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.
“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.