UND Hockey: Three Things

The University of North Dakota hockey team finished the 2014-15 season (29-10-3, 16-6-2 NCHC). While UND fell short of their ultimate goal (winning an NCAA title) the 2014-15 season will go down as another highly successful campaign.

UND won a National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular season title and an NCAA West Regional title. UND’s season would end with a 5-3 loss to Boston University Terriers in the Frozen Four semifinals. Here are three things I saw during the 2014-15 season.

(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Balanced scoring leads attack

While UND finished the season ranked fifth nationally in goal scoring, no one on their roster had more than 20 goals or 40 points. National runner-up Boston University had four players with 20 plus goals and three players with at least 50 points. 

This past season, UND didn’t have what I would consider a high-end game breaker. However, UND won hockey games with a balanced scoring attack. I attribute UND’s success to having its players buy into a system and playing a selfless brand of hockey. Everyone did their job and knew their role. Rarely did anyone color outside the lines. The 2014-15 UND hockey team reminded me of the bullpen by committee.

UND loses five senior forwards Michael Park (12g-20a—32pts), Mark MacMillan (16g-9a—25pts), Brendan O’Donnell (13g-8a—21pts), Connor Gaarder (10g-10a—20pts), Stephane Pattyn (6g-8a—14pts). UND’s incoming class “should” include highly sought forwards Shane Gersich, Chris Wilkie, and Brock Boeser.

UND Forward Mark MacMillan, (Eric Classen/UND Athletics)
UND Forward Mark MacMillan, (Eric Classen/UND Athletics)

UND after Mark MacMillan

On February 28, 2015, UND was playing for a series sweep against the St. Cloud State Huskies. At the 08:27 mark of the first period, UND was assessed a pair of minor penalties for slashing and high-sticking (Parks and Gage Ausmus).

UND would go on to kill the Huskies five-on-three power play, but the kill would come with a high cost. Senior forward Mark MacMillan suffered a season-ending lower-body injury blocking a Jonny Brodzinski howitzer.

MacMillan had sacrificed his body for the good of the team. This was a recurring theme of the 2014-15 UND hockey team. MacMillan’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

“That’s just our team right there,” Pattyn said. “Everyone is willing to sacrifice. Everyone is going to do whatever it takes to win. I think you saw that in that first power play and through a few (other) power plays, too. Just a huge team win – and to see Mark go down, obviously not great, but he will do whatever it takes to win.”

Losing a player like MacMillan would have crippled most teams. Injury aside, UND was still able to advance to the Frozen Four, despite missing their top center and defensive forward. Senior forward Mark MacMillan played in 29-of-42 games for UND but was still able to score 16 goals.

One player that appeared to suffer the most from MacMillan’s absence was senior forward Mike Parks.  After MacMillan’s season ended, Parks logged a single point on the score sheet, an assist. Moreover, down the stretch, the snake-bitten Parks scored only one point in the last 11 games of the season. MacMillan finished his UND career one point short of 100 (46g-53a—99pts).

Jordan Schmaltz is headed into his junior year at UND (Eric Classen, UND Sports)
Jordan Schmaltz is headed into his junior year at UND (Eric Classen, UND Sports)

UND’s defense tops in the NCHC

Over the course of the past two seasons, the defense has been the strength of the UND hockey team. During the 2014-15 season, UND was ranked 10th nationally in goals against per game. UND also lead the NCHC in team defense and blocked shots with 575.

This past season, UND’s defense led the nation in points (119). The UND blueline also led the nation in points per game (2.90) and assists (90) by defensemen. This was also the second year in a row that UND has led the nation in scoring by defenseman.

Three UND defensemen were ranked among the top 10 highest-scoring defensemen in the NCHC. Three of their defensemen had 20 or more points: Jordan Schmaltz (4g-24a—28pts), Paul LaDue (5g-17a—22pts) and Nick Mattson (4g-17a—21pts).

Next season, UND should return a majority of the D-Core that led the NCHC in goals against per game and scoring. With that in mind, another long offseason awaits us.