Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wisconsin Recap

Being on the outside looking in with regard to the national tournament picture, North Dakota came into the weekend knowing that it must defend its home arena during the stretch run if it hopes to earn an NCAA tournament berth. By way of 5-3 and 4-2 victories, the Sioux defended Engelstad Arena and avenged a Badger sweep in Madison earlier this season. Here are a few observations:
  • North Dakota is now 11-3-1 since the Sunday game of the Bemidji State series. Through that game the Sioux were scoring 2.42 goals per game while allowing 3.00. Since then they are scoring 3.53 while allowing 2.60. 
  • Michael Parks was very good this weekend. As a whole he's been very solid all season long, but it appears as though he's finding the form that allowed him to score the sixth most goals in the USHL last season. He had four points (3G, 1A) through the first 21 games, but since then he's produced five points (3G, 2A) in six games.
  • Stephane Pattyn celebrated his 21st birthday in style by scoring his first career goal Friday night. On what was the game-winning goal, he strongly held his position in front of the net and Mario Lamoureux rewarded his efforts by slipping him a pass that Pattyn neatly tucked home.
  • One obvious key to limiting the damage caused by Wisconsin's top guns is to keep the puck off their sticks. UND won 58% of the faceoffs this weekend while holding Justin Schultz and Mark Zengerle, two of the top point producers in the nation, to a combined two points (0G, 2A) and a -4 rating. North Dakota's overall team defense was very good this weekend as well. Wisconsin had a difficult time generating quality scoring chances.
  • Joe Gleason is settling into his forward role quite nicely. He's been very good over the past few games at gaining the offensive zone with speed, and when that happens it really puts the opposing team on its heels. He's a tremendous skater with the invaluable ability to play either defense or forward effectively, but he's really becoming a difference maker while playing up front.
  • Derek Forbort returned to the lineup this weekend, seeing his first action since getting injured during the World Junior Championships. He seemed confident, he played with a bit of an edge, and he had a very nice series. With the upcoming off-week, the team now has two weeks to try and get everyone as healthy as possible for the last month of the regular season and playoffs.
  • The top line of Brock Nelson, Danny Kristo, and Corban Knight picked up where it left off last Saturday. After being held off the scoresheet last Friday in St. Cloud, "The KnightLine" has produced 17 points (7G, 10A) during the team's three game win streak.
  • With Brock Nelson scoring a goal each night, the Fighting Sioux are now 12-2-0 when he scores, 3-8-2 when he does not.
  • Andrew MacWilliam appears to be breaking out offensively. In 20 games prior to flipping the calendar, the junior defenseman had one assist. In the seven games played in 2012, MacWilliam has recorded five points (2G, 3A), including last night's bomb from beyond the blue line. As a unit, North Dakota's defensemen contributed eight points (2G, 6A) against Wisconsin.
  • Based on the play of the goaltenders this weekend, I'd expect the goalie rotation to continue in Duluth. There were several weird, flukey goals scored this weekend, but both Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness did what they had to do in order to give the team a chance to win.
  • The Sioux are now tied with Colorado College for fourth place in the conference standings. However, the two teams immediately below them in the standings (Michigan Tech and Nebraska-Omaha) have two games in hand on the Sioux. UND is off next weekend, while Michigan Tech travels to Minnesota State and UNO hosts Bemidji State. The following week UNO travels to Michigan Tech while North Dakota takes to the road against Minnesota-Duluth.

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