Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NCAA Preview: North Dakota

North Dakota got off to a slow start this season, but really picked things up in the second half, and head into the NCAA tournament as a pretty trendy pick to win the whole thing.

What has been the difference for the Sioux? In my mind, it is three things:

1. The team got healthier. Jonathan Toews missed a couple games in the first half of the season due to a shoulder injury. T.J. Oshie was able to play through a hand injury, but it severely limited his production. Goalie Phillippe Lamoureux also missed some time in the first half of the season due to an injury. Once those guys got healthy, and started playing as expected, the Sioux were near unbeatable.

2. They got better goaltending. Like I mentioned, Lamoureux struggled with an injury in the first half of the season, and freshman Anthony Grieco was forced to see a lot of playing time. Lamoureux came back, and really played better in the second half. He's made some very timely saves that have helped the Sioux maintain leads in the second half. The Sioux might have won the Final Five if Lamoureux had not given up a soft goal to Erik Johnson in the second period of that game. He is absolutely critical to North Dakota's chances.

3. Their lower lines started producing. Freshman Chris Vandevelde came alive in the Final Five after not scoring at all in the first half of the season. Erik Fabian had two goals in North Dakota's sweep of Minnesota. Their top line will score enough to keep them in any game. Production from a lower line could be the difference between winning a close game and losing a close game.


Tornado Towers said...

One caveat in reviewing the second half schedule of the Sioux. Half of their second half games were against pretty weak teams.
Anchorage-2 games 1-w 1-t
Bemidji-2 games 2-w
Mankato-4 games 3-w 1-t
UMD-2 games. 1-w 1-t

Their record against these teams were pretty good. The second half schedule for the Sioux reminds me a lot of the second half schedule for the Gophers last year. Too many games against UMD and Anchorage didn't adequately prepare the Gophers and may have contributed to their ultimate demise. Seems to be a fairly held opinion.

Will the Sioux suffer a similar fate due to the overall soft nature of their second half schedule?

Everybody knows the Sioux are the hottest team going, but do the Wolverines care?

Anonymous said...

The also went 4-1-1 on the road at Denver, Minnesota, and St. Cloud. Denver doesn't appear to be that impressive anymore, but they did finish in the top five of the conference.

rr said...

And the Gophers were 6-2 on the road against conference opponents on the road in the second half of the season. Against Mankato, Wisconsin,Anchorage and CC.

The notion that the Gophers actually had some sort of collapse in the second half of the season is a bit overstated. The losses on the road were a 2-1 loss in Madison and a 5-1 loss in St. Cloud.

Gophers second half road record translated into 12 points. Sioux second half road record translated to 9 points.

I guess that does qualify the Sioux as the hottest team going. We'll find out soon enough. Gophers got to beat AF and Sioux got to beat Michigan. If the Sioux get HE refs the Sioux are screwed.