Monday, December 12, 2011

Week 10 Recap: Sioux & Mavs Split

In the final series of the first half of the WCHA season, relatively new foes battled like bitter, traditional rivals in what was a slug-fest of a series. Nebraska-Omaha came to Grand Forks in what will be the only series of the regular season between the two teams, and after 120+ minutes of physically taxing hockey, each team limped away with two conference points. Friday night saw the teams battle to a 1-1 deadlock through regulation, with the Mavericks ultimately getting the 2-1 overtime victory. Saturday night was even more of a defensive and goaltending dominated affair that saw North Dakota goaltender Aaron Dell lead his team to a 1-0 shutout victory. Here are a few thoughts:
  • The lack of scoring wasn't indicative of poor play or a lack of offensive skill, but more a result of the defensive style of play each team chose to employ. Both teams did a very nice job limiting each other's ability to enter the offensive zone with possession, and that really led to a lack of flow each night. The chances seemed to come in spurts for each team, with neither really able to generate sustained offensive pressure.
  • There are several worthy candidates (Schultz, Schmidt, Sova), but Aaron Dell is very much deserving of WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors when the weekly award winners are announced Tuesday afternoon. On the weekend he posted a tidy 0.99 GAA to go along with a 0.966 Save %, and his positioning and rebound control were superb all weekend.
  • Both teams were very physical over the weekend, with North Dakota being led by Andrew MacWilliam. He delivered several controlled yet punishing hits and visited the penalty box only after scuffling with Tony Turgeon at the end of Saturday's first period. In the third period Saturday he also made a very nice play to break up a Maverick scoring opportunity with a well-timed slide that came only after one of the referees interfered with MacWilliam in the high-slot area.
  • On defense in general the Fighting Sioux did a great job of playing the body, neutralizing a number of potential Maverick opportunities by forcing the play to the boards. Very active sticks also deflected a number of passing attempts and shots. Besides MacWilliam, the defensemen that stood out to me were Nick Mattson and Derek Forbort.
  • There may have been a bit of a lapse in the overtime loss that allowed the Mavericks to score the game winner, but the pass that Matt White made to send Ryan Walters in alone on Dell had to be perfect, and it was. It was about as nice of a rink-wide breakout pass as you'll ever see, allowing Walters to enter the zone at full speed, who made a nice move to get the puck up and over Dell's left pad. And who knows, if that play had taken place in regulation the two extra bodies on the ice might very well have taken away the space needed to effectively execute it.
  • It was nice to see that freshman Connor Gaarder was awarded the Hard Hat Saturday night. He was very active all weekend, and even earned some power play time Saturday night. 
  • The Mavericks came out looking to hit somebody this weekend and Danny Kristo appeared to be one of the main targets, but to his credit he took the hits and kept bouncing back. He further showed his resolve Saturday night by coming out of the lockerrom to start the third period primed to take the game over, and within a minute he had converted a tremendous individual effort into what turned out to be the game's only goal.
  • The Sioux were forced to shuffle the lineup a bit Saturday after Corban Knight suffered a lower-body injury the night before. Captain Mario Lamoureux, who did not play Friday, rejoined the lineup Saturday and gave a much-needed tougher-than-nails effort. It was a big win Saturday in that it kept North Dakota right in the thick of the race for playoff home-ice, and it was accomplished with guys playing hurt, playing out of position, and playing expanded roles.
  • The mid-season holiday break couldn't come at a better time for the Sioux, as the next four weeks contain just three regular season games. The break in action will hopefully allow the likes of Knight and Lamoureux to heal up a bit and return to full strength sooner rather than later. Also, with a month before the next conference series, we should know more on the health status of Rocco Grimaldi. Conference play resumes when Minnesota pays a visit to Engelstad Arena January 13-14, and that series marks the 8th week of Grimaldi's original 6-8 week injury diagnosis.   


  1. Would love to see Grimaldi in the goofers series. That would be a big spark for the boys.

  2. Indeed. To have another player that has the ability to individually create offense the instant he hits the ice would be huge for this team (Kristo being the other of course).

    By the way, it sounds like he's making progress with the injury, so that's obviously a very positive sign.