Schlossman: University of North Dakota men's hockey's top line looks to continue streak in second half
GRAND FORKS -- For the first time in a month, the University of North Dakota will put together a line of Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser on Friday night.UND is hoping that not much will change.The trio that lit up opponents in the ...
GRAND FORKS -- For the first time in a month, the University of North Dakota will put together a line of Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser on Friday night.
UND is hoping that not much will change.
The trio that lit up opponents in the first half of the season will be in a showdown this weekend when Nebraska-Omaha comes to town for a two-game series (5:37 p.m. today, 5:07 p.m. Saturday, Ralph Engelstad Arena).
The series will feature arguably the two most explosive lines in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Caggiula, Schmaltz and Boeser, who have produced a goal in every game they’ve played together this season, will suit up alongside each other for the first time since Dec. 12 at Minnesota Duluth.
Since that point, UND had a couple of weeks off for Christmas break and Schmaltz and Boeser were still with the U.S. World Junior Championship team when the team returned.
Their numbers are off the charts: 30 goals, 76 points and a plus-80 in 22 games this season.
Caggiula ranks sixth nationally in points. Schmaltz is second nationally with 23 assists. And Boeser ranks second among rookies in goals nationally.
Their assignment this weekend will be to outdo Jake Guentzel, Austin Ortega and whoever plays on their left wing.
Guentzel and Ortega have lit up the scoreboards this season, too.
Ortega ranks third nationally in goals with 16 - six of them have been game-winners (he set an NCAA single-season record with 11 game-winners a season ago).
Guentzel leads the team with 27 points in 19 games. Amazingly, he has only tallied a power-play point in one game this season.
Their left winger this season has been either freshman Fredrik Olofsson or David Pope, but that may change after the Mavericks were swept by Denver last weekend.
“We just have to play the way we do within our structure as far as playing hard and competing hard,” said UND coach Brad Berry, who is more apt to watch which defensive pairings are on the ice with Guentzel and Ortega than the forward matchups. “We’ve played a lot of lines in the NCHC and nonconference that are very dynamic. But you have to hand it to Guentzel and Ortega. They are very dynamic offensively. So, we have to pay attention when they are on the ice.
“We have to play within our structure and play to our strengths and hopefully, we can have some success.”
Berry said that a big key will be getting other lines to chip in, too.
“We have Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser back,” Berry said. “But we carried the program on when they were gone, and we have to make sure that the mentality isn’t, ‘OK, let’s just let them produce and go.’ Our success has been with four lines and six ‘D’ producing. We have to make sure that’s what we have this weekend.”
Green jerseys at home
For the first time in the 15-year history of Ralph Engelstad Arena, UND will wear its green jerseys at home tonight.
The NCHC instituted a new policy this season, where home teams will wear their dark jerseys for conference games in the second half of the season. In the past, home teams have worn white.
“I’m excited about it,” Berry said. “It’s a great way to show our fans what we wear on the road. We have a lot of fans from here that travel, so they probably see it anyway, but it’s great to change it up a little bit.
“The NCHC is making a great marketing move.”
The NHL recently changed to have home teams wear dark jerseys.
Obama displaces Omaha
Nebraska Omaha opened up a new arena, but it wasn’t able to practice there Wednesday.
President Barack Obama visited Omaha and spoke to Nebraskans at the brand-new arena on Wednesday, so the Mavericks departed early for Grand Forks.
They stopped in Sioux Falls, S.D., and practiced at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.
Back in Omaha, Obama told the crowd: ““Go Mavericks. This is quite a place you’ve got here. It’s still got that new arena smell. A perfect spot for your hockey team to stage another run to the Frozen Four.”
Omaha is scheduled to practice in The Ralph on Thursday afternoon.
- The longest unbeaten streak to start a career by any UND goalie belongs to Darren Jensen, who went unbeaten in his first 15 games in 1979.
- UND is two wins shy of 20 for the season. If it reaches that mark this weekend, it would be the second-fastest in program history, one game later than the 1998-99 team, which was coached by Dean Blais, the opposing bench boss this weekend.