This past weekend, the University of North Dakota and Boston College faced off in the first-ever College Hockey Showdown at Madison Square Garden. The Fighting Hawks beat the Eagles 4-3 in an exciting, action packed game. In the end, the two teams gave the 11,348 fans that made the trek to MSG something to cheer about.
Here are three things that caught my attention about this classic matchup.
UND Finally Beats B.C.
Division I college hockey is full of storied rivalries. Historically, the Fighting Hawks and the Eagles are rivals. The two teams have played 24 times, at many different venues. With the win, UND again holds the series edge 12-11-1 (.520).
Many of the 24 games have been tight scoring during the NCAA tournament. Lately, however, the series hasn’t been close. During the last 10 games, B.C. has an 8-2-0 (.800) record against UND and three of the last four games weren’t close. During those four games, UND was outscored 18-7.
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Hawks were looking for some redemption and with the win, the Hawks were able to stop the five-game winless streak against the Eagles.
The Hawks victory on Saturday night marked the first time that UND had come out on top in 11 years. Although, the teams hadn’t played each other since the 2011 season. Nonetheless, UND had lost four of the last five matchups. The game they didn’t lose was a 0-0 tie that was called off after two periods due to fog.
Saturday’s win gave the Hawks a much-needed non-conference win that will help them in the final Pairwise Rankings, UND is currently 7th, similar to the NCAA tournament selection. With the win, UND is now 6-2-2 in non-conference play, unfortunately, they’re 2-3-1 in NCHC play.
Moreover, the win should give UND some much-needed confidence going into this weekend’s series against the Western Michigan Broncos. The second half of the season is almost here and UND is going to need to keep winning if they want to qualify for the NCAA tourney.
Good Experience for the Players
While none of the players on either team had ever played against each other collegiately, both teams were brought up to speed by their coaching staffs. Listening to the players in the post-game press conference, you could tell that the players had a good time. Eagles head coach Jerry York compared the event to a NCAA tourney game.
‘Everything about the event was Frozen Four-ish to me,’ BC coach Jerry York said.
Fighting Hawks freshman forward Tyson Jost, shared his thoughts on the weekend:
“Getting to play in Madison Square Garden was something that was really special,” Jost told the media after the game. “Just the few days that we were here, getting the taste of what the big city is all about is something that was really special. And to do it with this group of guys and this team is something that’s really special.”
Things Are Looking up for UND
After Saturday’s non-conference game, I crunched the numbers and it seems UND’s fortunes are improving. After their trip to the Big Apple, UND has a 3-1-1 (.700) over the past five games. It’s a small indication that UND is improving and could make a run during the second half of the season.
Through the first 16 games of the season, UND has played the third toughest schedule in college hockey. Eleven of those 16 games were against top-20 opponents. Against ranked opponents, UND has a 5-4-2 record. In the other five games, UND is 3-1-1 against teams that aren’t ranked in the top-20.
During the five-game stretch, Jost was red-hot scoring four goals and six points. During that same time-frame, Shane Gersich is tied for the lead in points (NCHC) with five goals and eight points.
Last week, after UND lost and tied in their non-conference series against Michigan State, I took some heat for my article about UND starting goalie Cam Johnson. With the win, Johnson improves to 8-5-3, with a 2.24 GAA and a .907 save percentage. Johnson was also named the game’s third star.
Breaking it down further, over the last five games, Johnson is 3-1-1, with a 1.78 GAA, .932 save percentage. Statistically, those numbers are pretty good.
Non-conference wins like this help the team in the long run.
“It’s been the Achilles heel of trying to win a game against a great program,” head coach Brad Berry said. “When we do get to the Frozen Fours or regionals it seems like it’s kind of a tough road for us to get past them. It was nice, for a change, to be on the other side of it.”