Three things to watch in the Colorado College/North Dakota hockey matchup

January 8, 2014 Updated: January 8, 2014 at 10:38 pm

This weekend's televised National Collegiate Hockey Conference road series against North Dakota, (6:37 p.m. Friday, CBS Sports Network; 6:07 Saturday, ABC-KRDO) at Ralph Engelstad Arena:

1. North Dakota's decline unfounded

If it's the holidays, it must be time for concerned North Dakota fans to air their angst on message broads and article comments through the upper Midwest. The red flags are waving a bit with North Dakota (9-7-2, 5-5 NCHC) entering this league series unranked and coming off a 1-1 weekend after two road exhibition games.

"They are really exaggerated," said CBS Sports Network analyst Dave Starman, who has worked several UND games this season. "The injury factor to (senior forward Mark) MacMillan and (junior Brendan) O'Donnell is a big deal and the fact that they have so many freshman defensemen. It took a while for those guys to assimilate to college hockey and learning what playing college hockey in North Dakota is all about."

2. Expect more offense from UND defensive corps

The North Dakota defensive corps are not the big bruisers of years past with each pairing featuring an offensive blue-liner. That is one reason why much of the UND offense starts along the point where the defensemen are firing in shots to generate rebounds for the forwards.

"Their defense will be a big part of their offense," Starman said. "What they lost from last year in Danny Kristo and Corban Knight was a heck of a 1-2 punch (combined 111 points)."

That shows among the North Dakota points leaders this season with 10 points each from senior defenseman Dillon Simpson (seven assists) and sophomore blue-liner Jordan Schmaltz (eight assists), tied for fifth on the team.

3. CC must tighten up defensively

The CC team defense needs to do a better job clearing the puck out in front of senior goalie Josh Thorimbert, who has performed well this season.

"He has played well enough for us to win," CC assistant Joe Bonnett said. "We do need to play good defense because that will keep us in every game."

The Tigers defensemen do a very good job blocking shots, led by junior Aaron Harstad (NCHC-best 41) and senior Eamonn McDermott (36) this season.

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