UND HOCKEY: Split Weekend Tough for UND to Swallow

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Photo Courtesy UND Men’s Hockey Twitter

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a heart-breaking 2-1 lost in Bemidji, the University of North Dakota came back to the comfy confines of the Ralph Engelstad Arena for the back-end of the home-and-home against the Beavers. It was a different look for the Fighting Hawks, as freshman goalie Adam Scheel got the nod in net for his first career start.

“I thought it was exciting to wake up and find out I was playing,” said Scheel post-game. “This morning when I showed up to the rink and I found out after pre-game skate.”

However, the offense wasn’t able to muster up any goal support for the freshman, tying Bemidji State 1-1 and leaving a lot of questions to be answered for the North Dakota offense.

It didn’t look that way early, as UND struck first just 2:31 into the first with Grant Mismash picking up a rebound off a scramble in front over the reaching Zach Driscoll to put the Hawks up 1-0. Nick Jones and Gavin Hain had the helpers and were one of the more impressive lines in the first 20 minutes.

The second period was much more methodical in the play, with both teams not getting many quality chances, despite UND have two power plays in the period. It stayed that way until 16:46 in the third period, when Charlie Combs ripped a wrist-shot over the glove of Scheel to tie the game at one. It would stay that way at the end of regulation, with shots being 21-13 for UND over the sixty minutes.

North Dakota put the pedal to the metal in OT, with plenty of quality chances at the start of the period. However, Driscoll was equal to the task, shrugging off shot after shot. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, much to the dismay of the North Dakota players and fans.

“We got one point out of the weekend,” said coach Brad Berry, “And that’s not our expectations to come out of the weekend. Obviously we found out a little more information. We have to work on a few different things as far as our game.”

“When you take away both games, unacceptable, disappointing, we just can’t have that,” said senior Nick Jones when asked about the weekend games. “To come out with a loss and a tie, it’s…..embarrassing is the only word I’ve got.”

On the weekend, the Fighting Hawks were zero for eight on the power play and were only able to muster two goals total in six periods and overtime. Coupled with trouble mustering offense in their exhibition, there’s an aura of the offensive woes continuing in the short-term.

When asked about the offensive woes, Jones was quite blunt.: “It starts on the power play. The past two times I’ve been (in front of the media), I’ve been optimistic. Tonight, there’s nothing to be optimistic about. Couldn’t even get set-up. It was dreadful.”

“We didn’t start with the puck,” said Berry, “They won draws and they cleared the puck 90-95% of the time. You saw how tough it was to get the zone five-on-five, it was equally tough on the power play. Once we got in the zone, it was about trying to keep it simple and I think we didn’t do that.”

“The easy thing is to point fingers and go off in a different tangent and that’s not what do here,” continued Berry. “There’s a focus here. There’s a team and there’s a culture here. It’s early in the season, but that’s not excuse. We have a great leadership group and we have to get better in that area.”

Another non-conference weekend coming up next week with Minnesota State-Mankato coming into The Ralph for a Friday and Saturday set. Mankato is coming off two big wins against Boston University this past weekend and should be in the top-ten of the NCAA rankings by next week.

Here’s to the 19th Skater

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While reading around this week, I saw something that the wonderful and talented Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald put out regarding this year in NCAA men’s hockey. There’s a new rule in place which allows teams to dress an extra skater for games this season. Rather than the traditional 18 skater set-up, they’ll have one more skater for whatever they want.

Obviously, this will help if someone is a little banged up and may not make it the whole game, but it also provides some interest techniques that some teams will be able to utilize. In thinking of that, you have to wonder how close an eye the NHL will have on this situation. While they usually guinea pig the AHL for ideas to change the game, the NCAA could be the ones to show the NHL the way on roster spots.

Just imagine being able to suit up an older Alex Ovechkin and use him just for power play chances. No wasted energy, not an increased chance of getting hurt– just Ovi out there on his spot, setting up for a one-timer with the extra man. Think how long Yanic Perreault’s career could have been if he was just there to take crucial face-offs and then get off the ice. It would make the tactics a little bit more interesting for coaches because they may not have to choose between two guys when they can put them both in the line-up and not risk much of anything.

Granted, you could use that power for evil and the idea of the goon (not the old WWF gimmick) coming back because he’s not really taking a roster spot from someone and have him just out there to whale on someone. They really serve no purpose for the 19th skater, but it’s an intimidation factor that you know some coaches would use just to send a message– probably something the NHL doesn’t want to have happen.

That all being said, it would be a nice little insurance policy for a player who may be close to coming back from injury, but not all the way ready– this spot would allow them to ease back into the playing shape they may want to be in, while allowing for a full roster in case they’re not 100% ready.

Sure, for colleges it’s a way to get all some of their incoming freshman a chance to play and not be healthy scratches while also not completely destroying the chemistry of the lines already made up; but you can reason to believe that the NHLPA– should this process work out– will pitch this to the league in order to get more of their members suited up on a gameday roster.

It might be a little far-fetched, but with the NHL– it’s just crazy enough to work.

Though It’s Early, Dowd Adds to Caps’ Roster Redemption Stories

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Whatever the Washington Capitals pro scouts make, it’s probably not enough.

Yes, it’s a small sample size of three games, but the Caps have once again been able to pluck someone off a scrap-heap, clean them up, and make them into a potentially lethal role player into their line-up. First, it was Brett Connolly, then it was Devante Smith-Pelly, and now…it very well could be Nic Dowd for the 2018-19 season.

With the loss of Jay Beagle to free agency, the Caps were in need of a role player at center to help with the defensive side of things, as well as a penalty kill and all the other things that people who love intangibles and heart crave. Dowd, who played in both LA and Vancouver last year, has shown that he deserved that last roster spot, which is something that you can bet he’ll still be able to have once Travis Boyd comes back from injury.

The St. Cloud State product, who was picked in the 7th round, has fit into Todd Reirden’s system very well to start off with. Coming onto a team who is coming off a Stanley Cup victory means that the expectation to repeat is quite high, as well as the ability to not fall into a bit of a hangover after winning the franchise’s first title.

“Dowder’s a great guy, I’ve skated with him before,” recalls TJ Oshie after the Caps first game October 3rd, “I think he’s a guy who will appreciate what we did and I think he already feels welcomed. He respects with what we did. It was maybe a little awkward (to watch/take part in the banner raising ceremony), but I think he knows he’s part of this chemistry now.”

After scoring in his first game with the new team, goalie Braden Holtby acknowledged what a big deal it was for everyone saying,”I think that goal was big for him and it was great to see for us. He’s a phenomenal teammate and fits right in the mold of who we want here.”

While he won’t be the flashiest of players for the Caps, he’s going to be a guy who will do the small things that people will love and become the newest of folk-heroes for the local fanbase and people who enjoy a story like Dowd who comes from Huntsville, Alabama and rose through the ranks of the NAHL, USHL, NCAA, AHL, and now looks like he might have a full-time gig in the NHL. While it’s not a story like Connolly, who was a first round pick and didn’t go anywhere with his team; nor is it like Smith-Pelly who was written off by many teams prior to finding his spot– but his scrappy attitude to stay not only in the line-up, but up in the NHL– will endear him to many Caps fans.

That said, much praise should go to Brian MacLellan, Ross Mahoney, and the scouting staff for not only taking a chance on numerous players, but making sure they’re in a position to succeed in the process. They may be giving them barely-above league-minimum contracts, but at the same time– they’re using their money and roster spots very smartly to have a successful team as a while.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Survive Exhibition, Beat Manitoba 3-2 in OT

GRAND FORKS, ND– Hope springs eternal for another season of University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks hockey. After missing the NCAA Tournament last year, the Hawks are primed to get back in there and leave no doubt that they should be there. With seven incoming freshman, seven sophomores, seven juniors, and five seniors; the Hawks have a solid spread of classes. They would start their march back to the big tournament with a usual foe in the University of Manitoba Bisons.

The pace was dictated by North Dakota in the first period, though the 1-0 score after 20 minutes didn’t show it. Shots were 18-3 for UND, who were trying to get a lot of the first game jitters out of their system as quick as possible. Grant Mismash got UND on the board late in the first, putting home his own rebound after the initial shot was stopped by Manitoba’s Byron Spriggs. Mismash got a lovely centering feed by Collin Adams, as the Fighting Hawks were on the power play.

It took under four minutes in the second for UND to strike again, as Gavin Hain took the zone and found a wide-open Dixon Bowen streaking down the slot, who put it high-glove on Spriggs to make it 2-0. Not much else happened in the middle frame, as UND held Manitoba to no shots in the period at all. A tough task to get a read on goaltenders if you can’t get them to put more than three shots in 40 minutes of gameplay on them.

“You take the positives out of it,” said senior forward Nick Jones. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the puck on our stick as much as we did in this game. You just got to bear down a little more in practice. You see with Grant Mismash, he had seven or eight elite scoring chances and scored one goal. The goalie played well. I’d rather create 10 chances in a game to score one than create two chances in a game to score two.”

While most of the third seemed like clean-up duty, Manitoba cut the lead to one when Thomas Lenchyshyn put home the rebound that Ryan Anderson kicked out to his stick blade to make it 2-1. Two minutes later, Manitoba captain Jonah Wasylak put one five-hole on Anderson after a lovely feed from Devon Skoleski to tie the game with 4:32 remaining. In what should have a been a good tune-up turned into a full fight, as this game went to overtime.

“I felt so bad for (Anderson),” captain Colton Poolman said. “He’s such a competitor in practice. It was so unlucky for him to get those breakaways. It’s so hard for him, because he’s coming in stiff and cold. He hasn’t played for 50 minutes or something. I feel bad for the guy. I know he battles hard. I wish we could have done more for him.”
It took a power play in OT, but UND came through as Rhett Gardner, who had four penalties in the game, took a back-ass from Jasper Weatherby to put it past Spriggs with under two minutes left in OT.

In net, Byron Spriggs was sensational for the Bisons with 52 saves in the game. While UND had Peter Thome stop all three shots he faced, Adam Scheel stopped the only shot he faced, and Ryan Anderson stopped three of the five he faced.

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UND Head Coach Brad Berry/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“I thought we missed the net a few time, we’ve gotta dial that in a bit,” said head coach Brad Berry postgame. “You know what, we played against an older, experience team. They played hard in their own end of the rink and played against a good goalie. I thought we accomplished a lot in what we wanted to do, but we need to get better in other aspects.”

With only nine shots on goal and four total against the projected top two goalies, Berry said it was a bit difficult to get a read on how they would play into the season.

“It affects a couple things,” Berry explained, “First, goaltending, but also D-zone coverage. But I’d rather play in the other team’s end then our end of the rink. We’re going to playing some teams where we’ll be playing in our end. We’ll make sure we work on it everyday in practice.”

With this dress rehearsal done, the Fighting Hawks go into their first weekend with a home-and-home with Bemidji State with Friday’s game being in Bemidji and Saturday back at The Ralph.

2018-19 Season Preview….Kind Of: Western Conference Edition

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Half-assed part 2, let’s go.

The Central Division is an interesting one. For the longest time, it was the Chicago Blackhawks’ playground, but now– it’s almost kind of wide open. The Winnipeg Jets have seemingly found their formula with Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and friends. Their march to the Western Conference finals could have been the coming out party they need. So long as Connor Hellebuyck can keep the good time rolling– maybe this is now a division that belongs to North of the Border for a couple of season.

For the Blackhawks– we’re in the downturn of the dynasty. Despite of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane being there and being in their prime ages– the fact their goaltending in Corey Crawford isn’t always healthy and the depth is suspect at best; the former Dynasty could be in the start of their stagnation moving ahead.

Hard to forget about the Nashville Predators, who are in all-in mode this year as much as they have been. This is pivotal year for the team, especially when they look at what to do with impending UFA Pekka Rinne and how they’ll juggle his time with Juuse Saros’ time in net. Aside from that, they have a defensive corp that one of, if not the tops in the league; their offense is full of top tier talent, and overall– this is a team that’s ready to go and make another big push for the Conference final again this year.

The rest of the division is suspect at best, starting the with Minnesota Wild– who seem to be more of the same. Bruce Boudreau could be on a short leash with new GM Paul Fenton, and with the team in place– I don’t know if that leash could get shorter. Sure, Devan Dubnyk is back, but he can only do so much. The offense is really hit and miss, the star players being in the line-up is hit and miss, and there’s plenty of question marks in the State of Hockey.

Add the St. Louis Blues to that mix, only because of Jake Allen. There’s no Carter Hutton to bail him out anymore and he’ll have to actually show he’s a top goalie in this league. He’ll have a lot of tools in front of him with Vlad Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz with Alex Pieterangelo and Colton Parayko on his defense…there’s no reason why Allen shouldn’t be successful in spite of himself and his own short-comings.

I don’t know what to think of the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars. The Stars could be a little easier to explain and deal with, as Ben Bishop– if he’s healthy all season– could help them steal a few games here and there. The offense is steady with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn up there, the defense however, is the question. Stephen Johns is out to start the season, which means Marc Methot and John Klingberg are going to have to shoulder a lot of the load– which could lead to easy burn out. The Avalanche now have Philipp Grubauer as the potential replacement for Semyon Varlamov when he should get injured or have his stats drop off, the team was able to rally around Matt Duchene getting traded, and might have an underrated defense against the rest of the league. The offense is one line, which means they’ll need to find some kind of secondary scoring to actually be across the board successful and get back to the playoffs once again.


Will anyone discount the Vegas Golden Knights this year?? Most likely, yes. The whole “Bet you can’t do it again” crowd will be out, but with the additions of Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny; the depth of offense is much better. While there will be doubters of M-A Fleury’s heroics and William Karlsson’s scoring prowess, the Knights are making sure they aren’t just a one-hit wonder.

Their toughest challenge will probably come from the San Jose Sharks, who have their best shot at getting into the Stanley Cup Finals with the addition of Erik Karlsson. The former Ottawa defenseman bolsters a blue line with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, while Joe Thornton is back on the ice and probably much quicker without his beard anymore. Martin Jones has seen his win number decline over the past three seasons, but with an upgrade in front of him, you can bet he’ll have another 30+ win season.

With a healthy Jonathan Quick, the LA Kings were a solid team despite getting bounced in the first round again. Anze Kopitar was far and away the best player and may need to be so again to get the Kings back to the playoffs and maybe advance past the first match-up. That 70s Line will have to be a little be more prominent, though to be honest– losing Jeff Carter most of the season didn’t help things as much.

The Anaheim Ducks are going to have to get all they can out of their depth if they want to make the playoffs again. While John Gibson hasn’t been the best at keeping pucks out, the offense didn’t give him much to work with, as they had to lowest goals-for total of any playoff team last season. With Corey Perry out to start the season, as well; old man Getzlaf will have to rally the troops and hope they don’t get run over.

Of the Canadian teams in this division, the one with the most hope could be from Alberta. Whether it’s the Flames or the Oilers is yet to be seen. The Oilers need to figure out which team was the mirage– was it the team who made the playoffs in 2017 or the team that really stunk up the joint last season. Aside from Connor McDavid, there wasn’t much to write home about. However, the hard-on people have for Ty Rattie with McDavid is almost insane levels of silly– it’s almost a Sedins or Crosby situation with how people are infatuated with his play.

The Flames are an odd duck. They have the talent up front to get into the playoffs with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and to a lesser extend Sam Bennett. However, with Bill Peters now at the helm, who knows what can happen. If they’re going to sink to a Carolina level, then it’ll happen quick, but the additions of James Neal and Elias Lindholm up front could bring more attention, while Noah Hanifin could help Mark Giordano on the blue line. If only Mike Smith can get back to some kind of non-sieve form, then they could surprise people.

Not a surprise is the Vancouver Canucks, who really….I don’t know. They have some top-end young talent in Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and others, but the real key is waiting for offensive defenseman Quinn Hughes to come from Michigan to Vancouver. If the rebuild is going to happen– it will be around Boeser and Hughes, maybe even Thatcher Demko when he gets the go-ahead to be the Canucks starter. It’s a waiting game for this team.

That leaves us with Arizona. The trade for Alex Galchenyuk is going to help them a whole lot, it’s a matter of managing injuries. Antti Raanta going down early last year hurt and it seems like there’s not much for goalie depth just yet for the Coyotes who could come in and stop the bleeding. Michael Grabner will add speed and a forechecking threat, Clayton Keller continues to grow, and Mario Kempe could surprise people if given the chance. The Coyotes may even push for a wild card…if they can stay healthy.

2018-19 Preview….Kind Of: Eastern Conference Edition

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Okay– time to shake the dust off this thing and get into some NHL previewing. We’ve got 31 teams in four divisions, so the only way to do this right is to do it as half-assed as ever. If you’ve been following me for the last 17 years of writing– you know it’s the only way to go.

First, the Metropolitan Division; the division with the worst name, but boasting the last three Stanley Cup Champions. The Washington Capitals kept the band together, save for Philipp Grubauer. Other than that– the big concern here is the short off-season (which has been seen with the lack of Devante Smith-Pelly), but the hunger to keep the winning going could fuel this team. Alex Ovechkin is back in the best shape of his life part 2, while the rest of the team– despite a subpar preseason– will be looking to keep the good vibes going into this season.

It won’t be easy– the Penguins will want to get some revenge on the Caps since they won the Cup and rekindled a bit of the rivalry. With a longer time to rest, you can bet Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel will be ready– but will Matt Murray be durable or not?? The Columbus Blue Jackets will want revenge on the Caps, but their house is a mess with both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky really not having a great off-season and signalling their tenure in C-bus may be soon over.

The New York/New Jersey area is full of “The hell??” vibes, especially with the Rangers retooling rather than rebuilding, the Islanders losing John Tavares, but gaining Lou Lamoriello, and the Devils being the best team out of the three since they made the playoffs last year. The Rangers will go as far as Henrik Lundqvist takes them, the Devils will have to rely heavily on Taylor Hall to keep his MVP form, while the Islanders will be…something. They at least have Barry Trotz and a whole slew of….oh, right they sent a lot of their prospects back to Bridgeport. Oh boy.

That leaves Philadelphia and Carolina. The biggest thing for the Flyers this offseason was the introduction of Gritty the Mascot. While James van Riemsdyk is back, that’s not really getting the juices flowing when you don’t know who will end up as your goalie by the Thanksgiving break. The Hurricanes have a revamped everything– new owner, GM, coaches…it’s a new team….minus the same Scott Darling, the same lack of depth scoring, the lack of stable defense. Maybe Dougie Hamilton can change that, but maybe not. A near-perfect preseason gives them some momentum…as much as you can with preseason results.


When you think of the Atlantic Division, you think of two tire-fires and a team who is planning the parade route thanks to a single signing of a local player. First, the Maple Leafs, who have already been given the Stanley Cup by their fans and some pundits due to the John Tavares signing….totally forgetting their defense is suspect at best and Freddy Andersen can only do so much with that suspect defense in front of him. But– it’s Toronto, so hype is always around.

The other Canadian teams in the division are just plain garbage. Ottawa is just bad news all around thanks to the Erik Karlsson deal– which sealed the summer of drama for the team– on top of Eugene Melnyk not getting out of his own way. Montreal, however, traded their captain and a young forward while also naming a guy who has been more injured than not during his Canadiens tenure the captain of the team. Wonder if Carey Price is regretting signing long-term or if he’s just getting his money and not caring about the outcome.

Looking around, the Buffalo Sabres are poised for either a break out year or another disappointing season looking towards the lottery. Rasmus Dahlin aside, the attitude of Jack Eichel seems to be about winning now, Carter Hutton could be a breakout start in a starters role, the the Sabres could just decided to say the hell with it and go balls to the wall in order to win. That or they’ll have to deal with a lot of injuries and then get frustrated and fold up into a shell again.

While Tampa Bay didn’t lose too many big names, the loss of Steve Yzerman could very well hurt in the long-run. Though, Julien BriseBois has been under Yzerman’s learning tree, the moves that Yzerman were able to get may just be the respect factor of the man who is revered in the hockey world. Yet, a team that was one win away from the Cup Final shouldn’t have to do much more than they did, especially in a weak division.

People sleep on Boston a little too much, especially when you think they have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on their offensive side. Tuukka Rask is due for a bounce-back year, though the defense will rely heavily on Charlie McAvoy, especially with Torey Krug out for the start of the season. It will be scoring by committee after the first line in Boston, but Bruce Cassidy seems like he can holster all the firepower he can in order to get this team back to the playoffs.

Florida and Detroit are also in this division. The Panthers keep getting closer and closer then further away, while the Red Wings could be in the midst of a long playoff drought in their new building. Of the two, MAYBE the Panthers could come close to being in the Wild Card discussion, but it’s a very long-shot at that.