After nine straight games at home, the number one ranked team in the nation took their act on the road. The North Dakota Fighting Sioux headed south to meet the No. 8 Denver University Pioneers, bringing with them the cold weather, half of their fans and the most exciting scoring line in all of NCAA hockey. This important weekend series was a haven for scouts and prospect fans alike.
From the first period on Friday it looked as thought this series was going to be a low scoring affair. Finally DU struck first as the slippery senior forward and LA King prospect Connor James pulled the puck from out of the corner and snuck a no look perfectly centered pass to line mate Gabe Gauthier who shot the puck top shelf untouched by a UND player. DU senior goalie and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Adam Berkhoel kept the high scoring Sioux in check and stopped all 11 shots that he faces in the first period.
The only other goal scored by DU on this night came in the second period as Vancouver prospect and sophomore defenseman Brett Skinner pinched in low to send the puck across the crease for Lukas Dora who swept it into the net. After that it was a combination of a bizarre force that seemed to take over DU’s defense as they frequently turned over the puck in their oven zone and the high powered UND offense that was just getting warmed up. The top forward line of NHL draft picks (Jr) Brandon Bochenski (Ottawa), Sophomore Zach Parise (New Jersey) and freshman Brady Murray (LA Kings) took control of the game. The highlight goal from this line came when two DU players collided in their zone and Murray picked up the puck and slipped it through the five hole of Berkhoel. Not only did this line mount up a slew of points but they also wore down the already depleted DU defense, giving other UND players the opportunity to add to their point totals also. Freshman forward and Toronto draft pick Chris Porter nearly doubled his points for the season with 2 goals and 1 helper during the weekend. In the end, UND’s top line tallied 4 goals and 5 assists on during this series sweep.
On Saturday night, it was freshman goalie and Edmonton prospect Glenn Fisher who took over the net minding duties for DU while little brother Jordan Parise (Fr) stopped the pucks for UND.
While the score and the results turned out much the same there were some notable defensive plays that that took place for both teams during this game. The defensive pair of junior Matt Jones (Phoenix) and sophomore Matt Greene (Edmonton) get little attention while playing with UND’s top line, but it’s their consistent clogging of the neutral zone and slot that makes it nearly impossible for the opposing team to get any quality shots on goal. Jones and Brandon Bochenski were called upon in the first period to successfully kill off two long 5 on 3 situations.
After an offensive showing on Friday the evidence of the progression of Brett Skinner continued on Saturday as he showed his strong defensive side. While DU’s top two defensemen were sitting in the box at the same time, Skinner was called upon to lead the way to the 5 on 3 kill. He also saw a few opportunities to go up against the speedy Parise and kept him tied up at every opportunity.
With DU down a goal in the first period a momentum swinging moment could have helped the Pioneers as Connor James took to center ice for a penalty shot. He was denied by Parise as he sprawled flat on the ice to stop James’s low blocker side backhanded attempt.
At the end of this game it was again UND’s top line that poured it on and impressive showing from Colby Genoway (2 goals, 1 assist) that gave the Sioux a 6-2 win.
Stats from DU’s prospects:
Ryan Caldwell (Islanders) Sr, D 1 goal
Matt Carle (San Jose) Fr, D -injured
Connor James (Los Angles) Sr, F 2 assists
Brett Skinner (Vancouver) So, D 1 assist
Adam Berkhoel (Chicago) Sr, G Friday- 44 shots 36 saves .818 save percentage
Glenn Fisher (Edmonton) Fr, G Saturday- 33 shots 27 saves .818 save percentage
Stats from UND’s prospects:
Brandon Bochenski (Ottawa) Jr, F 1 goal 2 assists
Matt Greene (Edmonton) So, D +4
Matt Jones (Phoenix) Jr, D +3
James Massen (New Jersey) Jr, F no points
Brady Murray (Los Angeles) Fr, F 2 goals 1 assists
Zach Parise (New Jersey) So, F 3 assists
Chris Porter (Toronto) Fr, F 2 goals 1 assists
Andy Schneider (Pittsburgh) Jr, D +2
Matt Smaby (Tampa Bay) Fr, D 1 assist