There are some people out there who don’t understand the need for an exhibition game in the middle of the season. For the University of North Dakota, it could have been the best for them to end the 2022 portion of their season with an exhibition game against the United States U18 team. Not only did it end the 2022 portion of the season, but kicked off the second semester for the Fighting Hawks, who had a less than stellar first part of their season. Sitting at 7-8-4 and seventh in the eight-team NCHC, the Hawks are looking for a big push to be able to host their playoff series at home.
Enter the yearly event against the U18 team, who has brought plenty of pressure to past UND squads, including the U18s getting their first win against UND last season– a loss that sent UND on a four-game losing skid after. With almost a month off, this was a solid test for this team to shake some of the rust off and use it to maybe get some players going to start the second half of the season.
“It’s something when we build our schedule that we like to have,” associate head coach Dane Jackson mentioned post game. “The first half has been a grind. It’s nice to have them come back and try to find their way a little bit in this game. It’s important to build and get ready for Lindenwood.”
Jackson was filling in the head coaching spot, as Brad Berry was tending to a family matter. Jackson got plenty of help right out of the gate with Jake Schmaltz and Riese Gaber scoring 2:38 apart in the first part of the first period to get North Dakota out in front. The U18s scored late in the frame less than two minutes apart from Gabe Perreault and Will Smith to have the game tied at two.
In a game like this, the players seemed to enjoy the ability to take some risks or do things they may not try in regular season games while not taking a harsh penalty in the standings due to it.
“I like it. I thought personally, it was good for me,” said Louis Jamernik V after the game. “We’re kind of glad to have a game where if you make a mistake, it’s not going to cost us too much. Obviously, we want to do our best and try our hardest. But to have a game to play fast and knock the rust off is good.”
“It’s huge for us,” defenseman Cooper Moore remarked after the game. “They’re a really fast, really skilled team. They’re good on the rush and our tracks have been some of the best tracks we’ve had all year. I think we looked really good and fast and I think it’ll give us a little more confidence going into Lindenwood.”
Moore got UND the lead back in the second frame, taking a pass from Owen McLaughlin and snapping it over the shoulder of Michael Chambre. Late in the second period, the U18s tied it back up with Perreault’s second of the game with under two minutes in the second period. The third period saw each side get their chances in, but neither was able to hit the back of the net; although it looked as if the U18s had gotten the go-ahead goal late, but it was called back due to goaltender interference. In the overtime frame; Matteo Costantini got the winner after a Jamernik V pass to his wing, snapping it past Chambre’s glove to send the UND faithful home happy.
“Great play by Jammer to get the puck over to me,” Costantini said, “I just happened to have a lot of speed and caught their defenseman flat-footed. We’re going to take this as momentum going into next weekend.”
It’ll be a task for UND, as Lindenwood has pushed some of the upper echelon teams to the brink of a loss this season. Coupled with a former UND alum behind the bench in Rick Zombo, you have to think the Lions will be hungry for this match-up. Luckily for the Hawks, they won’t be caught getting back into it all thanks to this mid-season exhibition against the USA U18 squad.
POST GAME VIDEOS