GRAND FORKS, ND– On Senior Night and missing yet another key player, this time in Ethan Frisch, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks put on their next-man-up mentality and used it in their quick start against Western Michigan, as they took the win and swept their third straight weekend.
North Dakota was able to get out to a quick start while Western Michigan got into plenty of penalty trouble. It only took 2:34 for North Dakota to cash in, as Luke Bast took a rebound off a blocked shot in front and wired it past Brandon Bussi to give the Hawks an early lead.
Then, North Dakota used deflections from Western to their advantage. First, the best of both worlds, as Louis Jamernik was able to weave through the defense for a prime chance, but he was hauled down in the process. As the delayed penalty was happening, Jamernik’s attempt was knocked into the net by Daniel Hilsendager to give UND the 2-0 lead and yet another power play. Just past midway, another power play for UND saw Judd Caulfield looking to find Connor Ford on the two-on-one break, though Caulfield’s pass went off of Cole Gallant’s skate and into the net to give UND a three-goal lead just 12:15 into the game.
Western was able to get on the board late with a power play goal of their own with Jason Polin tallying his 14th of the year to cut the UND lead to two going into intermission.
Though the second period saw Western give UND fits on Friday, UND was able to counterattack better in Saturday’s match-up, while also give more good bounces to UND. The first of which had Zach Driscoll make a save-of-the-year nominee, as a puck caromed off the back glass and landed onto his back. Making a quick decision, Driscoll put his glove hand behind his back, turned his body, making sure the puck never crossed the line and keeping it a two goal game. Another UND bounced came at the tail-end of a penalty kill, with Caulfield and Jamernik rushing on a 2-on-0 give-and-go with Caulfield passing over to Jamernik, but the puck was deflected by a back-checking Ronnie Attard of Western; but it wasn’t enough to break up the play with Jamernik corralling the puck and passing back to Caulfield for his second of the night and giving UND the 4-1 lead.
Despite only getting five shots in the third period, Western was able to get within two goals on a Josh Passolt breakaway goal, as he got behind the defense and walked in to score on Driscoll to make it 4-2. But, it was UND’s night with captain Mark Senden helping cap off the weekend on another odd-man-rush, using patiences coming down the wing before finding Carson Albrecht for his second goal of the season to help seal a 5-2 victory for North Dakota.
With the NCHC commissioner in the building to maybe present the Penrose Trophy for best regular season team in the conference, North Dakota waited after the game to watch the end of the Denver/Omaha– with Denver needing to win to stay alive. Denver overcame a 2-0 hole to win 5-2, meaning that a North Dakota win or Denver loss next weekend would give the Fighting Hawks their third-straight Penrose.
THEY SAID IT
“Guys are willing to do anything for each other. We had over 20-some blocks in the game tonight, giving your body up, sacrificing, whatever you have to do. Doing whatever you can in your role to help win a game, and I think our guys are maximizing their roles right now.” –Head coach Brad Berry on the sacrifice of his team
“We went into Western and battled hard, but didn’t come up with any wins, so we knew we wanted a couple games at the Ralph. We always play hard in our building and we weren’t going to make it easy on them.” – Caulfield on getting payback after the earlier series against the Broncos.
“It sucks because (Frisch) is a huge leader and plays a big role for us, but we know it’s nothing new. Obviously with this past month losing guys, we just got to step up. That’s been huge for us to get these looks from guys who haven’t been getting the opportunity and we’re starting to build that swagger. Now that we have that internal belief that we can get the job done, that’s huge.” –Jamernik on the confidence of the team.