UND HOCKEY: Cornell Sweeps North Dakota with 3-1 Saturday Victory

Photo: Jen Conway (@NHLHistoryGirl)

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the first time since 2018, the University of North Dakota was swept in the Ralph Engelstad Arena, as the Cornell Big Red followed up Friday night’s comeback win with a 3-1 victory on Saturday. The last time that the Fighting Hawks were swept at home was in November 2018 against Western Michigan.

North Dakota got off to the start they wanted, buzzing the offensive zone and attacking Ian Shane with shots, even drawing an early penalty. On the ensuing power play, Riese Gaber had time and space to pick his spot; which happened to be over the shoulder of Shane to make it 1-0 exactly two minutes into the game. Moments later, while shorthanded, Mark Senden was hauled down as he made a break to the net. However, Senden’s attempt to go five-hole was thwarted and the game remained 1-0. Just after the penalty expired, Cornell got on the board as Kyler Kovich got behind the coverage and tipped home a rebound in a wide open net for the game-tying goal. Cornell’s pressure was starting to get to UND, as they took some untimely penalties, including one to Tyler Kleven that was reviewed for a major– but was deemed a minor. The Big Red’s attack resulted in Ondrej Psnenicka getting a tip off a Hank Kempf shot to give Cornell the lead.

The second period yield no goals, as Cornell started to clamp down defensively with the lead. Unable to get the puck through the defensive scheme, North Dakota and its fans seemed to feel the pressure and start to get a little anxious about what was to come.

North Dakota made bigger strides in the third period, finally finding ways to get pucks toward Shane, but still unable to find away past him. The Cornell defense played rebounds very well and cleared the puck out of the danger zones quickly. North Dakota wasn’t so fortunate, as Brenden Locke put home his fifth of the season, after being on the door step with no defender on him for a gimme-goal. Even with North Dakota putting up 15 shots– almost half their game total– in the third, they did not have an answer for Shane, as the Big Red take home a big non-conference away sweep; leaving North Dakota wondering what went wrong as they look ahead to NCHC play the rest of the year.

THEY SAID IT

“They’re big and fast, but so are we. We just needed to match that this weekend, but we didn’t. We just have to stick together, stay positive and have a good week at practice.” — Jake Sanderson on what to do moving forward.

“It sucks. This weekend, we didn’t play terrible. I thought we controlled a lot of the weekend. There’s a lot of plays where we need to be a lot stronger. Offensively, we need to generate more. It was a disappointing weekend.” — Riese Gaber on the weekend.

“It was the start we wanted with that one-goal lead. They had a push and scored a couple, then it was kind of back-and-forth. For the most part, we had enough chances to win the game. We didn’t get it done scoring goal wise and I think that’s magnified in the goals you gave up. We gave up a couple of tap-in goals in front. At the end of the day, it’s a situation where I don’t think we did enough to score enough goals to win the game.” — Brad Berry on the effort from Saturday

UND HOCKEY: Lackluster Effort By UND Help USA U18 Defeat Hawks in Exhibition

GRAND FORKS, ND– Coming back from semester break, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks started the new year with a matinee exhibition against the USA Under-18 squad. The U18 team has beaten several Division 1 programs like Michigan State, Boston University, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. Saturday Afternoon, the U18 team added North Dakota to the list as they shutout the Hawks 2-0. 

While there was no scoring in the first period, the U18 team showed off their speed and skill, as not only were they faster to loose pucks, but they were able to skate through the North Dakota forecheck and defense to get quality shots on goal. The penalty kill for the U18s also stymied the North Dakota power play, who was without Jake Sanderson, but couldn’t seem to get any time or space to get a quality shot on goal. 

The second period started quickly, as 1:04 into the frame, the U18s created a turnover in the UND zone, allowing Logan Cooley to find Rutger McGroarty in the slot to give the US a 1-0 lead. Throughout the game, the Hawks looked not prepared for this match-up. Whether it be the first game back from break or underestimating this game, the Hawks looked like they were back on their heels for most of the game, not generating many shots against Tyler Muszelik. 

North Dakota tried to get some things going in the third period, trying to press the play with Riese Gaber making a tough drive to the net, but they had nothing to show for it. The U18s struck again, as on a quick transition, Frank Nazar III found Issac Howard streaking down the wing and Howard put it past an outstretched Jacob Hellsten to make it 2-0 US. Even with some power plays later in the frame, the Fighting Hawks could not solved the U18s penalty kill or defense, starting off 2022 with an exhibition loss. 

THEY SAID IT

“It is a mental battle. It was a disappointing effort by our guys, me included. Being kind of mentally weak, not playing our best, and not really being ready for what they have. It is a bit of a mental battle and we just have to do what we need to do.” – Gavin Hain on the mental mindset going into an exhibition game. 

“We know we have better. We know what it takes to bring our “A” game. We’ve done it all first half and we’re confident in our group that we’re gonna have a good week of practice and be ready to go Friday night.” – Riese Gaber on what needed to be done coming out of the game. 

“We didn’t play fast, we weren’t sharp, we didn’t execute the way we wanted to. That team over there played a lot better than we did. It’s not about panic, it’s one game. But it is about making sure that in college hockey, you have to bring it every single night.” – Brad Berry on takeaways from Saturday’s game.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Bounce Back For Series Split

Photo via UND Athletics (@undMHockey)

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a lackluster effort Friday night, the University of North Dakota looked to rebound on Saturday against their hated rivals in the University of Minnesota. After a quick start, sustained offensive pressure, and the ability to keep the Gophers out of danger zones, the Fighting Hawks took Saturday’s affair 3-2 to split the weekend. 

Before the game, North Dakota honored former forward Dave Christian in their One More Shift ceremony before the game. Christian played two years at UND before going to the US National Team for the 1980 Olympics and then moved to a 15-year NHL career. 

“When we go out for the tunnel before the anthem and starting line-up, he was with us right there giving everybody a fist bump and being like he was part of the team,” head coach Brad Berry said of Christian before the ceremony. “He was joking with me saying, ‘Hey, if I play a shift, it’s going to be power play and I’m not coming back out of the offensive zone.’ I said, ‘I guarantee, you can play two minutes like (Alex Ovechkin) does in Washington.’”  

Donning their modernized retro home alternate jerseys, North Dakota got off to a better start than Friday, as they potted the first goal only 3:27 into the game as Gavin Hain’s screen in front allowed a Mark Senden’s shot to go off of Hain’s skate and through Jack LaFontaine to make it 1-0 Hawks. Unlike Friday’s game, North Dakota had much more sustained pressure in the first, holding the Gophers to only four shots in the first, most of them after the first part of the frame. 

North Dakota continued to push the offensive envelope, creating plenty of chances in their zone to start the second period; holding the strong Minnesota offense at bay. Mark Senden got UND the 2-0 lead, as he ripped on the breakout of the zone on the power play, receiving a pass from Louis Jamernik, and put it past the blocker of LaFontaine to notch one on the power play. The North Dakota defense was solid throughout the game, as through two periods, the Gophers only had six shots on goal. 

Senden potted his second of the night after a great takeaway by Jake Sanderson at the point, who moved it to Connor Ford, who then slid it across to Senden for the 3-0 goal. After a suspect penalty on Ford, Minnesota got on the board with Ben Myers putting a knuckler of a one-time attempt past Zach Driscoll for the 3-1 score line. Minnesota cut the game to one-goal when, with the goalie pulled, Chaz Lucius found a loose puck in the crease and put it behind Driscoll. Minnesota kept the pressure on, but the North Dakota defense kept the Gophers to the outside with the goalie pulled and made the final 3-2 to split the weekend. 

Photo: Jen Conway (@NHLHistoryGirl)

THEY SAID IT

“We were just a little more physical tonight. We got a little more after them and kind of played our game. Last night, we got away from that and tried to be something we aren’t. But tonight we got back to getting pucks behind them and being heavy on them.” — Cooper Moore on the differences from Friday and Saturday’s games. 

“Especially in a game like yesterday, we were very disappointed in ourselves. There wasn’t much good that came out of that game. So, you come in in the morning and try to forget about yesterday, but look at what we did and try to learn from that.”– Gavin Hain on coming in the building after a loss. 

“I thought we did a good job of tracking and playing as a five-man unit together and not having spaces in our game. For the most part, we skated and we check a lot harder than we did last night: — Brad Berry about the game plan being executed Saturday night.

UND HOCKEY: Gophers Roll Over Hawks 5-1

Photo via UND Hockey Twitter @undMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– The rivalry between Minnesota and North Dakota in college hockey runs deep. In their 291st meeting, it was all Golden Gophers, as they took the momentum in the first period and got a couple lucky bounces, while also stymieing the Fighting Hawks offense to take home the 5-1 victory on Friday night. 

The first part of the frame was a feeling out period, but Minnesota would soon take the advantage offensively, mostly due to extended power play time. On one of those power play attempts, Bryce Brodzinski broke the ice for the Gophers, batting in a bouncing puck off a face off in the North Dakota zone. The puck landed around Zach Driscoll’s crease and took a Minnesota bounce and squeaked over the goal line for the opening score. Minnesota kept their pressure on and ended the period with a 14-4 shot advantage. 

A bad break haunted North Dakota, as a Rhett Pitlick dump in was whiffed on by Driscoll, who attempted to play the puck and Jack Perbix put home an easy goal. North Dakota then started to pepper Minnesota on a power play, but a shot ringing off the post and many blocked shots in front kept them off the board. Moments after the shot hitting the post, Ryan Johnson shot one from the point that went off the shin pad of Nick Portz and behind Driscoll for a 3-0 Gophers lead. The Fighting Hawks put pressure on, trying to get back into the game, but Jack LaFontaine was strong in his net and kept the Hawks off the board. 

UND had a big opportunity in the beginning of the third period with a two-man advantage, but the movement around the zone did not warrant many shots, as the Gophers defense got in the shooting lanes. Riese Gaber did get the Hawks on the board after the power plays expired, picking up a Gavin Hain rebound and putting it over the shoulder of LaFontaine to make it a 3-1 game. North Dakota got back in a hole, as Tyler Kleven got a five and game for contact to the head, the second straight weekend a North Dakota player was ejected for that call. While they killed off that penalty, it killed their momentum after the goal. With just under five minutes left, North Dakota pulled Driscoll, but with no sustained control of the puck, Minnesota got it out of the zone and Chaz Lucius made it a 4-1 game. To add insult to injury, Brodzinski got his second of the night on a clearing attempt by Blake McLaughlin and shot it in-stride under Driscoll’s arm for the 5-1 goal, which is how the game ended. 

THEY SAID IT

“I think it’s a mindset of remaining true to what our identity is and making it harder on other teams where we put pucks in the offensive zone and collectively we get two or three guys around the puck. Tonight, I thought we were a lot of one-and-done, battling for a puck with one guy and not a second guy. When we’re a cohesive unit, we’re putting pucks behind d-cores and playing well in the offensive zone. That’s how you generate it. The other part is that I thought we were too cute trying to find seam passes and different plays where you got to get greasy and dirty sometimes, especially on nights when it isn’t going your way.” — Head coach Brad Berry’s assessment of the the UND offensive game

“We were turning pucks over. We weren’t getting pucks behind their defense. Weren’t getting on their defense. Just not doing things to generate offense.” — Gavin Hain on what didn’t go right for UND

“I think we were kind of getting away from who we are. We just got to get pucks deep. We were trying, maybe, to make one too many plays. We’ve got to keep it simple. That’s what’s been working for us.” — Mark Senden on the loss

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Get Home Cooking with Win Over Pioneers

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a trip to Nashville that saw the University of North Dakota have the crowd support behind them, but not get the goal support they needed; the Fighting Hawks returned home to right the ship a little bit as they took on Denver Friday night in the first NCHC contest of the season. A second period burst allowed UND to get the better of the Pioneers and take the first game of the weekend 3-1. 

The first period of the contest was quite a feeling out portion, with plenty of neutral zone play. Both Zach Driscoll and Magnus Chrona were tested a little bit, but not much out of the ordinary for shots. However, with North Dakota having a disadvantage in shots and goals in the first period this season, to come out of it ahead on shots (8-5) and in a scoreless draw is a step in the right direction for the team. 

UND got off to a quick start in the second, with Riese Gaber getting a solid look after cutting through the defense, but could not beat Chrona. Same for Ashton Calder, who had a solid look from the slot, but to no avail. The Hawks caught a break near the halfway mark, as Kyle Mayhew was down behind the Denver net, giving UND an advantage, which Brady Ferner recognized. Ferner passed it up to Judd Caulfield for what essentially was a 2-on-0, where he slid it over to Matteo Costantini to put UND up 1-0. Forty-nine seconds later, a hard forecheck by captain Mark Senden caused a turnover and allowed Senden to find Louis Jamernik in front for the 2-0 goal. 

“(Budy) dumped the puck in and I knew I had to get a step on their d-man and separate him from the puck,” recollected Senden post-game. “I heard (Jamernik) yelling for it, so I just tried to put it in an area where he was calling for it and just super, super excited for it to go in.”

Later in the frame, Driscoll made probably his best save of the season, stopping a cross-crease pass in front, getting his pad out to keep his sheet clean. It didn’t last much longer, as after a Massimo Rizzo left the box serving a bench minor, Hawks defenseman Chris Jandric had his stretch pass intercepted by Rizzo out of the box, who found Cameron Wright to make it 2-1 after two. 

Try as they might, Denver kept the pressure on UND in the third period. They capitalized on errant passes out of the zone, while maintaining possession after shots to try and get the equalizer. It was for naught, as UND held down the fort and played a solid defensive game in front of Driscoll, which led to a Jamernik empty-net goal to secure the UND 3-1 victory. 

THEY SAID IT

“It’s not something you like to have, especially down in Nashville. But definitely guys look at themselves in the mirror and figure out what they need to do to get better. There’s a lot of expectations on us to come in and win games. A good week of practice here led to a good Friday night.”– Driscoll on if the Penn State game was a wake-up call for the team.

“We started really good today. Our focus was to start hard and quick. I thought we got off to a lot better start and continued to fight hard in the second just being a hard and heavy team to play against.”– Senden on the quick start for the team.

“I think it gave our guys a spark. Like, ‘okay, we’ve got to pull up our bootstraps because we’ve got a key guy out.’ The guys were fired up, they were able to get a couple goals and be on the forecheck. I’m proud of how the guys responded.”– Head coach Brad Berry on his team’s reaction to losing Connor Ford after the first period.

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.

UND HOCKEY: Slow Starts Sours Senior Night

GRAND FORKS, ND– On senior night when eight players from the University of North Dakota were honored, the Fighting Hawks dropped their first home game of the season to Omaha in overtime. It was the sixth meeting in five weeks between the two, who used this last game as a tune-up for the NCHC Playoffs that start on Friday. 

The opening 20 minutes yield not much of anything. Very few high quality chances on either side of the puck led to a scoreless first. At times, it seemed like each team was playing not to get injured with how conservative each side played in their last regular season game. 

“I didn’t think we had our best early in the game,” head coach Brad Berry stated, “Thirty  minutes in the game we pressed a bit, but a two-goal lead is tough to comeback from. We’ve got to start like we did the second half of the game.” 

Omaha opened the scoring by captain Kevin Conley on the power play with a heavy one-timer from the point that went right past Peter Thome for the Mavericks 1-0 lead. Seconds later, Chayse Primeau picked up a blocked shot and went under the arm of Thome to make it 2-0 Mavericks. An in-arena faux pas almost cost the Fighting Hawks another goal against, as coming out of a TV timeout; a replay on the jumbotron showed a shot from a previous sequence that Thome kicked off the goal-line. However, when the replay was shown from the in-net cam, it looked like the puck may have crossed the line. After an almost five-minute review, the goal did not count. UND turned on the pressure after that review, which paid off in the second half of the period. Louis Jamernik drove down the left side, putting a shot onto Isaiah Saville that kicked out to Jackson Keane, who put it in to halve the Omaha lead. 

It only took 15 seconds for UND to even up the game, as Jordan Kawaguchi redirected a pop-up blocked shot and went past Saville for a tie game. North Dakota kept the pressure on, dictating the play thanks to a couple of power plays in the first half of the frame. The second half of the frame, Omaha clawed back and put plenty of pressure on North Dakota, but Thome stood tall and had plenty of help from his defense to clear out any rebound in harm’s way. With no other scoring, the senior night went into overtime. 

In the extra frame, North Dakota had two solid chances from Matt Kiersted and Collin Adams, but took a penalty 50 seconds into the frame on a Kiersted slashing call. That led to a Tyler Ward deflection off a Brandon Scanlin shot to end the game 3-2. It was the first home loss of the season for North Dakota. 

“When you deviate from the game plan, it feeds into the momentum of the other team,” Berry mentioned. “This time of year, you have to be your best. It was an emotion game with it being senior night– but we have to make sure we’re dialed in for next week in the playoffs.”

THEY SAID IT

“To me there’s no pattern, we’ve lost one game at home. If it was three or four, then I’d say there’s a pattern. It’s not a panic situation, but we have to bring it and play our best in order to win games.” — Berry when asked about the first loss at home this season.

“It was a little bit of a wake-up call. We’ve played these guys a lot  and we kind of thought it was going to be easy. I like the way we battled back, but we got to be ready right from the start” — Keane on the feeling of the room after the game.

“This is a great group of guys who welcomed me with open arms. I was kind of looking up to them when I first got here and it was great to be a part of the night.” — Keane on playing in senior night despite coming in a year later than the rest of the class.

“It would have been nice to end the regular season with the win, but at end of the day; we’re still #1 in our conference and we’re moving on getting ready for the playoffs next week.” Kawaguchi on his feelings after Friday’s game.