COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Is the weather ever bad here?
This is my eighth trip to the Springs, and I can’t ever remember it being bad. Once again, it was in the upper 60s today and the forecast calls for it to be in that vicinity for the rest of the weekend.
The team practiced this afternoon at World Arena for about an hour. Former UND goalie Tate Maris stopped by to visit the old team.
The Tigers practiced after UND and I chatted with new coach Mike Haviland for a little bit. He talks about the challenges of stepping into the college game from the pro game and his thoughts on his team in this notebook.
When you think of Colorado College, you think about the high-flying offense and the dynamic forwards that the Tigers boasted for so many years. From Brian Swanson to Peter Sejna to Noah Clarke to Brett Sterling to Marty Sertich to Chad Rau to Jaden and Rylan Schwartz, the Tigers could score with anyone. But they weren’t great on the back end and that was usually their downfall.
What makes things strange is that the Tigers have been the opposite for the past two seasons. Up front, they don’t have anyone that really scares you, especially now that Alexander Krushelnyski is gone. But on the back end, the Tigers are very good. They have a group of older players who have developed through their careers mixed in with some very talented youngsters like Jaccob Slavin (Carolina pick), Teemu Kivihalme (Nashville pick) and Garrett Cecere.
Another Tiger blue liner to watch is Peter Stoykewych. He scored three goals during his first three years in college and two of them came against UND.
Look for the Tigers to lean on that group to help provide offense and to help transition the puck out of the zone, making it more difficult on UND to score goals.
For UND, I think it once again comes down to grinding and competing as hard as they did at the end of last season and Saturday night against Bemidji State. If they can find that in their game, I think they can make things hard on the Tigers this weekend.
UND also will hope to get a few more players on the scoresheet. One of those players is senior Michael Parks, who answered some random questions for our “get to know” segment.
For Thursday’s paper, I wrote a feature on the East Grand Forks and Grand Forks Central players on this team’s roster. There are five of them and they played against each other in a pretty intense high school rivalry. Now, they are not only teammates but they also all live together (the two freshmen in the dorms and the other three in an apartment). I can’t find it online at the moment.
This week’s NCHC picks….
UND at Colorado College: Vegas bookies say a split is likely. UND and CC have split 5 of their last 6 series here. UND has only swept once in the last 10 trips here. But I think the Tigers have too many questions both up front and in goal for me to confident in picking them. So I’m going with a UND sweep.
Omaha at Western Michigan: Omaha likes to get up and down the rink. Western Michigan likes to lock it down defensively. Should be a good matchup between contrasting styles. Split.
MSU-Mankato vs. Minnesota Duluth: Home-and-home series between old WCHA rivals. Should be highly entertaining. The Bulldogs have tons of skill up front. The Mavs have a deep, veteran team that could make an NCAA tournament run this season. Can’t see either team getting the upper hand here. Split.
Miami vs. Ohio State: Home-and-home series between old CCHA rivals. Ohio State has a lot to replace up front, which isn’t good news because the Buckeyes will need to score to keep up with the RedHawks. Miami win and tie.
RPI at Denver: RPI coach Seth Appert returns to DU, where he was an assistant coach on Denver’s national title teams. Denver was the only team off last weekend, so it’s hard to know a lot about the Pioneers. Split.
On the women’s side, UND has a big rivalry series coming up against Minnesota Duluth.
Minnesota Duluth went 31-2 against UND in the first 33 meetings between the teams. So, it’s hard to believe that UND has totally flipped this series and will enter this weekend on an eight-game unbeaten streak against the Bulldogs.
There’s a story in the Herald about how UND ended the whole “Big Three” thing by finishing ahead of Duluth in the WCHA standings for each of the last three years. That story doesn’t appear to be online right now though.
Another big development for the women’s team is that sophomore defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak was named to the Four Nations team for Canada. This is the top National Team, which means she’s definitely making her way onto Hockey Canada’s radar for the 2018 Olympics. The Four Nations will be played next month.
It’s going to be a very interesting weekend on the women’s side in the WCHA with every team playing someone that they will be close to in the standings.
Minnesota is playing Wisconsin. Those teams should finish 1-2. UND and Duluth are playing while Ohio State and Bemidji State are playing. Those teams should finish 3-4-5-6. Then, Mankato is playing against St. Cloud in a battle of teams that should finish 7-8. This weekend will go a long way in separating out some of those teams (unless they are all splits).
I’m off to mentally prepare for how many spicy cajun dogs I’m going to destroy postgame on Tejon Street in downtown Springs.