There’s been a lot of discussion about the Pairwise Rankings and what it will take to push the University of North Dakota hockey team over the edge and into the NCAA tourney. I think it’s pretty simple, just win baby.
If the Fighting Hawks don’t win at least a game, then all bets are off. There are too many different scenarios out there. We may not know who’s in the tourney until the final NCHC tourney game is over. Please don’t shoot the messenger. If I had to guess, UND will be sitting on the outside looking in when the weekend is over. That’s my prediction. I’m ready to be proven wrong.
Items of Interest
No time like the present, entering this weekend’s National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff, UND is 1-5-4 this season against the other three teams in the Frozen Faceoff. UND 0-2-2 against SCSU, 1-1-2 against DU and 0-2-0 against Minnesota Duluth.
Currently, junior forward Rhett Gardner is the top active points getter against the SCSU. In 12 career games against the Huskies, Gardner has scored (4g-6a—10pts).
In 10 games against the Huskies, senior goalie Cam Johnson is (5-2-2, 2.25 GAA and .915 save percentage). During his four-year career, Johnson has had success against the Huskies. Last season, Johnson went 5-0-0 against the Huskies.
Since joining the NCHC, UND is 10-1 all-time in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. After advancing, UND has gone 2-5-2 in the conference championship. This weekend, UND is seeking its first NCHC Tournament championship. Last season, UND advanced to the championship game before losing to national runner-up Minnesota Duluth4-3.
Home Sweet Xcel
Moving to the Xcel Energy Center might be what the doctor ordered. Since 2000-01, UND has a 15-9 (.625) record at the Xcel Energy Center.
Also, when UND was a member of the WCHA, they won four playoff titles at the Xcel Energy Center including three in a row from 2010-12.
While the UND coaching staff will never use it as an excuse, the injury bug has decimated the 2017-18 team. This season, UND has played in 38 games and entering last weekend’s game, coach Berry had utilized 35 lineups during the first 36 games.
During that time, UND used 62 different forward line combinations and 11 different defensive pairings. Breaking it down further, UND lost 77 man-games this season due to injury, illness, suspension or the Olympics: Gabe Bast (13), Ludvig Hoff (11),
Trevor Olson (11), Cam Johnson (8), Dixon Bowen (7), Rhett Gardner (7), Nick Jones (5), Joel Janatuinen (4), Johnny Simonson (4), Andrew Peski (3), Collin Adams (2), Peter Thome (2), Josh Rieger (1), Cole Smith (1) and Zach Yon (1).
Unfortunately, last weekend, Peski left game two with an undisclosed injury, so, those numbers could increase.
Stay out of the Penalty Box Against the Huskies
Much like the Denver Pioneers, the Huskies don’t take a lot of penalties. Que the “Skating Saints” reference. The Huskies are averaging 9.2 PIMs per game, that ranks them 55th in the nation. For comparison purposes, their opponents are taking an average of 12.7 PIMs per game. The Huskies opposition has taken 34 more penalty minutes. They not a bunch of saints though, the Huskies have taken six major penalties this season. The Huskies power play is ranked ninth in the nation (39/166, 23.5 percent).
You may be surprised, however, this season, UND is averaging 11.8 PIM per game, that ranks them 27th in the nation. Their opponents are averaging 12.6. On the major penalty front, UND isn’t a bunch of goons and has taken only three major penalties. Cole Smith has two of the three. UND’s opponents have taken seven. The Fighting Hawks power play is ranked 20th in the nation (34/162 21.0 percent).
He Said What?
Over on College Hockey News, Adam Wodon has this little blurb: Bracket ABCs: March Madness Edition
Knowing its fans will show up, and knowing that hosting will be a money-maker, North Dakota has sought out hosting NCAA Regionals. Those Regionals sell out, even when they are a few hours away from Grand Forks, like this year, in Sioux Falls, SOUTH Dakota.
All of this is well and good, except that when North Dakota is a lower seed, it gets a de facto home game when it doesn’t “deserve” it.
And again — just we’re loud and clear North Dakota fans — no one is blaming you, or blaming North Dakota. Read that last sentence again, just to be sure. OK? OK? Just pointing out the dilemma here.
I have to admit that I chuckled when I read this.