True Rivalry - Minnesota & North Dakota

The rivalry between the University of Minnesota and the University of North Dakota extends far beyond my years of living.  It doesn't take a Gopher or former Sioux fan to recognize and appreciate the tradition both of these programs have not only by themselves, but between each other as well.

Memories are in abundance between the teams.  Ben Blood's sucker punch on Kyle Rau at the end of the game during the "sportsmanship-promoting" handshake, UND's upset game winning goal by Chris Porter in overtime of the 2007 West Regional, Don Lucia's 2012 Gophers that defeated UND after being destroyed just a few days earlier, advancing them to the Frozen Four, Sioux Robbie Bina's full ice goal against Gopher goalie Jeff Frazee, or the just the overall physical and excellent hockey each game has always had are just a few of the great moments that have happened between these two teams.



I also love the fact that this game is scheduled during Hockey Day Minnesota.  A day most Minnesotan's look forward to all year long as many great high school games are played early, followed by a Gopher game, and ending with a Wild game, which happens to be the season opener this year.  Honestly, Saturday is going to be one hell of a hockey day in this state.

Dating back to the '09-'10 series, the Gophers hold the better overall record at 7-6-2, and also the all-time record at 137-130-14.  So, if they records don't speak for themselves, these teams always compete close and well.

Overview:

The Minnesota Gophers are coming off a fantastic last few games.  Last weekend they defeated Alaska Anchorage, outscoring the Seawolves 11 to 5 throughout the weekend.  The Gopher's special teams are clicking and five on five play is stronger now than it has been all season.  The team that college hockey fans expected to see in the Gophers at the beginning of the year is now starting to shine through a more cloudy first half of play.  Top scorers...


Pos.
(GP) G-A-Pts.
Pts/G
Erik Haula (MIN)
F
(19) 9-17-26
1.37
Kyle Rau (FLA)
F
(22) 13-12-25
1.14
Nick Bjugstad (FLA)
F
(22) 12-10-22
1.00
Nate Schmidt
D
(22) 3-19-22
1.00
Mike Reilly (CLB)
D
(20) 2-9-11
0.55
Pos.
(GP) GAA/Sv%
Mins.
Adam Wilcox
G
(21) 1.65/.925
1236


For a team that is considered by most to play their best hockey in the second half of the season, North Dakota played very well through the first half of play.  The Fighting Whioux are coming off a split at home with Colorado College that could have, and should have ended up in a North Dakota sweep.  Led by two very, very hot forwards in Corban Knight and Danny Kristo, UND brings a high calibered offense with a strong defense to the table.  Top scorers...


Pos.
(GP) G-A-Pts.
Pts/G
Danny Kristo (MTL)
F
(20) 13-17-30
1.50
Corban Knight (FLA)
F
(21) 10-21-31
1.48
Mark MacMillan (MTL)
F
(22) 8-9-17
0.77
Dillon Simpson (EDM)
D
(22) 2-11-13
0.59
Derek Forbort (LOS)
D
(22) 4-7-11
0.50
Pos.
(GP) GAA/Sv%
Mins.
Clarke Saunders
G
(17) 2.28/.919
1027


Compare:

Minnesota
North Dakota
16-3-3 (2)
...Overall...
13-6-3 (8t)
8-3-3
WCHA
8-3-3
5-2-1
TUC
4-4-1
.5820 (4)
RPI
.5588 (7)
11-1-1
Home
7-2-3
5-2-2
Away
5-4-0
3.82 (1)
Avg. Offense
3.45 (6)
1.82 (3)
Avg. Defense
2.5 (20)
10.4
PIM/G
13.0
25.0%
Power Play
21.1%
90.5%
Penalty Kill
81.7%
23rd
SOS
6th
32.5
Shots/G
33
22.5
Opponent S/G
28.5


The Verdict:

On paper the Minnesota Gophers should have no problem handling North Dakota.  The Gophers have a dominant power play, a solid penalty kill, and play lights-out in front of a home crowd, now throw in the whole Hockey Day Minnesota pressure and you'd almost have to think Don Lucia's Gophs will sweep, but I strongly doubt things will play out that easy.

North Dakota has played a much more difficult schedule, actually as of now, the 6th hardest in all of college hockey, yet still have managed to keep a pretty good TUC record.  There is no way in hell even the most arrogant Gopher fan can deny this series will not test Minnesota.

Before I give my prediction, I wanted to get an inside view from a student and friend who is just as crazy about Gopher hockey as I am Bulldog Hockey, this is what she said...
"The Gophers have seem to taken a turn for the better. Before the winter break, the Gophers seemed to struggle to play up to their full potential. Minnesota is currently 6-1-1 this season in eight games against nationally ranked opponents."
Offense:
"The Gophers will need to continue to capitalize on opportunities as they have previously shown they are capable of doing. Although the top notch Haula has been out for the past 3 games due to an upper body injury, the Gophers didn’t bat an eyelash out scoring their opponents in their last 5 games 27-6. The anticipated return of Haula to this series would increase the weapons the Gophers have on the bench."
"Kyle Rau is also a valuable player on offense. When Rau gets a point, the Gophers never lose. His aggression and drive for the net will be much needed against ND."
"North Dakota, with just one loss in its last nine games will test the Gopher defense with their key goal scorers, Danny Kristo and Coban Knight. Kristo's average of 1.5 points per game is tied for the WCHA lead, while Knight ranks third at 1.48. Those averages rank third and fifth, respectively, in the national rankings."
"Offensively, the Gophers must come out on their toes on Friday night. If the Gophers were to lose or tie a game, it would defiantly be Friday."
Defense:
"Adam Wicox is a huge reason the Gophers are doing as well as they are. With a .925 save percentage Wicox has been nothing but phenomenal. But he will have a tough test against Kristo and Knight, two of the top scorers in the WCHA."
"Winning face-offs will be a big game decider this weekend. UND also boasts the third-highest scoring defensive unit in the country, while Minnesota ranks fourth."
"Just because the Gophers top the charts in just about every category in the WCHA and rank among the top in the nation does not mean this will be an easy series. #6 North Dakota would love to beat the Gophers on their home ice in front of thousands of fans. This is a game series that will make hockey lovers remember why they love this sport so much. The tension felt throughout the arena...the fans feel it in their bones. The game will come down to who can capitalize on their given (or found) opportunities the most."
Ending with a prediction, I like what Jacoby, the student at UMTC, said with capitalization on opportunities.  That is going to be a huge deciding factor.  Creating opportunities and having the ability to turn average situations into positive outcomes.

Erik Haula is listed as day-to-day right now and will be a game-time decision for the Don, but he has in fact been practicing.  My prediction is going to be a split.  North Dakota is going to come out fighting strong on Friday night, earning a 3-2 win, but Saturday belongs to the Gophers as they pull the 5-3 victory on Hockey Day Minnesota.

Enjoy this game, as it is the last scheduled meeting between these two teams until 2016, potentially.  Obviously they have the possibility of meeting in the playoffs, but enjoy the series as it's the last time the teams will meet as conference opponents at least.


Friday's game can be found on Fox Sports North at 7:07 CT & Saturday's game will be aired on FSN as well but at 5:07 CT due to the Minnesota Wild opener.

Cheers!


Questions?  Comments?  Ask Below!

1 comments :

Anonymous said...

there's a spelling error in the first paragraph, i believe its spelled "whioux"