Monday, September 22, 2008

WCHA Previews: North Dakota

School: North Dakota
Mascot: Fighting Sioux (for a little while yet)
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol, 5th year, 106-56-15

Last Season: 18-7-3, 2nd place WCHA; 28-11-4 Overall

Predicted 08/09 WCHA Finish: 4th

Key Departures:
F TJ Oshie, 18-27-45*
D Robbie Bina, 2-23-25
D Taylor Chorney, 3-21-24
F Rylan Kaip, 8-7-15
G Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, 27-11-4, 1.75 GAA
*All stats listed from 07/08

Key Returnees:
F Ryan Duncan (Sr), 18-22-40
F Chris VandeVelde (Jr), 15-17-32
D Chay Genoway (Jr), 8-21-29
F Andrew Kozek (Sr), 18-3-21
F Matt Watkins (Sr), 8-10-18

Top Sieve:
Aaron Walski (Sr), 1-0-0, 0.00 GAA

Key Additions:F David Toews (Shattuck), 44-56-100
F Jason Gregoire (USHL), 37-32-69, USHL POY
F Brett Hextall (BCHL), 24-48-72, Son of crazy Ron Hextall
D Corey Fienhage (MN HS), 6-10-16
G Brad Eidsness, 29-4-4, 2.12 GAA, AJHL POY

When Wisconsin Beats North Dakota: @ UND 10/31 & 11/1, KC 3/6 & 3/7

07/08 Recap: North Dakota has gotten into somewhat of a routine the last few seasons. They started off luke warm, splitting basically every series before Christmas. Following the holidays, they put it all together and rolled most of their opponents, until tying St. Cloud twice at home to end the season and any chance Wisconsin had at home ice in the WCHA playoffs. The Sioux fell just short of CC for the MacNaughton. North Dakota lost a close one to Denver in the WCHA playoffs before beating CC for 3rd place. North Dakota ended up in the Midwest Regional where they faced off against our Badgers after beating Princeton. Though the Sioux were down through two periods, they came back to win in OT. Hakstol made it four for four in Frozen Four appearances only to run up against their playoff kryptonite in the eventual champion Boston College Eagles. In between all that, Wisconsin had an early season home series against the Sioux, which ended in a shuffle that saw ten skaters being sent to the showers before the final whistle and a post game confrontation between Hakstol and Coach Eaves. North Dakota didn’t stop their thuggish ways following that game. During a series w/ Denver, several fights occurred and the WCHA officials did their best to promote the Sioux’s disorderly ways, by not ejecting players for their conduct. And then there was the Joe Finley/Blake Wheeler square dance during the handshake line against minnesota, not to mention the extracurriculars that led up to that.

08/09 Thoughts: I don’t expect much to change w/ North Dakota’s thuggish ways this season. As much as I belittle their thuggishness, they have one hell of a program and I give them credit for their yearly success. This should be a trying year for the Sioux, as they lost more than any other WCHA team to graduation and early departures. Gone is top forward TJ Oshie to the St. Louis Blues. Gone are outstanding defensemen Robbie Bina and Taylor Chorney to the Edmonton Oilers system. On top of all that, Jean-Philippe Lamoureux is gone, leaving a gapping hole in net for the Sioux. Only Denver has as big of void to fill in net w/ an unproven WCHA netminder. What North Dakota has going for it is a great recruiting class and a solid group of returning players. I recognize almost all the new names, and they are all big time DI recruits. While the Sioux have lost a lot, they also have a lot coming in. It will be a big year for Ryan Duncan to see if he can still succeed w/ out Jonathon Toews AND TJ Oshie. I still think his Hobey Baker was a function of his teammates, not his ability level. Chay Genoway should anchor the blue line and Chris VandeVelde could be ready for a breakout year. At the end of the day (or season) I think the Sioux recent tradition of slow starts will put them too far behind the MacNaughton, but right in place for another NCAA appearance probably when the team is peaking. I’m sure Boston College will be there to end their season again.