MEN'S HOCKEY: Ten midseason answers
One game was called after two periods due to fog in the arena. Another game saw a player score a goal from the bench. There have been high points, such as a 6-0 rout of the defending national champs. And there have been low points, such as gettin...
One game was called after two periods due to fog in the arena.
Another game saw a player score a goal from the bench.
There have been high points, such as a 6-0 rout of the defending national champs. And there have been low points, such as getting shut out a school-record three times before Christmas.
Now, as the UND men's hockey team is on break for three weeks, it's time to reflect on the first three months of the season.
During the fall, the Herald looked at the 10 big questions facing the Sioux this season. Here's a look at how they've played out through the first half.
Will UND break the trend of slow starts?
The Sioux are above the .500-mark, which is more than they could say a season ago at Christmastime. But at 8-6-1, they aren't exactly blazing out of the gates.
Because of its first-half schedule, ranked second-most difficult in the country, UND is sitting in good position in the PairWise rankings. It shouldn't take an amazing stretch run to make the NCAA tournament if the Sioux don't falter at the start of the second half.
What is UND's biggest strength?
There was talk about UND's high-flying forwards. There was talk about the talented, veteran defensemen. Senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux flew under the radar.
The Grand Forks Central graduate has perhaps been UND's biggest star in the first half. Lamoureux started the season by posting three straight shutouts. He has four total at this point, and he's received credit for stealing a couple of games.
Lamoureux's 1.72 goals-against average and .936 save percentage rank among the best in the league.
What is UND's biggest concern?
Prior to the season, goaltending depth seemed to be the largest mystery.
When backup goalie Anthony Grieco left school for the Ontario Hockey League in early November, it only magnified this question mark.
Lamoureux has played 40 consecutive games, tying a school record. Junior backup Aaron Walski has never started a game in his college career and third-string freshman Landon Snider was plucked off campus last month to be a practice goalie.
Can Ryan Duncan win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award again?
Duncan quietly has averaged a point per game through the first 15. He has 13 points in 12 league games, putting him third in Western Collegiate Hockey Association scoring.
Although Duncan isn't far off last season's pace, he has his work cut out for him in the second half if he wants to defend his trophy. Michigan senior Kevin Porter is off to an incredible start (18 goals, 11 assists and 29 points in 18 games).
Which player will have a breakout season?
As a freshman, Chris VandeVelde was a role player. He scored three goals (all of them in March) and had six assists for nine points.
He's already doubled his goal total and surpassed his point total from last season. VandeVelde (six goals, six assists) has surged into a key role centering Duncan and first-round pick T.J. Oshie.
He's also on the first power-play unit, and he kills penalties.
Which freshmen will make an immediate impact?
The Sioux won't have their first rookie of the year since Brady Murray (2003-04), but several freshmen have contributed in different ways.
Up front, Matt Frattin has shown flashes of why he scored 50 goals in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. His hard and accurate shot have led him to six points in 15 games, the best among Sioux rookies.
On the blue line, Derrick LaPoint has turned into an everyday player. He's started to jump in the play more, leading to a pair of goals.
Who will replace Jonathan Toews on the explosive top line?
Frattin played on the top line for three games. Since then, VandeVelde has been the guy. When that line has been hot, so have the Sioux.
In the last 11 games, UND is 6-5.
In the six wins, the top line has a combined 34 points.
In the five losses, that line has a combined four points (all came last Saturday against Minnesota).
Will sophomore forward Michael Forney emerge as a force?
The highly recruited player out of Thief River Falls has struggled to come back from multiple shoulder surgeries.
Forney, who had two operations over the summer, has dressed for just two games. He hasn't recorded a point in either game.
What series on UND's schedule is one you can't miss?
The Sioux hosted their biggest rival, Minnesota, in the first half. The building was sold out months in advance for the series, which the teams split.
In the second half, a February series against Denver is one to circle on the calendar.
The UND-Denver rivalry has heated up in the last five years and seeing UND's Duncan and Oshie go against Denver's Rhett Rakhshani, Tyler Ruegsegger and Brock Trotter is a treat.
What will the nonconference schedule be like?
At first glance this fall, UND's nonconference schedule looked like a bear. And that was before anyone knew Northeastern would be leading Hockey East in December.
All of UND's nonconference opponents to this point are ranked in both national polls.
It's not much easier in the second half. The Sioux start post-Christmas play against No. 10 New Hampshire. In February, they host College Hockey America's leader Bemidji State.
Reach Schlossman at 780-1129, (800) 477-6572 ext. 129 or bschlossman@gfhe rald.com .