin. The Badgers are now 0-7. In the last six games, the only time they’ve been within a goal was the 4-3 game against UND, where UW scored with 19 seconds left to make it a one-goal game.

4. Michigan Tech’s reign at No. 1 won’t last long as the Huskies lost 2-1 to MSU-Mankato on Friday. The Mavs scored back-to-back goals midway through the third to hand the Huskies their first loss of the season.

5. Freshman Jack Eichel is without a doubt the frontrunner to win the Hobey at this point and he made two more outstanding plays on Friday to help BU beat Maine 3-2 in overtime. Check out the video below for Eichel’s game-winner, and even more impressive, his assist on BU’s first goal.

Brodzinski lifts Huskies

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Here’s a simple recipe to lose a hockey game: Allow Jonny Brodzinski to shoot the puck 16 times.

The Husky sophomore, one of the league’s best shooters, eventually broke through and tallied three points in St. Cloud State’s 3-1 win in the series opener. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

St. Cloud Times

USCHO

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • As I wrote in the game story, faceoffs were a major problem for UND. It started early in the first with the Huskies winning four or five clean in a row in the offensive zone, leading to scoring chances. It didn’t get better all game. With Nick Schmaltz out and Mark MacMillan unable to take draws, UND needs to find someone else who can win important faceoffs.
  • After the Friday game against Providence, UND’s power play was at 31 percent, ranked fifth in the nation. Since, it has converted on 3 of 31 chances (9.7 percent).
  • Friday night marked UND’s first road loss of the season. UND previously was 5-0 on the road.
  • UND needs to win tonight or else it will lose its first series in the National Hockey Center since 2001.
  • UND coach Dave Hakstol didn’t have any immediate update on the status of forward Bryn Chyzyk after the game. Chyzyk left the game in the second period and didn’t return after absorbing a big hit.
  • St. Cloud State’s power play, which entered the weekend as the league’s best, continued to roll along with two power-play goals in four opportunities.
  • UND captain Stephane Pattyn talked about the importance of playing simple — driving wide and getting to the net. Getting to the net will be a key again in the series finale as there were rebounds to be had last night.