Tuesday, October 28, 2008

National Polls

For the second week in a row, the UND women's hockey team finds itself receiving votes in consideration of a national top 10 ranking. The Sioux swept Union college 3-0 and 4-1 this past weekend at the Ralph. UND received 1 top 10 vote in each the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.

Unbeaten Wisconsin still holds the top spot in the country followed by #2 Minnesota, #3 Harvard, #4 Boston College, #5 New Hampshire, #6 Dartmouth, #7 MN-Duluth, Boston University, #9 St. Lawrence and #10 Clarkson. Both Harvard and Dartmouth have yet to play an NCAA game. MSU-Mankato, who had been recieving votes, dropped out of both polls after losing a pair to MN-Duluth.

Ohio St. Preview
OSU, fresh off a sweep of Bemidji State last weeked comes to the Ralph Saturday and Sunday to take on the Sioux. Game time is set for 12:07pm each day. OSU is 4-4-0 this year sweeping Providence on the road to start the year before being swept themselves by Wisconsin and Minnesota respectively. Here's a breakdown of OSU.

OSU returns both Liana Bonanno and Deirdra Facklis. Lianna has seen a majority of the action this year recording a 4-3-0 record with a 3.30 and a .907 save %. Facklis played the 3rd period of the first game vs. Minnesota and played in game 2 of that series and lost 8-2.

OSU graduated a ton of fire power last season in Tessa Bonhomme and Lisa Chesson which leaves two very large gaping holes back on the blue line. Both combined for 71 points and were always a threat to score. OSU returns a group of 4 lead by JR. Rachel Davis and Sophomores Shannon Reilley and Teal Bishop. Newcommers include Cretin-Derham Hall graduates Kelly Wild and Brittany Carlson

Graduating 50-point scorer Erin Keys along with Mallory Peckels up front at forward doesn't bode well for OSU's offensive output. But OSU does have a highly touted recruiting class in forwards Natalie Spooner, Laura McIntosh, Melissa Feste and Kim Theut. Spooner and McIntosh were members of Canada's silver medal U-18 National Team while Feste won a MN State title as a senior at Eden Priarie HS. Theut comes from the highly regarded Little Caesars U-19 Club program in Detroit, MI. Spooner leads OSU in scoring and has been counted on to produce early and often. She has 7 goals and 3 assists for 10 points in 8 games.

What to Expect:
Look for UND's speed up front to test OSU's young defense and put the pressure on. Senior forward Melissa Jaques has been on fire as of late. UND is ranked 7th in the nation in offensive scoring with 3.38 goals per game to OSU's 26th overall ranking at 2.28 goals per game. As always, special teams will be key and OSU leads the nation in penalties averaging just over 8 minor penalties a game. UND's power play will have to produce. UND's penalty kill has been strong thus far and continues to get better with an 87% effectiveness. Both teams are young and playing freshman in key roles. UND has a more balanced scoring attack and overall depth up front at forward. It should be a great tilt!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sioux Back On Track, Sweep Union

Behind another 4-point weekend from Senior Asst. Captain Melissa Jaques, the UND women's hockey team swept Union College 3-0 and 4-1. It was the first ever meeting between the two programs. Friday, Marie-Michelle Poireier scored her 2nd goal of the year, Melissa Jaques potted her 4th and 5th goals of the season and goaltender Brittany Kirkham stopped 9 shots. UND fired 44 of their own on Union netminder Lundy Day enroute to their 4th win of the season.

On Saturday it was Jaques assisting on Sara Dagenais' 4th and 5th goals of the year while Alyssa Wiebe and Marie-Michelle Poireier each added a goal and an assist to help UND to a 4-1 win. UND finished the game out-shooting Union 42-16. The game was scoreless well into the 2nd period until Wiebe got UND on the board first with a great wrist shot from the mid-slot off a pass from Poirier streaking down the left-wing. Union's Jackei Koettritz would tie it up on the power play with a top-shelf bullet passed UND goaltender Stephanie Ney. Poirier would give UND the lead for good with a power play goal of her own 1:23 into the 3rd period off a nifty feed from sophomore Stephanie Roy. Dagenais would add 2 goals of her own scoring an even-strength goal at 6:53 and adding one on the power play with 17:53 remaining.

A Program First
By virtue of their second series sweep this past weekend over Union College, the UND women's hockey team accomplished something it hasn't done since 2005-2006. Win at least 5 games in a season. UND's record after 8 games thus far is 5-2-1 and is off to it's best start in program history. UND could very well be 8-0 had it not been for 1-goal loss to Maine and an overtime loss and tie to MSU-Mankato. UND certainly played well enough to win all three of those games.

Union Game Notes
Junior goaltender Brittany Kirkham recorded her 1st shutout of the season and 6th of her career.

Melissa Jaques has 15 points in 8 games. Jaques is 7 points shy of her point toal from last year of 22.

UND was short staffed this weekend and down to 3 lines plus an extra forward and 6 defenseman. Injuries to Junior Ashley Paulson, Sophomore Nikki Hebert and Freshman Kelsey Ketcher kept them out of action.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

National Attention

For the first time in program history, the UND women's hockey team is receiving votes in two separate media polls. On Monday, the October 20th USCHO.com NCAA D-I Women's Top 10 poll had UND receiving 1 vote. Out of the 15 voters on the committee, 12 of whom are coaches, someone ranked UND at #10. And for those who are wondering, NO, Coach Idalski is NOT on the committee. On October 21st, the USA Today / USA Hockey Magazine Women's D-I Poll had UND receiving 2 votes in consideration of a top 10 ranking.

Surprised? UND tied and had a shootout loss last Friday and a loss in OT to MSU-Mankato on Saturday. Obviously both close games and should have been won
outright by UND. St. Cloud grabbed 4 points from Duluth with a tie and shootout win on Friday and a 3-2 win on Saturday which defintely helped UND's cause.

It may not seem like a big deal to most, but to the team, coaching staff, the University as well as the UND hockey community it's a HUGE deal. This kind of recognition was expected when the program first began 7 years ago.
To say the lack of success was disheartening during the first five years would be an understatement. Success on the national stage is what hockey fans in Grand Forks expect. The news of last weeks' top 10 polls circulated so much so that congratulatory e-mails and phone calls came from those within faculty and athletic departments at UND as well as fans who have seen the program since its inception. There is a nice little buzz going on about the success of this team and where they are headed. Idalski definitely has them on the right track.

Brad Schlossman, who writes for the GF Herald and author of the 'University of North Dakota Hockey' blog wrote a nice peice last Monday in recognition of the women's team getting votes. Click the link and scroll down to 'Sioux women are receiving votes'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sioux Tie Friday, Lose Heartbreaker Saturday

The Sioux came within twelve seconds of taking three points from last weekends' series vs. MSU-Mankato. Friday night, the Sioux and Mankato skated to a 2-2 overtime tie. The Sioux earned 1 point while Mankato earned a point for the tie and an extra point by winning the newly instituted shootout format in five rounds. On Saturday, Nina Tikkinen's overtime goal at the 2:46 mark capped an almost improbable comeback win for the Mavericks as they found themselves down 4-2 with under five minutes remaining to play in regulation. After a questionable penalty on UND's Margot Miller for checking, the Maverick's Kayla Buganski scored an extra attacker power play goal to send the game into overtime with only 12 seconds remaining.

UND Women's Hockey SID Derek Koenen's game recaps can be found here:
Friday - Saturday

Mankato Game Notes

Friday night's shootout was the first this year for the Sioux in WCHA play. UND Senior defenseman Susi Felner scored the lone shootout goal as she came in skating across the crease from right to left and pulled Altman to one side. Once Altman went down, Felner buried the puck high tying the shootout score 1-1.

Senior Forward Melissa Jaques continues her great play as she notched her second four-point weekend with an assist on Friday and 2 goals and 1 assist on Saturday. Jaques is 3-8-11 in 6 games. She is already at the half-way point 6 games into the season of her point total from last year of 22. Jaques is currently tied for 4th nationally in scoring and leads the country in assists.

With her tie on Friday, Junior goaltender Brittany Kirkham continues her steady play. Her record now stands at 1-1-1 with a .926 SAV % and a 1.97 GAA.

Freshman forward and former Notre Dame Hound Alyssa Weibe scored 2 goals on the weekend. Her tally Friday was off a great wrist shot high to the glove side. Saturday's goal was more of a bank-shot from the right half-wall as she threw the puck to the net. Altman was unable to handle it cleanly and the puck trickled in behind her.

UND's penalty kill continues to impress as they killed off 11 of 12 MSU-Mankato power plays last weekend. Opponents are 1 for 26 vs. UND's power play the last 4 games.

Up next, UND hosts Union for the first time in program history Friday at 7:07pm and on Saturday at 4:07pm.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kirkham Earns Pair of Awards

Junior goalie Brittany Kirkham was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for her 32 save performance vs. St. Cloud last weekend. The Fighting Sioux Club also recognized the Ottawa, Ontario native as their 'Athlete of the Week'. With the win, Kirkham improves to a 2.03 GAA and a .922 save percentage on the year.

Up Next: MSU-Mankato
This weekend UND plays host to MSU-Mankato at the Ralph Friday October 17th & Saturday October 18th. Game times are set for 7:07pm and 2:07pm. The last time these two teams met they combined for 176 minutes in penalties in the infamous 'YouTube game'. As always it should be an interesting weekend with Mankato.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Sweep It Is!

There's always a weekend or two during the hockey season that coaches tend to look forward to for one reason or another. A weekend where there is a little bit more at stake than just beating your opponent and gaining two points in the standings. May be it's the chance to beat your arch-rival or avenge a heart-breaking loss. Well, the weekend of October 10 & 11 2008 vs. St. Cloud State University happened to be one of those weekends for coach Brian Idalski and the Fighting Sioux Women's Hockey Team. There's a connection between Idalski to the Husky program as he spent one year as an assistant coach under current St. Cloud boss Jeff Giessen during the 2006-2007. In Idalski's first year behind the bench for the Sioux in 2007-2008, he went 0-2-2 vs. St. Cloud. Two close losses and 2 well earned ties. So it would be easy to see where the extra motivation may have come from for this past weekends' WCHA opening series sweep for the Sioux. But this past weekend was not just about a former assistant coach trying to beat his old boss for the first time or a team trying to avenge two close losses from last year. This series was about something more, something you can't quantify. This weekends' sweep was about one thing - earning RESPECT.

Friday night it was Brittany Kirkam's 32 saves and Sophomore Marie-Michelle Poirier's first collegiate goal with 9:50 left in the 3rd period that gave the Sioux a hard fought 2-1 win. The Sioux penalty kill was outstanding shutting out a Husky powerplay that went 0-6 on the night. The Sioux played much of the second period short-handed as they were whistled for four strait penalties and killed off two separate five-on-three attempts. None better than UND's last penalty kill to end the game. Poirier was whistled off for checking with only 1:19 remaining and St. Cloud pulled their goalie for a six on four advantage. UND used thier penalty kill to build momentum and late in the second period UND Senior winger Randi Motsko netted her third goal of the year on the power play with only :25 seconds remaining in the period. UND wasn't without its offensive chances though. UND had several prime scoring oppportunities in the first and second periods but St. Cloud's goalie Ashley Nixon turned away thirteen of the fourteen Sioux shots she faced through two periods. Poirier's game winner came off a great feed from linemate Alyssa Wiebe down low in front of the net on a nice two on one play. Poirier one-timmed a cross-crease pass from Wiebe to put the Sioux up 2-1 for good.

On Saturday, freshman goalie Stephanie Ney got her second win of the season as she turned aside 38 St. Cloud shots while Freshman Margot Miller provided the go-ahead goal with 10:18 remaining to put the Sioux up 3-2 and earn the series sweep. The Sioux came out flying and went up 2-0 early in the first period on goals by Sophmore defenseman Kelly Lewis on the powerplay and Alyssa Wiebe, her first collegiate goal, a nice tip in off a Cassandra Flannagan shot. St. Cloud would score a short-handed goal with just 3 seconds remaining in the first period off a breakaway by Katie Kemmerer to make it 2-1. In the second, St. Cloud's Caitlin Hogan beat Ney high to the glove side to tie the score at 2. It would stay tied at two until Margo Miller popped in her second goal of the season and first game-winner to give the Sioux a 3-2 lead with just over ten-minutes remaining. The Sioux penalty kill was outstanding again denying all 8 St. Cloud powerplays.

Backed by two very solid goaltending performances, a stifling penalty kill and timely scoring, the Fighting Sioux Women's Hockey Team improved to 3-1-0. True it's early in the year. But for a program that won only four games last year, earning a 3-1 record four games into the season and sweeping a quality WCHA opponent in St. Cloud should put other WCHA teams on notice. More than four points was won this weekend. This team won a little bit of respect in that process. Last years' St. Cloud team hosted a WCHA playoff series. They lost little to graduation and returned 8 of their top 10 scorers. Did they expect just to walk in, grab four points and go? I bet Coach Idalski was glad to beat his former boss, anyone would in that situation, right?. But I have a feeling he's more proud of his team gaining the respect of a worthy opponent and others in the WCHA.

St. Cloud Game Notes
If there was any doubt left in UND Freshman forward Margot Miller's mind as to whether or not she made the right choice to come to UND, I'm sure scoring the winning goal Saturday to help sweep St. Cloud wiped any of those doubts away. St. Cloud and UND were the final two schools Miller considered during the recruting process. Her high school coach at Shattuck St. Mary's was Gordie Stafford, father of former UND standout Drew Stafford. I wonder which direction he pushed her in? Interestingly enough, Husky Asst. Coach Jennifer Kranz, coached at Shattuck under coach Stafford before moving on to St. Cloud. Chalk one up for the Sioux on winning that recruiting battle.

Interesting UND hockey fact... you have to go back to the 2003-2004 season to find a weekend where the UND women's team won 2 games and the UND men's team lost two. The UND Men's team lost Febuary 6 and 7 to Wisconsin 4-3 and 5-2. The Women's team beat Bemidji State Friday night Febuary 6, 5-1 and again on Sunday Febuary 8, 5-3 in a home and home series.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sioux Split With Maine

After a 3-2 loss Friday night, the Fighting Sioux women's hockey team came out Saturday and pumped 53 shots on Senior University of Maine goaltender Genvieve Turgeon, en route to a convincing 7-3 win. 7 different players scored for the Sioux providing a well balanced attack. Leading the charge was Senior Assistant Captain Melissa Jaques who had 1 assist Friday and 1 goal and 3 assists Saturday for a 5 point weekend. Freshmen forward Sara Dagenais notched her first collegiate goal Friday only to follow up on Saturday scoring 1 goal and adding 2 assists for a 4 point weekend. Senior Assistant Captain Randi Motsko scored 2 goals in Saturdays' win. Freshmen goaltender Stephanie Ney recorded her first collegiate win Saturday with a 16 save performance.

To lose a game when you dominate your opponent is a tough pill to swallow. Friday night the Sioux took a heavy dose of Genvieve Turgeon and her stellar 46 save performance allowed Maine to steal the first game of the 2-game series with a 3-2 win. UND dominated play allowing only 9 shots on net during 5 on 5 play. Sophomore Defenseman Kelly Lewis scored her first of the season on the powerplay in the second period cutting Maine's lead to 2-1. Maine would go up 3-1 with a powerplay goal of their own about 7 minutes later. In the 3rd period with just under two minutes remaining, Sara Dagenais cut the lead to 3-2 off of a great 2 on 1 play with linemate Melissa Jaques. This would set the stage for a furious finish. However, Turgeon was at her best when it counted most. With a 6 on 4 man advantage, UND Freshmen forward Margot Miller was left scratching her head after 3 point-blank scoring attempts all stopped by Turgeon. The best of which came when Miller picked up a loose puck off a faceoff in Maine's defensive zone and ripped a low-hard wrist shot labled for the lower right corner only to have Turgeon flash her pad to make the save through heavy traffic in front.

Saturday, UND controled play from start to finish just as it had Friday. Only this time, UND's offensive attack was just too much for Maine or Turgeon to handle. UND had a 41-13 shot advantage after 2 periods and a 5-2 lead. All lines seemed to be clicking and getting their chances. The Miller-Jaques-Dagenais line combo was dominating; they combined for 8 points and some highlight reel goals. The Motsko-Williams-Hanson combo wasn't too shabby either, combining for 3 goals and 1 assist. So what was the difference? The biggest adjustment from Friday was they made life miserable for Turgeon with a lot of net-front traffic and screens which took her out of her rythem and ability to see shot cleanly.

All in all it was a strong weekend for the Sioux. The freshmen got some very valuable ice time, 11 different players recorded points and they dominated a team for two full games. The loss Friday was a good lesson to learn early on in the year considering so many new faces on the team. The Sioux showed Saturday they can bounce back... and in a big way. That is not always easy to do when you are on the road.

Next up for the Sioux is St. Cloud State at the Ralph.