If there’s one thing you should have learned by now about these exhibition games against Canadian collegiate teams, it’s that one shouldn’t make any rash judgements or conclusions about the latest crew skating out of the Ralph Engelstad Arena tunnel.
Fortunately, a positively vanilla game Sunday night will give nobody any reason to. Goals from Drake Caggiula, Michael Parks and freshman Luke Johnson made it a 3-0 defeat over the Manitoba Bisons, pushing UND to 9-0 against their CIS foe to the north in the Hakstol era.
Seven of the eight freshmen on this suddenly-young North Dakota squad saw some ice time, but the highlights were few and far between for the new group. Johnson showed off his quickness–both with his skates and with his stick–in a nifty flip over Manitoba’s Dan Dubyk in the third period, Gage Ausmus and Adam Tambellini also had good looks among others in a relatively open third period.
- Chemistry was sporadic too, even for upperclassmen. But seeing as the team really hasn’t had more than a handful of full practices, that’s to be expected. Drake Caggiula and Rocco Grimaldi were back to their old tricks, so it’ll be interesting to watch if Mark MacMillan stays up on that ‘top line’ or if somebody else steps up.
- I always joke about Michael Parks and his wraparounds, and how nearly every single goal of his has some odd twist or bounce involved. But Parks could be poised to have a big season with big, skillful goals. And probably a few wraparounds.
- It’s easy to sit here and say Johnson was the most impressive freshman because of his goal, but on the flip side, I also liked the play of Troy Stecher. As a prospect Stecher flew under the radar in this recruiting class, but the Penticton product played pretty well, wasn’t afraid to take chances and looked confident. He came away with two shots on goal and a plus-one rating (yahoo). Stecher also caused a penalty shot in the first period on a somewhat unnecessary takedown of Jordan DePape, so he certainly has some work to do. But he wasn’t afraid to go out and make plays in both directions.
- Unfortunately, the defense wasn’t tested really at all, and next week’s opponent, the Vermont Catamounts, provide little help in that regard. So like it or not, the first test for this young defense will be in two weeks…against the deepest offense in college hockey, Miami.
- One could draw plenty of comparisons with the 2009-2010 squad that brought in a big class of freshmen and had a lot of question marks. Obviously the biggest difference is that this year’s team will rely heavily on the newbies defensively. Offensively, I think UND can survive for a while without input from Murphy and Johnson as long as Rocco’s line produces, but UND will need Paul LaDue, Ausmus, Stecher and Keaton Thompson to step up big time right away.
- Shootouts drive me nuts, but as long as the NHL is doing them, the NCHC should absolutely be doing them too. It’s just unfortunate that after tonight shootouts will actually mean something. Nonetheless, if you had to pick a shootout lineup using three players in all of college hockey, Rocco would be one of those guys every time for me. (The other two, I suppose, would be Kyle Rau and Johnny Gaudreau, but it’s up for debate)
I’ll give my thoughts in this rambling format when I get the chance to. And hopefully you don’t get bored of that, right?