Thursday, March 23, 2017

North Dakota Preview - NCAA Tournament Round One

The waiting, the mock brackets, the constant checking of the PaireWise and league standings is finally over. As you know, 7th seeded BU will be headed west to play 10th seeded North Dakota, the host of the Fargo-West Regional in the NCAA tournament.

Brandon Hickey onetimes a Cason Hohman pass for a first period
power play goal against North Dakota in the 2015 Frozen Four
in Boston. 

This marks the fourth time since the field expanded to 16 teams in 2003 that BU has been shipped west. They went in 2007 to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and St. Paul, Minnesota in both 2012 and 2016.

The North Dakota Fighting Sioux Hawks had a late season push, winning six of their last eight games. This helped them to get off the bubble and shore up a three seed. NoDak swept St. Cloud in the opening round of the NCHC tournament and dropped top-rankled Denver in the semis, before falling in dramatic fashion to Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in the NCHC championship game. The Bulldogs, who play the late game in Fargo on Friday night against Ohio State, scored the game-winning goal with just 51 seconds left on a five on three.

The Hawks started the year on a tear, winning five straight out of the gate, before slumping and failing to find the win column in their next six games. A year ago, North Dakota won the national championship with a 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the title game.

A key for BU will be starting well. The Terriers have given up the first goal in their last nine games, going 4-4-1. Coach Quinn has said a few times over the stretch that even though his team gave up the first, he liked the way the team was playing.

Last week was a different story. “The past few weeks we’ve playing with fire and we played with an inferno tonight,” said Quinn after the 3-2 loss to BC in the Hockey East semis. A quick start will help reduce some of the noise level and atmosphere inside Scheels Arena that will undoubtedly be packed with green and white.

Scouting The Fighting Hawks
Sophomore Shane Gerish leads all skaters in points scored with 37, by way of 21 goals and 16 assists, but has been relatively quiet as of late, registering only four points in his last ten games. Freshman standout Tyson Jost, along with Dante Fabbro were the only two collegiate representatives on the Canadian World Junior Team. This year at North Dakota, Jost has posted 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points in 32 games played. Brock Boeser, another WJC representative, this time for the US, is third with 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points.

In total, there will be 13 players who have participated in the WJC tournament in this game. BU has ten of them.

In goal Cam Johnson, who was marvelous in North Dakota’s title run a year ago, has seen a bit of a dip in production. Last year, the Flint, Michigan native boasted a .935 save percentage with a 1.66 goal against average and was a finalist for the Richter Award. Johnson comes into this game with a .904 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average.

BU and North Dakota have played six times in the NCAA’s, with BU’s 5-3 win in the 2015 National Semifinal being the most recent. The teams have only met once in the regionals, that was 2005 in Worcester with North Dakota winning 4-0 on their way to the national title game in Columbus, Ohio where they lost to Denver.

The two teams met in the 1997 national championship game. BU jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals from Peter Donatelli and Chris Drury, but they were overmatched in the second period as North Dakota scored five goals in the frame. BU scored once with the goalie pulled, but ND picked up an empty net goal and winning 6-4 in Milwaukie.

BU, and the then Fighting Sioux also clashed in a three-game series at Walter Brown in the 1990 NCAA tournament. The Sioux won game one 8-5, but the Terriers rallied winning the next two (5-3 and 5-0) and advanced to play Michigan State in the second round.

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