Denver Hockey Series Preview: University of North Dakota

Photo courtesy of UND Sports

After taking back the No. 1 ranking from St. Cloud State with a sweep last weekend, the Pioneers have another tough test in No. 3 North Dakota

We’re just a week away from Thanksgiving and I think it’s safe to say a lot of us are thankful for College Hockey.  It was a great weekend for the Pioneers last week who completed a sweep of the then No. 1 St. Cloud State Huskies.  It was a tough battle but the Pioneers prevailed and have good momentum going into their series this weekend with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

Last weekend the Hawks played Miami University and came away with a win and a tie.  Their record is currently 7-2-3 with their only losses coming from the University of Minnesota and Colorado College.

With the new USCHO poll, the Pioneers are again the No. 1 team and the Fighting Hawks fell from No. 2 to No. 3.  This weekend, College Hockey will again feature another great NCHC matchup between two top-ranked teams in the country.

North Dakota was the only NCHC team to not play a game at Magness Arena last season and they probably weren’t missed by Pioneers fans.

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Photo Courtesy of NewsDay.com

Strengths

Goaltending

North Dakota goaltender Cam Johnson has been out with an injury for a couple weeks and it’s not clear whether he’ll start this weekend against the Pioneers.  Fortunately for the Fighting Hawks, freshman Peter Thome hasn’t missed a beat stepping in in Johnson’s absence.  In four games, the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect is 2-0-2 with a goals against average of 1.92 and a save percentage of .929.

Last weekend the Pioneers faced another hot goaltender in David Hrenak but ended up blowing the doors off his goals against average by putting up five goals on the St. Cloud State freshman.  The Pioneers will face a different style defense and a group of forwards who play very well defensively.

Penalty Kill / Shot Differential

The Fighting Hawks are also a very well coached team in the NCHC and it shows through their dedication to defense.  In 47 opportunities, North Dakota opponents have only scored two power-play goals.  They average around five penalties per game so the Pioneers will need to find a way to make the Hawks pay.

The Hawks are also not letting many shots get to their goaltender.  Opponents are averaging just 24 shots on goal all season.  Needless to say, this is going to be a tight series.

Opportunities

Home Ice

I generally don’t believe there is a home-advantage in hockey, but this series could make a huge difference.  The North Dakota fans are known to travel well which will give a lot of motivation to the Pioneer fans to get loud.  Last weekend against St. Cloud State, the student section and the band blew the roof off of Magness Arena, especially when things escalated at the end of the second game.  This weekend will have a lot of long-term implications for the two rivals which will make for a splendid series.

Slow Starts

Of their 36 goals, just 22% of their goals came in the first period.  The Pioneers, however, have scored 30% of their goals in the 1st and 42% in the 3rd.  The Pios will have to come out strong and set the tempo early.  If they can get the Hawks on their heels, turnovers will be forced.  Montgomery is great at game-planning so teams have to adjust to the Pioneers, not the other way around.

Who to Watch:

#16 – F – Grant Mismash (NSH 2nd, 2017) – 4G, 7A, +7

#24 – F – Christian Wolanin (OTT 4th, 2015) – 3G, 7A, 34SOG, 2PPG

#8 – F – Nick Jones – 5G, 4A

#19 – F – Shane Gersich (WSH 5th, 2014) – 4G, 4A, 45SOG

#6 – D – Colton Poolman – 2G, 5A, +6, 22 blocks

#1 – G – Peter Thome – 2-0-2, 1.92GAA, .929SV%

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Photo Courtesy of Inforum.com

Prediction – Pioneers split with the Fighting Hawks

A few of you called me a little crazy for predicting a sweep of the St. Cloud State Huskies last weekend and I will admit I was also surprised with the result.  But this weekend I’m not as confident.  The University of North Dakota is the Pioneers’ archrival, and anything goes when you play your rival.

Watching a little bit of the Hawks this year, this is a team that plays a very similar style as the Pioneers.  They have elite talent, they are relentless forecheckers, and they move the puck very fast.  Hockey is so much about matchups that sometimes stats and records have nothing to do with predicting an outcome.  It’s basically “Any Given Sunday,” or in this case Friday/Saturday.

Twitter Follow:  @UNDmhockey , @SchlossmanGF

Where to Watch:  

Friday – 7:05pm, Altitude 2

Saturday – 7:05pm, Altitude 2

13 thoughts on “Denver Hockey Series Preview: University of North Dakota”

  1. A few thoughts:

    North Dakota is one of those young teams that will be much better later in the season, so if DU has to play them, this is the time to do it.

    From what I’ve seen of them so far, this UND team has a nice emerging chemistry to it. They play good team defense and they are very good shot blockers. I really like what I’ve seen of their new goalie, too, and we already know well what Cam Johnson can do in the nets, so expect close games.

    Offensively, the Fighting Hawks aren’t as deep as we are used to seeing from the program, but they have some skilled players who can beat you if you give them time and space. I expect them to play an aggressive forecheck to keep the puck in the DU end, to try to wear down DU’s defense and get to the net. Pios will need to manage the puck well and make sure to keep the proper gap control.

    The Fighting Hawks power-play is struggling, and DU will need to keep an aggressive PK plan in place as they used against SCSU to keep them from getting on track this weekend.

    I am expecting a split – I don’t see UND as quite good enough right at this point in the season to sweep DU at home, and conversely, DU the top ranked team in the nation for a reason – having three offensively special players is something no team in the NCHA has, but the Pios still in November mode and making plenty of mistakes, especially without Hammond to lead the defense.

    Also UND “Traveling well” is a bit of a misnomer in this context. 90% of the UND fans in Magness already live here in Colorado, and don’t travel any farther than the DU fans attending the game. They do show up though, and that’s a very passionate fanbase that every other school wishes they had…

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    1. Two points: to the writer, it’s a goals-against average. Also, I don’t know if I’d say that UND’s power play has struggled. They’re 20th in the nation in PP. Should be a great weekend of hockey. Any clue how good the DU webcast is? Very good points Puck Swami.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great write up. As fired up as UND fans were to host Minnesota last month, ask any UND fan and I bet you they would say that the rivalry with DU has taken over the top spot.

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  3. I said the same thing before last weekend’s series vs SCSU, but I can’t wait for this one. The games vs UND are always ones to circle on the calendar. I expect two hotly contested, back and forth, close games. Should be fun.

    Hopefully the students show up, along with the band, as there will be droves of Sioux fans in attendance, as always. The Sioux fans I’ve interacted with in Magness have always been very knowledgeable, passionate, and good natured when it come to this rivalry. The old Sioux jerseys remain among the best in all sports.

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    1. I love the games in this rivalry. It’s a fun time and while the two teams hate each other, there’s also a respect. Per a man if ask the players they mark these games down in their 📆 calenders.

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    1. I’m tired of it too and I’m a UND fan. It’s so played and now I’m light of all the anthem controversy that’s been in the news, it’s time has come to stop doing it.

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  4. DU fan here, but not understanding why saying “home of the Sioux” is any worse than “home of the Pioneers”. Both fanbases do this, what’s the difference?

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  5. Not that Anthems aren’t important, but some rather big news has just been released by Mike Chambers that senior defenseman Adam Plant is out this weekend with an upper body injury and has not practiced all week. He was coming off the best weekend of his career. Add that to Hammond’s continuing injury still keeping him out and DU’s d-corps is now down to Hillman & Mitchell, Fear & Mendel, and Davies & Mostrom – that’s half the d-corps playing with less than 10 games of college experience. This really hurts the Pios this weekend….

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  6. You forgot Austin Poganski in the players to watch. In the seven years (
    or does it does it just seem that long?) he’s been at UND, he’s always been a pest.
    And about Adam Plant…I leave the house for an hour and a half, return to Plant being injured, Can I never leave my computer during hockey season without fearing bad news on my return? If he was injured Saturday and scored 2 goals, maybe Coach Monty should just let him play. Just saying,,,

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