This week, I’ve been out of the pocket. Since Tuesday, I was in transit to Iowa for my uncle’s funeral. I am just getting back on my feet. I can tell you one thing, it’s a long way from Grand Forks, ND to Independence, Iowa and back. As with most funerals, they leave you tired emotionally drained and worn out.
On my way down on Tuesday night, I listened to the Wild vs. Blackhawks game. Former University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux forward Jonathan Toews continued his torrid streak against the Minnesota Wild.
Against the Wild, Toews had a hat trick and two assists for five points. In the last two games against the Wild, Toews is smoking hot, scoring four goals and four assists for eight points.
In future games, the Wild might want to do a better job of covering Toews. How hot is he? After missing nine games due to injury, Toews has been red-hot. In the last 10 games, Toews has scored six goals, 10 assists, and 16 points.
Another former UND forward Nick Schmaltz is also becoming a Wild killer. In the last two games against the Wild Schmaltz has two goals and two assists for four points. Do you see where this is going?
“I try and go into every game with no expectation,” Toews told the media after the game.”It’s just building one game after another to try and follow up good efforts and sew all the weeks together, multiple games back to back.
“Then you have nights like tonight, where you might not have another game like that for a little while and you never really know when it’s all going to go in like that. …It’s nice for us to get some results and definitely changes the way you see yourself and your confidence.”
In 42 games with the Blackhawks, Schmaltz has scored six goals and 16 points. He’s really heated up the last seven games that he’s played in (3g—6a—9pts). (You can check out the highlights from Tuesday’s game.)
On Thursday night, Schmaltz celebrated his 21st birthday with a 6-3 win against the Coyotes.
A Couple of Things
I had a couple of people asked me about the Target Center and if the league was going to keep the Frozen Faceoff there after their contract is up. I reached out to the league to get some clarification. As it stands right now. No decision has been made, but there should be some kind of an announcement after the April meetings. The NCHC is happy with the Target Center and they’re really easy to work with. As soon as something comes out, the information will be passed on.
I had a few people ask me if I think that UND will make the Frozen Faceoff and the NCAA tourney. From what I’ve seen from this team, as of right now. No. There are way too many question marks.
First, I believe that the Hawks are going to have to travel to St. Cloud to play the Huskies in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. That doesn’t bode well for them. Second, they’re going to have to beat Nebraska-Omaha and Miami in back-to-back series. Again, not impossible, but based on what I’ve seen I don’t like their chances. Feel free to prove me wrong.
Regardless, they need to get victories. The Hawks also need some serious help. They need the Denver Pioneers to sweep the Huskies. And finally, on the last weekend of the season, the Huskies host the Colorado College Tigers. The Tigers aren’t going to beat the Huskies. It’s not going to happen. The Tigers are a really bad hockey team and I don’t see them getting anymore wins the rest of the season.
At times, UND has played some really good hockey. At other times, no so much. In their season series against the Unversity of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, they were beaten pretty badly. Other than that, most of the other losses have been pretty close.
Several times this season, UND has made mistakes at key times that have ended up in the back of the net. That happens with a younger team. Anything is possible with this team.
Now, as I mention earlier this week. I think there are a few things to consider. First, missing from last season’s championship team are three very experienced and talented defensemen (Paul LaDue, Keaton Thompson, and Troy Stecher).
Those three veterans chose to forego their college eligibility and sign professional contracts. They have struggled at times as rookies. Here are three defensemen that could still be playing with the Hawks.
Second, the three aforementioned players have been replaced by three rookie defensemen (Casey Johnson, Andrew Peski, and Colton Poolman). So, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to struggle. Yes, I do agree, Christian Wolanin has struggled mightily this season.
Something else to consider: last season, UND gave up 1.8 goals per game. This season, that number has changed drastically; through 30 games, UND is giving up 2.5 goals per game. There’s no substitute for experience.
Finally, from the UND to the B1G front. From his 1500 ESPN article today, Jess Myers, “We don’t yet know if they’re coming to Minneapolis in a few weeks, but we can say with some authority that they’re not headed to the Big Ten anytime soon.”