Series of the Week: No. 9 North Dakota @ No. 4 Western Michigan

Story posted January 19, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Nolan Wick

The No. 9 North Dakota Fighting Hawks will head to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a series against the No. 4 Western Michigan Broncos. Each game will take place on January 21 and 22, with puck drop at 6:05 p.m. for both games.

North Dakota leads the all-time series 25-7. The last matchup was on December 13, 2020, when North Dakota won 6-3 in Kalamazoo. The Fighting Hawks have also won the last eight matchups in the series.

Western Michigan’s Drew Worrad leads players from both teams in points with 27 this season. Not too far behind Worrad is North Dakota’s Jake Sanderson with 22 points. Worrad also leads college hockey in assists per game with 1.16, and 22 so far this season.

Worrad, a senior, has only gotten better during his time as a Bronco. He totaled just ten points in his first season, and gradually increased that total on the way to becoming one of his team’s most important players.

Sanderson, meanwhile, was drafted fifth overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2020 NHL Draft. He recently accepted an invitation to join the U.S. men’s national hockey team at the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, making history alongside Minnesota’s Brock Faber and Michigan’s Matty Beniers as the first teenagers to play for the United States in 30 years.

The Broncos have a lethal weapon in Ethan Frank, who leads all of college hockey in goals scored with 17. North Dakota’s leading goal scorer is Riese Gaber, with nine goals. Therefore, Western Michigan has the scoring advantage over North Dakota.

Some other players to watch from the Broncos include Michael Joyaux and Brandon Bussi, while North Dakota’s Ashton Calder is worth noting, too.

Western Michigan ranks fourth in scoring offenses, with 3.84 goals per game. North Dakota, meanwhile, ranks at 19 with 3.24 goals per game. Although each team ranks far apart, they both have similar offenses that will compete with one another. Neither team’s scoring defense is all that intimidating.

Arguably the biggest similarity between North Dakota and Western Michigan is each team’s power play percentages. North Dakota edges Western Michigan with the ninth-best power play with a .247 percentage. Western Michigan comes in two spots behind, with a .236 power play percentage. It could be a shootout in terms of power plays, as neither team stands out on the penalty kill.

Defense is neither team’s specialty compared to offense. It would not be a surprise if many goals were scored in this series, particularly for Western Michigan.

Both these teams are very good and the series could go either way. However, expect Western Michigan to break its losing streak against North Dakota and sweep the series handily.

Western Michigan has the skill and abilities that North Dakota does not. The Broncos have three times what the Fighting Hawks have in terms of talent, so expect it to reflect on the ice.

 

Nolan Wick is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email nhw5046@psu.edu.