UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Capture Back-to-Back Penrose Cups

Photo via University of North Dakota Twitter

GRAND FORKS, ND– With the Penrose Cup for best regular season record in the NCHC in the building, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks came into the day looking to take care of some business on home ice. They did just that with a big 7-1 win against the Omaha Mavericks, capturing their second straight Penrose Cup and fourth in the program’s history. 

“I’m extremely proud of this team,” head coach Brad Berry stated, “I’ve been here a lot of years. This ranks up there as one of the highest in trying to capture it. Players who come here, they have to be team first, but at the same time there’s chances to go to the next level. There are guys who could have went elsewhere after last season, but chose to come back. This has to rank as one of the toughest to win because of pod at the beginning of the season, because you grind away and  then have to come back and wait for the weekend game and try to stay focused. This one is at the top with all that adversity they went through.” 

It took less than 90 seconds for UND to get on the board, as Shane Pinto made a backhanded pass from behind the net out in front to Brenden Budy, who put it past Isaiah Saville to make it 1-0 Fighting Hawks. While UND tried to control the pace, Omaha wouldn’t go away. Their consistency paid off as Kevin Conley redirected a Kirby Proctor shot and made it 1-1. The Fighting Hawks answered with under 90 seconds left in the period, as Tyler Kleven picked up a Jasper Weatherby pass and wired it past Isaiah Saville to make it 2-1. 

The second had Omaha get plenty of control in the offensive zone, but couldn’t cash in thanks to Adam Scheel. Just after a flurry by the Mavericks, a turnover in the neutral zone after a Mavericks’ defenseman lost an edge allowed Jordan Kawaguchi to break in alone and beat Saville blocker side to make it 3-1. Penalty trouble plagued the Mavericks, as back-to-back calls against Omaha allowed for North Dakota’s power play to be out there and after one unsuccessful round, Jasper Weatherby wired home his 10th of the season after great work from Jake Sanderson and Jacob Bernard-Docker to move the puck around the perimeter to start the power play. After trading penalties, Collin Adams notched another power play goal off a rebound from a Riese Gaber shot, which ended the night of Saville. 

Penalties were on the mind of Omaha in the third, after a quick start for the Mavericks to get some shots on Scheel. However, after Shane Pinto got denied by Austin Roden, Pinto made good for it with a rocket on the power play to extend UND’s lead to 6-1. As North Dakota was playing somewhat conservative, another Collin Adams goal happened off the face-off thanks to a solid pass by Judd Caulfield, who had an Omaha defender draped all over him. 

With under a minute left, many emotions boiled over as Louis Jamernik cross checked an Omaha player off the face-off and all hell broke loose. The result was Gabe Bast, Louis Jamernik, Jackson Keane, Griffin Ness, and Tyler Kleven from UND and Jonny Tychonick, Brandon Scanlin, Noah Prokop, Joey Abate getting ejected from the last minute. 

When all was said and done, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks came out a 7-1 winner and lifted their second straight Penrose Cup for best team in the NCHC’s regular season. However, there’s still two games left for UND over the next two weekends– both against Omaha. Berry, who started to rest some of the top players at the end of this game, said they’ll start to focus on how to go about the rosters on Monday.

“It’s a good thing we clinched,” said Berry. “It’ll allow us as a coaching staff on Monday to look at what we’ve got and make sure we’ve got everyone at the top of their game going into the playoffs.” 

THEY SAID IT

“You could feel it in the morning skate and  going into the meetings. There wasn’t a lot of laughing and guys being loose, it was a business attitude. You kind of knew we were going to get our best tonight. Everyone was focused and I  gotta hand it to them– they dug in and focused and tried to hang another banner.” — Berry on the mentality of the team going into Saturday’s game.

“They’re a team on the rise and we both play hard. We’re all trying to get top four, when you get two top teams in the conference, that’s what happens. The NCHC gets you ready for the postseason by grinding it out during the season. The NCHC has success because of the gauntlet going on in the regular season.” Berry on the budding UND/Omaha rivalry

“It was a lot of unexpected turns of events. The first half in the pod, nothing like that has happened. Then you have to go back and deal with the rescheduling and all that. You have to roll with the punches and overcome the adversity.” — Scheel on the craziness of the season

“It’s the friendship in the room. We’re best friends off the ice and that’s why we play so well on the ice because we all play for each other.” — Scheel on the comradery of this year’s Fighting Hawks team.

On the Topic Of Transfers Returning

Photo via University of Nebraska-Omaha

On Friday night after the first period of the North Dakota/Omaha match-up, Jonny Tychonick was the last of the Omaha Mavericks to leave the ice. At the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the visitor’s locker room is across from their bench, going through a tunnel next to what usually is the student section at UND. With restrictions in place, there wasn’t that many students in that area, but the ones who were there started to give Tychonick the riot act.

Tychonick had transfer this past off-season from North Dakota to his new spot in Omaha. Citing limited playing time and the want to develop more, he enter the transfer portal and got UND’s blessing to not have to sit out a season in order to play this season. For a guy who was a scratch for a good portion his two seasons with the Fighting Hawks, it’s easy to see why he would want to move onto another school where he’ll get playing time and start to establish himself as a viable prospect. With a solid incoming class of defensemen to boot, Tychonick saw the writing on the wall and then went the transfer route.

Since going to Omaha, it does seem like Tychonick is making waves with his new squad. The Calgary native has three goals and eight points in 17 games, only a goal and three points away from matching his career high, which he notched last year in 24 games with UND.

Back to the matter at hand, though, the vilification of Tychonick is pretty unfair to him when you look at the grand scheme of things. While I understand North Dakota fans want to think that once you’re in UND, you only leave when you graduate or go to the NHL early. They don’t take into account the fact some of these players may have other reasons for wanting to leave– like in Tychonick’s case, as well as Chris Wilkie’s case, another player who left UND for another school (Colorado College) to play a bigger role than he was getting. Wilkie also got earfuls from the North Dakota faithful when he came back to play after his departure.

It’s understandable why North Dakota students and fans would be upset with two players not only wanting to leave UND, but go to schools within the same conference. But taking a step back, you can’t blame them for wanting more for themselves and their development. Neither player really deserved the backlash they had gotten, but in a school pride situation– there’s no rationale good enough to sway people away from the “traitorous acts” that these two players committed by leaving UND. Despite the fact that in the long-term, it was a better decision for those players to leave a bad situation for a better one. In a world where people are starting to look more at how mental health affects people, these two players getting out of a bad situation for themselves and going to a better one seems like it should be applauded rather than belittled.

Sometimes, however, it’s about looking out for yourself. In his first season at Colorado College, Wilkie matched his career total at UND (6g, 13a, 19) in 42 less games. Wilkie’s senior season saw him lead the team in goals (24) and points (31) before the season was ultimately cancelled. Though it looks like Tychonick won’t match his stats in year one with his new team, he’s well on his way to have a better two seasons in Omaha than he did at UND because he was able to get playing time and get to what he felt like his true potential is.

The shocking thing is that it doesn’t happen more in some cases. Plenty of college teams have depth for days and with only being able to dress 19 skaters at a time, it’s a hard decision to figure out which players are going to sit for whatever reason. It’s almost a good problem to have for schools like North Dakota that they have players who are healthy scratches in their line-up, but then give some help to another program that would kill to have a player like that.

Moral of this story is that you shouldn’t hate a player for looking out for their own interests in mind. Yes, it sucks to lose out of talent. Yes, you don’t want a unit to break up because they gel well. Yes, you want to have all the top prospect available, even if they won’t play all the time. But I’ll never understand the feeling of betrayal some people might get just because they actually wanted to play rather than sit in the stands on gameday. But at the end of the day, if these players want to make it to the next level, they need to play more. If they aren’t getting the playing time and they can get the same schooling for their major at another school where they can get more playing time– the choice for them is clear.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks One Win Away from Back-to-Back Penrose Cups

GRAND FORKS, ND– Need two wins in their last four games in order to win the NCHC regular season, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks are in charge of their own destiny. They’ll be facing off against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in all four of those games. They took the first step in securing the Penrose Cup by beating Omaha Friday night 4-1. 

The first period featured a bit of a tight checking start, with only six shots total through the first half of the frame. Passing for both sides weren’t hitting their mark, which caused golden chances to go by the wayside. North Dakota did break the scoreless tie first, as Jacob Bernard-Docker let a shot go from the point, through a mass of humanity in front, and lighting the lamp for his second of the season. As the teams loosened up, so did the shot total, as Omaha outshot UND 14-10 after 20 minutes. 

“Our first period was rough,” Bernard-Docker mentioned post-game. “(Coach Brad Berry) came into the room and told us to clean it up, mainly in the neutral zone. I think we really found our game after that.”

After more tight checking and some chances on either side, Bernard-Docker was the focal point of the second gaol, as he took a Harrison Blaisdell pass, weaved through the offensive zone, put a backhanded shot on Isaiah Saville, but when Saville couldn’t hold onto the puck; Jackson Keane was there to put home the rebound for his first of the season. UND kept the pressure going, making sure they didn’t give Omaha any chance to breathe, which culminated in a Tyler Kleven tally. North Dakota worked the puck around smoothly, ending when Collin Adams set-up Kleven in Kleven’s wheelhouse and hammered home the 3-0 tally. Omaha broke the shutout after a point shot from Jason Smallidge ricocheted off the back boards and to Tyler Weiss, who had a wide-open net to put it past Adam Scheel. 

An uneventful start to the third period had action pick up on a North Dakota power play, which had been stymied all night up to that point. During the last throes of the power play, Mark Senden moved the puck to Bernard-Docker, who found a streaking Jasper Weatherby, who unleashed a brilliant snapshot past the glove of Saville, giving UND the 4-1 lead and victory. UND did catch-up in shots, outshooting the Mavericks 41-25. 

“It’s a team mentality,” Berry stated. “When you go up one or two goals, most players would want to get another goal or another assist for their stats. Our guys play a team mentality and are doing anything to get the win and not working about personal stats. It’s doing the things in game blocking shots, playing short shifts, and it’s reassuring to see it on a consistent basis.”

This was the first of four straight against Omaha to end the regular season for North Dakota. With another win, they’ll clinch the Penrose Cup for regular season champion of the NCHC. They’ll have to do that against a team who is undefeated in the back-end of the back-to-back series. 

“It’s not going to come easy,” Berry said. “We’re playing a team that’s 5-0 in second games of back-to-back games. We firmly believe they’ll be excited to play this and we’ll have to play our best game to win it. We have to come into the rink with a workman-like attitude.” 

“It’s something you think about,” mentioned Keane about winning the Penrose at home. “It sounds weird to say you don’t want to win it on the road. Our plan is to win it tomorrow. We don’t want to leave anything to chance.”

UND HOCKEY: Weekend Sweep of Denver Puts Hawks in Control of NCHC

Photo: Eric Burton/Inside Hockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After last night’s game, goalie Adam Scheel said he felt fine and could probably play Saturday. That wasn’t the case as the goalie was a scratch for the rematch against Denver, which allowed Peter Thome to step into the starting role. Even with another goalie in net, North Dakota swept the weekend over Denver with a 5-2 victory. 

“I found out this morning at 10:15,” Thome mentioned. “Originally, I thought I wasn’t going to play because I talked to Scheeler and thought it was a charley horse. But I knew there was a chance and prepared like I was going to play. We talked about this last year, it’s really tough making a start with two months in between. They scored a couple goals I’d like to have back. Overall I did what I wanted and what I needed to do and it was enough to get a win.”

The Fighting Hawks got things going within the first five minutes, as Mark Senden’s shot from the top of the circle got tipped in front by Jasper Weatherby and made it 1-0 UND. Jake Durflinger took a penalty, but made up for it after it was done, as he took an outlet pass as his penalty expired and beat Peter Thome on the backhand to tie the game. Part of a problem for UND was passes missing their marks, leading to icings or turnovers. That allowed Denver to control the offensive output, which showed as shots were 13-6 Denver after the first. 

“We had a slow start, one of our slower starts,” head coach Brad Berry stated. “Denver is always very good and they play fast and we didn’t have much time and space. We looked at ourselves after the first and knew we had to be better, a lot better the last 40 minutes. In the NCHC, you’ve got to be ready to play a 60-minute game and I think we got away with only playing 40.”

A neutral zone battle started the second period, but havoc ensued when a Brendan Budy tip in front eluded Magnus Chrona and created a big scrum in front. Out of the scrum, Matt Kiersted got an initial shot into Chrona, but Shane Pinto picked up the puck off that shot and buried it for his 14th goal of the season. Minutes after that, a Pinto pass bounced over the stick of Jacob Bernard-Docker and Denver went the other way with Ryan Barrow passing it out to Carter Savoie, who beat Thome glove side to knot the game at two. More neutral zone battles before a power play for North Dakota led to an odd bounce off an attempted centering pass by Collin Adams deflected off a Denver player and into the net to make it 3-2. 

The tight checking affair continued in the third, but UND was able to get a break due to a Carter Savoie five-and-game for checking from behind. While there wasn’t any scoring for the Fighting Hawks, they got some momentum going and it turned into another Weatherby goal off a rebound from a Judd Caulfield shot to make it 4-2. Penalty issues came for UND, as they had three consecutive penalties in the second half of the frame, one creating a two-man disadvantage. Luckily for UND, their penalty kill was top notch and were able to stave off the Denver pressure. Judd Caulfield finished the job with an empty net goal to make it a 5-2 win and a weekend sweep for North Dakota. 

With the win, the Fighting Hawks are in sole possession of first place in the NCHC. North Dakota remains at home next weekend, as they play the first of four match-ups in three weekends against Nebraska-Omaha. 

THEY SAID IT

“Couldn’t be happier for Peter. He’s a team guy and works hard. He hasn’t had the easiest career, but he makes the most of the opportunity. Our guys were fired up when we knew today, guys were happy, and wanted to play hard for him. He made some big saves and it’s nice to know he can come in and do the job anytime.” — HC Brad Berry on Peter Thome’s performance

“Budy, we started him on the Mismash line and we wanted to try and get a spark and get the attention of some guys, so we flip flopped him and (Riese) Geber and they performed well. Those guys are the next wave that’s going to be influential in our line-up in the future, so it was good to have them make an impact so quickly.” — Berry on Brendan Budy and the youth of the team.

“Yes and no. It’s the third year in a row that I’ve come in on a big spot after not playing for a while and deliver. It doesn’t make it any easier, it’s tough to get into rhythm and find a comfort zone. But that’s part of it, my job is to prepare like I’m playing every game because you never know when you are going to be needed.” — Thome on being familar with coming in on a relief role.

“We love this building and our fans are great and it’s nice to have that home routine. Three thousand isn’t 12,000, but it’s awesome the job they do as 3,000 to make it feel more crowded.” — Jasper Weatherby on playing at home and having fans in the stands.  

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Shutout Pioneers, But Get a Bit of a Late Scare

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the fifth time this season, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Denver University Pioneers did battle in what seemed to be a bit of a throwback to olden times. 

“There’s something special about these NCHC rivalries– even coming from the WCHA days,” UND head coach Brad Berry mentioned post game. “Players and coaches coming and go, but the rivalry remains the same. Both teams had to deal with penalties, both teams had to overcome adversity, and that’s what you saw tonight.” 

UND were the ones to really overcome adversity, killing off a five-minute major spanning two periods while getting 24 saves from Adam Scheel to secure a 3-0 victory over the Pioneers. 

Denver seemed to control the play in the first half of the period, outshooting North Dakota for a time. However, the Fighting Hawks turned to another gear after back-to-back power plays. Late in the frame, Jake Sanderson rung a shot off the post, but after stalling the Denver transition, Jasper Weatherby wired a shot from the left face-off dot past Magnus Chrona to make it 1-0. That’s when the feisty play started, as Gavin Hain collided with Chrona at one end, then it turned into a dance party with Tyler Klevin and Jake Durflinger getting into a wrestling match in the neutral zone. Hain was assessed a five-minute major for running into Chrona. 

The Hawks were able to kill that penalty thanks to well-timed blocks while managing to pin the puck deep in the Denver zone. The Hawks were able to control the tempo a bit, while also getting some power play time to get ahead on the shot counter. Shane Pinto put the Fighting Hawks up by two on the power play after a bit of a broken play down low saw the puck get pushed back to Matt Kiersted, who found Pinto on the left face-off dot with a huge mass of humanity in front to put UND up 2-0. 

A back-and-forth third was the tale of the frame, with UND and Denver trading chances, but both Adam Scheel and Chrona being equal to the task. Hain and Chrona got acquainted again, as Hain was crashing the net on a power move, running into Chrona with help from the Denver defense. Hain, however, got called for interference– which UND promptly killed off. Pinto sealed the deal for UND with an empty-net goal for his second of the night and fifth-straight multi-point game. A bigger story was at the end of the game, Adam Scheel got tangled up and was unable to put weight on his right leg and needed to be helped off the ice and down the tunnel. 

“I got my leg taken out from under me,” Scheel mentioned, “It’s just a charley horse and I’ll be okay.”

“(Scheel) absolutely got ran into and he’s hurting a little bit,” Berry mentioned. “We went to the net a couple times and there were some consequences. We’ll have to see what happens going ahead.”

Keeping the emotions under control will be a key factor in the return match-up Saturday. North Dakota’s discipline has been a little lacking against Denver, taking 95 of their 271 (35%) penalty minutes on the season against the Pioneers.

“We have to be more disciplined,” remarked Pinto. “We did what we had to do, our kill played well. We have to finish the job tomorrow by being more disciplined.”

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Shut Out Tigers, Sweep Weekend

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a 4-1 win on Saturday night, the University of North Dakota kept their home cooking going, as they faced off against the Colorado College Tigers. In front of 1,775 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks completed the sweep with a 5-0 victory over the Tigers to move them into 1st of the NCHC. 

“We did a good job of coming out early,” head coach Brad Berry mentioned post-game. “We talk about the second night is the toughest after winning Friday and dealing with pushback. We had good discipline, until what happened at the end there, but that is what it is. We talked about taking less unneeded penalties, there are ones we will take, but I think we got rid of the unneeded penalties.”

North Dakota took control in the first part of the period, taking the pace of play to Colorado College and holding the Tigers’ offense to no shots until halfway through the frame. The Fighting Hawks struck first after Shane Pinto made a power move down the left side, cutting in and beating Dominic Basse for his seventh of the season. 

“During our video scouting this morning it was pointed out,” Pinto said of his goal. “Coach said their defense was pretty immobile, so I just took it to them.”

Pinto was the focal point for the first part of the frame, being set-up twice back door, but not being able to connect on either chance. The Fighting Hawks had some issues in their own end, giving up the puck and allowing the Tigers to get some offense going at the tail-end of the period. 

A chess match in the first few minutes, as both UND and CC played in the neutral zone a bit, but Collin Adams gave UND a 2-0 lead when he got a pass from Matt Kiersted behind all of the Tigers defense and slid the breakaway chance five-hole on Basse to extend the lead. Minutes later, Shane Pinto gots his second goal of the game after coming from the side wall and threw a fade-away shot from the top of the slot that eluded the traffic in front and went past Basse to make it 3-0. Judd Caufield got into the action midway through the period, getting a centering pass in front from Riese Gaber, initially getting it stopped by Basse, but following his own rebound to make it 4-0. 

The Tigers got into penalty trouble in the middle part of the second, going down two men. During the two-man advantage, Grant Mismash tallied his eighth goal of the year after a wonderful pass from the point by Jake Sanderson, making it a 5-0 UND.

Things broke down with 6:16 remaining, as Hugo Blixt laid a hit from behind to Jasper Weatherby, which drew the ire of Tyler Kleven, who dropped cross-check on Blixt while Blixt was on the ice. Both Blixt and Kleven were given the game misconducts on the incident. That was the last of the fireworks, as UND kept the play in the CC zone, keeping them away from Adam Scheel, who pitched a 15-save shutout and swept the weekend for the Fighting Hawks. 

The sweep at home was a carryover from the dominant home record UND had last season. While they don’t like to look in the past, the team did need to make sure it wasn’t neglected on the first weekend back. 

“This is our home. We don’t go back in history, but we had to this weekend,” Berry said of UND’s home ice advantage. “We were 18-1 last year and our younger guys had to know about it. It’s a special place we want to make sure we protect that and keep moving forward.”

The defense was active in the offensive end, as well, with Kiersted and Sanderson putting up two assists apiece, while helping hold the Tigers to only 15 shots on Sunday, bringing CC’s total to  36 on the weekend. 

THEY SAID IT

“Coming off the break and you play a couple of games and try to get momentum. Everyone is trying to  find their stride and building momentum. We saw what our bar is, how we can play to the capabilities of our team on that second night in Denver.” -Brad Berry on the team coming back off the Denver weekend

“It was a wake-up call. We were good in the pod, but we weren’t playing well. We’ve been much better ever since. We’re just being harder on pucks and playing our game. We’ve got to be physical, we cheated in Colorado (versus the Tigers) thinking it’d be coming easy to us, but we’ve got to keep working.” — Shane Pinto on how the loss against Denver affected the team.

UND HOCKEY: What Could Have Been

Ralph Engelstad Arena, 03/12/20; Photo by Scotty Wazz

After I drop Jen off at work, I usually go for a ride around the city to decompress before going to bed. On a night like Thursday March 12th, it was probably much needed. Sports stopped on that day. Rightfully so, but still a bummer that the thing many used to distract themselves from the issues around them is not there. In any case, I decided to drive to Ralph Engelstad Arena and just zone out.

As I pulled up, no lights were on in the building or outside. Light adorn the plaza area with the statue of Sitting Bull, but not much else. It was a fitting scene for the night, as the NCHC cancelled their tournament, as did the NCAA. Again, rightfully so– still a bummer.

Mostly a bummer for the student-athletes on the University of North Dakota squad who had come back to life this season following two years of missing the big tournament. They were on pace to be one of the all-time great teams in North Dakota hockey history, as they were ranked 1st in the Pairwise and were odds-on favorites to win the National Championship.

Now, it’s a case of what could have been.

With the cancellations, all anyone can do is wonder if this team would have won the NCHC playoff title to go with the Penrose Cup, if they could have dominated the NCAA and have won the school’s ninth National Championship, and if there’d be another Hobey Baker Award winner from this team. It was a season to remember for the right reasons and for the reasons that could have been.

You hate it for the team, of course, but you really hate it for the seniors of this team. Colton Poolman, who came back because he had unfinished business; Cole Smith, the heart and soul of this team; Andrew Peski, who bookended his tenure with two solid seasons; Casey Johnson, who became a valued utility option for this club in any spot; Zach Yon, who fought through injuries his last season and was a bit of an energy guy; Dixon Bowen, who carried on the UND tradition his father started, as well as being an energy guy; Westin Michaud, who came to UND as a graduate transfer and made people wish this team had him for a full four years. Those are the guys who may not get much closure on this season.

Then you look at guys outside of the seniors that may think about leaving, but could reconsider given the way this year ended. This is going on nothing at all, but you’d have to think the Ottawa Senators were heavily invested in what Jacob Bernard-Docker did this year and may have even taken a look at him moving forward. Jordan Kawaguchi’s Hobey Baker-esque season could have gotten him looks by NHL teams, but he might stay to finish this fight off. Then there’s Shane Pinto, who was looked at by the Senators heavily in the World Juniors– like JBD– but assured everyone that he would be staying at UND; but time can changes things.

Those are the stories to look at now– who stays, who goes, who comes in. There is no pomp and circumstance, no banner, no one-last-hurrah for the seniors. It’s just over. And now UND fans and players alike will have a chip on their shoulder with how this season ended and what could have been.

Rightfully so.

Media Access, COVID-19, and You

We are all mind-numbingly aware of the COVID-19 virus (I’m only going to call it C-19 moving onward) and we know what it’s done to the social landscape of the world. Obviously, sports is put into this and has led to leagues shutting down their locker room access and even possibly playing in front of empty arenas (although the AHL already did that).

My opinion is good. While it might be an overreaction, you rather err on the side of caution rather than have to clean up the mess that comes from not taking the right moves in the first place. Playing catch-up is never fun, especially in a wide-spread illness.

But seeing media people hem and haul about the shutting down of locker rooms and access to players and give a vague threat to the leagues bascially saying, “This better be temporary,” makes me tilt my head. As someone who has pieces of laminated paper saying I’m part of the media, I’ve never once thought that locker room access is needed to have a good story. Hell, at the University of North Dakota games; all the interviews for the masses are done in a scrum style with two or three players and head coach Brad Berry. We all get our stories, we all move along. Brad Schlossman is one of the finest writers in hockey and he rarely gets the locker room access some of these reporters in sports get, but he’s still churning out bangers week after week.

Does that help with some stories and such?? Sure. Is it a necessity?? That’s a hard sell for me. Does it equate to better stories?? I’m sure it does. Ken Rosenthal thinks it does (subscription because innovation). To a point, it can be true because access and having a good standing with the players can lead to things down the line and becoming an insider. Also, the point that it’s making the media members look petty because they’re getting singled out and other groups aren’t.

But, when the Colorado Avalanche have a sign reminding media members not to hug players or sit at stalls seems more to me like writers are mad because they can’t be buddy-buddy with some players. There’s not many other entertainment industries that allow people to be as tight-knit as the sports community. It can be considered both awesome and invasive all in one.

If you’re a good reporter, you’ll find a way to get the story without having to make brunch plans with the top-line guys or deal with the stench of equipment by your nose when you sit down in one of their stalls. People’s story writing abilities aren’t tied to all-access approaches in locker room settings. Yes, it makes a story better…but there’s tons of people out there writing quality stuff without having a fraction of the access or really needing it– but they’re still getting respect from people who enjoy the content they put out– access or not.

If worst comes to worst– everyone is connected. If you have a good relationship with a player now and need access to the room without getting access to the room– you should have their number. Text them, call them, email them– if they’re really your buddy, they’ll find a way to make time for you either in-person or virtually. Does it tell the whole story you’re looking for?? No, because it doesn’t have those subtle nuances of a locker room…but it’s still better than no access at all.

And yet, the story the writers are really missing are the impact around the games. The fans who may have taken a vacation to see a game, but will have to wait because the game was shuddered down to fans. The impact this will have on local businesses on top of the impact of non-gameday happens with this panic. The workers inside the venues who are going to be losing money and might already be on a tight budget as it is.

But no, let’s talk about the locker rooms shutting down. Let’s talk about the lack of access being the reason some can’t create a good story. There’s stories to be had out there that don’t require direct player access. You just have to be good enough to find it.

Clutch and Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 023

MARYLAND BLACK BEARS vs. Johnstown Tomahawks

After a sweep against Jamestown, the Black Bears enter another crucial weekend not only for playoff contention, but for a rivalry weekend. Not only that, but it’s “Guns N’ Hoses” weekend for support local fire and police officer. These two teams don’t like each other, especially with who’s between the pipes at the other end and the tactics that were pulled last time the Tomahawks were at The Den. Some upsides is the Black Bears looked solid and will build off it and Johnstown played two games earlier this week, which could make them a team primed to beat.

Team defense will be a big deal, as it was very solid last week, limiting the Rebels to 36 shots the entire weekend and Cooper Black stopping 35 of them. That said, one thing that needs improve is the power play, which has no goals in their last 37 attempts with their last power play goal being on January 24th. Keeping the defense strong and making the power play effective will be the biggest keys for the weekend and season ahead.

TEAM MARYLAND vs. Philadelphia Little Flyers

Though it won’t start until the 9th, Team Maryland will start their playoff run after the weekend and hope to take it home. They’ll take on a team that they had a 4-2-0 record against during the season, out scoring the Little Flyers 29-21. One thing to look for from coach Josh Fusco is who will start in net– either Peter Siolas or Zach Richards, both who have had ups and downs.

With seven players in double-digits for goals, offense shouldn’t come at a premium, but it’s a matter of keeping their hot streak alive– as they come into the playoffs on a four-game winning streak. It’s a landmark time for TM and they will hopefully make the most of this during the week and beyond.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS D3 WOMEN at Elmira College

After a huge win against Neumann, Stevenson reaches the UCHC Final Four against the host Elmira. In their only meeting this season, Elmira took it 2-1, though Annie Smyth-Hammond played stellar with 45 saves in the loss. Smyth-Hammond was amazing against Neumann last weekend, with Nikki Kendrick and Trin Barcless leading the way scoring.

More impressive during this five-game win streak is the defense the Mustangs have played, only letting up three goals in those five wins, while scoring 20 in that same span. If the team defense can keep the solid work up, they’ll move onto the UCHC Final and maybe an automatic NCAA bid by the weekend’s end.

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN D1 vs. ECHA Playoffs

After some time off, the Mids are back at it and are at home for the ECHA Playoffs, which is something that will play well into Navy’s hands with their supporters right there at McMullen all weekend. The rest can be really great for some teams or a detriment to them, especially in a one-and-done tournament scenario. In games coming out of an off weekend for Navy this season, they were 2-1 with their only loss coming early in the season.

That said, as the season rolls and going against a team that will have played the day before– as Navy has a quarterfinal bye– the odds seem in their favor. Add to the fact they were ECHA runner-ups last season, they’ll want to get the championship and have it mean that much more to do it on home ice.

UND HOCKEY: Penrose Make Appearance After Hawks OT Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– With a playoff like atmosphere and the 1980 National Championship team in the house, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks had a lot to play for on Saturday. In a tight-checking game and an emotional roller coaster in the last 47 seconds of the game, the Hawks took out the Western Michigan Broncos 2-1 in overtime. 

“It was an entertaining game that’s for sure from a fan standpoint,” UND head coach Brad Berry mentioned after the game. “From our perspective on the bench, wow, two evenly matched teams, hard fought battle, and physical series. Just glad we found a way to win in overtime and win the Penrose right away.”

It was back and forth between the two to start the game, as the Fighting Hawks got on the board first with Collin Adams putting home his 12th of the year off a rebound kicked to his stick from an initial shot from Colton Poolman. The goal came from a sharp angle, as Adams was right next to the goal line when he got the puck and fired it far-side past Ben Blacker to put the Hawks on the board first. It was a neutral zone battle for most of the period before Paul Washe tipped home a Wade Allison shot that fooled Adam Scheel to tie the game. 

The final 40 minutes of the game were a grind. Neither team let up an inch and the score remained tied at one at the end of regulation with a combined shot total of 33 shots (17-16 UND) after sixty minutes of regulation play. 

“That’s playoff hockey what you saw this weekend,” mentioned Berry. “I thought the officiating let us play and there was a lot of energy that was spent out there. A lot of plays weren’t being made because two teams were playing fierce out there”

In the overtime, there was plenty of action in two minutes to make up for the last 40, as Western Michigan thought they had a game winner, only for it to be called off on goalie interference, as there was no attempt by the Broncos player to get out of the way of Scheel. A short time later, the Fighting Hawks came back on a rush for Matt Kiersted to rip a shot from the point, which rebounded off of Blacker to the stick of Shane Pinto– who made no mistake with an empty net and sent the sellout crowd home happy and give UND a weekend sweep. With the sweep, the Fighting Hawks will get a share of the 2020 Penrose Cup for best regular season record in the NCHC.

“This whole year has been a bit different than the last two years, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” UND captain Colton Poolman said of the team this season. “We still have one more weekend to go and we’re going to try to win this thing outright, for sure.”

THEY SAID IT

“I think that’s the best goal I’ve ever scored. Just everything about it– winning for the seniors, winning the the Penrose Cup. Just the whole moment is something I’ll never forget. I really can’t gather my thoughts, but that building all night you could feel the momentum shift” — Pinto on the game winning goal.

“That shows you the focus and resiliency they had. We had to wait there for the review of the play and we just huddled up the guys and talked to them that we’re going to play longer and just make sure you’re ready to go.” — Berry on the team focus during the overtime review.

“A bad bounce for Western Michigan, but one got called back last night, one got called back tonight. That was a spark we needed honestly. We got some energy on the bench and we go out and score that one. We’ve won games in so many different ways and that’s another new, different way.” — Poolman on the team’s will to win this season. 

“It means everything. Coming in as a freshman you’re a little bit scared. It’s just how it is, it’s a new kind of environment, but they took us in with open arms and kind of taught us the ropes. They’re a special group of guys and we just want to win it for them.”– Pinto on the senior class.