Monday, December 5, 2011

Week 9 Recap: Sioux Take Two From UAA

One week after its offensive coming out party, the Fighting Sioux men's hockey team traveled to the far north to take on the University of Alaska-Anchorage. In what is always a very difficult road trip, the Sioux were able to return to the lower 48 with a second consecutive 4 point sweep, a sweep that has propelled them into a fourth place tie in the WCHA standings. Friday night saw North Dakota jump on the Seawolves early and often, busting out to a 3-0 lead within the game's first 10 minutes en route to a 5-2 win. The Sioux were unable to replicate the explosive first period Saturday night, opting instead for a three goal second period that keyed a 4-1 victory. Some observations:
  • This was obviously a significant sweep, as the team was focused on avoiding a let-down following a raucous and wildly entertaining sweep against Colorado College the weekend prior. The mantra of "no more steps back" was certainly adhered to in Anchorage.
  • Even though the team sits in a tie for fourth in the conference standings, both CC and Denver have two games in hand on the Sioux. That being said, the consecutive sweeps have brought North Dakota back into the top 6, thus positioning itself for home-ice in the 1st round of the WCHA playoffs.
  • I feel like I'm repeating myself (and I promise I'm not just doing the old cut and paste from previous recaps), but the top line was outstanding yet again. Brock Nelson continues to rack up the goals at a pace even quicker than Matt Frattin did a year ago, and Danny Kristo demonstrated how to effectively turn a 2-on-5 rush into a goal for the good guys. Also, the New York Islanders' statistician took a closer look at Nelson's productivity this season.
  • Freshmen Mark MacMillan, Brendan O'Donnell, and Michael Parks were on the same line again this weekend, and they accounted for two of Friday's five goals. Even strength goals from lines two through four will be a very significant factor in the team's success this season, and consistent production from the freshman line would be invaluable. 
  • Brad Eidsness and Aaron Dell split the goaltending duties, and both responded with solid performances. Dell appeared to be a bit sharper than Eidsness, but by no means is that a knock on Eidsness' performance; Dell was just really, really good Saturday.
  • The defensive corps, led by a dominant Ben Blood, is really coming into its own. It is quickly becoming the unit everyone thought it would be heading into the season.
  • Mario Lamoureux is about as tough as they come. His ability to play through pain is definitely part of the reason he wears the C.
  • And last but not least, how about that power play unit? The Sioux converted five of their eleven man-advantage opportunities, good for a sizzling 45% clip.
Other Tidbits:
  • Derek Forbort was named to Team USA's World Junior Championship preliminary roster. Team USA's camp will run from December 16-22 in Camrose, Alberta, while the tournament itself runs from December 26 through January 5 in Calgary and Edmonton. Forbort was a member of last year's bronze medal winning team, and that experience makes him a likely candidate to make the final roster again this year. A healthy Rocco Grimaldi would have been a virtual shoe-in to make the team, but he is still several weeks away from returning to action.
  • I have started posting recruit profiles under The Recruits page. Drake Caggiula, Paul LaDue, and Geoff Crisfield have been profiled thus far, and I will continue posting the profiles in reverse chronological order of their commitments, as time allows. There are ten more recruits to go, with USNTDP Under-17er Luke Voltin next on the list.

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