GRAND FORKS, ND– With another top-five seed on the rink, the top-ranked University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks put their skill on display as they beat Denver University 4-1 on Friday night. Peter Thome made 26 saves while Shane Pinto, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jordan Kawaguchi, and Collin Adams all had multi-point nights.
After chances in the first five minutes, UND got on the board first with Shane Pinto taking a wild pass from Jacob Bernard-Docker at the point and Pinto knocking it past Devin Cooley. Denver was able to get two power plays in the frame, but North Dakota’s PK was solid clogging the lanes and Peter Thome was strong when called upon. UND also rang one off the post in the middle of the frame, but the frame ended 1-0.
Early in the second, Collin Adams got called for tripping Bobby Brink, setting the Pioneers up with their third power play of the game. Brink ended the power play with a laser beam of a shot off a pass from Ian Mitchell to tie the game. Brink, however, did not finish the night, as he was injured in the second period when Cole Smith slid to block a shot and trapped Brink’s ankle and leg underneath his body weight, leading Brink to limp off the ice favoring his left leg.
Four minutes after Denver’s goal, after a too-many men call against Denver, UND got a power play goal right back with Matt Kiersted ripping wrister from the point through a screen in front to beat Cooley and get the Fighting Hawks the lead again. The Hawks padded the lead late in the frame when Grant Mismash crashed the net on a harmless shot, pokes the puck out of Cooley’s reach right to Adams to make it a 3-1 lead.
Late in the second and onto the third, the hitting picked up– as most Denver/North Dakota games are wont to do; but it also set the tone for the series finale tomorrow. However, after a penalty for indirect contact to the head, the power play created a turnover that moved the puck to Adams, who found Bernard-Docker streaking down the slot to make it a 4-1 game. While the hitting continued, the scoring did not as UND took Friday’s game 4-1.
With the win, North Dakota clinched home-ice in the NCHC playoffs, a feat that is always at the top of the priority list each season for the team.
“The first thing we do is shooting for home ice, but now we have to shoot to higher things,” head coach Brad Berry said postgame. “We’ve got to string some games together down this stretch and play with momentum, starting with tomorrow’s game. We want to have a good chance to keep things going here. Every team this time of year is going to give their best and we have to make sure we’re doing our best to keep right with them.”
THEY SAID IT
“That’s something I’ve worked a lot on with Karl (Goehring). Having a few layers of screens and looking around them. Part of that is never excepting. It’s your job to see the puck and never saying, ‘Oh, I lost it. Not really on me, I couldn’t see it.’ You got to keep battling and finding it and never giving up even if you feel it’s already been shot– working on finding where it’s at and finding positioning.” — Peter Thome on being able to see the puck better through traffic this season.
“I don’t think my approach changes too much. It’s the same mental approach as any game and prepare the same way.”– Shane Pinto on playing in the national spotlight.
“You kind of realize when you’re a freshman that you’re going to be here forever. Even when you’re a sophomore; it still feels so far away. Then, as a junior you start to realize you’re in the back half. We don’t want to be that class that sends this program back a few years. Every guy in our class worked their tails off in the summer to try and get better and I think that’s what you’re seeing.” — Thome on the Junior class performing this season.