Over the past two weeks, the University of North Dakota hockey team went 2-1-0 against some talented, high-end, non-conference teams. In the grand scheme of things, these non-conference games will be helpful, especially at the end of the season, when the NCAA selection committee looks at the Pairwise Rankings.
Currently, Minnesota and Minnesota State have a combined record of 6-2-1. I expect both teams to be in the mix at the end of the season.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there’s a lot of season left. That said, UND as looked pretty good early on. On Tuesday, I was talking to a friend about UND’s early season play.
One thing that’s stuck out has been the Hawks constant push forward. There’s no quit in this team. Again, it’s early, but they remind me of the 2015-16 team. They were always on their toes, pushing the pace. So far, I’ve seen the same thing. That doesn’t mean this team is going to win an NCAA title. However, again, they push the pace and forecheck hard, and that’s a key to being successful.
On Friday night against Minnesota State, UND was down by two goals to the Mavericks, UND kept pushing, trying to get the game-tying goal. Last season, they may have folded. So far, the 2018-19 team has passed my eye test. Their obscene possession numbers back up my theory.
Obscene Possession Stats Early On
Currently, UND is ranked 6th in the nation for their total Corsi rankings. Breaking it down further, UND is ranked 5th in Corsi power play and is ranked 12th in Close Corsi rankings. (Link to Fancy Stats)
On Wednesday, I asked UND head coach Brad Berry if they use the fancy stats to coach their team?
“We talk about it all of the time, ” Berry said. “When you talk about possessing the pucks there’s a lot of things that go into to possessing a puck. It’s winning the initial faceoff, which we have taken pride in. It’s about handling pucks through the neutral zone. It’s about being effective. Not only giving a good pass but handling a good pass. When you finally get to the offensive zone, it’s not just being one and done. You’ve got to protect the puck. You’ve got to be hard on pucks.
“I think it’s all parts of the game that lead to possession time. That’s part to the mentality on what we do here. Again, it’s something that we have to make sure we continue to do moving forward. Brad (Schlossman) had a tweet about on shots on goal, that’s a big deal, other than the five-minute major, it’s about not giving up a lot of opportunities to the other team. That goes to the possession time too.”