It’s always interesting following an intense weekend of hockey to take a look at some of the metrics and other factors that had an effect of the weekends results.
Home Town Players Have Extra Incentive
The Huskies have two players who are natives of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Junior defenseman Jon Lizotte and junior forward Jacob Benson both grew up with the Fighting Hawks the prominent sports team in the area. Austin Poganski, a senior forward and captain of the North Dakota squad grew up watching the Huskies and played his high school hockey at St. Cloud Cathedral. They had mixed results during this past weekend. Poganski was kept off the score sheet both nights although he captured a turnover and rang one off the post on Friday. Jon Lizotte had a productive night on Saturday picking up two assists for the Huskies. Jacob Benson also hit the score sheet Saturday threading a pass to Mikey Eyssimont who dangled an NHL style goal for one of his two goals in the 3-1 Saturday victory.
We heard a lot from the North Dakota media prior to the series about the prominence of the North Dakota faceoff statistics. Entering the series the Fighting Hawks were 57% on faceoffs – apparently the best mark since College Hockey Inc has been keeping the stat. Forward Johnny Simonson led the squad with a 62.2 winning percentage on faceoffs and Nick Jones was close behind at 61.6%. The Huskies, not too shabby in their own right entered the series with a 55.3 percentage in the faceoff circle. It turns out the Huskies won the battle of faceoffs over the series winning 58 of 114 or nearly 51%. Simonson had a particularly tough weekend in the faceoff circle winning only 9 of 25 for a 36% success rate. Nick Jones fared much better winning 19 of 36 faceoffs for a 52.7% success ratio. The Huskies Blake Lizotte had an outstanding weekend on the draw winning 10 of 12 on Friday and 5 of 9 on Saturday for a weekend percentage of 71.4%.
Offensive Zone Dominance
It appeared the Huskies spent a lot of time in the North Dakota zone in the first period of Saturday’s game. I therefore went back and calculated they had nearly nine minutes of O-Zone time in the first period. Not knowing if statistics are even kept for that type of thing I can’t tell you how typical that is. However considering it was nearly half the first period I’d think it’s a substantial metric. Things were not quite as successful the final two periods with offensive zone possession about five minutes in period two and again about five minutes in period three. Obviously a good offensive push is a good defensive strategy.
Lots of Blocked Shots Saturday
The Fighting Hawks had 84 total shot attempts on Saturday vs the Huskies 41. It obviously required the Huskies to get in front of a lot of those shot attempts and they did just that blocking a total of 30 shots on Saturday. Certainly it paid a big role in shutting down Grade A opportunities for North Dakota and ultimately helping David Hrenak limit UND to one goal on the evening.
Speaking of shots on goal, Easton Brodzinski had 11 total shot attempts on Friday followed by Jimmy Schuldt with 8 and UND’s Rhett Gardner with 7.
Hawks a Different Sort of Team
What we saw from North Dakota this past weekend was a different sort of team. In the past several years the program had elite scorers such as Brock Boesser, Tyson Jost and Drake Caggiula to rely on for the bulk of their offense. This years squad still has a potent scorer in Shane Gersich but is definitely a much more defensive oriented, gritty team deriving success from strong goaltending, a stifling defense and strong penalty killing. It certainly allowed them to escape with an extra league point on Friday shutting down the Huskies potent power play on all six opportunities. The roles are reversed this season with the Huskies the more skilled and offensive oriented team of the two. It’ll be interesting to see the matchup in March in Grand Forks and to see how both teams progress to that last regular season series of the season.
Hrenak Has Been Impressive
First-year goaltender David Hrenak is making it very difficult to keep him out of the lineup. He’s allowed one goal in his last two outings and has stopped 74 of 75 shots on goal. It’s improved his goaltending statistics to a 1.82 GAA and a .947 SV% – simply outstanding numbers.
The Huskies return to action on December 29 and 30th as they travel to Princeton NJ to face Princeton University in a non-conference series. Their next home game is on January 6 vs he University of Minnesota. They finish calendar year 2017 in first place in the NCHC, #1 in the USCHO rankings and #1 in both the PAIRWISE and KRACH rankings with the second toughest schedule in college hockey. You could not have expected a better result.