North Dakota vs. Maine:
The Fighting Sioux came away from their non-conference match-up with Hockey East rival Maine with a win and a tie. The Sioux were able to escape with a 3-1 victory Friday night after Maine had been the better team most of the night. Backed by stellar goalkeeping from senior Brad Eidsness the Sioux were able to survive a slow start and a 1-0 deficit to earn the victory. Saturday also saw the Sioux fall behind early as the Black Bears went up 2-0 early in the second period, but North Dakota battled back and eventually settled for a 3-3 tie. Here are my thoughts on the Sioux-Maine weekend:
- Coming into the season, most assumed the backend would be the strength of this team, enabling a young roster to endure some growing pains as it navigates through the early portion of its schedule. That was very much the case Friday night when Brad Eidsness turned back 24 of 25 shots through the first two periods to keep the Sioux in the game despite a very slow start. He was rock solid all night, playing a great positional game, smothering shots and severely limiting opportunistic rebounds. Aaron Dell also had a strong start in net Saturday to help the team earn a tie.
- The defense, while still not playing at the level I think most of us expected, was much better this weekend. Sticks were more active, the shot blocking was better, and they did a much better job of occupying the Black Bears around the goal.
- Andrew MacWilliam could very well be dubbed The Eraser. Anytime he's physically engaged in a one-on-one play, his strength and brute force almost always render his counterpart irrelevant. This is true both defensively and when he has the puck. And man, can he lay the wood when it comes to checking.
- Danny Kristo was an absolute blast to watch this weekend. His skating and stickhandling were scintillating, and he and Nick Mattson were outstanding on the point for the top power play unit. Not to be overlooked is the immense progress he's made defensively. He was very effective in using his speed and quickness to take away time and space. He's very quickly becoming a dominant player.
- Brock Nelson didn't fill up the stat sheet, but all weekend he was making great hockey plays that sometimes go unappreciated but often affect game outcomes.
- Corban Knight was ridiculous at the dots, winning 16 of 22 faceoffs Friday and 21 of 26 Saturday. How significant was Knight on the draw? Maine won 56% of the faceoffs Knight didn't take, but only 23% of those he did. That's crucial in terms of puck possession.
- Nick Mattson and Michael Parks were the most consistent freshman. Mattson is playing with a lot of confidence and there is no doubt he's going to be a difference maker all season. Parks continues to impress me with his motor and speed. He's always buzzing out there, usually making good things happen. Mark MacMillan also seems to be finding a bit of a comfort zone as he's been looking stronger and stronger as the young season has progressed.
- Freshman Rocco Grimaldi was out of the lineup both games. Hopefully the extra weekend will allow him to be ready to roll this coming weekend when the Sioux open conference play at Wisconsin. Colten St. Clair has yet to receive the go-ahead from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
- The Sioux moved up a spot to #5 in the USCHO poll and held steady at #6 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.
- The Portland Pirates lost once in regulation and once in a shootout, but all three former Sioux on their roster registered a point this weekend. Brett Hextall notched an assist in Saturday's loss to Manchester, while Ryan Duncan and Matt Watkins each scored a goal in yesterday's shoot out loss in Providence.
- On Friday night the Colorado Eagles won their first regular season game as a member of the ECHL, with Michael Forney leading the way with a goal and an assist. Aaron Schneekloth assisted on the only goal as the Eagles dropped the Saturday portion of the back-to-back. Jake Marto played in both games but did not register any points.
- Chris Vande Velde had a goal and two assists in Oklahoma City's 10-1 victory over the Texas Stars.
- Anaheim Duck Jason Blake suffered a lacerated tendon Friday night against the San Jose Sharks. He is expected to be out of the line-up for three months.
- Detroit Red Wing Mike Commodore took part in his first regular season practice today, and while he's hoping to be available by Friday, he and the Wings staff are taking the patient approach.
- Drew Stafford has picked up where he left off last season. He is tied for the team lead in goals (3) and has four points in four games for the Buffalo Sabres. Watch him snipe the game winner from the faceoff circle during last Friday's victory over Pittsburgh, with one of the best play-by-play guys of all time Rick Jeannerete on the call:
- Luke Johnson had an assist in Lincoln's 4-1 victory over Sioux City Saturday. Johnson has now registered at least one point in all four of Lincoln's games, and he is tied for the team lead in points (5) with one goal and four assists.
- Both the USNTDP Under-17 & Under-18 teams are led in scoring by Sioux recruits. Luke Voltin is tied for the U-17 team lead (7 points) with three goals and four assists in eight games, while Stefan Matteau leads the U-18ers (6 points) with two goals and four assists in nine games. Voltin scored the only goal for the U-17ers in their 4-1 loss to Indiana (USHL) Saturday night. Matteau scored a goal and Miles Koules had an assist in the U-18ers 2-1 victory over Vermont (NCAA). Koules continued his breakthrough weekend by recording a goal and an assist in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Plattsburgh State (NCAA Div. III).
- I asked Chris Peters of the outstanding United States of Hockey blog about the USNTDP's Sioux recruits, and here's what he had to offer: "I haven’t seen Matteau play this year, yet, but I did speak to someone at the NTDP who said he looks vastly improved this season. Apparently Matteau put in some serious work over the summer and has come back in terrific shape for this season. That could be a big factor in his improvement. I haven’t seen Thompson or Koules yet this season either, but Thompson got some fair reports from the person I talked to regarding the first U17 USHL game. With his previous USHL experience, he’ll need less time to adjust than his teammates. Koules is a very gifted offensive player and sees the ice very well. He got hurt last season, which may have slowed him down a bit, but I’d expect him to be a big factor this season for the u18s."
- Zane Gothberg stopped 42 of 43 shots in a 1-0 Fargo Force loss to Omaha Saturday night, and Slightly Chilled detailed the meaning of his goalie mask artwork.