Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 3 Recap: Sioux Drop Two While Future & Former Sioux Have Big Weeks

The Fighting Sioux hit the road for the first time this season and found Madison to be a less than hospitable place. North Dakota dropped Friday night's WCHA opener against Wisconsin 5-3, and while they rebounded with a strong offensive showing Saturday, the Badgers completed the sweep by pulling out a 5-4 victory. Here's the recap:
  • Costly mistakes were the name of the game Friday night. Sometimes you are able to get away with mistakes, but that certainly was not the case Friday as the Badgers proved to be quite the  opportunistic bunch. Untimely penalties led to a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Badgers, while a bad turnover at the Sioux blueline, an unprotected goal mouth, and a lost one-on-one battle on the wing all directly led to goals for Wisconsin. 
  • Saturday's contest was dominated offensively by the Sioux in virtually every category except the one that matters most: goals scored. The North Dakota offense peppered Wisconsin all night, generating a number of quality scoring opportunities throughout the game. The Badgers, meanwhile, countered by plugging up the ice between the faceoff dots, blocking shots, deflecting passes, and minimizing rebound opportunities. Combine that with a very well-played game by freshman goalie Joel Rumpel and Wisconsin came away with an early season sweep.
  • The goaltending probably wasn't as bad as the scores would indicate, as there were a number of critical mistakes in front of the Sioux netminders that provided Wisconsin with most of its prime scoring opportunities. However, in order to be a MacNaughton Cup contending team the Sioux need Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness to settle into the season and provide the consistently solid goaltending we've seen each of them deliver in the past.
  • The play in the defensive zone, particularly defensive awareness and responsibility, was inconsistent from both the defensemen and the forwards. Players left unattended down low and unoccupied in transition led to several Badger goals this weekend.
  • Offensively, the Sioux carried the play for significant stretches this weekend and generated a host of quality scoring chances. The offensive performance becomes even more impressive considering that two of their top nine forwards were out with injuries (Rocco Grimaldi and Brendan O'Donnell) and two-thirds of the fourth line consisted of defensmen (Joe Gleason and Dan Senkbeil) forced to play up front. 
  • Danny Kristo was the best player on the ice all weekend, while Nick Mattson and Ben Blood did a nice job of jumping up from the blueline to generate offensive chances.
  • Among the freshmen, Mattson, Mark MacMillan (who got his first collegiate goal Friday) and Mike Parks continue to look the most comfortable, while Dan Senkbeil played with a lot of jump Saturday in what was just his second career game.
  • Having both Mattson and Kristo on the top power play unit is a big advantage due to their abilities to skate the puck into the zone. They were consistently able to get the power play setup quickly without having to dump and chase.
  • So, what does all this mean? It seems odd to say after getting swept, but I am now even more confident that this team will evolve into a legitimate Frozen Four contender.Why? Because while I completely expect the goaltending situation to solidify and the defensive zone sloppiness to be cleaned up, I think the offense is going to come together sooner than originally expected, particularly once Grimaldi and O'Donnell are able to return to action. 
  • This weekend the Sioux (2-3-1) return to Ralph Engelstad Arena to take on St. Cloud State (2-3-1) in what will be the WCHA opener for the Huskies.
  • North Dakota is now ranked #12 in the USCHO poll and #13 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.
Sioux in the Pros:
  • Jason Gregoire scored his first career professional goal Friday night and followed up Saturday with a two assist performance as the St. John's IceCaps (AHL) split their weekend pair with Bridgeport.
  • Derrick LaPoint has signed a professional tryout contract with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL). He registered one assist in one game with the Reading Royals (ECHL) prior to making his Crunch debut Sunday.
  • Corey Fienhage scored his first professional goal Friday night in Gwinnett's (ECHL) 6-1 blowout of Greenville. Brad Miller also scored for Gwinnett Friday night, and both Miller and Fienhage notched assists in Saturday's loss to Greenville.
  • Jonathan Toews had four points (3G, 1A) in three games last week for the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • A strong start with Portland (AHL) resulted in 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele being called up by the Phoenix Coyotes last week, and he gave some of the credit to his early season success to his Pirate linemates, Ryan Duncan and Brett Hextall.
  • Matt Greene earned the LA Kings "Ice Pack Award" Thursday night after leading the team with six blocked shots during their 2-0 victory over Phoenix. Greene also had an assist and the Kings and goaltender Jonathan Quick have now posted three consecutive shutouts.
Sioux Recruits:
  • Luke Johnson continued the strong start to his USHL career by notching three assists as the Lincoln Stars split a pair of weekend games. The youngest member of the Stars leads the team in scoring with eight points (1G-7A) and he has at least one point in each of the team's six games.
  • Keaton Thompson scored a pair of power play goals in the USNTDP U-17 team's victory over Youngstown Saturday.

    1 comment:

    1. I completely agree with your confidence in this team. Everyone was worried about offensive production at the start of the season and not defense. The offensive production is coming around quicker than I expected, freshman are playing better than I expected, and the goaltending/defensive issues will be easy to clean up as the season goes along. Go Sioux!!