The WCHA weekend that was: UND seeks offense, UMD reaps offense, CC goalie battle simply intense

6 Nov 11: Ben Blood (North Dakota 24), Aaron Dell (North Dakota - 32), Erik Haula (Minnesota - 19) The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers host the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux in a WCHA matchup at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, MN. (Jim Rosvold)
North Dakota's Aaron Dell thwarts a Minnesota scoring chance (Photo: Jim Rosvold).

Just when you thought Aaron Dell was going to get some offensive support…

…the North Dakota offense lays a goose egg. Bemidji State beat the Fighting Sioux, 1-0, Sunday evening to drop UND’s record to 4-7-1 overall and 2-6-0 in the WCHA.

Dan Bakala is a good goaltender and he did earn the 26-save shutout, but another shutout is unacceptable for the Sioux and its often impatient fan base.

The five shots the Sioux put on Bakala in the first period is not going to cut it, and it kept UND from setting the tempo. Not like the game had much tempo anyway. It was a kind of a boring period to watch.

Not counting Friday’s five-goal game against BSU, the Sioux has scored five goals in five games going back to the St. Cloud State series. UND was shut out three times in that stretch.

UMD’s Brown and Oleksuk make for a good duo

People in Duluth could’ve told you that weeks ago.

Goaltender Kenny Reiter has gotten a lot of the credit for Minnesota-Duluth’s 10-game unbeaten streak. He does, after all, have three shutouts in that stretch with a .947 saves percentage.

That somewhat overshadowed the great job UMD’s offense did since the three-game losing skid at the beginning of the season.

Scott Sandelin put J.T. Brown and Travis Oleksuk together as the wings on a line centered by Jack Connolly before the Oct. 28 game against Bemidji State. Three games later, Sandelin moved Connolly off the line and put Oleksuk in the center spot.

The Oleksuk/Brown line, with new addition Caleb Herbert, has led the team in points in seven of the eight games since their merger. Oleksuk is 3-10–13 and Brown is 6-4–10 since through that stretch.

Who will be minding the net for Colorado College?

Colorado College sophomore goaltender Josh Thorimbert is making a strong case to supplant incumbent Joe Howe and embark on an extended run as the Tigers’ No. 1 netminder. After stopping 55 of 58 shots in CC’s sweep of Wisconsin over the weekend, the Sakatoon, Sask. native is 3-0 in his last three starts with a 1.67 goals against average and a .950 saves percentage.

Howe, on the other hand, has surrendered 10 goals on 45 shots in 89:54 of play since giving up just three goals on 80 shots in his first 199:34 of action to begin the season.

Although Howe maintains a 4-1-0 record, that number is deceiving for a couple of reasons. First of all, one of the Plymouth, Minn. product’s wins came in a one-period relief appearance against Bemidji State on Oct. 15. Secondly, after allowing Denver four goals on 21 shots in just over 30 minutes on Nov. 12, Thorimbert was charged with the 5-4 loss despite giving up just one goal to the Pioneers.

The guess here is that CC coach Scott Owens goes with the hot hand this week when the Tigers travel to Grand Forks to battle the Fighting Sioux; especially considering Howe’s 1-2 record, 4.48 goals against average, and .889 saves percentage against North Dakota last season.

But this is still the Joe Howe who nearly led the Tigers to the Frozen Four last season—and this UND team is not equipped with nearly the firepower of its predecessor—so we’ll pay close attention to what Owens ultimately decides with his goaltenders this holiday weekend.


  1. Such a BSU hater because of the style they play. Please tell me how playing an up-tempo style would help them? They don’t have the horses the big boys have so they need to play a grind-it-out style for wins and the fans appreciate their hard work. Trying to play like UND gets you 5-2 losses.

  2. @simon: I’m confused, are you directing your comment at anyone? Quite frankly i don’t see any BSU hating in the article. As a Sioux fan I am unhappy with their play but i understand the game and I’ve played it. Every team cycles, and the fact that this year might be the year the Sioux end up at the bottom of the league is depressing but also a way of understanding. J.T. Miller a first rounder opt out before the year started. our next big thing in Grimaldi is out until January and with a team of sophomores and freshmen with only one true scorer in Kristo; it’s obvious why they have been having troubles. I’m not making excuses but simply rather giving my take on the growing pains. Besides Saturdays game was close until the end of the third and the Sioux simply couldnt generate offense on sunday  hats off to da beavers.

  3. Some guys always think people are bashing their team. To be honest the beaver were very luck that the Sioux couldn’t and didn’t generate any offense. This coming from a UMD fan. UND is a better team just having issues and the grind it out game Simon talked about wouldn’t have helped if UND could have scored. It didn’t work against my Bulldogs.

    • Were the Bulldogs “lucky” that the Beavers couldn’t generate some offense when they won 1-0?  No, it’s called playing solid defense for 60 minutes.  Why then are the Beavers “lucky” the Sue couldn’t generate some offense?  This is what Simon is trying to say.  While few would argue that the Sue have been the better team in the past, have a deeper roster, etc…, that does not mean that they are the better team any given weekend or even this season.  The Beavers split, which implies this weekend that they were equal teams.  The Beavers have played a tough early schedule including all but 4 games on the road, and games against ranked opponents every series with the exception of NoDak.  Still, they hold a three point advantage in the standings against the Sue.  Explain to me how NoDak is a better team right now?  Explain how shutting out a WCHA opponent is a “lucky” win?  I think Simon hit the nail on the head.  No love or respect. 

        • How so?  No scoring in 60 minutes?  9 minutes of power play chances in the 3rd period alone and no goals?  FYI, a team is made up of offense and defense.  Apparently BSU’s defense was better, their offense was better, and goaltending was better on Sunday.  Their schedule has been tougher and their record is better.  I did watch the game on Sunday, obviously you are a Sue fan with their typical blinders on.  Give me a real explanation as to why you think UND is the better squad right now.  You can do better than that.

  4. just because of what nodak has done in the past doesnt mean stink thats why they play the game or should we just hand the trophy to umd because we one last year?

  5. This is the strongest Hockey East has been top to bottom in at least a decade. Vermont is an easy out but I feel like the other nine teams are all able to beat the others on any given night. It’s nice to see the best league in the country living up to the moniker.

    P.S. Being able to gloat to my UNH and BC friends about my Warriors doesn’t hurt either.

    • I agree that the bottom is much stronger than ever, but I also think the top is a lot weaker. Merrimack is the only consistent, solid team this year. 2009 was much much stronger. Northeastern was on fire and made the NCAA’s, Vermont made it to the frozen four, UNH lost to BU in the regional final. On top of that Lowell almost beat BU in the hockey east tournament, and BC looked pretty good too but lost to BU in the semi’s. Oh yeah, and BU won the whole thing. It really doesn’t get much stronger than that. The top 5 teams were really something else.

      • Pretty tough to consider to BC, Merrimack and BU weak…Most likely all 3 will be in tourney (the former two with high seeds) and who knows what UNH will do.  Early for sure, but don’t think top of the Hockey East is that watered down.

  6. Check the ECAC picks, the picked Harvard as well.  I do cheer for HE and do think UMass will win, but it won’t be as easy for you as you think.  Harvard’s forwards are pretty talented and keeping the puck out of your own net has not been a strong point for UMass this season.
    BBear94, I hope you get your wish and Timmy is gone soon.  As a UNH fan (which are having our ow problems right now), I much preferred a strong Maine team every year… win or lose, it was more fun!

    • Yeah, and they called BC BU the “best rivalry in college hockey”  A good one, for sure.  But UMO UNH is much better, IMO.  Those 2 games they played at the Witt last year had me on the edge of my seat all the way through….

      • Heading down there tonight myself.  UNH totally outplayed them and beat them 5-0 a couple weeks ago, so wouldn’t be at all surprised to see UML take it to them pretty good tonight.  Bazin has done a great job with a very young team down there, so far.  Hopefully Digi decides to start playing goal again sometime real soon.
        I agree, the UNH/UMO rivalry is the best, no matter where they play.  I love the atmosphere at Alfond too.  I have no problem with the abuse visiting teams and fans take, it’s all part of a great college hockey atmosphere.  As you said in another post, these writers are all just about BU/BC, nobody else matters to them!

        • Tough not to be all about them when they’ve won 3 of the past 4 national tournaments.  I agree it’s too heavily slanted towards them, but not like they haven’t earned lately.  Both Maine and UNH need to step up.  Been awhile since either of them were true contenders.

          • I do agree that the National Championships have helped and I have been there rooting them on, will always cheer for Hockey East.  I also agree that UNH and Maine have to get back to the national powers, but their rivalry is still a great one.  Maybe that’s what makes it better because they are the two teams in the East, not from Boston, that have been fairly consistent.  Anyways, I was not slighting the BC/BU rivalry at all, just making conversation about another good rivalry, that’s all.
            Enjoy the season!

          • Yes, we need a new coach and if this season plays out as expected, maybe we’ll get our wish this offseason….

          • You got a nice win last night, BBear… if UNH had played more than 15 minutes, maybe they would have too!

      • Come on guy.  I’m a fan of all Hockey East (didn’t go to any school, just from Boston), but you cannot say BC/BU isn’t the greatest rivalry in the sport.  They’ve met for the National Title before, have 9 championships between the two, Beanpot, 3 miles away from each other, students who live in the same aparment buildings…Nothing against Maine/UNH because it’s absolutely awesome, and I’ll be at Fenway on the 7th for that and UMass/UVM, but BC/BU is gold standrad when it comes to rivalries.

        • # of championships between the schools has no bearing on the greatness of their rivalry, only the games played head-up.  1 meeting in the national title game? So what.  UMO and BU played in the 95 title game.  UMO and UNH played in the 99 title game.  So, by your standards, UMO/UNH or UMO/BU s/b the greatest rivalry??

    • hahaahhaah ecac guys pick harvard too? WOW where are these people coming up with this harvard AT UMass where UMass has been great and beat far better teams espec bc but harvard not that great in hockey was joke last year and lost st lawrence this year recent tie clarkson i believe they wont be able beat umass i expect to go 5-0-2 tonight when i go umass home games

      • an they all pick 4-2 wow these guys are dumb 7-2 umass lets put it this way even if its closer umass should win ill be stunned if i see a loss and this is the 1st home loss in 7 games to harvard no way harvard wins

  7. I was at that Maine game and UMass was really strong, except for a few mistakes in the early first period where they gave up 2 goals.  I think there is too much prognosticating by these 2 “writers” who never seem to make it to the rink unless it’s a BC or BU game.  Not sure they even know where Amherst, Orono, or Burlington are…

    • I do think UMass is pretty good, but the only time I saw them in person was at UNH and the goaltending sure seemed to be an issue.  They pulled the starter and put in another Freshman who has played the majority of the minutes and he gave up 2 goals on 4 shots and was pulled too.  I know UNH’s D and G haven’t been great either, but Harvard put up a 7 spot on us, which shocked me after UNH had built a 4-0 lead!

      • they have been awful at home but as student ive been to all 6 home games and theyve been awesome at home usually only allowing 2 goals as theyve done in each of their last 5 home games after giving up 2 to bentley and beat bc tied bu tied maine beat northeastern i think itll be 7-2 umass tonight harvards not good in hockey umass deff better espec at mullins center

  8. while you guys were right on number of goals harvard would score unbeleivable both of u plus ecac guy would all say 4-2 harvard same score but harvard only got tie cuz refs apparently were from harvard i have not seen worse officiating cert not this year and overall not in lnog time federico and hansen you refs sucks u shouldnt be allowed to conitune reffing after tonight deff not in amherst 6-1 harvard in pps? ru  kidding some of them i was wondering what did the mniutemen guy do yet during game espec in ot after we killed off yet another penalty couple of times harvard shouldve been called for penalty of coruse no call on them THESE REFS WERE THE WORST!!!

  9. Solid Pick for the NU-ND today. I agree ND is too tough for NU….oh wait, what’s that? Hung 9 and first team to win at new rink? Nothing like beating #11 @Michigan and #2 @ND in back to back weeks for a 4 game winning streak. Welcome to Hockey East ND! 

    • Who is the Sioux you keep chanting about?  You have no nickname so im, not sure who those fans were chanting for…… 

      •  Once again all you idiots don’t know anything.  They are the Sioux just can’t be called that when playing in a hypocritical NCAA event.  Seminoles=good Indian   Sioux = Bad Indian   Nice of the NCAA to tell a race of people that their traditions and religion don’t mean anything.

        • Jon – Its not the NCAA telling “a race of people…” its the race of people telling the NCAA.   The Seminole tribe approved, some of your Sioux did not.  “Stuff” happens.  Even as a Gopher fan, I will miss the Sioux name and logo, but there comes a time to just shrug and get over it.   Maybe adopt some Irish theme to go with the colors and your penchant for March play.
          (and before some D.A. wonders why Fighting Irish is OK and not the fighting Sioux, remember that Notre Dame was founded by the Irish.  Don’t think UND was founded by the Sioux)


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