GRAND FORKS, ND– The kids were in full force for the University of North Dakota on Saturday, as the Fighting Hawks won their exhibition match-up against the University of Manitoba for a 14th straight season. The Hawks’ rookies had two goals and five assists from the freshman class, while the other newcomer, junior transfer Nick Jones, added an assist.
The start was a little rocky for UND, as they gave up the first goal after Manitoba’s Remi Laurencelle picked the puck off and went in to beat Cam Johnson five-hole almost five minutes in the first period. Manitoba controlled the game early, which shouldn’t be a surprise with the Bisons playing six games leading up to this match-up.
Things settled down once Ludvig Hoff fired a rocket of a wrist-shot from the top of the circle to beat Byron Striggs and tie the game up. It was the first of two goals Hoff would score in the game, as he was bumped to “top line” center for UND between captain Austin Poganski and Shane Gersich.
“I felt very comfortable playing between those two,” Hoff said post-game of his two linemates. “They’re two really talented players and made it a lot more fun for me out there.”
After that, the rookies took center stage, with Grant Mismash potting his first goal of his UND career after a fantastic pass from fellow freshman Collin Adams, a play all started by spare freshman defenseman Matt Kiersted.
“It was pretty surreal, though I kind of whiffed on it,” said Mismash, a Nashville Predators prospect. “Obviously, first period there were nerves, but once we settled down it was just like playing a good ol’ game of hockey.”
Aside from a goal by Manitoba three minutes in, the second period belonged to UND. Started by another great passing display by Adams, who found a streaking Christian Wolanin to put the third goal on the board for UND, while Hoff put up the fourth, freshman Jordan Kawaguchi scored UND’s fifth, and senior Johnny Simonson put up the sixth and final goal for the Hawks in a 6-2 final.
“We learned we’re not a one-line team,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry post-game. “Lot of good effort out there, but a lot we need to work on. We weren’t as sharp as we could have been. We need to have a good week of practice leading up to Alaska next week.”
The Ralph tonight had 10,682 to watch the game, which is something both rookies Mismash and Adams hadn’t seen in their junior playing days.
“You’re only getting, what, 3,000 or so people out in the USHL,” mentioned Adams. “To have this here for just an exhibition game was pretty fun.”
While this team has been a lot about the play of Cam Johnson, he didn’t have his best game, letting up two goals on 12 shots, one of which was a fluky, bouncing puck in the second that was credited to Calvin Spencer. Freshman Peter Thome took over for the third and stopped all five shots he faced.
“(Defensive zone) is one of the big things we need to clean up,” Coach Berry stressed. “We have to make sure we address the chemistry of the lines and know the importance of cleaning up in front of our house. It doesn’t come overnight, it’s something we have to instill on a constant basis.”
UND takes a long road trip to start the season, as they’ll travel to Anchorage to take on the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves next weekend in their first series, which is a non-conference tilt.