On the Topic Of Marylanders in College, Junior, and Pro Hockey

If you have followed along in my life, Maryland is a huge part of it. After living in Glen Burnie for 21 years, obviously there’s a sort of pride there. But recently, I’ve seen an influx of Marylanders getting into the pro hockey ranks, as well as Division I NCAA and Major Juniors. With it being a dormant landscape for hockey, it’s always a fine sight to see a kid from Maryland get noticed on a big stage.


One of the bigger ones recently has been Nick Ellis of the Bakersfield Condors. The Millersville native was signed by the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent after three years at Providence College where he posted a 30-9-5 record with a 1.90 GAA. Earlier this year, Ellis got AHL Player of the Week honors and has been put into a bigger role for the Edmonton affiliate.

Another player to possible get buzz this year or next is 16-year-old Adam Varga. After playing for the Washington Little Capitals U15 team, Varga took an unorthodox step by jumping to Major Juniors and signing with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL. While there are territorial disputes of who’s a Marylander and who’s not (more on that in a second), but my count he is the fifth Maryland-born player to play in Major Junior after Jeff Brubaker (Hagerstown), Jeremy Duchense (Silver Spring), Charlie Pens (Perryville), and Campbell Elynuik (Silver Spring) to be stated as Marylanders in Major Junior. It’s a big step for hockey in Maryland and how the development is, as most Maryland kids go the NCAA route or even the Division III route for their higher-level hockey.

However, there is a bit of a conflict when dealing with player bios because some players will put somewhere else outside of Maryland, while other sites will post Maryland as their hometown. Elynuik is a perfect example as he is listed on HockeyDB as being from Silver Spring, but Elite Prospects will have him listed as being from Calgary, Alberta. Jarred Tinordi is another example, as he was born in Burnsville, Minnesota; but made his hay in Severna Park, Maryland– playing for Severna Park High School in his first year before going to join the US National Developmental Team. A guy like Michigan State’s Jared Rosburg is a whole other can of worms. Rosburg is listed as being from Clarksville, Maryland, but grew up in Strongsville, Ohio. Since he played for River Hill in Howard County, I’ll chalk Rosburg up to one of Maryland’s own.

(Elynuik, Tinordi, and Duchense bring about another example of guys listed as being from Maryland thanks to their father’s playing with the Washington Capitals when they were born. While Tinordi did play within the area, the others didn’t make that big an impact, especially with Duchense living in Quebec City for the majority of his youth.)


Rosburg is one of many players who have touched NCAA Division I ice while being listed as a Marylander. The Michigan State defenseman has dealt with injuries, but has been a big presence on the blue-line and has come up with some big goals in his short career. Rosburg is following in the footsteps of Sam Anas, who is recently the most successful Maryland player, as he’s been in the Minnesota Wild organization for two years after a successful NCAA career at Quinnipiac after a solid high school career at the Landon School in Bethesda. Of course, Anas goes in that disputed Maryland/Washington DC zone where both sides want to claim him. Colgate’s Bruce Racine is in the disputed zone of Maryland/DC, as he was born in DC, but went to school in Bethesda at Georgetown Prep. Other NCAA players for the 2017-18 season are Matt McArdle (Annapolis/Lake Superior State), Colin O’Neill (Odenton/UMass-Lowell), Jason O’Neill (Odenton/Providence), and Graham McPhee (Bethesda/Boston College).

In the minor leagues, outside of Ellis and Anas; there are several others playing in the lower minor league ranks. Jack Burton was born in Reisterstown and went to Baltimore-area St. Paul’s school before heading to Colby College and then joining the Indy Fuel last season, where he is today. Another Maryland ECHLer is Nick Sorkin of the Wheeling Nailers, who played for Team Maryland and the Washington Little Caps before going to University of New Hampshire, then to the Nailers. Former Glenelg High School player and Woodbine native Eric Sweetman is in the ECHL, as well, playing in Idaho after four years at St. Lawrence University. Mike Chen played for Team Maryland growing up before heading to Division III at Salem State and is currently rostered on the Knoxville Ice Bears of the SPHL.

Women’s hockey has also grown in Maryland, especially with the likes of Haley Skarupa being from Rockville and playing on the US Women’s National team, as well as in the NWHL with the Connecticut Whale and Boston Pride after four successful seasons at Boston College. Beth Hanrahan of Poolesville played four years at Providence College for four years, being the team’s MVP in her junior and senior season, then playing for the New York Riveters before being name associate coach of Lindenwood University. Finally, Lindsay Berman of Odenton starts her third season as head coach of UMass-Boston’s Women’s team after her years in the CWHL with the Boston Blades, including a Clarkson Cup championship to her resume. Berman went to Arundel High School and played for the Washington Pride to garner attention leading her career at Northeastern University.

I’ve said before about how Maryland and the mid-Atlantic has been underserved as a market, especially with no NCAA program in the state. However, there’s a new wave coming through, especially with Varga in the OHL and young Patrick Giles (Chevy Chase) joining the US National Program; there’s a lot of shoot for in the youth programs in the Maryland (and sure, DC) area, though the high school systems does have a variety of teams. Also, the club hockey scene does have a lot of talent, but still not the top-tier talent other areas have. The area is still in need of more success stories, but I know I didn’t think in a million years there would be this much Maryland content across the NCAA and minor pro landscape as there is today.

Minor League Monday: Roadrunners Setting Pace, Thunder Cracking in ECHL, Trask Getting Mayhem Going



-Unlike their parent affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners have been utterly successful this season, getting off to a 5-1-1 start to the young season. Seventeen of the 24 players who have played a game this year have a goal on the season, while Dylan Strome leads the team with 10 points (1g, 9a). Three of the top-five in team scoring are rookies with Strome, Nick Merkley, and Kyle Capobianco. While Adin Hill and Marek Langhamer have played well, rookie Hunter Miska definitely is dealing with the pro learning curve, posting a 3-0-0 record, but a dismal 4.02 GAA and .884 Sv%.

-In his third full pro season, Lehigh Valley Phantom Danick Martel is priming himself for a breakout year. In only 10 games so far, Martel has 10 goals (half of his total all of last year) and is second in league scoring with 13 points. With the help of rookie Mike Vecchione, as well a veterans Phil Varone and Greg Carey, the Phantoms are off to their best start (7-2-0-1) since 2007-08 when they started 8-1-1. Both Alex Lyon and Dustin Tokarski have played well in their appearance, though Lyon seems to be the horse leading the way for Lehigh Valley.



-The first Marvel game happened this weekend and the jerseys were nothing sure of spectacular. The Worcester Railers, as the Incredible Hulk, defeated the Utah Grizzlies, as Thor, 4-1 in the first game of the branded era. The win gave the Railers their third on the season in five games, placing them third in the North Division. The loss put the Grizzlies at 3-5-0 on the season, putting them next to last in the difficult Mountain Division.

-Speaking of the Mountain Division, break up the Wichita Thunder. A team that last year was dead last in the Central Division and next to last in the league has become one of the last unbeaten teams in the league (along with the Reading Royals). After a difficult time in the AHL, Kyle Platzer has found his scoring touch with the Thunder, potting five goals and six assists for the Thunder. In net, both Joel Rumpel and Shane Starrett have three wins while being in the top-5 in the league in GAA and save percentage.



-Jake Trask helped the Macon Mayhem get their first win and first points of the season this weekend thanks to his four goals and two assists Friday and Saturday. Trask’s hat-trick on Friday helped the Mayhem get an overtime loss against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs; while on Saturday, Trask got the first goal to help Macon get their first win of the season. Trask now leads the league in goals and points with four and seven respectively.

-There’s no wonder why the Peoria Rivermen are atop the SPHL. They not only have the most goals in the league, they have distributed the points, as well. 16 of the 18 rostered skaters have a point on the year, with Michael Economos not having a point because he hasn’t played a game year. However, while the offense is good, the fact they only have a plus-4 goal differential is a bit of a concern. Eric Levine and Michael Santaguida have had a lot of goal support, but will need to steal some wins if the deep forward crew has a dry run.

Karmanos Might Be Playing Himself in Selling Process


If DJ Khaled taught us anything, outside of yelling your name on any hot track you produce, it’s the recognition of someone playing themselves. That’s exactly what I think Peter Karmanos is doing when it comes to the “selling” of the Carolina Hurricanes. This conclusion is what I’m coming to after Karmanos went to the press to say he thinks that prospective buyer, Chuck Greenberg, doesn’t have the funds to buy the team.

From Chip Alexander in the News & Observer:

“The sale of the team is just sitting there, waiting for Chuck to say, ‘Geez, I can’t raise the money,’ ” Karmanos said. “We have a commitment to Chuck, and we’re going to see it through. And quite frankly I wish he would pick up the phone and say, ‘Geez, you know what, I can’t get it done.’ Because it looks like he can’t get it done.”

Now, will say that the silence is not a good thing with the sale, at first, getting a lot of hype and since then– nary a sound from either side about it until now. Greenberg, if totally entrenched in the sale, would be at the games, would be gaining community support, all the things a new owner dead-set on keeping the team in Raleigh would do.

That said, Karmanos really needs to shut the hell up about it. The NHL needs to almost shut him up about it because it’s not a good look on other prospective buyers that if you don’t get a deal done quickly, then the owner who is the seller will talk smack about about how you don’t have the money to the press.

There’s things you don’t mess with in people’s lives and one of those things is the talk of their wealth or lack thereof.

If I’m Greenberg, as much as I would want to buy this team and keep them in a solid market, I’d almost pull the deal to prove a point that he won’t be questioned about the fund he does or doesn’t have. A deal is not going to work quicker if the seller is calling out the prospective buyer because one side or the other is going to get pissed and then stuff goes nuclear.

While I don’t know much of the inner workings of the Carolina Hurricanes (I’ll defer that to the wonderful folks of Section 328), the sale of the Hurricanes has been going on for what seems to be an eternity in sports years. In 2014, it seems that Karmanos would entertain options to selling the team, but nothing had come about until this summer. Also, since 2013, he has wanted to sell the Florida Everblades in the ECHL, but to this day– nothing has been formally announced about the transfer of ownership.

There’s an idea that a major red flag for the prospective buyers that comes from a 2015 piece that Karmanos, despite selling the team, insists that he retains control of the team. Whether or not that’s a factual statement is up in the air, but even the hint of that– then radio silence– does speak volumes to why there hasn’t been more people clamoring to put a bid in for the Hurricanes until Greenberg did. Now, Karmanos is mocking his lack of movement and seemingly just stalling a deal.

Hell, with this– maybe Karmanos is self-sabotaging himself because, while he doesn’t want to be in ownership, he does want to be in ownership. So any deal, even if it’s close, he would want to kill just so he have his terms. If he sells the majority, he’s no longer in control and then hates that feeling. Plus, and more importantly, he wants to the team to stay in North Carolina— which is noble, if not short-sighted for any buyer.

The Hurricanes are a talented team. People will bitch and moan about their attendance and all of that– but that won’t stop with new ownership, I’m sure. The fact of the matter is that the market is good, the dedicate fan base is just that, and the team is primed for something big coming their way, almost like what happened in Columbus last season. With the addition of Scott Darling and locking up guys like Victor Rask, Jaccob Slavin, and Brett Pesce long-term to get a young core going, not to mention what they’ll need to do to get Jeff Skinner re-signed.

There’s a lot of other doings that may make Karmanos want to sell the team, one of which is that he and his family, shall we say, don’t have the best of terms going with each other. Of course, we know of when his sons sued Peter for lack of repayment on hockey investments (which is a thing that could scare some investors away when they might have to assume debt) and should Peter pass while still owning the team– you can bet there may be a big squabble over who get the ownership status and what the kids could do with it.

Hurricanes fans don’t deserve this. Hurricanes players and management shouldn’t have to field questions about it, and the public shouldn’t be on edge to see if the Hurricanes will stay in Raleigh or if the system will shift up the Atlantic to Quebec, which is always rumored because Quebec. While this story won’t go away until pen is to paper and notarized in an agreement– the fact it was put out to the press by Karmanos could ensure another long round of waiting for a buyer for the Hurricanes.

On the Topic Of Shipping Out Shipachyov


I’m not trying to make this into a Golden Knights blog, but they’re just so new and shiny and so many moving parts– you just have to talk about them. And that’s the case now with Vadim Shipachyov and their turmoil with him.

Now, when the Golden Knights signed Shipachyov, he was the bonafide first player. All due respect to Reid Duke, but Shipachyov had some kind of foundation coming into the Vegas fold. Nine seasons in the KHL, multiple National team appearances in the World Championships, and one of those guys with the tag of “best not in the NHL.” There was some buzz around him and many thought he could be a big contributor to the team.

Then the expansion draft happened. And then training camp. And then the start of the season. And Shipachyov has only appeared in three of the eight games and now his agent has been told to seek a trade elsewhere since Shipachyov is not happy with a demotion to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.

There is a sound reason for Shipachyov’s annoyance with the demotion, but there’s a sound reason for the Golden Knights want to have him in the AHL. Shipachyov is 30 years old and has accomplished a lot in the KHL, so why would he want to go ahead and play in the AHL when Vegas brought him over to play in the NHL…or so he thought.

When the blades hit the ice, the Golden Knights were much better than they could have thought. Not only that, but Shipachyov hasn’t taken to the North American game as they would have hope, so why not send him down to get used to it?? Well, because he’s a 30-year-old with a number of professional years under his belt– like I said in the previous paragraph.

Should the Knights find a suitor for Shipachyov, depending on the return, they should go ahead and grant him freedom. Look, he doesn’t do your organization any good being a bad apple in the development system you just started. It’s not like a Danny Cleary situation where he gets sent down to teach– Shipachyov wants a career and it’s obvious that the Knights don’t have him in the immediate plans, so he’s checked out. If they can get a solid return, it’d be great to have him elsewhere while not causing a headache for those involved. Plus, as a new team, you don’t want to have the history of being hardasses when it comes to trying to get out of there if you don’t fit in.

Deserted Win Column


The Arizona Coyotes are bad. Like….very bad. After 10 games, they still remain winless and only have one point to their name this year, an OT loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. With one more loss, they will match the 1943-44 New York Rangers with 11 losses to start a season.

On paper, this team isn’t bad. Hell, rookie Clayton Keller is almost better than advertised with seven goals and 11 points in the first 10 games, Max Domi has been a solid set-up man with seven helpers, but everyone else seems a little disjointed. You never know what to expect out of Anthony Duclair– though he seems to have found his scoring touch briefly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has contributed offensively, but defensively is a bit of a wreck, while the goaltending is right back in a sorry state thanks to Antti Raanta’s injury and the likes of Louis Domingue and Adin Hill not being able to pick up the slack.

It is a young season and I did say panic shouldn’t happen until 20 games in, but in dire situations like this where they haven’t had a win yet in the first month of the season– something needs to change and quickly in order to right the ship. But what will do that?? Is it as simple as Raanta coming back to right the ship?? Are the players not buying or getting Rick Tocchet’s philosophy?? Is the John Chayka vibe wearing thin already??

Whatever it is…it’s not the look that Coyotes wanted. A team that was already something of a punchline for fans that don’t live in Arizona is just making things worse with this start. If it’s just Raanta being out and he comes back to a big win-streak, then it’s a simple fix. If they play .500 or sub-.500 hockey when he comes back, then you look at Chayka and if he goes into some kind of sell mode…which will be hard when the things teams want to buy are your building blocks for a better future.

That all said– hang tight Coyotes fans…there’s something better on the horizon. I mean…there has to be right?? I mean, after all the crap you’ve been through– that light at the end of the tunnel is just fireflies and not a train, right?? Right??

How Not to Panic When Panicking

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The one thing that got me starting loathing that Eric Francis has a writing job with the Calgary Sun, even though he was a morning zoo DJ, was at the end of October of 2005, he had already declared the Flames’ playoff hopes dead. Remember, this is the season removed (since 2004-05 didn’t happen) from their amazing Stanley Cup run. However, since they started the first month of the new season 4-7-2, it was already over months before the playoffs actually began.

The Flames finished 46-25-10 and won the Northwest Division.

Eric Francis is a dumbass. Don’t be like Eric Francis.

Yet, in the “what have you done for me lately”/”hot take” world of sports journalism we live in, everyone is ready to kill their team off after the first month of the season. Sure, some of the people are panicking in jest, but there are far too many who are serious in their assessment.

There’s a highly unlikely chance that a team like the Edmonton Oilers are going to be sitting in the cellar all season, especially with the firepower they have in their line-up and Connor McDavid still healthy. Teams like the Capitals, Ducks, and Sharks are not going to be the middling teams they have been to start this season. The Coyotes…..well, on paper, they seem like a better team than they should be– but the game isn’t played on paper and maybe Antti Raanta isn’t the savior people thought he was going to be.

My point is that only one team has hit the ten game mark (the Rangers) and even then, you shouldn’t start to really worry until about 25 games into the season. With the lack of pre-season play like the World Cup of Hockey last year, players didn’t come into the season with “high-level” competitive play under their belt. It might take some guys more time to heat up and really show their true worth.

Conversely, the teams that are hot to start the season aren’t necessarily going to be that way through the entire season. The Golden Knights may start to look like an expansion team come December, injuries could rack up for the Devils (or any team for that matter) come next month, and other teams could regress to the mean sooner rather than later.

So take a deep breath people. New players in new places need time to gel. New contracts need time to have their ink dry. Older players need time to get warmed up and rolling. It’s a matter of time where the true teams will come out firing and actually succeed, lest the management who made these teams who were supposed to be good this season be fired.

Minor League Monday: Jankowski Potting Points, Beast Licking Wounds, Mayhem Being Settled

While this blog encompasses the hockey landscape, there needs to one day that is dedicated to the lower levels of hockey on this blog when there isn’t a big story that going around the hockey blogosphere. And if just one day is not enough, you can head over to my friends at TheSinBin.net for your fix on almost every team in minor league hockey.



-After being one of the last cuts of the Calgary Flames, Mark Jankowski is making every minute count while with the Stockton Heat. In his first six games, Jankowski has five goals and eight points, putting him tied in goals with another Flames cut, Garnet Hathaway and two points behind Andrew Mangiapane for total points.

-The Vegas Golden Knights goaltending situation is in peril, if you hadn’t heard. It’s in so much disarray that they have taken both of their AHL prospects out of Chicago, Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace, which leaves CJ Motte as their only rostered goalie for now. Luckily, the Wolves don’t play until Wednesday morning, so they have time to go ahead and get a back-up for Motte. Just goes to show you can never have enough goaltending depth.



-This is definitely not the start of the season the Brampton Beast wanted after their record-setting season last year. After getting into their first playoffs in the ECHL era of the team, the Beast are out to an 0-4-1 start. While Brandon Marino is putting up the goals (4g, 2a), the secondary scoring is still in need of a boost. There’s also a need to get more of their defense to help out rookie goalies Marcus Hogberg and Michael McNiven, as the team has given up a league high 24 goals.

-With the additions of always dangerous Mitchell Heard and Michael Kirkpatrick, the Florida Everblades are off to a blazing start. The team is a plus-9 in the goal-differential to the young season (only behind the Allen Americans) and a lot can be attributed to Heard and Kirkpatrick making a big impact, as well as rookies Steven Lorentz and Nelson Armstrong jumping in feet first for the ‘Blades.



-It has been a rough start to the season for the defending champion Macon Mayhem. With this past weekend yielding only one goal for the team while giving up nine in two games, it’s been the typical hangover we see from some champions time and again. The roster does have some of the returning players from that championship team, so it’s not like they aren’t used to pressure. While they can have a bit of hiccup, the short season in the SPHL makes it so they have to get back in the win column quickly before it gets too out of hand.

-Sean Bonar is building off his strong season last year with Fayetteville, but this time with the Pensacola Ice Flyers. A shutout in his first game with Pensacola was a great way to make a good first impression with his team, but the fact he’s getting goal support is even better for the SPHL’s reigning MVP and top goaltender going into a new season. It wasn’t easy, as Bonar faced 36 shots against the reigning champs in Macon, but once the defense tightens up, the Ice Flyers will surely be one of the teams to beat this SPHL season.

UND HOCKEY: Johnson’s Shutout, Wolanin’s Pair Help Hawks Over Gophers


Photo by @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the first time since 2012, the UND Fighting Hawks defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, this time by the score of 4-0. After having a little momentum from last night’s game, the Hawks were able to get on the board early and keep things going from there.

The first five minutes are usually the most crucial to a game and UND wanted to make sure they had the racuous crowd of 11,890 behind them for all 60 minutes. Nick Jones got things rolling with his first as a Fighting Hawks off a one-timer set-up by Grant Mismash. Jones had a lot of chances in the first five games of the season, but said he was feeling frustrated not having buried one.

The game went back and forth before Jack Glover of Minnesota checked Collin Adams from behind, which resulted in a five minute major and game misconduct. In those five minutes, UND got three more goals– two from Christian Wolanin and one from Colton Poolman in that five minute span.


Christian Wolanin/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“We finally shot,” quipped Wolanin post game about the power play. “We know he (Eric Schierhorn) is a good goalie and we wanted to get one in quick to break him down bit by bit.”

One of the big things that broke the spirit of the Minnesota team was the suffocating penalty kill, which held the Gophers off the scoresheet for seven chances, bumping up UND’s PK percentage to 96.3% on the season so far.

“Our penalty kill is all coach (Dane) Jackson,” said Wolanin. “Not just on the PK, but the tenacity and passion in which he coaches, we’d run through a brick wall for him. We just go out and work. It comes down to heart and…..you know……don’t know if I can say that on camera.”

Despite only have 22 shots thrown at him, Cam Johnson stopped them all and became the first goalie to shutout Minnesota in 48 games.


Cam Johnson/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

That one feels better than any other one I’ve had,” Johnson said post-game. “My job wasn’t too hard for me tonight. Good all around effort. We got the best fans on earth and I got goosebumps every time we walked on the ice. I was more engaged because I got more work, which is what I like.” 

On the final stats, Mismash had two assists on the night, as did sophomore defenseman Hayden Shaw. Collin Adams had a lone assist, along with Nick Jones, Ludvig Hoff, and Gabe Bast.

Head coach Brad Berry lauded his team after the game in dealing with the rivalry.

I thought they did a good job and there’s a lot of things that go into it. For a group that doesn’t know a lot about the tradition and history, they did a good job. I’m sure both sides would admit we have to keep doing it. It’s good for the schools, it’s good for college hockey.”

North Dakota heads on the road for two straight weekends, heading to Colorado College next weekend and then onto Wisconsin to start off November.

UND HOCKEY: Bast Earning Trust Early With UND


Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

First impressions leave lasting ones, especially in the sports world. If that were the case for freshman Gabe Bast, the lasting impression for me is that Bast a speedy defenseman who’s willing to take risks and get involved offensively, while not letting getting too out of position in his own end. After seeing his first action in five months, Bast took every opportunity to show off for his new team after three seasons in Junior A with the Pentiction Vees.

“I felt pretty good for the first time playing a game in five months,” Bast said post-game Friday. “My timing was pretty good and as it went on I got more comfortable.”

While he wasn’t noticeable at first, the Red Deer, Alberta native did get more comfortable and was able to get the trust of the coaches to put him out in more situations. As the game went on, UND put Bast out during power play situations and was out there for the only UND goal on Friday night, as well as putting him out there during the final seconds of a one-goal game. Bast took the last shot, but got blocked off the ankle of Minnesota’s Jack Ramsey to end the game. Despite that, Bast’s impression on the UND fateful was a positive one his first time out.

“Bast comes with a good resume playing in Junior,” said head coach Brad Berry. “He has experience, he’s been through a lot of games, and he’s won. We’re going to lean on him down the stretch”

The one question mark is durability. During his last two seasons in Pentiction, Bast missed 94 of a possible 116 games from 2015 until 2017, though he did come back late in the season for the Vees, helping win the BCHL title in 2017– his second with the team, the first coming in his rookie year in 2015. With the shoulder surgery that took him out of the first four games, coupled with the extremely freak Osteitis pubis (or inflammation of the pelvic muscles); Bast has plenty to make up for in missing his junior career due to it.

His size and skill will lead many to compare him to Boston’s Torey Krug– a small defenseman, who has plenty of offensive upside and not afraid to throw the body every once in a while. However, knowing that he’s the new guy on the block, Bast knows that it’s all about trust with UND.

“Any college game is tough the first time,” Bast mentioned. “I liked getting power play time. The coaches are using me and trusting me right now. I just gotta keep building and earn their trust more.”

UND HOCKEY: Late Rally Comes Up Short As UND Lose to Minnesota


Photo from @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– It was the first time I personally experienced the rivalry between the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota in hockey. The hype coming this week after a six-year absence from Grand Forks brought about plenty of great reads from the Grand Forks Herald‘s Brad Schlossman and after the Friday game and the atmosphere that came with it, I get what it was all about.

While the outcome wasn’t what the 11,862 wanted, the game brought about all the emotions of the past and brought some into the present. From blocker punches to the head to scraps after whistles to dead gophers being thrown onto the ice after Rhett Gardner’s goal in the third– this had the makings of something great to come for Saturday night.

However, Friday night was a different tone for the home squad. Despite the hype from the home crowd, Minnesota got on the board first when Casey Mittelstadt dished off to Rem Pitlick, who split the North Dakota defense and put it high blocker on Cam Johnson 11 minutes into the first period.

It was a stalemate for most of the game after that, though UND did keep the pace up in the offensive zone, but Eric Schierhorn was equal to the task, especially with the help of the defense clogging the lanes and blocking shots to the tune of 29 for the game to the Gophers’ stats.

Can’t take credit away from them for blocking shots,” said Christain Wolanin post-game. “They bring not just one, but two and sometimes three layers of blocking. But we gotta work around it and adjust in order to get through it.” 

While the second period yielded no goals, Minnesota took a two-goal lead after Rem Pitlick set up Steve Johnson to go far on the blocker side of Johnson. When a team could have gotten down after a goal like that late, UND kept pushing and finally broke through on their power play after a set face-off play where Gardner got the face-off win to Wolanin with a touch pass to Grant Mismash who ripped it from the point, as Gardner crashed the net and picked up the rebound Schierhorn left to cut the Gophers’ lead in half and got the Ralph Engelstad Arena back into it.

Yet, despite having the energy from the crowd, the Fighting Hawks couldn’t get the equalizer, despite having numerous chances with an extra-skater as coach Brad Berry took out Johnson with two minutes left in the third. It didn’t come without chance after chance by UND, down to the last second when freshman Gabe Bast ripped a one-timer, but it got blocked by Jack Ramsey’s ankle as time expired to give the Gophers the 2-1 victory.

Our effort was there tonight,” said coach Berry. “We took penalties and gave them momentum. They’re opportunistic, when they got chances they buried them. We were relentless tonight. We pushed the pace and playing in the other team’s zone. I liked the pace of our play and not spending a lot of time in our end of the rink, but we didn’t finish plays.” 

“They’re a team that takes advantage of opportunity,” mentioned Gardner. “We are trying to stay positive. We knew they block in their own zone, we just gotta work on some more things. Loss is a loss and we gotta regroup. If we keep the crowd in it in for the full 60 it will help us.”

The crowd was awesome,” Wolanin added, “But we did a good job of being even keel. Good energy on the bench. When we got down, guys were saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it back’ and it got us through a lot.”

One can only hope the crowd can stay behind UND with better results on Saturday, as UND tries to even the score and come out of the weekend with a split series, though they would have wanted those two wins.