2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff: What You Need to Know 

Claire Weltz, Sports Editor


What’s on the Line:  

UND (currently No. 5 in both USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and the DCU/USCHO.com polls) is guaranteed to play in the NCAA Tournament with Regionals starting next week in four arenas across the nation. However, their seeding, opponent, and location are unknown. Winning the Frozen Faceoff (the NCHC conference tournament) is an automatic bid. Regardless, their performance this weekend impacts seeding and potential matchups.  

The NCHC is one of the best conferences in college hockey, and the cutthroat competition of the postseason ups the level of play even further. I’d been thinking about how to summarize the Frozen Faceoff, but during Thursday’s post-practice press conference, Connor Ford did my job for me: “Ultimately, you’re playing against guys that you’re playing against all year. Nobody likes each other, and there’s a trophy on the line. It’s really that simple.”

Scouting WMU: 

Western Michigan is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, scoring 132 goals in 35 games this season. Only Denver, Minnesota State, and Michigan have scored more than WMU. The Broncos’ leading goal scorer, Ethen Frank, has 26 goals on the season, but he hasn’t registered a point in any of WMU’s four games against UND.  

Another forward to keep an eye on is Drew Worrad. He’s scored a respectable number of goals (nine), but his real threat is his passing ability. He’s bagged 33 assists this year with a total of 42 points.  

Frank and Worrad are both offensive threats, but the defense contributes too. Ronnie Attard won Offensive Defenseman of the Year in the NCHC, and his 13 goals and 22 assists prove he is a force to be reckoned with. When he’s able to contribute to the attack, Attard is dangerous.  

UND’s defense is sparse at the moment, and I’ll have more on that later. Even so, goalie Zach Driscoll has been stellar in this last half of the season, which could be the difference against an explosive WMU offense.  

“Special teams are huge, especially when two teams know each other,” said UND’s Connor Ford. “The game is going to be won or lost on the special teams battle.” If UND can stay out of the penalty box and capitalize on power play opportunities, they can go far in this tournament.

Last Weekend’s Sweep over CC: 

As last weekend’s best of three playoffs series against Colorado College showed, good things come in twos for UND, which bodes well for their visit to the Twin Cities. To recap, UND defeated the NCHC No. 7 seeded Tigers by an identical 2-1 score on both Friday and Saturday night.  

The series featured the return of Jake Sanderson, who hadn’t played for the Green and White since January 29 before being called up to represent Team USA at the Beijing Olympics, where he sustained an injury to keep him sidelined for several weeks.  

Fellow Ottawa Senators draft pick Tyler Kleven joined Sanderson in the scoring Friday night, and Kleven reminded everyone how powerful his shot is. (Seriously, it’s a rocket. You could not pay me enough to be on the receiving end of Kleven’s shot.) The Fighting Hawks defense also welcomed back Ethan Frisch as he also sat out due to injury since late February. Remember those three names. They’re important. 

Saturday’s scoring was courtesy of Matteo Costantini and Riese Gaber, but Driscoll and the defense preserved the 2-1 lead with 29 saves and 10 blocks to close out the game.

Who’s In: 

Ethan Frisch: Frisch had been sidelined with an injury for three games, but that didn’t stop him from sacrificing his body during his return to the ice in the playoffs against Colorado College. The team posted a total of 20 blocks with 10 in each game. Frisch’s contribution? Three on Friday, four on Saturday. That’s 35 percent of UND’s blocks. Against a high-powered WMU, we’ll be seeing a lot of Frisch on defense. 

Connor Ford: Living in a COVID world, sometimes we forget that other illnesses exist, so when Ford missed Friday’s game against CC, I’ll admit I was nervous. Thankfully, it was non-COVID, and he played on Saturday. However, he didn’t appear to be in peak condition.  

As one of the best (in my opinion, the best) faceoff men in the country, he’s taken 889 face offs and has won 62.4 percent. He tops the NCAA charts with 555 faceoffs won, and the next best player is Denver’s Cole Guttman (506 faceoffs won) who has played one more game than Ford. Oh, and Ford is the NCHC’s Defensive Forward of the Year. Connor Ford is a workhorse, and having him completely healthy is a sigh of relief for UND fans.

And… Who’s Out: 

Jake Sanderson: Honestly, I don’t want to talk about it. Jake Sanderson has been the victim of some serious bad luck this season. He sat out due to the flu, had WJC canceled, got COVID which caused him to arrive late for the Olympics in Beijing, got hurt in his first and only Olympic match, missed the Penrose Cup win, and now? He’s hurt again and will miss the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.   

Sanderson’s teammates speak highly of him, and I could write an article with only quotes talking about his impressive skating abilities and high hockey IQ. He isn’t expected to play this weekend, but UND has been without him in many games this season and has proven they can win with just about any lineup. It’s not the end of the world, but Sanderson will be missed – especially on the power play. 

Tyler Kleven: Unfortunately, as UND fought to keep their 2-1 lead in the final minutes of Saturday’s game, Kleven checked a CC player into the board and earned himself a five-minute major and game misconduct – his third of the season, which suspends him from his next game. The next game? The NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal against WMU. Kleven is eligible to return to the ice on Saturday, but his physicality, defense, and powerful shot will be missed against an offensive-minded Broncos team.  


North Dakota’s 2022 NCHC Frozen Faceoff journey begins on 18 March (Friday) at 7:37 p.m. when they take on No. 7 Western Michigan at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.. As per NCHC streaming rules, this weekend’s games are only available on CBS Sports Network. Alex Heinert will be calling the game, so that’s an extra treat for UND fans. I’m also going to insert a shameless Twitter plug here… I’ll be livetweeting from @weltzan if you can’t watch the game (Or you just really want my snarky commentary.)


Claire Weltz is the Sports Editor at the Dakota student. She can be reached at [email protected]