Different December as Sioux streak
Notes: St. Norbert is new No.1 team in latest DIII poll
Elliot Olshansky, NCAA.com
With a McNaughton Cup as the WCHA regular-season champion in 2009, two Broadmoor Trophies as the conference’s tournament champion in 2006 and 2010, and NCAA Frozen Four appearances in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, North Dakota has remained one of college hockey’s most successful programs during the tenure of Dave Hakstol.
But not in December.
The final month of the calendar year has not been kind to Hakstol and his team during his first six years of his tenure as the head coach in Grand Forks, at least, not relative to their overall excellence. In their first six Decembers under Hakstol, the Fighting Sioux went 19-15-1 for a winning percentage of .557, a significant drop-off from their overall .634 winning percentage since Hakstol took over for current Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais, and even further from the .735 winning percentage they’ve posted in February. However, as Hakstol and his team prepare to host Robert Morris this weekend in a non-conference series at Ralph Engelstad Arena, it is a very Happy New Year for the Sioux.
North Dakota enters 2011 ranked second in the USCHO.com Division I men’s poll and riding a seven-game unbeaten streak. That streak -- which is tied with No. 1 Yale for the longest in the country -- includes a perfect 5-0 mark in the month of December. A 5-0 non-conference win over WCHA foe Minnesota Duluth in the inaugural game at the brand new Amsoil Arena served as an exclamation point on the perfect month, North Dakota’s first since 2003, when Blais was in his final season.
“This group of guys works hard,” Hakstol said, “and I attribute a lot of our success during the month of December to our veteran players. We’re going through some very significant injuries, and the guys that are in, especially our veteran players, are stepping us and helping us find ways to win hockey games.”
Only time will tell, however, if the Sioux’s success can carry over to January, another difficult month under Hakstol (.541 win percentage). After the series with the Colonials, visits from Minnesota and No. 12 Nebraska-Omaha await, followed by a trip to No. 18 Colorado College.
Need to Know
• There’s a new No. 1 team in the USCHO.com Division III men’s poll, as St. Norbert took over the top spot in the first poll of the year. The Green Knights (11-2-0) have been idle since a 2-1 loss to NCHA foe St. Scholastica on December 4, but benefitted from a loss by previous No. 1 Oswego. The Lakers, currently ranked second in the nation, dropped a 5-1 shocker to Hamilton on December 30 in the opening round of the PathFinder Bank/Oswego Hockey Classic before bouncing back to beat Wisconsin-Stevens Point on New Year’s Eve. The Lakers are currently without goaltender Paul Beckwith -- who sits second in Division III in both save percentage and goals-against average -- as the Cleveland, Ohio native was injured in practice following a win against Geneseo on December 4.
• The loss to North Dakota notwithstanding, No. 5 Minnesota Duluth has a sparkling new home at Amsoil Arena. After closing out its tenure at the Duluth Events and Convention Center on December 4 with a 2-1 win against Denver, the Bulldogs moved into their new $80-million, 6,764-seat arena. The arena features a full-size 200-by-85 foot ice sheet (the DECC’s surface was only 190 feet long), a 300 square-foot scoreboard with video display, and state-of-the-art locker rooms for both the men’s and women’s teams, with a weight room and hydrotherapy room included among the facilities.
• They may occupy middling positions in ECAC Hockey, but Brown and St. Lawrence scored big wins over two of Hockey East’s best over the weekend. The Bears defeated then-No. 10 Boston University 6-1 at the Shillelagh Tournament outside of Chicago on New Year’s Day, while the Saints took out then-No. 2 New Hampshire in overtime, 2-1, on Sunday night. Goaltender Matt Weninger stopped 32 of 33 shots for the Saints, while Mike Clemente stopped 41 of 42 shots for the Bears.
Brown also boasts one of the top scorers in the country in junior forward Jack Maclellan. The Calgary native is tied for second in the country with 1.77 points per game (11 goals, 12 assists in 13 games), behind only Carter Camper of Miami (OH) … Maclellan is the only player among the nation’s top seven scorers not from Miami (OH) or Yale. Camper is joined by classmate Andy Miele, fourth in the country with 1.65 PPG, while Yale’s Broc Little shares Maclellan’s scoring average, and is joined by Denny Kearney, Andrew Miller (1.65 PPG each) and Brian O’Neill (1.62 PPG) … Castleton State, however, truly dominates the top of the Division III scoring chart, as senior Stuart Stefan (6g, 14a in 10 games) and sophomores Justin Alonzo (7g, 9a in eight games) and Josh Harris (6g. 14a in 20 games), are tied for the DIII lead with an even two points-per-game … Princeton, meanwhile, is doing it with defense. The Tigers -- who returned to the USCHO.com poll this week at No. 18 -- are riding a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1), during which they’ve allowed just nine goals. Overall, Princeton is fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 2.06 goals per game, with the nation’s No. 2 penalty kill (89.3 percent). Freshman goaltender Sean Bonar leads the nation with a .950 save percentage and a 1.16 goals-against average, while teammate Mike Condon is fourth in save percentage at .932. The Tigers and their defense will look to shine in the national spotlight on Sunday when they face ECAC Hockey rival Colgate on ESPNU at 4 p.m. ET … Division III’s ECAC West is living up to the definition of a power conference, as four of the five schools in the conference are among the top 15 teams in the USCHO.com Division III poll: No. 6 Manhattanville, No. 13 Utica, No. 14 Neumann, and No. 15 Hobart. The only team missing? Elmira, which is tied with Neumann atop the conference standings. Oddly enough, the highest-ranked team, the Valiants, are currently in the conference cellar, having gone 1-3 so far in ECAC West play. Manhattanville has had just one home game in conference play, though, and when they resume league play on January 21, the Valiants will play five of their last eight conference games at home.