One of the most exciting matchups in the WCHA this weekend is the series between the the Bulldogs and the Fighting Hawks. Coming into the season, Minnesota-Duluth was not considered a top team, while North Dakota was ranked high. A couple months into the season, the roles are reversed. The Bulldogs find themselves comfortable in the rankings behind only Wisconsin and Minnesota, while the Fighting Hawks barely crack the top 10.
This series is sure to have high energy and aggressive play throughout. Powerful offense and a need for strong goaltenders are going to be the keys to these games.
Hawks Have Solid Stats
Despite the up-and-down nature of their season, North Dakota has remained steady in the stats since day one. Freshman forward Emma Nuutinen’s five goals make her the top-scoring freshman in the WCHA. It’s not just Nuutinen that’s impressive, as the Fighting Hawks have the second-best freshman class in the conference with 11 goals and 10 assists among them.
North Dakota’s defense also has an impressive combined 22 points already this season.
Bulldogs on Fire
Minnesota-Duluth has been hard to match offensively. Senior forward Lara Stalder has 14 points (7 goals and 7 assists) in just 10 games played. She and captain Ashleigh Brykaliuk already have hat tricks this season, and three other players (Katerina Mrázová, Katherine McGovern and Sydney Brodt) have multi-goal games.
Battle of the Goaltenders
When you have two teams that are clicking offensively facing off against each other, goaltending becomes huge. Both North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth have excellent goalies who have really stepped up this season.
North Dakota goaltender Lexie Shaw was recently named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Month for October with her 1.31 GAA in nine games played. Most recently, she helped the Hawks to a series sweep of Bemidji State when she made 21 saves to earn a shutout in a 2-0 win on Oct. 29.
Maddie Rooney is not far behind Shaw; she has a 1.89 GAA. In the few games that the Bulldogs have stumbled, Rooney has kept them in the game until the end. Notably, she made 42 saves in a 3-2 OT loss in a game against rival Minnesota. The final score would have had more than a one-goal differential had anyone else been in goal.
The series kicks off at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 2:07pm CST and wraps up on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 2:07pm CST.