UND HOCKEY: Deja Vu All Over Again, as UND Wins 2-1 and Advance

GRAND FORKS, ND– In what was almost a replay of Friday night’s affair, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Colorado College Tigers battled, had all their scoring in the second period, and UND came away with a 2-1 win to advance in the NCHC Playoffs.

Welcoming back Connor Ford to the line-up, North Dakota started better than the previous night, getting shots in and around Matt Vernon, but couldn’t one to go passed. The Tigers thought that they had broken the ice early in the first period after a rebound went off of Ray Christy’s glove and behind Zach Driscoll. Thanks to video review, which the NCHC does after every goal, it showed that as Christy was trying to bunt the puck in with his stick; it was pushed in by his glove, thus no-goal. UND started the press harder thanks to the reprieve, but Vernon was dialed in during the first to keep it a scoreless period.

The second period went about the same as the previous night, as UND got up early in the frame. Thanks to a turnover by Vernon at the side of the net, Carson Albrecht found Matteo Costantini streaking down the left side with Costantini putting it through the five-hole of a flailing Vernon to make it 1-0 UND 1:28 into the period. The Tigers struck back at 3:10 into the period on the power play when Stanley Cooley tipped home a Nicklas Andrews point attempt to knot the game at 1. Keeping the play in the CC zone, UND drew a penalty late into the period, allowing their power play to get to work. With only 12 seconds remaining with the extra man, Riese Gaber ripped one over the shoulder of Vernon that he didn’t see thanks to the screen work by Ford, and UND went up 2-1.

Just as they were in the same predicament last night, the Tigers started to press, while UND took their chances, but looked to keep their area clean to secure the lead. Late in the game, Tyler Kleven was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit from behind. Kleven, due to his previous majors, will miss the next UND game. The call occured with 2:18 left in the game and while the Tigers got seven shots on net in that time, Driscoll and the defense staved off the attack to win 2-1 and advance to the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul. They will face Western Michigan in the semifinal.

THEY SAID IT

 “I was biting my nails on the bench for sure. You’ve got to give our guys credit, blocking shots. Just warriors out there. That’s why they’re going to be successful in their careers and that’s why we’re successful as a team.” — Gaber on the work in the last 2:18.

“We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that situation. We already addressed that in the locker room. I love Tyler Kleven. I was standing at this podium yesterday and saying his game has matured, and it really has. Late in the game, you’ve got to make sure you’re in control. Tyler Kleven is a big part of our team, but this a teaching moment for our group going forward in the Frozen Faceoff and the national tournament. Discipline is going to be a big thing.” — Coach Brad Berry on the Kleven situation

“When I see those guys selling out and blocking shots, it just makes me want to compete on pucks that much harder. It goes hand-in-hand like that.” — Driscoll on the work in front of him

Photo: Jen Conway/@NHLHistorygirl

GRAND FORKS , ND– The first round of hte NCHC Playoffs kicked off in Grand Forks on Friday for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks against the #7 seed Colorado College Tigers. Thanks to some returns and stingy play, the Fighting Hawks were able to find enough time and space during the game to eek out a 2-1 victory to take Game 1 of the quarterfinal.

While they were missing Connor Ford to non-COVID illness, the Hawks got back Jake Sanderson, Riese Gaber, and Ethan Frisch to the line-up. The first period was typical playoff hockey with plenty of neutral zone play and no team really getting a lot of time and space to create much offense. Only six shots total between both teams were registered in a scoreless tie after one.

The start of the second period made up for the lack of anything in the first. Only 2:35 into the frame, Jaek Sanderson announced his return, pump faking of a shot to draw CC’s Ray Christy down and out, toe dragging back, and whipping a wrister home to give UND the opening salvo. The Tigers came back 1:12 later with Jordan Biro getting behind the defense and ripping a shot past the blocker of Zach Driscoll to tie up the game. UND continued to buzz in the CC end, but it wasn’t until 7:06 remaining the second when they would break the tie with a Tyler Kleven cannon from the point blowing by Matt Vernon to put the Fighting Hawks up again. Trying to push for more offense, North Dakota couldn’t find the back of the net in the rest of the period, but came out up by a goal.

In the third, it was almost a replay of the first, with not a lot of time or space given to either side. Both sides clamped down their own zone plenty, while not giving up much space in the neutral zone. Despite the Tigers outshooting UND 5-4, they weren’t able to find the equalizer and the Hawks were able to score the Game One victory 2-1.

THEY SAID IT

“We didn’t have the start we wanted, we weren’t sharp in a few different areas. But we got better in the second and third period. There wasn’t a lot of time and space out there, but we created a cpuple plays when we had to. We’re going to have to be sharper tomorrow.” — Coach Brad Berry on his team’s play.

“They took a lot of time and space from us. Just moving pucks up quick in the neutral zone, I know (Berry) was harped on us. If we have time, skate through, use our feet, trust ourselves, get pucks deep and get on their defense and goalie.” — Sanderson on what is needed for better chances

“It was everything I expected. We knew it was going to be super hard, they’re playing for their season and we’re trying to move on. We’ve got to match their energy because tomorrow is a going to be a super hard game.” — Jake Schmaltz on his first playoff game.

UND HOCKEY: Three-Goal First Leads Hawks to Third-Straight Weekend Sweep

Photo: Jen Conway/@NHLHistorygirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– On Senior Night and missing yet another key player, this time in Ethan Frisch, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks put on their next-man-up mentality and used it in their quick start against Western Michigan, as they took the win and swept their third straight weekend. 

North Dakota was able to get out to a quick start while Western Michigan got into plenty of penalty trouble. It only took 2:34 for North Dakota to cash in, as Luke Bast took a rebound off a blocked shot in front and wired it past Brandon Bussi to give the Hawks an early lead. 

Then, North Dakota used deflections from Western to their advantage. First, the best of both worlds, as Louis Jamernik was able to weave through the defense for a prime chance, but he was hauled down in the process. As the delayed penalty was happening, Jamernik’s attempt was knocked into the net by Daniel Hilsendager to give UND the 2-0 lead and yet another power play. Just past midway, another power play for UND saw Judd Caulfield looking to find Connor Ford on the two-on-one break, though Caulfield’s pass went off of Cole Gallant’s skate and into the net to give UND a three-goal lead just 12:15 into the game. 

Western was able to get on the board late with a power play goal of their own with Jason Polin tallying his 14th of the year to cut the UND lead to two going into intermission. 

Though the second period saw Western give UND fits on Friday, UND was able to counterattack better in Saturday’s match-up, while also give more good bounces to UND. The first of which had Zach Driscoll make a save-of-the-year nominee, as a puck caromed off the back glass and landed onto his back. Making a quick decision, Driscoll put his glove hand behind his back, turned his body, making sure the puck never crossed the line and keeping it a two goal game. Another UND bounced came at the tail-end of a penalty kill, with Caulfield and Jamernik rushing on a 2-on-0 give-and-go with Caulfield passing over to Jamernik, but the puck was deflected by a back-checking Ronnie Attard of Western; but it wasn’t enough to break up the play with Jamernik corralling the puck and passing back to Caulfield for his second of the night and giving UND the 4-1 lead. 

Despite only getting five shots in the third period, Western was able to get within two goals on a Josh Passolt breakaway goal, as he got behind the defense and walked in to score on Driscoll to make it 4-2. But, it was UND’s night with captain Mark Senden helping cap off the weekend on another odd-man-rush, using patiences coming down the wing before finding Carson Albrecht for his second goal of the season to help seal a 5-2 victory for North Dakota. 

With the NCHC commissioner in the building to maybe present the Penrose Trophy for best regular season team in the conference, North Dakota waited after the game to watch the end of the Denver/Omaha– with Denver needing to win to stay alive. Denver overcame a 2-0 hole to win 5-2, meaning that a North Dakota win or Denver loss next weekend would give the Fighting Hawks their third-straight Penrose. 

THEY SAID IT

“Guys are willing to do anything for each other. We had over 20-some blocks in the game tonight, giving your body up, sacrificing, whatever you have to do. Doing whatever you can in your role to help win a game, and I think our guys are maximizing their roles right now.” –Head coach Brad Berry on the sacrifice of his team

“We went into Western and battled hard, but didn’t come up with any wins, so we knew we wanted a couple games at the Ralph. We always play hard in our building and we weren’t going to make it easy on them.” – Caulfield on getting payback after the earlier series against the Broncos.

“It sucks because (Frisch) is a huge leader and plays a big role for us, but we know it’s nothing new. Obviously with this past month losing guys, we just got to step up. That’s been huge for us to get these looks from guys who haven’t been getting the opportunity and we’re starting to build that swagger. Now that we have that internal belief that we can get the job done, that’s huge.” –Jamernik on the confidence of the team.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Survive Second Period, Win 2-1

Photo Jen Conway/@NHLHistorygirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– At the start of the last home regular season weekend, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks were riding high with two straight sweeps, while also getting back some keep elements to their roster. While they were without Riese Gaber and Jake Sanderson, the Hawks were about to withstand a 2nd period on-slaught from the Western Michigan Broncos to win Friday night 2-1. 

North Dakota’s start was quick, they were able to get some zone time against Brandon Bussi in net for Western; but some of North Dakota’s passes were just a bit off the mark to really create some solid scoring opportunities. One that wasn’t off the mark was the pass from Jake Schmaltz streaking down the right side and centering a pass to Ashton Calder, who one-hand deflected the pass into the back of the net for the icebreaking goal. Following that, the Broncos picked up a little steam, including a late power play– but didn’t have any goals to show for it. 

The second period however was mostly Western, They were able to get their jump back and really put plenty of pressure onto Zach Driscoll. However, riding a four-game win streak coming in, Driscoll was more than dialed-in for this affair. There was one hiccup in that second for Driscoll as Jacob Bauer notched his first NCAA goal on a centering pass that seemed to catch Bauer off guard as the pass almost handcuffed him, but he was able to get enough on it to put it over the shoulder of Driscoll. While they were outshot 17-5 in the middle frame, UND was able to get the go-ahead goal thanks to the work of Judd Caulfield and Matteo Costantini, with the latter finding open space off the pass from Caulfield, moving Bussi around enough to sneak it through is legs for the 2-1 goal. 

More of the Broncos’ pressure continued in the third period, doubling up on the Hawks in shots. Despite buzzing around, Driscoll and the defense stood strong with key blocks and stellar saves to keep the Broncos off the board. It wasn’t until the last face-off when Western had a late-second chance on Driscoll that UND was able to secure the victory and retain the lead in the NCHC standings. 

THEY SAID IT

“He’s tracking pucks, he’s finding pucks, he’s battling on loose pucks in front of the net. It’s experience. He’s got a lot of experience behind him and he’s hungry to compete. It’s his 25th birthday today. What a birthday present that was.” –Head Coach Brad Berry on Driscoll’s performance down the stretch. 

“The guys stepped up at the end there in the last two minutes, and we’re going to need that for the rest of the year. We just got to sharpen up a couple things that we’ll look over tomorrow morning and stick to the game plan. Probably won’t change up too much tomorrow.” –Costantini about the game and what needs to change from the second period. 

“I saw him play in the past, gave me glimpses of him from the past. I definitely saw some of what he could do at Lake State and definitely knew it was coming.” –Calder on the performance of Driscoll.

TEPID TAKE: The Olympics and NHL Are Better Off Without Each Other

Photo via Getty Images/Olympics.com

Juraj Slafkovsky being named MVP of the Olympics and having the focus put onto him is one of the reasons why the NHL doesn’t need to be in the Olympics. Not only does it give other players a chance to shine, but it allows broadcasts to focus on players who may or may not been given the platform if the NHLers were there to take the focus for themselves.

The last two Olympics have had their ups and down. The European nations have stepped up in a big way, especially those who don’t rely on NHL players to begin with. If the NHLers were to play, who’s to say you have same great stories like you did with Germany in 2018 and Slovakia in these Games?? Those moments for those nations may not have even happened and then pundits perhaps start to rip on the Olympics even having those nations be able to participate because they can’t produce NHLers the way that Russia, Sweden, Canada, the US, and Finland do– so why even include them except to be a whipping boy for those countries??

Personally, the disruption of the NHL season is something that annoys me. Sure, the time of some games are bad, as are the idea of injuries in the Olympics that would affect the season. But going to the Olympics games just breaking up the NHL season for the hell of it kills any momentum teams might have that could actually get them in the playoffs. The NHL is the only major North American league to stop their league for the Olympics. MLB didn’t allow their players on 40-man rosters to play in the 2021 Games due to the threat of injury that could cost teams money if their top players go down and for shutting down the league for two weeks. Which, as the pandemic still rears its head now and again, is a costly measure as it is with local regulations.

Hence, that’s why MLB has the World Baseball Classic and why the NHL has the World Cup of Hockey. Yeah, it’s not for Olympic gold, but you’re representing your country off of the season schedule– so it’s fine. Everything’s fine. It’s not that the International Olympic Committee screws them over for media rights and insurance money or any of that…not at all.

One way to really spice up the hockey in the Olympics if the NHL doesn’t go and people don’t want to send journeymen– make the World Juniors the Olympics every four years. It’s akin to Olympic soccer, which is under-23, and it would make those who are really geeked about their team’s prospects coming up and how they fit on the world stage. Sure, the tournament is mainly a big money maker for Hockey Canada hosting the even every other year, so they won’t like losing that profit– but given the option of seeing that versus the journeymen players we have seen in the past two Games; it could provide a faster game.

The talk of people saying the Olympics needs to be the best taking on the best– but then looking back and speaking fondly about the 1980 US Olympic team– is just noise to me. I don’t need the NHL to be in the Olympics. I have TNT and ESPN+. I can see the best play against the best every night if I wanted. There’s no need for the NHL to be in the Olympics aside from fueling their own egos in thinking that the NHL is the end-all, be-all when it comes to hockey and that if they’re not in it– no one will care about hockey. You know, like how the Hockey Hall of Fame has pretty much turned into the NHL Hall of Fame.

UND HOCKEY: Frantic First Leads Short-Handed Hawks to 3-2 Victory.

Photo: Jen Conway/ @NHLHistorygirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– Coming into the weekend, the University of North Dakota knew they’d be shorthanded, but didn’t know to what extent. The Fighting Hawks dressed enough skaters for four full lines of offense and three pairings of defense against Colorado College. Though they lost a defenseman early, they were able to hold off the Colorado College Tigers by a score of 3-2.

It wasn’t the start North Dakota wanted, as Colorado College got out to a solid start from the face-off and put some pucks on Zach Driscoll before North Dakota put any sustained pressure on the other end. With them at the bare minimum to put a full roster out there, issues got worse when Cooper Moore threw a hit at center ice, but it was deemed as head contact and garnered him a five-minute major and a game misconduct; dropped UND to five-defensemen for the last 52 minutes of regulation.

Oddly enough, the North Dakota offense got triggered by being down a skater for five minutes, starting off with Judd Caulfield powering through the defense and flipping a puck up and over the confused Dom Basse and gave North Dakota the 1-0 lead. Caulfield was able to get by the defense again on the penalty kill, but Basse got the best of him on that instance. After limiting Colorado College to two shots on their major power play, UND kept their offense turning with Ethan Frisch potting his fourth goal in five games; taking a Tyler Kleven pass and wiring it over Basse to make it 2-0. Minutes later, on the power play, Riese Gaber found a lane and put home his 14th of the season over the shoulder of Basse to make it 3-0 for the Hawks going into the intermission.

The Tigers looked to turn the tides in the second period, trying to wear down the shortened North Dakota defense, but also tried drawing some penalties to see if they couldn’t avenge for their missed opportunity from the five-minute major. It worked at around midpoint of the second, as CC got a power play and only took five seconds before Stanley Cooley tipped a Nicklas Andrews point shot past Driscoll to get CC on the board. Five minutes later, CC got another power play and only took seven seconds for them to come within one with an Andrews shot getting through a screen and behind Driscoll. While they would press for the equalizer, North Dakota was able to keep them to the outside and go into the second intermission up 3-2.

In the third, Colorado was trying to strike, but North Dakota was able to clog up the neutral zone enough for CC to not get many threatening chances on Driscoll. Though North Dakota was limited to two shots, they covered their defensive side well enough to not need many chances. A thrilling moment to the end was Driscoll attempting the open net, but coming up about a half-a-foot short of becoming the fifth goalie to shoot a puck into an empty net. All aside, the shorthanded Hawks take the win 3-2 to open the weekend series.

THEY SAID IT

“We’re in that locker room and (Brad Berry) always says ‘next man up.’ Obviously, with the circumstances we have right now, that’s the situation I’m in and (Brent Johnson) is in. At the end of the day, it’s an opportunity and you give to take it and roll with it.”– Luke Bast on getting more playing time.

“When you have gaps in your five men on the ice and there’s a lot of ice between your defensemen and your forwards, that’s when you get plays off the rush. What we’ve been doing better is playing tighter as a five-man unit coming into our zone and playing through the neutral zone.” — Brad Berry on what’s needed to close out games.

“Wouldn’t it have been way cooler if it went it?? A game of inches, I guess. As goalies, we don’t get a lot of situations and a lot of time to set up like that. Just kind of got it, surprised at how much time I had, and went for it. Got it up pretty good, had the distance, just curled to side there.”– Driscoll on the methodology of his empty net attempt.

UND HOCKEY: Omaha Scores Three Unanswered to Beat UND in Overtime

Photo: Jen Conway/ @NHLHistoryGirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a solid performance from the University of North Dakota Friday night, they looked to close out the sweep against the Omaha Mavericks. However, losing two key parts to their shutdown efforts midway through the game, the Hawks let on slip past their fingers with a 3-2 overtime loss. 

Saturday’s game got off to almost a similar start to Friday’s game, as North Dakota got out of the gate quick, trying to keep the momentum off of their victory the night before. And, much like Friday, scoring got kicked off by Riese Gaber, getting the puck off an interception deflection from Connor Ford, to put it past Isaiah Saville to make it 1-0 North Dakota. The defense for UND kept the Mavericks to the outside and Zach Driscoll stopped all nine shots ahead of the horn to end the first. 

The defense was in full effect in the second period, limiting Omaha to only two shots midway through the period. North Dakota would extend the lead after a great bump-set-spike passing play on the power play with Gaber sending to the Ford in front, who redirected the saucer pass to Caulfield, who beat Saville to make it 2-0. Omaha’s offense woke up with eight shots in the remaining eight minutes, including a breakaway late in the period, but Driscoll was equal to the task making it 2-0 after 40 minutes. 

Things started to shift in the game, as Omaha took control early in the frame, drawing a penalty early on. That led to their first goal, as Davis Pennington used a Matt Miller drive-by screen to wrist one past Driscoll to get Omaha to within one goal. Less than three minutes later, Kevin Conley would even the game with a redirection of a Nate Knopke point shot to tie the game. Both sides struggled to get the goal before overtime, but nothing doing with each team picking up at least a point. 

In the overtime, North Dakota would only muster on attempt on goal before the puck went Omaha’s way, leading to a missed assignment in the defensive zone and Brannon McManus wiring one past Driscoll to give the Mavericks the 3-2 overtime win. 

THEY SAID IT

“We gotta win that game. You come in with a two-goal lead in the third period, you gotta win that hockey game. We had every reason to win that hockey game and we found a way to lose it.” – Connor Ford on the feeling after the night. 

“Today I thought the level was better. Start of the periods were good. But there was a situation where we lost a couple of guys halfway through the game, playing with a later line-up. At this point in the season, there’s no excuse. We were telling the guys in the locker room– we’re up by two in our home building Saturday night in the third period. That’s just not acceptable.” – Ethan Frisch on the accountability after the game.

UND HOCKEY: Despite Being Outshot, North Dakota Tops Omaha 4-1.

Photo by Jen Conway/ @NHLHisotrygirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– Despite missing Jake Sanderson and Brady Ferner, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks took the next-man-up mentality to their defense as they took on the Omaha Mavericks in the first game of their make-up weekend from three weeks prior. Even with Omaha getting the better of North Dakota to start, the Hawks got the breaks they needed for a three-goal second period in order to take the 4-1 win. 

North Dakota got the quick start they wanted, with Riese Gaber notching his 12th goal of the year after chipping the puck out of the defensive zone, using his speed to beat the Omaha defense, and wired home a wrister past Isaiah Saville to make it 1-0. That seemed to wake up Omaha, who had more opportunities than North Dakota in the first frame, but Zach Driscoll was dialed in for his start, making some solid saves to keep UND with the early lead. Omaha would finally cash in with under three minutes remaining with Brandon Scanlin potting a power play goal from the point through a screen in front to knot the game up at one a piece. 

An odd occurrence in the second period for North Dakota. First, Cooper Moore made a tremendous clear off the goal line, as the puck trickled past Driscoll; but Moore rushed back to snag the puck and get a whistle. Second, Mark Senden got back-to-back penalties in the frame, but when they expired he used them to his advantage. First, Senden joined the play as North Dakota was rushing up ice, then controlled a rebound off a Gaber shot and put it over Saville’s shoulder for his fifth of the year to make it 2-1. On his next penalty, Senden got the puck on his tape as he exited the box, found a streaking Judd Caulfield, who tapped in his fifth of the year for a 3-1 UND lead and left the press box cackling at the absurdity of Senden getting the breaks as he came out of the penalty box. 

“Pretty fortunate to have those bounces that I did tonight,” Senden said post-game. “They come around once in a lifetime. As soon as (Chris Jandric) was skating with the puck, I saw the clock ticking down (on the second penalty) and I was thinking no way we’re going on another little rush. Obviously, I got it as I popped out of the box there and found Judd backdoor and I kind of chuckled to myself a lot.”

Omaha would get into penalty troubles of their own, including a Jonny Tychonick hook followed by a face-off violation penalty on Nolan Sullivan. The UND power play moved the puck solidly on their extended two-man advantage before Ethan Frisch stayed hot with his third goal in as many games to give the Hawks the 4-1 advantage going into the third period. 

Saville was pulled during the intermission in favor of Austin Roden, but Roden was only tested for four shots in the frame. North Dakota and Driscoll were able to stave off the nine shots in the frame from Omaha, including two penalty kills, to keep the lead and win the opening night affair 4-1. It marked the 18th time in the series that the team that scored first in the match-up won the game. 

THEY SAID IT

“We’re calling (Ethan Frisch) the next (Alex Ovechkin) with his shot there on the power play. It’s real beneficial to see that all the hard work in practices are really paying off.” – Senden on Frisch’s goal scoring streak. 

“Individually it’s good, but I think it shows how we’ve improved defensivey as a team. Our box-out in front were really good, a couple blocked shots. You know, they’re helping me out back there, it’s not just me.” – Driscoll on stopping the last 46 of 47 shots thrown at him the last two games.

Big League Dogs to Small Town Pond??

Where will this couple go if the Coyotes can’t get into Tempe/ Photo via Arizona Coyotes

We’re well aware the issues with the Arizona Coyotes over the better part of a decade now. It’s been added to thanks to the story about possibly sharing the new rink built for the Arizona State hockey team while they await their arena in Tempe to be build.

You know– the arena they don’t actually have yet but how the hell could they lose to themselves since they were the only bidder for the grounds that Tempe put out there– oh wait, they are losing out on it due to lack of support form the city.

Some of the uproar about the move varies from the arena being very small for NHL standards to people pointing out the effort the NHL has put in to keeping the team in the area through all the ownership issues and money problems. To which, I can see their point. First, the new Arizona State arena only is slated to hold 5,000 people in there. Fun fact– only two AHL arenas (Utica and Belleville), two ECHL teams (Glen Falls and Trois-Rivieres), and two SPHL arenas (Vermilion County and Birmingham) hold less than the new arena. Optics don’t look at this too kindly for a top-level NHL team.

Secondly, the NHL has gone all out to try and make the Coyotes works in Arizona– rightly or wrongly. The owners have come and gone from this franchise, all citing being in Glendale as the reason for their shortcomings in the stands. While that could be true, Glendale has over 250,000 people living there so it’s not like it’s some out of the way hamlet with no people– hell, it’s even considered part of the Phoenix-metro area that consist of almost five-million people. You’d have to think there’s some kind of marketing scheme that’d be able to get 17,000 people into Gila River Arena on a gamely basis.

The debate about trying to keep the Nordiques, original Jets, and North Stars in their area could rage on forever– but at the time you could see the NHL’s strategy in order to boost league revenues and interests beyond the markets they were in– Quebec City and Winnipeg being the two smallest at the time. That said, the NHL has been consistent in trying to keep teams in their current markets– Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Ottawa, Buffalo, Nashville– they’ve all had the NHL intervene with finding owners to keep the team in the area or being the medium to bridge a gap for a new arena– looking at you next, Calgary. So, the fight they are putting up now with the Coyotes (and have been since 2008) is consistent with what they have been doing– so I’m not shocked.

For me, the biggest play will be what happens if the Arizona State deal does work and the Coyotes actually do get granted the land to build in Tempe. Since Gila River is no longer an option since the Coyotes will get the boot after this season and it’ll be 3-4 years before any new arena will be done; owners and players probably aren’t going to be too happy with a team playing in that small of an arena. Will it be a ruckus crowd?? Perhaps, if the ticket prices are right– hell, you get enough die-hards into that building; it might be the toughest place to play by year two.

Of course, that’s if everything were to go to plan and the history of the Coyotes dictates that there’s always going to be a wrench thrown in there. All the while, people in Houston get their hopes up and lick their lips at the possibility of getting this team in their area– an area I’m sure the NHL owners would love to be in.

While this does suck for fans of the Coyotes and it drains the nerves of other fans– you can’t deny how interesting and entertaining from the outside this really is. For 14 years it’s been a “will they, won’t they” situation and has amused me for that time span. Wherever the cards may fall– this could be the final season of it and we should enjoy it while we can because stability will ruin this whole bit.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Offense Erupts for Seven in Friday Victory

Photo: Jen Conway/ @NHLHistoryGirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– After only scoring one goal all of last weekend and five goals in their last four games, the University of North Dakota exploded with seven goals on Friday night in a rout of St. Cloud State 7-1. Contributions from all parts of the line-up helped carry the Fighting Hawks for their first win of 2022. It flipped the script of the series in St. Cloud dominated the Friday game with a win 8-1 on December 3rd, but UND answered with a 5-3 win on the 4th to split the series. 

North Dakota got started early, as Matteo Costantini was able to streak down the left side and feed a streaking Connor Ford, who beat St. Cloud’s David Hranek on the near-side to make it 1-0. After some solid chances following the goal, St. Cloud was able to counter-attack and get some chances on their own. Rookie goalie Jakob Hellsten stood tall in net, however, stopping all eight shots thrown at him in the first. UND was able to net a power play goal with Ethan Frisch hammering a one-timer over the right shoulder of Hranek to make it 2-0 Hawks. Right before the end of the frame, Riese Gaber put home his 10th of the season after a patient Costantini was able to force a St. Cloud defender to slide and moved the puck around him to find Gaber into the wide-open net. 

Peppering Hranek with plenty of shots to start the second, North Dakota didn’t break through until 9:27 in when a solid forecheck created a turnover and started a tic-tac-toe passing play; leading to Griffin Ness’s first NCAA goal and Carson Albrecht’s first NCAA point on the primary assist. That would end Hranek’s night for Jaxon Castor, which seemed to spark St. Cloud, as they put plenty of pressure on Hellsten, who was stellar in a sequence of saves that kept the Huskies off the board. It wasn’t until 2:27 left when St. Cloud broke through with Jami Krannilla hammering home a one-timer on the power play to make it a 4-1 game going into the second intermission. 

Even more offense from the Fighting Hawks had the Huskies on their heels. So much so that Ashton Calder was able to draw a penalty shot after getting past the defense. On his shot, Calder juked Castor out of his crease to make it 5-1 for the Hawks. Not two minutes later, Calder struck again on four-on-four play, as Jake Schmaltz recoiled out of the zone to find Calder at full speed, blowing by the defense and beating Castor five-hole. Things got a little chippy at the end, as they are wont to do during a blowout, but UND make it 7-1 after their aggressive forecheck led to a turnover in front of Castor as Gaber netted his second goal on a Costantini rebound to make it 7-1 and give Costantini his fourth assist of the night and the first star honors. 

THEY SAID IT

“I think we had a lot of fire underneath us coming into this weekend after what happened in Western Michigan. Everyone took the right approach during the week. We kept a positive attitude and got the result we wanted, so we’ll stick to that and keep this going into tomorrow night.” – Costantini on the outburst of scoring and mentality going into this weekend.

“It’s always fun to play games, but confidence is something you build in practice every day. I’ve just been doing the same thing the whole season. I feel like I’ve always been ready and now that I’ve gotten a few nods, it’s just a lot of fun. I think I can just step in and play my game.” – Hellsten on his confidence after getting some starts this year. 

“Absolutely something we’re aware of. We’re not satisfied with one win. Obviously, it’s been a tough stretch for us, but tonight felt real good. It’s about us and what we do and we’re excited to get back here tomorrow.” – Frisch about their previous series in St. Cloud.