UND HOCKEY: UND Force Overtime, Split Series with Bemidji

GRAND FORKS, ND– After winning at Bemidji State last night, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came back home to complete the home-and-home against the Beavers. A slow start doomed the Hawks from the start, but thanks to late pressure– they were able to get the game into overtime, but could not complete the comeback, losing 4-3 to Bemidji in extra time. 

“One of the main points for today was to have a better start,” said UND coach Brad Berry after the game. “I thought a couple plays led to their goals, and they were nice goals, but a couple of mistakes– not handling the puck in the neutral zone and errand passes in our zone. You can’t put yourself down 2-0 against a good team like that.”

Bemidji struck first, as Kyle Looft wristed on through a mass of humanity and put it past Zach Driscoll to make it 1-0 Beavers 47 seconds into the game. Less than a minute after that, Tyler Kirkup picked up an errand pass in the defensive zone to make it 2-0 within the first 1:28 of the game. After their timeout was called, UND got on the board with a great transition and tic-tac passing from Connor Ford and Chris Jandric allowed Ashton Calder to put home his third of the year. While the Fighting Hawks got most of the chances through the period, including two solid chances from Gavin Hain, Kirkup got on the board again, after a pass from Alex Adams hit off his stick and trickled past Driscoll to make it 3-1 Bemidji.

North Dakota, knowing they couldn’t give the next goal, kept pushing offensively with a decent amount of chances– including Hain skying a puck on the breakaway. They finally got within one as Riese Gaber picked up a Louis Jamernik wrap-around rebound to close the gap to 3-2.  Even with the power plays that UND were given towards the end of the frame, they couldn’t convert and had only a few quality chances at Michael Carr. UND outshot Bemidji 11-4, but the score remained 3-2 after 40. 

Try as they might, UND couldn’t get shots past Carr. Bemidji got their bodies, sticks, and everything else in the way of any potential Fighting Hawks shots. While some passes didn’t connect, the Hawks made sure that they did support Driscoll when Bemidji tried to press the play. It wasn’t until there was 48 seconds left in the game, when– with the extra attacker– Ashton Calder fired it on net and Carr, who was half in the net, let it slip by him to tie the game, sending it to overtime. 

“(Sanderson) made a great play off the wall, caught them sleeping a little bit,” said Calder of the game-tying goal. “(Schmaltz) made a great pass and I was there to pump it into the back of the net.” 

It took only 53 seconds in OT to end it, as Ross Armour got behind the UND defense to put it over the shoulder of Driscoll to give Bemidji the split on the weekend with a 4-3 victory of their own. 

THEY SAID IT

“You gotta reset. That was a critical time to reset your team and get back into sorts again. When you give up two goals, you get kind of shaken a little bit; I wanted to make sure our guys get back on the horse again. You can’t control what’s in the past, but you can control the future. I want to make sure the future of our game was good.”– Berry on using his time-out 1:28 into regulation. 

“We showed we can play really well, especially those last two periods, we just have to start better. You can’t spot teams, especially like that, two goals, three goals right away in the first period, so I think if we clean that up, we’ll be really good after that.”– Calder on the takeaways on the weekend.

“At the end of the day, it’s huge to have that tied up and go into your pairwise ranking against a good team. The biggest point is we like our team, but we got to play more like a team in the early part of the game. Second and third, we had great push-back, I don’t think we spent a whole lot of time in the second and third at our end of the rink. We just have to have a more effort not playing in our zone in the first.”– Berry on getting into overtime.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Collect First Sweep of the Year, Downing Niagara 4-0.

Photo: Jen Conway/ @NHLHistoryGirl

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a decisive 6-2 win last night, North Dakota knew they needed to start quickly to set the tone to try and get the eventual sweep of Niagara University. On a night where the school honored former player and current Grand Forks mayor Brandon Bochenski, the Fighting Hawks got off to that quick start and didn’t look back, sweeping the Purple Eagles with a 4-0 victory on Saturday. 

North Dakota wasted no time as Judd Caulfield made a no-look spin-a-rama pass to Jake Schmaltz, who put it over the shoulder of Jake Sibell to take the 1-0 lead 1:08 into the first. Niagara woke up after that goal, starting to tilt the ice in their direction, putting some shots on Zach Driscoll.

The second period didn’t have much flow to it in the beginning. The passes didn’t seem to hit the marks and there was plenty of sloppy play in the defensive zone for North Dakota. With two power plays in the first part of the second frame, the Fighting Hawks didn’t seem to get any lane to get quality chances with Niagara getting sticks in the lanes and getting onto the puck carrier quickly. That changed with 6:28 left in the period, as Schmaltz got his second of the game as the puck was cycled around the zone and Schmaltz fired home a one-timer from Chris Jandric past Sibell, who had lost his glove in a scrum in front of the net. 

With some back and forth play, Jake Sanderson made it 3-0 on a 4-on-4 situation, coming down off the wing, getting a pass from Connor Ford, and going backhand/forehand/backhand through the crease and behind Sibell. 

Plenty of neutral zone action in the third, but with 2:59 remaining, Riese Gaber put home a power play goal from the top of the circle off a Sanderson pass and made it 4-0, which would be the eventual final. 

Next weekend, North Dakota will play a home-and-home series against Bemidji State, whom they beat in their exhibition game this season. 

THEY SAID IT

“New guys, but they’re experienced guys. Obviously, just trying to find spots for each one of those guys on each unit. We haven’t been able to work with them until the beginning of September, but they’ve been bonding together since July and getting to know each other. They deeply care about each other and when we’re not on the ice with them, they’re talking power play and they’re working on it together.”– Head coach Brad Berry about the new players succeeding on the power play early in the year. 

“I don’t think I should be compared to Drew Stafford, but it’s super cool to have a stat like that, but he’s a hell of a player. I shouldn’t compared to him just yet.”– Schmaltz on being the first rookie since Stafford in 2003-04 to score in his first two games. 

“We just stuck to our game plan. Just getting on pucks early, forechecking hard, too. Make them make mistakes and turn the puck over and we just capitalize on that.”– Caulfield on what UND excelled on this weekend. 

“Feels good individually, but that doesn’t happen without the team in front of me. Special teams were awesome– power play and penalty kill did their jobs. The chances that did happen were from the outside. Good team effort for sure.”– Driscoll on his 11th career shutout

UND Hockey: Fighting Hawks Open Season With Big Win Over Niagara

Photo via UND Hockey Twitter @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– On the 20th Anniversary weekend of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks kicked off their season with a non-conference battle against the Niagara University Purple Eagles. In the “House That Ralph Built,” many family members were in attendance to celebrate the birthday of one of the best arenas in all of hockey. It was something that UND head coach Brad Berry stressed to the players before going onto the ice. 

“We’re grateful and blessed to have this rink,” Berry said. “We mentioned that to our team– and I think that helped them– that the Engelstad family was here to see the gracious gift they gave us. I think our guys felt that and jumped out right away.”

North Dakota got things going early, as Ethan Frisch got his first of the year with a wrister from the point getting by Chad Veltri. Frisch was set up perfectly by Matteo Costantini, who was patient, keeping the puck in the zone and finding an open Frisch for the chance. UND continued to dictate the play, resulting in a couple offensive chances and then cashing in minutes later with Jake Schmaltz getting his first NCAA goal after Riese Gaber drove to the net and found a streaking Schmaltz for the tap-in. North Dakota continued to pace the play, holding Niagara to only three shots in the first. The offense didn’t let up, as Ashton Calder put home his first goal with the Fighting Hawks on the power play, picking up a Riese Gaber rebound and putting it past Veltri with under three minutes remaining. It was Calder’s first power play goal in over a calendar year.

“It’s nice, I mean, having me in that spot, obviously shoot and hopefully score goals. I do my best to do that every night,” Calder said after the game. 

Niagara got an early power play, but the UND PK was strong again, keeping it away from the danger zones and allowing Zach Driscoll to see the puck clearly. North Dakota would strike in the first portion of the period, with Calder striking again after a shot went over the net and Jackson Kunz picked up the loose puck and found Calder just above the crease to put it behind Veltri and give the Hawks a 4-0 lead. With some back and forth play, Niagara had one big chance with Walker Sommer walking down the wing and across the crease, but Driscoll was able to stop him with the right pad. As the period wound down, Jake Sanderson got in on the scoring, getting a pass on the half-wall by Judd Caulfield and putting it near-side on Veltri to make it 5-0. 

An early chance by Connor Ford, cutting through the defense, but Veltri was able to shoulder the puck away. The Fighting Hawks did have a bit of a rest, with Niagara getting some chances to Driscoll’s blocker side, but all were turned away. North Dakota got back in the goal column with Tyler Klevin getting a pass from Gaber and hammering it over the shoulder of Veltri to make it 6-0 and giving Gaber his third assist of the night. However, Niagara would get on the board, as Shane Ott picked up a Mike Faulkner rebound off the crossbar to make it 6-1. Just 51 seconds later, what looked like a  Ryan Naumovski shot-pass deflected off of Frisch’s skate to make it 6-2, which is how the game would end. 

These two teams meet again on Saturday night to close out their series. 

THEY SAID IT

“We talk about it right at the beginning of the year. We talk about it going into the first series like this one right away. We don’t even look at them as non-conference, we look at them as NCHC games because they count just as much and they’re vital to making the National Tournament. So, whether we’re at home or on the road in non-conference play, we tell them to treat it like an NCHC game.”– Berry on the importance of the non-conference weekends.

“It was super cool. Playing with Riese (Gaber) and Judd (Caulfield) make it super easy for me. But just the play Riese made to take the guy wide, giving it to me backdoor, there’s not a lot for me to do, so shoutout to Riese for that.”– Schmaltz after this first NCAA goal.

“We got off to a good start. That was kind of our main focus was to come out early, get a lead, and build off that. There’s some room for improvement in the second period, but overall it was a pretty good game.”– Gaber on the first game of the season.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Slide Past Bemidji State in Exhibition Opener

GRAND FORKS, ND– It has been a long time since the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks played in front of a full Ralph Engelstad Arena. With the weekend in Grand Forks being as busy as it was, The Ralph was packed with 11,812 fans happy to be in the arena and cheer on the Hawks. On a banner raising night to commemorate the NCHC Championship, the Fighting Hawks and their 14 new players took on the Bemidji State Beavers in their exhibition tune-up and took home a victory by a count of 2-1. 

The game was initially supposed to be against the University of Manitoba, as most teams face USports teams from Canada for their exhibition games. Because of that, the NCAA allowed exhibition games against fellow NCAA teams if need be. 

“This was a litmus test for us,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “Even though both teams might have a little rust tonight; the heaviness, the lack of time and space, you know, an intense college hockey game was thrown at us. There’s nothing that replaces that. We have a lot of areas to work on, but I’m glad we got to play against a very, very good opponent.”

“That’s a great team over there,” Jake Sanderson said of Bemidji State. “I saw that the schedule changed and I was pretty happy just to see where we stacked up against another good team. I was pretty pumped.”

It was a feeling out period for both teams, with North Dakota getting chances early on, but Michael Carr had some pretty solid saves from the Fighting Hawks attempts. Bemidji didn’t get a shot on goal until after halfway through the first, with North Dakota getting into the shooting lanes, as well as not giving the Beavers any time to set-up their offense. Bemidji did get plenty of chances after the halfway mark, including a breakaway that just got past Zach Driscoll, but couldn’t get past the left post to keep the game scoreless. 

It didn’t take long for North Dakota to find the net in the second period, as an early power play for the Fighting Hawks yielded the first goal. The puck cycled around the zone and ended up on Riese Gaber’s stick, where he fired a wrister past Mattias Sholl to give UND the lead 2:30 into the frame. Bemidji would answer back moments later as a tic-tac-toe passing play from Lukas and Owen Sillinger ended with a Alex Ierullo goal to even the score. North Dakota seemed to be on their heels after that goal, with Bemidji working the puck around, but not getting many shots onto Driscoll. 

Going in tied at one in the third, both teams were looking for any space they could. Bemidji’s forecheck was giving North Dakota fits, while maintaining pressure on net. Driscoll kept composure and kept the game knotted up, including stopping an Owen Sillinger breakaway attempt. Just past the halfway mark, Jake Sanderson took the game on his stick, going end-to-end and putting a shot five-hole on Gavin Enright to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. While Bemidji pushed, the Fighting Hawks defense got in front of shots and clogged up the neutral zone on their way to the 2-1 victory. 

“I just saw time and space,” Sanderson said of his goal. “The defense kind of backed off and I just took it.” 

North Dakota starts their regular season off next weekend against Niagara University at home. 

THEY SAID IT

“It was a weird experience for sure. I played three seasons in that program, so going out for warm-ups and seeing the Beaver jersey on the other side was a little weird. One the puck drops, you’re just playing hockey after that.”– Driscoll on playing his former school in his first game at North Dakota. 

“I thought it was awesome. Haven’t played in over a year, but these guys made it easy for me. It’s a good group here, so it was awesome. I just gotta give credit to the team and my D partners for making it so easy for me. Kept it easy and simple.”– Chris Jandric on playing his first NCAA game in over a year.

NCAA Fargo Regional: Mylymok Stops Clock on Longest Game, Duluth Advances

FARGO, ND– For the first time since 1984, the University of North Dakota and University of Minnesota-Duluth faced off in the NCAA tournament, this time for a chance to reach the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. This is also the first time these teams have met since the NCHC Pod in December. In those two Pod games, Duluth won in a shootout and North Dakota won in regulation. 

The first and second period did not yield any scoring, as many chances were stymied by the ice conditions. Pucks bouncing over sticks, pucks sticking to the ice, and overall inability to have the vulcanized rubber settle down for top scoring chances limited both Duluth and North Dakota solid chances to break through in the first 40 minutes. The few chances each side got were due to scrums in front and broken plays off of bad bounces. 

In the third period, Duluth struck first, with Jackson Cates getting first blood off a Hunter Lellig shot from the point and the final bounce going off of Cates’ stick and over Adam Scheel’s shoulder. Minutes later, a broken stick by Grant Mismash at the UND blue line sprung Cole Koepke on a breakaway and beat Scheel blocker side for the two-goal lead. While Duluth locked it down defensively, North Dakota did all they could to get a goal. It wasn’t until under two minutes in the frame when Collin Adams banked a shot off of Zach Stejskal back to get North Dakota within one. After a missed empty-net chance led to an icing, North Dakota moved the puck around the perimeter and a blocked Shane Pinto shot landed on the stick of captain Jordan Kawaguchi to give the Fighting Hawks the equalizer. 

North Dakota used their momentum from the third in overtime and got plenty of chances. However, Duluth looked to have ended the game from a Kobe Ruth goal, but upon review Koby Bender was offside and the game continued onward. And on it did go, as the game went through four complete overtimes, making it the longest NCAA tournament game (142:13) in history. Not without its chances throughout, as North Dakota hit three posts over the overtime frames and Duluth had a couple of close calls from scrums in front of the net. One big moment happened as Stejskal had an injury to his left side and needed to be pulled towards the end of the 4th overtime, making way for Ryan Fanti. All good things come to an end, however, as on the last post shot by North Dakota, Duluth’s Luke Mylymok took the puck the other way and put a snapshot past Scheel to end it with the final 3-2. 

THEY SAID IT

“I thought we played well. Two great teams going at it. The score reflected it and the overall game reflected it. Those are my brothers in there. That’s my family.”– Jordan Kawaguchi about the game.

“It’s one of those things when you get into overtime games, you got to keep the games simple and keep the game in front of you. We used everybody. It’s very unfortunate. You look at our scoring chances and how many posts we hit, how many scoring opportunities we had. At the end of the day, we had enough to win the game and we didn’t close in on it and we didn’t get it done that way. Really, really proud of our guys. They left their hearts on the ice and everything that they did. They worked extremely hard in the room to get to where they needed to.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry

“It proves to what we are as far as a team that never gives up, a team that’s relentless, a team that fights to the very end. I told the guys after the game, this is life– this is what life is. It’s not fair. We could argue it all day about who could have won the game. But that’s what sports is, that’s what life is. You keep moving on. You have to learn from the past. Our young guys are going to put this in the back of their mind as far as having this experience.”– Berry on the talk post-game with the team.

“It certainly under adverse circumstances because Zach was cramping, which was a shame because I thought he played well. But it’s not an easy thing for Ryan (Fanti) to do. You’re sitting on the bench and you haven’t played. He made some three or four big stops for us, too. It’s a nice situation that we had all year with goalies that we felt could win games for us.”– Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin on his goaltending situation. 

“It was a game-time decision by the coaches. When I heard my name, I was just ecstatic as a freshman going into these games. Just really emotional and think about all the time and work put into it to get your name called and get to play in a huge game like this is unbelievable.”– Duluth forward Luke Mylymok on when he heard he was in the line-up. 

“You just try to be a good teammate on the bench and let the guys know you’re there for them. That’s the biggest part in the role like that, to let the boys know you’re there for them. You try to be a huge energy guy and get the boys going when you see that they’re tired and try to uplift them.”– Mylymok on his role when he wasn’t getting a lot of ice time.

“My legs were fresh and I knew I had to get some speed on that shot and use the defense on the shot. It just shot it and it went five-hole. You’re not looking for five-hole, but you can take what you can get.”– Mylymok on his game-winning goal.

NCAA Fargo Regional: North Dakota Moves On, Duluth Walks Through

FARGO, ND– The semifinals of the Fargo Regional of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship took place on Friday night at Scheels Arena. While the joy of the tournament was felt by most everyone, the day started out on a rough patch for one squad. 

On Friday afternoon, the NCAA had announced that the University of Michigan has a player who tested positive and the team has to withdraw from the tournament. That meant the University of Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the Regional Finals. They would take on the winner of the University of North Dakota and American International College. 

In the first five minutes, AIC was all over North Dakota. The plucky 16-seed wanted to revisit what they did in Fargo in 2019 when they took out the #1 overall seed St. Cloud State. At one point, AIC was outshooting North Dakota. After the first media timeout, however, North Dakota seemed to snap out of whatever jitters they had and went on the offensive. 

Jasper Weatherby started the scoring off just as the North Dakota power play expired, taking a Jacob Bernard-Docker shot off the backboards and putting it past Stefano Durante to make it 1-0. Two minutes later, Weatherby scored his second of the game, pickpocketing an AIC defender and going in to beat Durante and make it 2-0. North Dakota shored up their own zone, making sure AIC didn’t get past the red line. Three minutes after Weatherby’s second; Grant Mismash– playing his first game since late February– used Shane Pinto as a screen to make it 3-0. Collin Adams helped keep the puck alive when he lost an edge, but was still able to protect the puck and get it to Tyler Kleven so it stayed in the zone. Adams was rewarded after getting a chip pass from Riese Gaber, put it past Durante to make it 4-0, concluding four-goals in a 7:20 span. 

AIC started the second with Jake Kucharski in net. However, the offense wasn’t quite there in this frame. The ice was the biggest defenseman out there, with the puck bouncing to and fro for most of the frame, as well as creating a lot of havoc for skate blades to boot. At times it was hard to see if this was the hockey or basketball tournament. The third period was more of the same until a late North Dakota penalty gave away for AIC to score on the power play thanks to a Tobias Fladeby shot beating Adam Scheel. Twenty-nine seconds later, Adams got his second of the game off a centering pass Jordan Kawaguchi to make it 5-1. 

THEY SAID IT

“We heard it loud and clear. We talked about it right after the selection, through the week. It turned to us in terms of what we had to do. That’s a very good team over there. They’ve won a lot of games with very few losses. We just had to play our game. I thought for the most part we did. Hand it to them, they had some momentum shifts in the game and kept us in our zone a little. For the most part, we did a good job of managing the 60 minutes thanks to the leadership of our team.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on being reminded of history of AIC upsetting St. Cloud two years ago.

“It was good for us to get a game in. Our last game was St. Cloud about a week and a half ago. There was a little rust there, but we knocked it off. It was beneficial to us to get that first game in and get our boots on the ground.”– Adams on either playing a game or having rest like Duluth.

“We thought calm would win the hockey game. We knew we’d have to ride the roller coaster a little bit. There’d be times where we’d have to weather some storms.”– AIC head coach Eric Lang about the plan for the game.

“I don’t personally think I was even thinking about it. But the noise in the building obviously makes a difference. I can’t really talk for other guys, but I think we rebounded from it by just calming down like coach said. And that’s really about it. We just kind of went back to our game rather than getting scrambling and making plays.”– AIC captain Brennen Kapcheck on playing in front of a live crowd.

“Our program is beyond the point of moral victories. But I can tell you, I’m as proud as this group, two years later sitting in the same room doing the same press conferences I was two years ago. It’s easy to pack it in there. And I couldn’t be prouder of what these guys have done in terms of commitment for the unknown. Since late August, we’ve been together. These guys have missed weddings, funerals, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and you’re all in all the time.” –Lang about the evolution of his program.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff: North Dakota Captures First Playoff Title

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the first time in the NCHC’s inception, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks can lay claim to the NCHC Playoff Championship following their win Tuesday night against St. Cloud State by a score of 5-3.  

While the crowd was pro-North Dakota, St. Cloud struck first with Zach Okabe put home a slap-pass from Ondrej Trejbal behind Adam Scheel, as Okabe worked through two defenders to get his stick in for the redirect. North Dakota counter-punched with some sustained pressure on the St. Cloud zone, including three shots in one sequence by Jake Sanderson, but David Hrenak battled them off to keep the Huskies ahead. However, the pressure from North Dakota wouldn’t be stopped, as Riese Gaber tied the game with a laser shot pass the glove of Hrenak to tie the game. Gaber got a great pass across from Jordan Kawaguchi, who himself got a great outlet pass from Collin Adams. The Huskies answered back three minutes later, as Seamus Donohue ripped a shot from the top of the circle that went high blocker on Scheel to make it 2-1.

The second period had plenty of chances on both sides. St. Cloud swarmed Scheel plenty, getting off 16 shots in the frame, while North Dakota sustained pressure late in the frame, but only mustered seven shots on goal over the 20 minutes. 

Early in the third, North Dakota drew a holding penalty and went to work on the power play. Monday’s hero, Gavin Hain, tied the game after Shane Pinto worked around the outside of the Huskies’ defense and centered a perfect pass over to Hain to beat Hrenak. North Dakota then opened the floodgates as, first, Kawaguchi picked up a loose puck in front of the net as Gaber was hooked and potted it home to make it 3-2 North Dakota. The penalty was upheld after the goal and North Dakota converted with Gaber streaking down the slot to make it 4-2 off a pass from Matt Kiersted. Three goals in 2:02 had the Ralph Engelstad Arena buzzing with the majority of fans cheering their home team…obviously. Sam Hentges stopped the bleeding a bit for the Huskies, putting in a side angle shot under the arm of Scheel to cut the North Dakota lead to one. While St. Cloud pressed, North Dakota sealed the deal when Ethan Frisch made a smart clear out of the zone to Kawaguchi to put it away and made the final 5-3. 

THEY SAID IT

“I’m proud of that group. Great kids. They’re obviously hurting. Those guys never gave up. We made a great push and made some great chances at the end. There’s nothing that prepares you for the tournament like an atmosphere like that. That was like a Frozen Four game.”– St. Cloud head coach Brett Larson about his team push back. 

“I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the sacrifices these kids have made. Some guys who haven’t seen their family in a year. Euros and Canadians who haven’t been able to go home. Players who are asked to sit in their apartments or go to the rink only. Not being able to have family at the game until the last month of the year. Parents who have sacrificed everything and not be able to see their kids. It doesn’t just go for our team– it’s all of college sports and college hockey.”– Larson on what he’ll reflect on from this season. 

“I feel like we validated our season by playing in a game like this. Showing we can show up and go toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the countries. And our team can keep their heads held high because of it.”– Larson about his team staying in the Final game. 

“It was pretty sweet. It was crazy to think that the building was a quarter-full and it was that loud. It was pretty exciting.”– Gaber about the energy from the crowd. 

“Coming in, us young guys, it’s perfect to learn from the seniors and the older guys. As we get older, we can teach the younger guys how to win.”– Gaber on his process as a freshman. 

“We gave up the first goal again and had to chase the game a little. But I thought we got better as the game went on. We had some resiliency throughout the game, but especially in the third period, we did a good job of getting some offensive zone time. Special teams were a factor and at the end of the day, you have to score on your power play and defend against their power play.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on his view of the game. 

“Our whole class did today. I’ve said this before, but we were on our walk going into the dressing room and we have our own way we go before game. We all thought it was our last walk before this game and it was kind of emotional, but happy we could get this win and pretty special to win our last game at The Ralph.”– Kawaguchi on playing his last game at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff: North Dakota, St. Cloud to Meet in Finals

GRAND FORKS, ND– The final four took the ice at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in hopes of getting into Tuesday’s Championship game.  

The first game saw the St. Cloud Huskies taking on the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in a tight battle with a couple of crazy bounces and a play needed rewind to see if there was a goal. 

St. Cloud almost got a lucky bounce early when a dump-in took a weird hop and caught Ryan Fanti by surprise when he was leaving the net, hitting the toe of his pads before it got cleared off the goal line. Moments later, the Huskies got onto the board with Jami Krannila finding a loose puck that was blocked in front and put it past Fanti to make it 1-0. After a review of a possible goal that wasn’t, Kobe Roth officially tied the game after a Jackson Cates shot hit off David Hrenak’s pad and right to Roth’s blade for a simple tap-in to tie it. St. Cloud got the lead back late in the frame, as Kevin Fitzgerald potted home a power play goal off a Krannila shot that hit off of Fanti’s pad and hit Fitzgerald on the pant-leg and dropped to his stick for a tap-in. 

St. Cloud dominated the first part of the second period, holding Duluth in their own zone thanks to two power plays in the first seven minutes of the period, while holding the Bulldogs to only one shot in the first ten minutes of the frame. Duluth did answer back, pinning St. Cloud thanks to some icing calls and eventually evened the game after a Roth shot off the side boards got tipped in by Koby Bender at the side of the net. On a bizarre goal, St. Cloud got the lead back when Chase Brand scored on a wrap-around short-handed, but it took until the next stoppage of play thirty seconds later for it to be reviewed and called a good goal to make it 3-2. 

Try as they might, Duluth pressed hard against St. Cloud, but the Huskies defense was able to shut down the Bulldogs shots, getting bodies in front of the puck and limiting chances towards Hrenak. At the final horn, the Huskies moved onto the Tuesday NCHC Final taking on the winner of North Dakota and Denver.

THEY SAID IT

“We keep trading momentum and chances. We have more opportunities to score more than two goals. That’s how our games have been– they’ve been one-goal games. One of the things I was disappointed in was penalties. You can’t take penalties against any teams going forward. You’ve got to stay disciplined and stay out of the box.” — Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin on the chances had by the Bulldogs during the semis. 

“It’s out of our control. We tried to win tonight’s game and get to tomorrow’s. That’s the mentality we’re trying to have this time of the year, especially going into this tournament. Single elimination is just like the NCAA tournament. The fate is in someone else’s hand now.”– Sandelin on his chances for the NCAA tournament. 

“It feels amazing. For us the last two games have been a lot of growth and fight through some adversity. Finding a way to win a game like that is a big step for our team.”– St. Cloud head coach Brett Larson on his team making a 3rd straight NCHC Final. 

“Learning how to play under the bright lights and the big games are how teams grow. I know the guys are looking forward to that opportunity. The only thing we’ve accomplished is the right to play in a championship. We’ve earned that right and we want to make sure we show up for it.”– Larson on the confidence of his team. 

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The second semifinal had the North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Denver Pioneers facing off. Denver was still undermanned due to COVID protocols, but North Dakota was without Jacob Bernard-Docker, who took a nasty hit in Friday’s game, and Brendan Budy. 

In the first half of the period, it was more a feeling out period. Despite plauying six times already this season, the two teams still sized each other up. North Dakota started to control the pace in the middle of the frame, putting plenty of shots onto Magnus Chrona, but nothing getting through. Denver got most of their offensive time in the last minute, but didn’t have any go past Adam Scheel as 20 minutes went by without a score. 

More physical play in the start of the season, but Gabe Bast got a little too physical on a slash to Bobby Brink giving Denver the first power play of the game. That led to Carter Savoie being credited with the first goal, as his intended pass across the ice deflected off Mark Senden’s stick and into the North Dakota net to give Denver the 1-0 lead. The Pioneers kept the offense going, all while holding the Fighting Hawks to the outside perimeter and limiting them to only three shots in the second frame. 

An early power play gave North Dakota a little momentum to build off of, but the biggest chance during it was early when Shane Pinto cranked a slap shot that clanged off the post and out. North Dakota kept pushing, to the point they pulled the goalie with 2:54 remaining. The Fighting Hawks kept possession and moved the puck inside the Denver zone, leading to a Pinto one-timer that got tipped in front by Jasper Weatherby to tie the game with 1:27 left, pushing the game to extra time. 

With overtime, Denver pressed early, forcing North Dakota to ice the puck a few times, though Denver only had one shot in the period. North Dakota got on the power play midway through the period, but were unable to convert during penalty time. Just as the Antti Tuomisto penalty expired, Gavin Hain hammered a shot from the face off dot past Magnus Chrona to push the Hawks to the NCHC Finals against St. Cloud.

THEY SAID IT

“I thought we executed our game plan well. Us being above pucks and not giving them much, especially through the first 40 minutes was good. We were real close, 90 seconds away. Our guys put their balls on the line tonight. They came and worked, I’m really proud of the guys who came and were on the trip.”– Denver head coach David Carle on his team’s performance. 

“Maybe a little. This game was a little different then Omaha, we were forced to defend more. Having nine forwards and playing the way we did Saturday, you’re going to get tired eventually. We’re not robots out there and we got a little tired towards the end.”– Denver forward Ryan Barrow on the team’s feeling of being short handed on the bench.

“We moved our lines a little around a little bit. They made a push in the second and they had opportunities against us. We came back in the third and the first shift we got the momentum and put some shifts together. I thought we did a lot of good things, but it all evens out in the end. We pulled the goalie with almost three minutes left and found a way to get it done and bring it home.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on his team’s performance. 

“It’s going to be adrenaline tomorrow. Got to play a smart, sound game and play with an attack mentality, but play a structure. Hopefully we can make a couple more plays tomorrow than we did tonight.”– Berry on his team’s energy level going into the Final.

“The biggest thing that resonated in that locker room is the belief we can do it. We’ll take that experience into the tournament and into our next game. It’s not over until it’s over and we’re confident we’ve got a great team, top to bottom. Look at guys stepping up and it means a lot to play in a championship game.”– Weatherby on the mentality of the locker room.

“Could have fooled me, I thought North Dakota let everyone come. It felt like a full arena.”– Weatherby on the crowd energy in the arena.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff Day 2: Denver, Duluth Advance to Monday

GRAND FORKS, ND– Day two of the NCHC quarterfinals happened on Saturday with St. Cloud State and North Dakota awaiting their opponents for Monday night.

In the first match-up, the Omaha Mavericks came back to the Ralph for the third weekend out of the last four to take on the undermanned Denver Pioneers, who only had 10 forwards and six defensemen due to the team being under COVID quarantine. 

Despite the small roster, Denver got on the board first thanks to Hank Crone ripping a shot that ringed off both posts and behind Isaiah Saville to give the Pioneers an early lead. Denver took the play to Omaha, outshooting them 10-2 until the Mavericks struck with two quick goals. First, Jason Smallidge threw a floater on net through a screen and snuck past Magnus Chrona to tie the game. Just about a minute later, Matt Miller turned at the bottom of the face off circle on Chrona’s blocker side and went far glove side to make it 2-1 for Omaha. 

Things got chippy in the second period, with Denver losing Antti Tuomisto and Omaha losing Martin Sundberg to different head-contact game misconducts, as well as five minute majors to go along with it. One major penalty cut into the other, so neither team got the full five minutes to work with, which yielded no power play goals in that time frame. After Omaha’s major power play expired, they caught Denver in a bad line change, leading to Tyler Weiss burying home a Taylor Ward pass to make it 3-1 Mavericks. Denver cut the deficit to one on the power play, as Bobby Brink scored on a one-time attempt that he didn’t get all of, as the puck fluttered over the shoulder of Saville to make it a one-goal game. 

Denver wasted no time getting the equalizer in the third, as Mike Benning took a rebound at the face off dot and slapped it over the shoulder of Saville to tie the game only 42 seconds into the frame. The balance of the third has Omaha offensively on top of Denver, almost doubling their shot total in only ten minutes. That didn’t matter, as a Tyler Weiss tripping call  put Denver on the power play with Benning ripping a shot high over the glove of Saville– thanks to a screen by Kohen Olischefski– to give Denver the lead. The lead was short-lived, as Nate Knoepke potted his fourth of the year when a scramble in front left Knoepke open with a yawning cage in front of him to put the puck into. Denver broke the tie moments later when Bo Hanson tipped a Connor Caponi shot down in front, hit the puck with his backhand, which bounced over Saville’s legs and into the net. Despite pressure from the Mavs with Saville pulled, Denver held them off and will move onto Monday’s semifinal. 

THEY SAID IT

“We say it all the time, NCHC strength. Our only losses in the second half are North Dakota and Denver, and those are two pretty good hockey teams. With the strength of our conference, we hope to get an at-large bid.” Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet on the team’s NCAA tournament chances. 

“Just wasn’t good enough. Penalties were unacceptable. It’s up to us to play the right way and I don’t think we did that.“– Nolan Sullivan on Omaha’s penalty troubles through the game. 

“I don’t think it was too much of a factor. Our team depth is outstanding, it was something we had to rely on tonight. Just being in the moment– the excitement, the adrenaline– I don’t think it was much of a factor.”– Olischefski on the fatigue factor with only 16 skaters for Denver. 

“The biggest thing is we came here to advocate for the league that we should have four teams in the tournament. On the big picture, I think we’ve made our case to be the fourth team going 3-1-1 against Omaha. We’re going to have our hands full on Monday, but we checked a big box in beating Omaha.”– Denver head coach David Carle on his team’s chances for an at-large bid. 

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The second match-up had the defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs taking on the Western Michigan Broncos. It took less than three minutes for Dultuh to get on the board, as Koby Bender took the puck into the zone, cut across the slot, and beat Brandon Bussi far post to put the Bulldogs up 1-0. Just after the halfway mark, Western Michigan strikes back with a great redirect from Jason Polin off a wonderful feed from Ty Glover to beat Ryan Fanti and tie the game. 

The game stayed pretty neutral at the start of the third, not many shots either way. Midway through, however, the Broncos broke the tie on the power play. Drew Worrad set Ethen Frank up for a one-timer that Frank blew past Fanti to give Western the lead. With a power play of their own six minutes later, Bender tied the game for Duluth with his second of the night. Bender gathered a clearing attempt from in front of the net and put it past Bussi; who had lost the puck in the crowd in front. Late in the frame, the Broncos regained the lead, as Cole Gallant batted home an Ethen Frank rebound to make it 3-2 with under a minute remaining in the second. 

Duluth controlled the tempo to start the third, then on the power play, Kobe Roth and Noah Cates got in behind the Western Michigan defense for a 2-on-0, with Roth finishing it off and getting the game back at even. Duluth took the lead as Cole Koepke, coming out of the penalty box, picked up a pass and fired it glove side on Bussi to make it 4-3 Bulldogs. The Broncos fought back after that goal, controlling the puck in their offensive zone most of the final six minutes of regulation. That hard work paid off as with 21.8 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled, Polin got his second goal of the night after a feed in front by Josh Passolt sent the game to an extra frame, the first in the quarterfinals. 

Both Duluth went back and forth and had chances early in the frame. However, Connor Kelley ended the game 6:24 into the frame, with a wrister from the point, beating Bussi. Western Michigan took exception to the way the puck was dropped on the face off as it hit the hand of the Duluth centerman and didn’t hit the ice.

THEY SAID IT

“As a team we knew it was going to be like that. Western Michigan has been playing great hockey at the end of the year. We knew it was going to be a one, two goal game. We just have to stick with the game. If something happens, we have to leave it behind and move on.”– Koepke on the back-and-forth nature of the match-up.

“We got to keep an even keel. We talked about it in the second intermission, we can’t get down on those things. It’s over, you can’t change it, but you have the opportunity in front of you to win it in overtime and we did that.”– Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin on keeping his team controlled through the game. 

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Monday’s semifinals will have St. Cloud taking on Duluth in the afternoon game, while the evening game will have North Dakota taking on Denver. The winner of the semi battle it out on Tuesday for the NCHC championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

NCHC Frozen Faceoff Day 1: Fighting Hawks, Huskies Move Onto Semis

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the first time in the eight year history of the NCHC, the Frozen Faceoff playoffs weren’t held in one of Minnesota’s twin cities, but in Grand Forks at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The decision came as ideas were thrown about with the playoffs and how they would be handled, especially after the success of the Pod in Omaha to start the season. You can see that story from Brad Schlossman here

Friday and Saturday have two quarterfinals with the semis on Monday and final on Tuesday. 

The first game had the very barebone team in Colorado College and St. Cloud State. The Tigers had only 16 skaters and a single goalie for this game due to COVID protocols being in place for the team. That didn’t deter Colorado College, who kept the St. Cloud offense at bay for most of the game, but the Huskies came out on top thanks to a late goal by Nick Perbix to move onto the semifinals with a 2-1 win. 

After a scoreless first, Colorado College got on the board two minutes into the second after McKay Flanagan threw a harmless dump pass onto net, but the puck handcuffed Huskies goalie David Hrenak to put the Tigers up 1-0. Late in the second, Colorado College’s captain Zach Berzolla went knee-on-knee with Veeti Miettinen, which resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct. St. Cloud tied the game up thanks to a Zach Okabe shot with 1:01 left in the second. 

It was all St. Cloud in the third, as it seemed Colorado College was just trying to hang on. The Huskies outshot the Tigers 17-0 in the final frame and only scored the one goal late thanks to the smart and sometimes desperate play of Matt Vernon in between the pipes for the Tigers. However, the Tigers couldn’t find the extra gear for the equalizer and the Huskies moved onto Monday’s semifinal. 

THEY SAID IT

“I’m really proud of our guys. They competed right to the end and we gave ourselves a chance. We had to shutdown a pretty high potent offense. Really proud about how we competed and battled.” — Colorado College head coach Mike Haviland

“It was more or less staying above them and not giving them a chance off the rush. I thought we did a great job. Four defensemen down the stretch hurt us, but we played above them. That was the game plan going ahead.” — Haviland on the game plan with a small roster. 

“These kinds of opportunities don’t come very often. I’ve always considered myself a playoff player. I knew that every single one of the guys would give it there all and I had to make sure I did the same.” — Vernon on his mindset coming into the game.

“You’re not used to having teams not forecheck you. The flow of the game was off. It took us a while to get adjusted to their game plan. About the 10 minute mark, we saw what they were doing, readjusted our game plan to go against them.” St. Cloud head coach Brett Larson on how his team adapted to the unique CC game. 

“We tried to stay with it and try to wear them down. Just work it low and get our chances in front of the net.” –Purbix about the St. Cloud mindset. 

“Obviously we were getting all our chances. We were fighting all day, but we knew one of them would go in.” –Okabe on the offensive chances St. Cloud had.

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In the second match-up, the top-seeded and host North Dakota Fighting Hawks took on the Miami RedHawks. The only match-ups between these teams came at the NCHC Pod in December, North Dakota winning both of those games. 

North Dakota got off to a quick start, with Collin Adams putting UND up 1-0 only 14 seconds into the first after a two-on-one with Jordan Kawaguchi. Miami had plenty of pressure after that goal, creating turnovers in the UND end. However, the Fighting Hawks counterpunched that saw Louis Jamernik tally his first college goal and make it 2-0. Seconds later, Adams got his second of the game off the face off and banking a passing attempt over a Miami defender to put the Fighting Hawks up 3-0. Miami got one back after the half-way point of the period, as Phil Knies put one over the right shoulder of Adam Scheel to make it 3-1. Riese Gaber got the three-goal lead back after picking up his own blocked shot to put it past Ludvig Persson and make it 4-1. 

UND made it a four-goal lead with Jacob Bernard-Docker getting a tally from a one-timer at the point through traffic in front to make it 5-1. While UND carried the pace for most of the period, Rourke Russell was able to sneak a shot past Adam Scheel, as a rising shot caught Scheel off-guard, bouncing off his blocker and kicked off his skate to make 5-2. 

Brendan Budy made it 6-2 when he gathered up a shot off the post from Adams and put it into the open net. For Adams, it was his fifth point of the night. A scary moment in the third when Bernard-Docker was retrieving a puck, he tripped himself up on a pivot and the side of his head hit the back boards. He laid in a heap as Miami continued to possess the puck before getting back into the play and helping out the penalty kill. After that sequence, he went to the dressing room and did not return. No immediate update on his status for Monday. 

THEY SAID IT

“This is a serious time for Miami hockey. We’re looking for people that can help us win. And I say that meaning this game tonight. If you can’t help us try and win this game tonight, you’re wasting your time and you’re wasting our time. Because that’s the bar.” Miami head coach Chris Bergeron on the future of the RedHawks program.

“What I liked from our group was the fight back. A tough thing about playing North Dakota is going nose-to-nose and letting them know you’re here to play. We pushed back and we had opportunities. It’s not moral victory time, it’s baby-steps. It’s changing the culture and going from there. The vibe on our bench was not a team that was down. We kept pushing back and I like that in a group.”– Bergeron on the feeling on the bench against a top-ranked team.

“Just how resilient this group is. We went through a lot of adversity and there were a lot of sacrifices made to make sure this season went ahead. The guys in this room know something great is going on and there’s definitely a bright future for those guys in the room there.”– Knies on the team this season and the direction of the Miami program. 

“We referenced that game (St. Cloud/Colorado College) in our locker room about how this league is so tough that you have to get out to a quick start. Got to commend CC for the line-up they had and they played a tough game against a tough St. Cloud team. Where you are in the standings in the regular season doesn’t matter. You got to prove it every day now.” — North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on his team’s focus at the fast start. 

“You have to have an answer. If you get scored on, you want to have an answer right away to show the other team you don’t want to back down. When team’s score a goal, you have to get right back at it again.” — Berry on the counter-attack his team had against Miami.

“Those guys are pro hockey players. It’s not surprising, they know what to do and how to do it. Collin should have had a hat-trick, he’s had a couple chances. A five-point game is nice, but to us, it’s no surprise.”– Jamernik on the Adams/Kawaguchi duo.