NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal preview: UND vs. Denver
The Fighting Hawks are aiming to reach the league title game for the second time, while the Pioneers look to strengthen their position for the NCAA tournament.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff semifinals are scheduled for 3:05 (St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota Duluth) and 8:05 p.m. (North Dakota vs. Denver) today in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
North Dakota vs. Denver, 8:05 p.m.
Record: 19-5-1, NCHC regular-season champions.
Route to semis: UND defeated Miami 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Collin Adams tallied five points (two goals, three assists), while Jordan Kawaguchi had four assists.
NCHC Frozen Faceoff history: UND has never won the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. In six previous postseasons in the NCHC, UND reached the semifinals five times, but lost in four of them (2014 to Miami, 2015 to St. Cloud State, 2016 to Minnesota Duluth and 2018 to St. Cloud State). It reached the championship game in 2017, but fell to Minnesota Duluth.
NCAA tournament picture: UND is a lock to make the national tournament and will almost surely be the No. 1 seed in Fargo's Scheels Arena. That regional begins March 26.
Player to watch: One player who appears to be coming close to a breakthrough is Fighting Hawks fourth-line winger Harrison Blaisdell. Considering Denver is playing with three lines, UND has to take advantage with its fresh fourth line and this presents a good opportunity for Blaisdell to not only bring energy but potentially snap his 44-game goal drought dating back to Oct. 18, 2019 at MSU-Mankato.
Injury update: UND will be without forward Grant Mismash, who was averaging a point-per game this season (nine goals, 18 points in 18 games). Mismash hasn't played since Feb. 12 against Denver. The Fighting Hawks also might be without NCHC defensive defenseman of the year, Jacob Bernard-Docker. He was injured in the third period of UND's quarterfinal win over Miami. Bernard-Docker is questionable .
Coach Brad Berry on playing DU a seventh time: "You get to know them and they get to know you. It's like a playoff intensity. Obviously, it's a traditional rival, but it's a playoff intensity. The one thing that's different between Denver now and Omaha is we had to play Omaha four times in a row. At least we played some other teams between now and playing Denver again. I think the biggest thing is freshness. We look at it as a new team. We've got to play with excitement, enthusiasm and tenacity."
Record: 10-12-1, NCHC fifth seed.
Route to semis: Denver defeated Omaha 5-4 in a back-and-forth quarterfinal game. Defenseman Bo Hanson, playing forward for the first time this season, tipped home the game-winner in the third period. Denver was the only lower seed to win an NCHC quarterfinal game this season.
NCHC Frozen Faceoff history: Denver has won the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in twice. It won the Frozen Faceoff in the inaugural season, 2014, storming through the field as a No. 6 seed to win the title and get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. That event was played at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Denver also won it the first year it was held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, 2019.
NCAA tournament picture: Denver is on the bubble right now and head coach David Carle used Saturday's postgame press conference to advocate why his team should be in over Omaha . Whether or not the NCAA Committee will listen is up for debate, but there's no question Carle's argument would become even stronger if the Pioneers could knock off UND for a third time this season.
Player to watch: Pioneers goaltender Magnus Chrona, a 6-foot-6 Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, has been streaky this season. If he's on, he can steal a game. But if he's off, it might be difficult for Denver to knock off UND. Chrona has a .905 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average this season.
Injury update: Denver will be missing forward Brett Stapley, who had season-ending surgery last month. The Pioneers also are without eight players who are in COVID-19 protocol and did not make the trip to Grand Forks: forward McKade Webster (three goals, nine points), forward Steven Jandric (one goal, six points), forward Brett Edwards (two goals, four points), forward Jake Durflinger (two goals, four points), forward Carter King (one assist), forward Jack Works (one assist) defenseman Reid Irwin (three goals) and defenseman Lane Krenzen (one assist)
Coach David Carle on DU not relaxing after the quarterfinal win: "It's another big game against the best team in the country. They've proven that all year long. I don't think it's close. They've been the most consistent performers from start to finish and there's no doubt we have our hands full. But there's no shortage of the emotion to get up for a game like that."
|Dec. 4||UND 4, Denver 3, OT||Omaha||Kawaguchi GWG|
|Dec. 8||Denver 3, UND 2||Omaha||Savoie GWG|
|Jan. 17||Denver 4, UND 1||Denver||Chrona 28 saves|
|Jan. 18||UND 5, Denver 1||Denver||Senden 4 assists|
|Feb. 12||UND 3, Denver 0||Grand Forks||Scheel 24 saves|
|Feb. 13||UND 5, Denver 2||Grand Forks||Weatherby 2 goals|
College hockey conference tournaments
Monday's semifinals, in Grand Forks
Minnesota Duluth vs. St. Cloud State, 3:05 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
North Dakota vs. Denver, 8:05 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Semifinal winners, 7:35 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Monday's semifinals, in South Bend, Ind.
Penn State vs. Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Minnesota vs. Michigan, 7:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Friday's semifinals, in Mankato, Minn.
Northern Michigan vs. MSU-Mankato, 2:07 p.m.
Bemidji State vs. Lake Superior State, 7:37 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7:07 p.m.
UMass Lowell at Boston College, 3:30 p.m.
Providence at UMass, 6 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.
Colgate at St. Lawrence, 4 p.m.
Semifinal winner at Quinnipiac, 3 p.m.
Friday's semifinals, in Springfield, Mass.
Niagara vs. American International, 1:05 p.m.
Army vs. Canisius, 6:05 p.m.
Semifinal winners, TBA