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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published January 09 2014

UND-Colorado College hockey series may lack offense compared to previous seasons

GRAND FORKS – Two years ago, Rylan Schwartz came to Ralph Engelstad Arena and had hat tricks in back-to-back games.

His Colorado College Tigers lost both contests.

In this series between traditionally high-powered offenses, which like to play high-tempo transition games, it usually takes a pile of goals to come out with a win.

Seven of the last eight times the University of North Dakota and Colorado College have played, the losing team has scored at least three goals. They’ve averaged a combined 7.75 goals between the teams, including a wild 7-6 contest in Grand Forks.

But this weekend, it might not be your usual UND-CC matchup.

Both teams, uncharacteristically, are sitting in the bottom half nationally in goals per game. UND is 33rd, averaging 2.78 goals per game. The Tigers are 58th at 1.67.

It is the first time in five years that either team has been below 21st in offense.

Colorado College is having a difficult time replacing departed seniors Schwartz, William Rapuzzi, Mike Boivin and Scott Winkler – a foursome that accounted for nearly half of the Tigers’ goals last season.

UND is struggling to replace departed Hobey Baker Award finalists Danny Kristo and Corban Knight, who combined for more than 100 points last season.

“We’ve had our ups and downs,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “And some of the tough days have been really tough. But those are the days you really have to embrace, and you have to use those to help you get better. I’m excited. I think our team has continually improved. Certainly, we’ve had some low points and some high points. But overall, we’ve steadily improved throughout the season.

“Now, we have to start where we left off and we have to push real hard to continue to get better while we win games.”

UND’s first goal is to secure home ice for the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs.

UND enters the second half at 9-7-2 overall and 5-5 in league play, good for fourth in the eight-team league. But with six points available each weekend, a cushion in the standings can disappear quickly.

UND’s next goal is to make the NCAA tournament for a 12th consecutive season. The team currently has the most consecutive national tournament appearances in the nation, but it sits at No. 21 in the Pairwise – several spots away from getting an at-large bid.

“Everything is up for grabs here,” Hakstol said. “It’s such a tough second-half schedule for everyone in the league. The team that’s able to play well, stay healthy and stay consistent is going to give themselves a real good chance to finish in the top four and move toward that top two or three spot. That will be real important this year.”

Father connection

UND senior defenseman Dillon Simpson and Colorado College senior forward Alexander Krushelnyski met each other for the first time during the National Collegiate Hockey Conference media day in September.

But their fathers go way back.

Craig Simpson and Mike Krushelnyski teamed together to win the Stanley Cup in 1988 with the Edmonton Oilers. Both of them scored goals in Edmonton’s Cup-clinching victory in Game 5.

After winning the Cup, Krushelnyski was traded to the Los Angeles Kings along with Wayne Gretzky. Simpson played five more seasons with the Oilers, winning a second Stanley Cup in 1990.

Sibling connection

Colorado College defenseman Jaccob Slavin is the brother of former UND women’s defenseman Jordan Slavin.

Jordan once held UND’s single-season scoring record for a defenseman until U.S. Olympian Monique Lamoureux shattered it. Lamoureux is the only blue liner to have more points than Slavin’s 22 as a sophomore.

Jaccob played for the U.S. at the World Juniors earlier this month.


Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald