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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published November 24 2011

Sioux set to take on high-scoring Tigers

GRAND FORKS – Colorado College opened the season with a 3-1 victory over Bemidji State. That is the Tigers’ worst offensive night of the season.

In the eight games since, Colorado College has piled up at least four goals, and the Tigers enter this weekend’s series against the University of North Dakota in Ralph Engelstad Arena with some eye-popping numbers.

They are averaging 4.43 goals per conference game, tops in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. That’s more than double what the offensively challenged Sioux have produced in league games (2.12).

Their star player, sophomore Jaden Schwartz, is on a 15-game point streak dating back to last season. He has 27 points in that span and has tallied 60 points in 39 college games. The first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues is the WCHA preseason player of the year and a Hobey Baker Award candidate.

His brother, Rylan, is his linemate and leads the team with seven goals in nine games, while senior defenseman Gabe Guentzel, son of Minnesota assistant coach Mike, is averaging more than a point per game from the blue line.

“They’re a real, high-quality team,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “They have a lot of good offensive ability. I’ve said more than once that I think Jaden Schwartz is the best returning player in the WCHA and he’s certainly not alone on that team. He has good people around him.

“I think they’re going to be a similar team to what we saw in the Final Five last year. That was one of the most competitive games we had all of last year. That was a great hockey game from every different standpoint. I would expect them to play at an extremely high level this weekend, as we predicted they would coming into the season.”

The only losses for the 7-2 Tigers came when opponents scored at least five goals against them. That could be a tough recipe for the Sioux, who have been shut out in three consecutive weekends.

But the Sioux will have the comfort of playing at home, where they are 3-2-1. UND is 1-5 on the road this season.

“I’m just glad we’re playing them here,” Sioux defenseman Ben Blood said. “I don’t like going there with the elevation and travel.”

After UND rolled through last season, this weekend may mark the first time that UND has been underdogs entering a series in the college career of Dillon Simpson, who also finished his junior career on one of the most dominant teams in Canada.

“Even with the kind of year we’re having,” Simpson said, “we’re all confident in the room. We all have confidence in each other. Maybe we have to start demanding more of each other and ourselves. But we’re going in expecting to win.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald