No. 9-ranked UND battles No. 6-ranked DenverGRAND FORKS — Joe Gleason is willing to admit it.
By: Brad Schlossman, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — Joe Gleason is willing to admit it.
“I don’t think either team likes the other one very much,” the University of North Dakota senior said.
That’s bound to happen when you’re battling each other for college hockey’s top prizes year in and year out.
The University of Denver will take on North Dakota once again this weekend (6:37 tonight, 6:07 p.m. Saturday, Ralph Engelstad Arena) in a matchup between two programs that have consistently been among the league’s best during the past decade and more.
The statistics reflect two programs that have successfully managed early NHL signings, Canadian Hockey League defections and the challenges of early recruiting better than their peers to be in the mix nationally almost every year.
- Every Western Collegiate Hockey Association program has had at least four sub-20 win seasons since the last time either UND or Denver did.
- Since 1997, UND and Denver have combined for 10 Broadmoor Trophies as the league’s playoff champion. The rest of the league has combined for six.
- Either UND or Denver have been in 15 of the last 16 WCHA championship games.
- Since 1997, UND and Denver have combined for 10 MacNaughton Cups — also more than the rest of the league combined.
- Only twice in the last 16 years has both UND and Denver been shutout from winning a league trophy — 2003 and 2007. UND was a Frozen Four team in 2007.
- In the last decade, they rank 1-2 in wins among WCHA teams. UND has 250, Denver has 236. No other WCHA team is within 15 wins.
“It has been a good rivalry for a lot of reasons over a long period of time,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “There have been a lot of heated games both in the regular season and in postseason play. That makes it for a real challenging series. At this time of year, it’s a very important series within our own league play.”
UND and Denver have played in the last three Final Fives (in the championship the last two years). They played in the WCHA tournament six times in 10 years; in the NCAA tournament twice in that span.
In 2009, Denver became the first team to sweep UND in just about three years, ending a remarkable streak. This weekend, the Pioneers come in with a streak of just over four years of not getting swept by a WCHA team.
“One of the best tests is playing in Grand Forks against a real quality team and crowd,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “We’re looking forward to it.
“There are always fireworks and they are always entertaining games. Playing in Grand Forks is a thrill and a treat for anybody just because of the tremendous facility and the great enthusiasm, excitement and energy their fans bring to the building.”
Both teams are currently trying to find their way.
UND sits at 7-5-2 overall. Although UND got outshot seven games in a row — the longest stretch in more than a decade — it found some chemistry last weekend in a split at Colorado College, outshooting the Tigers by 21 each night.
Denver sits atop the WCHA standings with a 9-4-1 overall record and a 7-2-1 league mark. The Pioneers got off to a blistering start, leading the league in offense through its 9-1 opening of the season. Denver is 0-3-1 in the last four, though, and has managed just one goal in three of those contests.
“Everyone knows where Denver sits in our league,” Gleason said. “Since I’ve been here, Denver has consistently been either first, second or third in the MacNaughton Cup race. We all know how good of a team they are.”