Saturday, March 08, 2014

Saturday Morning Pontifications: Is there a Penrose Trophy in the Future?

Since November 30, 2013, UND goalie Zane Gothberg is 13-1-1 with a .936 save percentage and 1.59 goals against average. During that same time, UND is 16-3-2. Also, senior goalie time Clarke Saunders has a 3-2-0 record during the same time. UND started the season 4-7-2, they were going nowhere fast and they were sitting in the bottom of the NCHC Standings. In looking at the turnaround,  we might be able to credit the player's only meeting in late November. When asked about the turnaround, Gothberg was quick to give credit to the coaches.

“Obviously it starts with our coaching staff,” Gothberg said. “They’ve been through the ropes. They’ve been through everything, throughout the years. And I think it just kind of came down from them.”

Gothberg continued, “Once we figured out how to play our game, each guy bought in. It was a simple mentality change. Just a little bit before Christmas break. It was kind of cool to see what happened. You know what, we’re going out and proving ourselves every night, still. Proving to ourselves, and to our team that we can be even better.”

With the win last night, UND is either going to be playing Colorado College or Miami University. It’s just a matter of with team finishes number one, and which team finishes number two. UND is 2-0-0 against C.C. and 3-1-0 against Miami. Neither team is an easy out. So, we now have the four home teams for the NCHC playoffs, UND, SCSU, UMD and UNO. We'll know exact seeding at about 10:30 p.m.

It’s hard to believe that WMU is the sixth place team in the NCHC. Based on what I have seen, they’re a pretty good hockey team. It was fun to listen to former NHL coach Andy Murray after the game.

Here’s a few statistics to chew on. After finding it hard to score goals earlier in the season, UND is the third in the NCHC for goals for with 75. First is SCSU with 83 and second is Nebraska-Omaha with 78. Defensively, UND is second with 61 goals against, Denver is first with 56.

As I mentioned earlier in the season, I thought UND was a good hockey team that was trying to find their way. Some wanted to abandon the team. Early in the season, I went to a few practices and saw some of the goings on when the team was down. It was not all fun and games around the UND locker room, I can tell you that. You could feel the tension around the UND hockey team. I asked someone if it was stretch run was on already… Their response was, oh yeah. It's on.

That being said, there’s a lot of skill on this team. There’s also a lot of team speed. This is one of the fastest UND hockey teams that I have seen in a very long time. The play starts with the “D” and they lead the breakout, out of the defensive zone, in a lot of cases. If you can, focus on players like Jordan Schmaltz, Dillon Simpson or Paul LaDue, they’re very good with the puck. I think this team gets out of the defensive zone better than last year’s team, and that team had a lot of high-end offensive talent.

The UND hockey team is transforming from being a bruising team that checks you out of the building and takes a lot of penalties, to a team that can skate with the Boston Colleges. This is no accident. UND is changing like the NHL game has.

Tonight, UND will honor four very classy seniors, defenseman Dillon Simpson, forward Mitch MacMillan, forward Derek Rodwell and goaltender Clarke Saunders. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch this week’s “Through These Doors”. There’s some very good stuff.

On my way to work this morning, Simpson was on “Hockey on Campus” and I just can’t get over the fact that Simpson isn’t even 21 years old yet. The senior defenseman came to UND as a young age of 17. There’s freshmen on this team that are older than him. Age is just a number.

Surprising result of the night: After being named NCHC Goalie of the week, Ryan Massa gave up four goals on 27 shots to the UMD Bulldogs. UMD would win the game 8-2. Tony Cameranesi and Justin Crandall paced UMD with two goals each.

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