We’re just a handful of days into November, but there is always a playoff feel to the rink whenever North Dakota comes to town.
Especially with both teams ranked and Miami off to a 7-3 start.
The Fighting Hawks began the season 0-2-1 but have won four straight as they open their NCHC season.
BoB takes a look at the series between NorDak and the RedHawks this weekend.
WHO: No. 11 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (4-2-1) at No. 19 Miami RedHawks (7-3).
WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio (3,642).
WHEN: Friday – 7:35 p.m.; Saturday – 7:05 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Dakota leads, 13-6-3.
LAST SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: Teams both finished 1-1-2. Nov. 10 – North Dakota, 4-1; Nov. 11 – Tie, 3-3; Feb. 23 – Miami, 4-3, OT; Feb. 24 – Tie, 2-2.
NORTH DAKOTA RADIO: Both nights – KQHT-FM (96.1), Grand Forks, N.D.
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights – WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
NOTES: North Dakota was winless through three games, going 0-1-1 in a home-and-home vs. Bemidji State and losing, 7-4 at home to Minnesota State.
But the rejuvenated Fighting Hawks have won their last four, all against ranked non-conference opponents.
Up front, Nick Jones leads UND in points with six, five of which have come on assists. He has scored three goals in five career games vs. Miami.
Jordan Kawaguchi is second among forwards with five points, all on helpers.
Grant Mismash and Rhett Gardner are both 3-1-4, and Gardner has scored four goals and added two assists against the RedHawks.
Forwards Cole Smith and Collin Adams also have four points.
On defense, Colton Poolman is tied for the team lead with three goals, also earning two assists.
UND has had heavy production from its blue line, as Gabe Bast and Jacob Bernard-Docker are both 2-2-4, Hayden Shaw has four assists and Matt Kiersted has a goal and two helpers.
Peter Thome had a strong 12-game showing in net as a rookie last season, but after a poor game early freshman Adam Scheel has gone 4-1-1 with a 1.58 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
Scheel has keyed the Fighting Sioux’s four-game winning streak, so barring sub-par performance he should play both nights.
UND is third in the NCAA in faceoff percentage at 59.0, with Gardner leading college hockey at 66.2 percent.
This has been a Miami weakness in recent seasons but the RedHawks are tied for 16th in Division I this season with a winning percentage of 53.8.
North Dakota leads the conference in NHL draftees with eight.
Special teams have been a struggled for the Fighting Hawks, who are 47th in the NCAA in power play percentage (14.3) and tied for 12th-last at 75.0 on the penalty kill.
Miami’s Gordie Green enters this weekend having scored in four straight games with five tallies in that span. His points streak is at five games, and he has 10 points during that streak.
The RedHawks went four straight games without a power play goal earlier this season but have netted at least one marker on the man advantage in five consecutive contests.
Miami is 1-1 in the NCHC, and these will be the first conference contests for North Dakota.
In 2016-17, Western Michigan finally reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the NCHC era.
Last season the Broncos regressed to four games under .500, posting their second-lowest winning percentage under coach Andy Murray.
But WMU could surprise, as the team returns its top eight points-producers and a talented eight-man freshman class that includes the Broncos’ second-highest NHL draft pick ever.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Andy Murray (9th season, 118-116-34, .504).
2017-18 RECORDS: 15-19-2 (10-13-1 NCHC, 7th place).
POSTSEASON: Swept at Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Lawson Arena (3,667).
MIAMI VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN LAST SEASON: 2-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 68-63-11.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 11-12 – at Western Michigan; March 8-9 – at Miami.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Dawson DiPietro, F Wade Allison, F Hugh McGing, D Cam Lee, D Corey Schueneman, G Ben Blacker.
KEY NEW FACES: D Matthias Samuelsson, F Paul Cotter, D Jared Kucharek.
KEY LOSSES: D Paul Stoykewych, D Neal Goff.
NOTES: All three of Western Michigan’s 30-point skaters were sophomores last season, and with its top eight points leaders back again this fall, the Broncos’ offense looks formidable.
Dawson DiPietro dressed just once his freshman year but led WMU in assists (22) and points (35) in 2017-18. Wade Allison led the team in goals with 15 and notched 30 points.
Hugh McGing racked up 21 helpers and 30 points overall.
Colt Conrad was another key contributor up front, finishing 9-18-27, and Austin Rueschhoff notched 10 goals as a freshman.
Paul Cotter enters his freshman season after being selected by Las Vegas in the fourth round of this summer’s NHL draft. He was named to the USHL’s all-rookie team in 2017-18 following a 39-point campaign.
Three of the Broncos’ returning defenseman tallied at least 15 points last season, led by Corey Scheuneman’s 26. He scored five times – all on the power play.
Cam Lee picked up six goals and 18 assists, and Luke Bafia racked up 15 assists in addition to his lone goal, which was a game winner.
Mathias Samuelsson, son of former Pittsburgh Penguin Kjell Samuelsson, is expected to make an immediate impact on the blue line. He was drafted by Buffalo with the opening pick of the second round this June, the second earliest any Bronco has ever been selected.
He has played 105 games for the U.S. National Team.
Another newcomer for Western Michigan is Mike Joyaux, the youngest of the three Joyaux brothers. Both Chris and Matt played for Miami.
Following a stellar freshman season, goalie Blacker struggled in 2017-18, going 12-13-2 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. Neither backup impressed in limited action.
Like many NCHC teams, Western Michigan scored plenty but also gave up its share of markers. The Broncos were No. 11 in the NCAA in goals per game but fourth last in average goals allowed.
NOTE: BoB previewed each opposing NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the seventh and final installment.
Here are the links for the remaining snapshots:
March was an exhausting month for the St. Cloud State hockey program.
The Huskies won the NCHC regular season title and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Within a week and a half of the bracket layout, SCSU had been bounced by four seed Air Force and lost head coach Bob Motzko to in-state foe Minnesota.
Despite the turnover behind the bench, the Huskies return nine of their top 10 scorers from 2017-18, with their lone loss from that corps being early pro signee Mikey Eyssimont.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Brett Larson (first season).
2017-18 RECORDS: 25-9-6 (16-4-4 NCHC).
POSTSEASON: Lost to Air Force, 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Herb Brooks National Hockey Center (5,159).
MIAMI VS. ST. CLOUD STATE LAST SEASON: 1-4.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 17-16-2.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 30-Dec. 1 – at Miami; Feb. 1-2 – at St. Cloud State.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Robby Jackson, F Ryan Poehling, F Blake Lizotte, F Easton Brodzinki, D Jimmy Schuldt, D Jack Ahcan, G David Hrenak.
KEY NEW FACES: F Sam Huntges, D Nick Perbix, D Spencer Meier, D Brendan Bushy.
KEY LOSSES: F Mikey Eyssimont, F Judd Peterson, D Will Borgen.
NOTES: Larson has been an assistant at St. Cloud State for six of the past 10 seasons, and his only high-level head coaching experience was two years at Sioux City of the USHL.
But where the Huskies lack in head coaching experience they account for on the ice, as they return all but three players from that top-seeded 2017-18 squad.
Robby Jackson is back after leading the team in points with 42, and the two-way forward also netted three shorthanded goals.
Montréal draftee Ryan Poehling also returns up front following a 30-point campaign.
Three other returning St. Cloud State forwards eclipsed 20 points – Blake Lizotte posted eight goals and 19 assists for 27, Patrick Newell also finished with 27 points, including 21 assists and Easton Brodzinski scored 14 goals en route to a 24-point season.
The Huskies hope newcomer Sam Huntges can help the forward corps as well, as the Minneapolis native was selected by his hometown Wild in June.
Talk about an experienced D-corps: Four returning blueliners played in at least 36 games for SCSU last season.
Team captains Jimmy Schuldt and Jon Lizotte are both seniors and dressed for all 40 contests in 2017-18.
Schuldt led the team in assists with 28 and scored 10 times for 38 points, the second-best total on the team. He led the Huskies with eight power play goals.
Lizotte’s five goals, 12 assists, 17 points and plus-20 rating were all career highs.
Undersized junior Jack Ahcan also skated in all 40 contests last season and rolled up 22 points, including 19 helpers.
Mike Ilvonen also returns for his fifth year as a graduate student.
St. Cloud State also added three freshman on the back end, all massive, in-state products. Tampa Bay draftee Nick Perbix and Spencer Meier are both 6-feet-4 and Brendan Bushy weighs 225 pounds
Both pieces of the Huskies’ goaltending tandem from last season also return.
Sophomore David Hrenak was selected by Los Angeles this summer after posting a 2.11 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts in 25 games for SCSU.
Senior Jeff Smith went 11-2-4 in 19 games and has played over 2,500 career minutes.
SCSU’s 3.60 goals per game last season was fourth in Division I. The Huskies were second in the NCHC and 10th in college hockey in drawing penalties, going to the power play 174 times, and they scored 39 times on the man advantage.
St. Cloud State’s also tied for second in college hockey with seven shorthanded goals.
Since 2006, this program has been stuck in a holding pattern. The Huskies have qualifying for the NCAAs eight of the past 12 years including four of the last five but despite all their regular season success have only advanced to the Frozen Four once and was bounced in the regional semifinal that year.
The next step for St. Cloud State is an extended NCAA Tournament run, as this program has never been to a championship game.
This season’s team has the weapons to make that happen but enters 2018-19 with a rookie head coach.
For the first time since 2001-02, North Dakota failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Coach Brad Berry won the national championship in his first season with the Fighting Hawks in 2015-2016, but the team won just 21 games the following campaign – its worst total in 15 years – and posted just 17 victories last season.
Four NHL draftees join the Fighting Hawks, who enter 2018-19 trying not to become the first UND squad since 1996 to miss to national championship tournament back-to-back years.
NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
NCAA titles: 8 (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2016).
COACH: Brad Berry (4th season, 72-35-17, .649 winning percentage).
2017-18 RECORDS: 17-13-10 (8-10-6 in NCHC).
POSTSEASON: Lost to St. Cloud State in an NCHC Tournament semifinal.
RINK (capacity): Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,634).
MIAMI VS. NORTH DAKOTA LAST SEASON: 1-1-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Dakota leads, 13-6-3.
2018-19 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 9-10 – at Miami.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Peter Thome, D Colton Poolman, F Grant Mismash, F Rhett Gardner, F Nick Jones.
KEY NEW FACES: F Gavin Hain, F Jasper Weathersby, F/D Jonny Tychonick, D Jacob Bernard-Docker, G Adam Scheel.
KEY LOSSES: G Cam Johnson, D Christian Wolanin, F Shane Gersich, F Austin Poganski.
NOTES: North Dakota averaged fewer than three goals per game for the first time in the NCHC era, as the Fighting Hawks ended the season fifth in the league in scoring, their lowest finish since the conference’s inception.
And three of UND’s top three four goal producers from 2017-18 have joined the pro ranks.
Fortunately for the Fighting Hawks, leading sniper Nick Jones is back after the Ohio State transfer led the team with 15 markers and ranked second on the team in points with 30.
Nashville second-round pick Grant Mismash returns after posting nine goals and 13 assists as a freshman, and he is expected to take a major step up this season.
North Dakota’s other returning 20 point-producing forward is Rhett Gardner, who went 7-13-20.
Three other Fighting Hawks reached double figures in points – Jordan Kawaguchi, Joel Janatuinen and Cole Smith.
Islanders draft pick Collin Adams was limited to 26 games in 2017-18 but scored five goals and could make a significant leap.
NHL draftee forwards USNDT product Gavin Hain and 6-feet-3 Jasper Weathersby enter their freshman seasons.
On defense, captain Colton Poolman scored seven times and picked up 22 assists last season while being whistled for just four penalties.
UND’s blueline is deep – five other defenseman logged at least 25 games last season.
Hayden Shaw dressed for all 40, going 3-10-13 and Gabe Bast tallied 10 assists in just 27 games. Matt Kiersted, Casey Johnson and Andrew Peski all played in the majority of the Fighting Hawks’ contests.
And North Dakota added the Ottawa Senators’ first- and second-round picks from 2018 in Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick. The Alberta-raised tandem has played together since age 10.
Columbus draft pick Peter Thome posted a 2.14 goals-against average and .910 save percentage – showing how strong UND’s defense was last season – and he remains the favorite to start the majority of games this season after playing in 29 as a freshman.
Freshman Adam Scheel should be Thome’s primary backup after a strong showing in the BCHL in 2017-18.
North Dakota set a program record with 10 ties last season, which is part of the reason the team struggled to reach 20 wins. Eleven more of its contests were decided by one goal.
Despite the Fighting Hawks’ downturn the past two seasons, in May coach Brad Berry signed a five-year deal that will run through 2022-23.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the fifth of seven installments.
Here are the links for the other snapshots:
Last season, Mike Gabinet inherited a team that had gone .500 the previous season and a game over that mark in 2015-16.
Despite the coaching change, Nebraska-Omaha proved itself the master of consistent mediocrity, finishing 17-17-2 in 2017-18.
It’s been a tough follow-up to the Mavericks’ first-ever NCAA semifinal round berth in 2015, as none of their subsequent seasons have produced return trips onto college hockey’s highest stage.
The loss of assistant coach Peter Mannino to in-conference rival Miami, as well as the resulting departure of multiple recruits to the RedHawks this off-season will not make it any easier for UNO to qualify for the NCAAs in 2018-19.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Mike Gabinet (17-17-2 in 1 season).
2017-18 RECORDS: 17-17-2 overall, 10-13-1 in the NCHC (6th place).
POSTSEASON: Lost to North Dakota in NCHC semifinal round.
RINK (capacity): Baxter Arena (7,898).
MIAMI VS. UNO LAST SEASON: 0-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 20-17-6.
2018-19 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 2-3 – at UNO; Feb. 8-9 – at Miami.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Evan Weninger, F Zach Jordan, F Tristan Keck, F Steven Spinner, F Fredrik Olofsson, D Ryan Jones.
KEY LOSSES: F David Pope, F Tyler Vesel, F Jake Randolph, D Joel Messner.
KEY NEW FACES: F Tyler Weiss, F Chayse Primeau, F Taylor Ward, D John Schuldt.
NOTES: In addition to losing Mannino and two top-tier recruits, Nebraska-Omaha graduated four of its top five points producers from 2017-18.
Forward Zach Jordan is the team’s top returning points producer, as he posted 28 points including 16 goals last season.
Also up front, Tristan Keck, Fredrik Olofsson and Steven Spinner reached the 20-point mark in 2017-18.
Teemu Pulkinen netted eight goals and Mason Morelli dished for 10 assists.
The Mavericks expect 150-pounder Tyler Weiss to contribute immediately, as he is a USNDT product and Colorado Avalanche draftee. Same goes for 6-feet-3 Chayse Primeau, whose father Keith played in the NHL.
No returning UNO defenseman tallied more than two goals last season, and Ryan Jones is the Mavericks’ top returning points-getting among blueliners with 13.
D-man Lukas Buchta, Jalen Schulz and Dean Stewart are also back after turning in solid seasons for UNO in 2017-18.
Freshmen John Schuldt and Jason Smallidge look to make an immediate impact on the Mavericks’ blueline, but key defense commit Derek Dashcke bolted for Miami.
Goalie Evan Weninger is back after logging over 80 percent of UNO’s minutes between the pipes. His numbers weren’t great – his save percentage was .899 and goals-against 3.35 – and Philadelphia Flyers draftee and North Dakota transfer Matej Tomek could eat into Weninger’s ice time.
UNO needs serious improvement on the back end – the team was dead last in Division I in goals against per game and 49th on the penalty kill in 2017-18.
Conversely, the Mavericks finished seventh in goal average and were seventh on the power play.
Nebraska-Omaha’s tendency toward high-scoring affairs was exemplified by its series sweep vs. the RedHawks in Omaha that saw 25 goals including an 11-7 weekend opener.
That set extended UNO’s unbeaten streak vs. Miami to six games, as the Mavericks are 5-0-1 against the RedHawks the past two seasons.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the fourth of seven installments.
Here are the links for the other snapshots:
Minnesota-Duluth entered the NCAA Tournament just five games over .500 but pulled off four straight one-goal wins to earn its second Division I title.
And the goalie that was in net for every minute of the Bulldogs’ playoff run, Hunter Shepard, returns for his junior season.
NCAA titles: 2 (2011, 2018).
COACH: Scott Sandelin (340-300-85 in 18 seasons).
2017-18 RECORD: 25-16-3.
POSTSEASON: Won NCAA Tournament.
RINK (capacity): Amsoil Arena (6,726).
MIAMI VS. UMD LAST SEASON: 1-3.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Minn.-Duluth leads, 15-4-2.
SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Jan. 18-19 – at Miami; March 1-2 – at Minn.-Duluth.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Hunter Shepard, F Parker Mackay, D Scott Perunovich, D Nick Wolff, F Riley Tufte, D Mikey Anderson, D Dylan Samberg, F Peter Krieger, F Joey Anderson.
KEY NEW FACES: F Jackson Cates, F Noah Cates, F Cole Koepke.
NOTES: A couple of pieces may be gone from last season’s championship team, but Minn.-Duluth’s back end looks as good as any in college hockey.
Shepard logged 41 games and posted a 1.91 goals-against average and a save percentage of .925, and four returning defenseman recorded at least 13 points in 2017-18.
Shepard was second in Division I with 25 wins, 10th in save percentage and sixth in GAA. He won all four of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament games this spring.
Blueliner Scott Perunovich led the team in plus-minus (22), assists (25) and points (36), and Mikey Anderson went 5-18-23.
Nick Wolff and Dylan Samberg finished with 13 points apiece, with Wolff hitting the net seven times and leading the Bulldogs with 81 penalty minutes.
Wolff and Samberg combined for 150 blocked shots.
Minn.-Duluth brings all that experience back after allowing just 2.09 goals per game last season – the fourth-best clip in the NCAA – and surrendering just 57 even strength tallies.
UMD also returns its top three points-producing forwards from its title year.
Peter Krieger led all forwards with 30 points and netted a team-best five game-winning goals. Riley Tufte finished with 29 points including a Bulldogs-high 16 markers, and Nick Swaney went 6-16-22, posting a plus-11 rating.
Newly-named captain Parker Mackay is also back and is a two-way stud up front.
The Bulldogs still have not released their 2018-19 roster, so it’s unclear how many freshmen they will bring in, but three players from that incoming class participated in NHL development camps this summer – Cole Koepke, Noah Cates and Jackson Cates.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the third of seven installments.
Here are the links for the other snapshots: