SCSU vs North Dakota: Toss Up

 

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It’s easy to get over consumed with all the information attainable via the internet these days. College hockey games and series are scrutinized beyond reason and we have multiple dedicated college hockey web sites with their weekly predictions. Some are accurate and others seem to be seat of the pants. This weekends series between North Dakota and St. Cloud State is a head scratcher. My best prediction is it’s a “Toss Up”.

Sure, the Huskies have carried a 5-2-1 record vs North Dakota over the past two years but it’s such a small sampling of games it doesn’t carry a lot of statistical credibility. The record favors North Dakota 28-16-8 since 2002-03 and that is a credible sample of data. But, if you drill things down a little further there really hasn’t been a home ice advantage between these two. Since 2002-03 SCSU has won 8 games as the home team and lost 8 as the visitor. Likewise,North Dakota has 14 wins as the visitor and 14 as the home team. Sure,a few of these games have been on neutral ice but the point is it really doesn’t matter where these squads play – they both win in each others back yard.

North Dakota started the season with a 5-1 loss to Bemidji State (on their home ice) and then proceeded to go undefeated for 8 games until last Friday in a 3-2 loss to Miami. The Huskies record is 4-5-1 but they’ve played a brutal schedule to start the season. Despite three consecutive losses (keep in mind two were in OT to UMD and Minnesota, a couple of pretty good teams) they rebounded nicely to earn 4 league points against Western Michigan on the road.. If you look at offensive statistics, the big disparity between NoDak and SCSU is in the “Goals For-Goals Against” department. North Dakota has outscored opponents 39-22 while the Huskies are slightly below water at 23-26.  UND’s offense has been putting up 3.55 GPG vs the Huskies at 2.30 and that’s the immediate concern. Otherwise, the two squads are quite close statistically with a slight edge to the SCSU power play which is humming along at 25%.Charlie Lindgren’s goaltending stats are not sparkling at 2.49 and .909 but he seems to be improving game by game and really had two solid outings vs WMU last weekend. UND’s Zane McIntyre has been top-notch with a 1.95 GAA and .928 SV%.

North Dakota received a big boost with the return of senior forward Mark MacMillan from a wrist laceration. He had a strong series vs Miami and despite some perceived  limitations in the face-off circle should be nearly 100%. Leading scorer Drake Caggiula is setting himself up for an impressive offensive season with 6-10-16 in 11 games.  Between the two, they scored 4 goals in games against SCSU last season. Michael Parks has been productive as well with 5-9-14 in 11 games. The Huskies need to generate more 5X5 offensive play and that falls directly into the hands of Jonny Brodzinski (5-3-8), Kalle Kossila (2-6-8) and Joey Benik (5-3-8). First-year forward Patrick Russell is generating more offense as the season progresses and he has 6 points in the last 6 games.

North Dakota started slow last Friday and it cost them the game vs Miami. The Huskies have had first period issues as well this season and so don’t be surprised if Friday’s game is decided after the first 20 minutes. For the fans, this should be an exciting, fast paced series with some emotionally charged, spirited play. There will be a lot of jostling and physical play in the goal mouth. UND will apply their patented full frontal forecheck and will test the Huskies ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone quickly and without turnovers. Both teams have the ability to control the puck in the offensive zone  and we’ll most likely see the flow of the game gain advantage in both directions many times  throughout the contest. North Dakota will have their impressive legion of fans at the HBNHC and the environment for tonights game should be loud and exciting.

Coach Motzko did some tinkering with the lines last weekend and inserted his “big bodies” into the lineup to combat the physical play and size of the WMU Broncos. I suspect we may see some adjustments with more speed in the lineup on Friday.

This should be an exciting series of college hockey. This continues to be a good rivalry and certainly some of the best crowds of the season. As far as a prediction the best I can say is this series is a “Toss Up”.

Enjoy the games.

 

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