#12 SCSU HUSKIES VS #8 UND FIGHTING HAWKS
The #12 St. Cloud State University Huskies (6-4-0 | 2-2-0 ) host the #8 University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (5-4-2 | 0-3-1) in a key NCHC series Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19 at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Game times are 7:35 PM CT Friday and 7:05 PM CT Saturday.
Tickets: Tickets are available online through scsutickets.com or in person at the SCSU Box Office.
TV: Fox Sports North Plus (Friday) | SCSU Sports Network | 426/823 (Saturday)
Video Stream: NCHC.TV
HEAD TO HEAD
North Dakota leads the all-time series at the Division I level 66-39-12. Bob Motzko has a 17-25-6 record vs the Fighting Hawks. SCSU is 2-3-0 in the last 5 and 4-6-0 in the last 10. At the HBNHC the Huskies are 20-26-6 vs UND. The Huskies last faced the Fighting Hawks on November 21, 2015 in St. Cloud with the Huskies winning 6-1. North Dakota last defeated SCSU on November 20, 2015 in St. Cloud by a score of 4-3. In the last 10 games on home ice SCSU is 5-5-0 vs UND.
The Fighting Hawks hosted Denver University last weekend tying the Friday game 1-1 (winning the shootout) and losing the rematch on Saturday by a 3-2 score. On Friday, in a defensive battle, neither team scored until the third period when Cole Smith put UND in a 1-0 lead at 1:05 of the third. DU’s rookie sensation Henrik Borgstrom tied the game at 1-1 at 14:47 to send the game to overtime and then a shootout won by UND. On Saturday, UND’s Shane Gersich scored 33 seconds into the contest but the Pioneers responded with two goals in the first period to take a 2-1 lead. The teams traded goals in the third period and once again, Henrik Borgstrom was the hero scoring the game-winning goal at 6:25 of period three. In two tight games, the Fighting Hawks outshot Denver each night but continued their struggles putting the puck in the net. The ‘Hawks were 1 for 6 on the power play in the series and killed 6 of 8 Pioneer power plays.
The Huskies, on the other hand, got back on track after being swept by UMD with a road sweep of the Colorado College Tigers. On Friday, despite being whistled for 13 penalties for 40 minutes and getting outshot 23-19 SCSU received goal scoring from seven different players and they buried the Tigers 7-3. Special teams were efficient scoring on 2 of 6 man-advantage opportunities (33%) and they killed 7 of 8 CC power plays (.875%) in the win. On Saturday, Mikey Eyssimont scored twice and Zach Driscoll stopped 24 of 25 shots on goal in a dominating 4-1 win. The sweep added to the Tigers misery at home vs SCSU as the Huskies left the World Arena with their 11th consecutive win on the Tigers home ice.
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
Last weekends results vs Denver University continued UND’s winless streak to six games, the longest in 14 years and places UND in territory they are not accustomed to. They currently sit in seventh place in the conference – winless and with a conference record of 0-3-1. The local media in Grand Forks is lamenting the lack of offense, effective special teams play and the teams defensive woes. However, much like the Huskies, the team had a major turnover in their roster after the 2015-16 season and that is currently the reason for their issues. UND lost nine players from last years National Championship squad including four seniors and five underclassmen and they are missing 217 points of offense from that group. Key losses included top scorers Drake Caggiula (25-26-51) one of the most dynamic players in college hockey and Nick Schmaltz, a terrific set-up man on their top line who had 11 goals and 35 assists. Along with Brock Boesser, it was probably the most feared line in college hockey and directly contributed to the demise of Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four championship game. Early departures of Schmaltz, and Luke Johnson at forward and veteran defenseman, Troy Stecher, Paul LaDue and Keaton Thompson have placed a big dent in the Fighting Hawks lineup. Rebounding from these losses is not instantaneous and it’s not a surprise both the offense and defense is reeling a bit.
However, before we start feeling sorry for the ‘Hawks, they’ve done a nice job loading the team with some top-notch players that will allow them to make some noise in the second half of the season. In particular, two players to keep an eye on are below:
- Tyson Jost Forward – Pencil this outstanding player in for the All NCHC Rookie Team – it’s guaranteed. Drafted #10 in the first round by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Jost is a dynamic playmaker and scorer highly coveted by the NHL. In addition to a great shot and excellent playmaking skills, Jost is competitive and wins battles for the puck. The top forward in the BCHL last season, Jost amassed 42 goals and 62 assists for 104 points in 48 games for Penticton. Jost has been paired on a line with North Dakota’s outstanding sophomore Brock Boesser and currently is third in team scoring with 3-8-11. Most likely a two-year player for the Fighting Hawks, keep an eye on Jost as he’ll be a future NHLer. He’ll be one of the most exciting players in the NCHC in just his first year.
- Ludvig Hoff Forward – The Norwegian-born Hoff culminated his two plus years in the USHL with 21 goals and 39 points for 60 points with the Lincoln Stars last season. He also had an extensive amateur career in Norway playing for both Norway’s World Junior U18 and U20 teams. A tenacious player with excellent skating skills and good puck control, he’s already seeing some time on the power play for North Dakota. At 5’10” and 196 pounds Hoff is strong on the puck and not afraid to plant himself in front of the opponent’s goal. A good fit for North Dakota’s run and gun style of play, Hoff should be able to continue his offensive ways in Grand Forks. Hoff’s father Geir played hockey for the Michigan State Spartans. Hoff currently has one goal and two assists. He was injured in the Denver series and looks unlikely for the SCSU weekend.
Goal scorers Shane Gersich (6-8-14), Brock Boesser (7-6-13), and Austin Poganski 3-3-6 provide the offensive spark needed from their veteran players with Boesser one of the top forwards in college hockey. The defense is led by Tucker Poolman (2-7-9), Christian Wolanin and Gage Ausmus and all are solid players in their own right. In goal, Cam Johnson was one of the top netminders in college hockey last season logging a .833 winning percentage with a 1.65 GAA and .935 SV%. Johnson has played every game thus far this season for UND. His current .895 SV% and .246 GAA do not rival last years numbers but again, this team is a work in progress and will get better as the season progresses.
Statistically, UND is 29th in the country in offense at 3.00 goals per game and #14 in defense allowing 2.55 goals per game. The power play is struggling at 13.73% good for 43rd in college hockey. The penalty kill is struggling as well ranked #51 out of 60 teams at 78.2%. UND averages 13.64 penalty minutes a game placing them 43rd in that category
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY HUSKIES
The Huskies return a talented defensive corp including junior, Nathan Widman and sophomores Jimmy Schuldt, Will Borgen and Jon Lizotte. All were outstanding in 2015-16. Senior, Niklas Nevalainen was a key defensive and offensive component to this unit last season. Both Jimmy Schuldt and Will Borgen were both named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team following the 2015-16 season. Add to this unit first round Detroit Red Wings draft choice Dennis Cholowski and USHL Defenseman of the Year Jack Ahcan and you have one of the deepest defensive units in all of college hockey. Early season statistics have first-year defenseman Jack Ahcan (2-8-10) and tied for the team scoring lead. Sophomore Will Borgen has 7 assists and fellow sophomore Jimmy Schuldt has 2 goals and 6 assists and is +8. Dennis Cholowski, another first-year player is 0-6-6 and third on defense in points. All of these players are in the top ten in scoring for the Huskies. Both Ahcan and Cholowski have already worked their way onto the special teams units.
At forward, between graduation and an early pro signing, the Huskies have lost 219 points of offense. That’s a lot of ground to make up with the responsibility falling primarily on junior forwards Judd Peterson and Blake Winiecki and a strong group of sophomores including Mikey Eyssimont, Robby Jackson, Jacob Benson, and Patrick Newell. Peterson and Winiecki have accepted the challenge with both players at and near the top of the team scoring chart. Peterson leads the squad in goal scoring with seven and Winiecki has a six game points streak. Sophomore Patrick Newell has had a solid start to the season and is tied for the team lead in points with 2-8-10. First-year forwards and brothers Nick, Jack and Ryan Poehling have outstanding chemistry with a history of strong offensive production, and they’ve already combined for 4 goals and 9 assists for 15 points. Another first-year forward, Jake Wahlin has been an early season surprise with 3 goals and 3 assist including the game-winning overtime goal vs Minnesota. Sophomore Jacob Benson has been another surprise adding 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points. Mikey Eyssimont continues his success on the power play with 4 goals and 9 points. In all, fourteen players have notched at least one goal. The lines have been juggled plenty this season with 19 different combinations thus far.
Goaltending is a work in progress and trending up with sophomore transfer Jeff Smith and first-year Zach Driscoll sharing duties. Driscoll appears to have emerged at the lead goaltender position logging both games last weekend vs Colorado College. Zach Driscoll is currently 5-2-0 with a 2.92 GAA and .884 SV%. However he was at 91% for the Colorado College weekend. Smith is 1-2-0 with a 3.61 GAA and .867 SV%.
Statistically, SCSU is #5 in the country in offense at 4.10 goals per game and 45th on defense allowing 3.40 goals per game. The power play is ranked 22nd converting 19.5% and the penalty kill at 30th at 83.3%. As always, the Huskies spend little time in the penalty box and are currently ranked #57th out of 60 teams.
There are a lot of similarities between these squads entering this crucial series. Both lost loads of talent from their 2015-16 squads and it’s taking a while to determine the teams strengths and weaknesses. And while both teams have reloaded with some great recruits it simply takes time for these players to get acclimated to the quicker, more physical play of the NCHC. This has a direct effect on the special teams play as evidenced by both teams power play and penalty kill statistics. Both teams have had their difficulty holding leads vs top opponents and again, that’s a reflection of the “growth” process both teams are experiencing with a roster full of youngsters.
This weekends series features a number of interesting storylines:
- Jack Ahcan vs Brock Boesser – Ahcan and Boesser grew up playing hockey together in Burnsville and last played together in the 2013-14 season. Boesser left for his senior season to play for Waterloo of the USHL while Ahcan opted to play his senior season at Burnsville where he led the team in scoring. Both are currently near the top of their teams scoring charts. With Boesser being such a prolific scorer, it’s imperative to contain him defensively. It’ll be interesting to see if coach Motzko matches Ahcan with Boesser’s line. If anyone knows Boesser’s tendencies it would be Ahcan.
- Austin Poganski vs Jacob Benson – Poganski is a St. Cloud native and was a St. Cloud State recruit but opted to sign with North Dakota a team he was always interested in. Benson is a Grand Forks native who opted to play for the Huskies. Both are gritty forwards with skill and while neither player will lead their team in scoring, both are tough physically to play against. Coincidentally, both players are 3-3-6 on the season. Both will have that extra incentive this weekend competing against their home town collegiate teams. Poganski, a junior has had some success vs the Huskies with 3 assists in 6 games while Benson has a goal in two games vs UND.
- Jon Lizzotte – Lizzotte is another Grand Forks native that grew up watching the Fighting Hawks but wasn’t recruited by them and was a late recruit by the Huskies. The sophomore defenseman admits he was never a UND fanatic but attended Fighting Hawks games. Lizzotte is another player that should be pumped to compete against his home town team. He was not in the lineup for either UND game last season but most certainly will be this weekend.
- Dennis Cholowski vs Tyson Jost – The trio of Dennis Cholowski, Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro (Boston University) made quite an impact in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. All three were drafted in the first round making this the best showing ever by products of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. Flashback to 2013 and all three were selected in the first-round of the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. Cholowski, the 20th pick of the Detroit Red Wings and Jost the 10th pick of the Colorado Avalanche continued their climb through the junior ranks both playing and competing against each other for two years in the BCHL – Cholowski for Chilliwack and Jost for Penticton. Both also competed in the World Junior Challenge this past season for Team Canada. Now, both will be competitors once again in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference for at least two years. Obviously, both know each others tendencies and it’ll be an interesting weekend to see these two players compete against each other. Both are pegged as future NHLers and this is a great opportunity for fans to see both early in their hockey careers.
- Zach Driscoll / Jeff Smith vs Tyson Jost – Driscoll and Jost were teammates during the 2015-16 season under former SCSU assistant coach Fred Harbinson with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. Driscoll was named BCHL Goaltender of the Year after logging a 1.90 GAA and .933 SV%. Jost, the 2015-16 BCHL Player of the Year had plenty of time to figure out Driscoll in practice during the 2015-16 season. Driscoll, on the other hand had a first-hand look at the prolific scoring of Jost who had 65 goals and 149 points last season for the Vees. Most certainly, Driscoll will face Jost at least one game this weekend. Finally Jeff Smith is also a product of the BCHL and faced Jost during the 2015-16 season while with Powell River. So, who wins these battles – shooter or defender? We’ll find out this weekend.
As always this will be an entertaining series with neither squad having the upper hand on the Huskies home ice with the record even up at 5-5-0 in the last ten games. There will be some high level young talent on the ice and some entertaining matchups. Give the Huskies the slight edge right now in offense and special teams and UND in defensive play. Also, on experience alone you have to give the Fighting Hawks the edge in goal with Cam Johnson. The crowds will be lively and loud and this should be an exciting weekend of hockey for the fans on both ends of the ice.
As always, all the pertinent links for this weekends games can be found here