Three things to watch in the CC/North Dakota hockey matchup

March 12, 2014 Updated: March 12, 2014 at 7:40 pm
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Colorado College's Scott Wamsganz (18) is on his chest as he tries to get the puck away from North Dakota defenders Troy Stecher (2) and Dillon Simpson (18) in the third period Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)

Here are three things Colorado College will focus on headed into this weekend's National Collegiate Hockey Conference best-of-three road playoff series against No. 10 North Dakota (6:38 p.m. Friday, 6:07 Saturday, 6:07 Sunday if necessary) at Ralph Englestad Arena:

1. Clamp down in front on defense

The Tigers need to do a good job clearing the puck from out in front of the CC net.

No. 2 seed North Dakota (20-11-3, 15-9 NCHC) likes to send in long-range shots and crash the crease to generate good scoring chances.

That has led to a good amount of offensive production from the UND defenseman corps, led by senior Dillon Simpson (21 points, 14 assists) and sophomore Jordan Schmaltz (20, 16 assists). If the CC forwards and defensemen can stay strong in front and limit their second-chance opportunities, they would make senior goalie Josh Thorimbert's night easier.

"We need to focus on what we need to do to be successful," senior Jeff Collett said.

2. Match UND's intensity

North Dakota is playing well, especially at home (12-6-1), to spark a 16-4-1 record since Nov. 29.

"They come at you hard especially at that rink," CC assistant Joe Bonnett said.

Part of that is riding the emotion of a loud fan base that packs the 11,643-seat arena. CC (6-22-6, 6-13-5-1) hopes to get a jump-start of its own from the crowd.

"It is a good atmosphere that is easy to feed off of," senior Archie Skalbeck said.

3. Watch out for North Dakota's speed

Another strength for UND is the team's speed along the outside where they can turn defensemen and skate across the crease to create scoring chances. Two such moves by Mark MacMillan (20, nine goals) resulted in scores in January's league series (5-3, 3-2 losses for CC).

Other fast forwards include sophomore Rocco Grimaldi (team-high 33 points, 13 goals) and junior Michael Parks (27, 17 assists).

"We need to be strong along the boards," Bonnett said. "Our defensemen are strong enough to pinch them off along the boards."

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