UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Stave Off Counterattack to Sweep Weekend

GRAND FORKS, ND— After a blowout win Friday, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks knew they wouldn’t have as easy of a task on Saturday. The Miami Red Hawks came out prepared and had an answer for seemingly every UND attack. At the end, however, UND had the last laugh as they swept the Red Hawks with a 5-4 win on Saturday. 

It took only four minutes for the Fighting Hawks to get on the board, as Collin Adams put on past Collin Adams after a lovely pass from Jordan Kawaguchi and made it a quick 1-0 lead for UND. Miami didn’t sit back as they may have on Friday night, as Ryan Savage put one high over the glove of Adam Scheel to even the game less than two minutes after UND took the lead. The North Dakota power play kept clicking, as Jasper Weatherby buried his second goal in as many nights after a great backpass from Westin Michaud to give UND the lead back. Miami continued to score right after UND, as Phil Nies got a great feed from John Sladic with Nies tucking it over the right shoulder of Scheel to tie the game. Then things got frantic— Jordan Kawaguchi scored his 3rd on the season with a laser over the shoulder of Ryan Larkin to make it 3-2, then 11 seconds later— Westin Michaud scored off a lovely feed by Harrison Blasidell to make it 4-2. 

“It seemed like tonight we scored a goal, they scored a goal. They had an answer,” mentioned Brad Berry after the game. “It was so huge for us to have an answer when they scored.” 

It took a bit longer for UND to get on the board in the second, but it was a Adams again, putting a tap-in home after Kawaguchi took the puck off the boards, wrapped it around the net, and found the tape of Adams’ stick to make it a 5-2 game for UND. Miami responded moments later, with Chaz Switzer getting a cross ice pass from Monte Graham and put it past Scheel to make it 5-3. UND did have plenty of chances towards the end of the frame, but Larkin was solid in net to fend off the attacks by the Fighting Hawks. 

North Dakota were back on their heels a bit, as Gavin Hain took a five-minute major for boarding halfway through the third, coupled with a tripping call to Cole Smith towards the end of the major, which eventually led to a Derek Daschke goal, just as Hain’s major had expired to make it 5-4. Miami kept firing late into the game, even with the goalie pulled, but Adam Scheel kept the puck out and the Fighting Hawks swept the Red Hawks with a 5-4 victory, their ninth straight win on home ice dating back to last season and sixth straight this season. 

THEY SAID IT

“When you blow a team out on Friday like we did, you know they’re going to have a day to watch film and fix their mistakes. We know it was going to be a tough one, so we expected them to come out hard and they gave us a little pushback.”– Adams on the expectation from Miami Saturday night. 

“Those guys are finding a little chemistry together and they enjoy playing together. The challenge becomes consistency trying to do that night in and night out because what happens out there is other teams will figure it out.” — Berry on the line of Kawaguchi, Adams, and Grant Mismash. 

“I think last year, guys were holding their stick a little too tight. This year, we’re just playing our hockey. We’ve got a lot of good guys on the roster and we have the belief that pucks can go in the net and if we work hard, good things happen.”– Weatherby on the change in mentality for the team offensively this year.

“Jordan made a couple good passes out there and I’m thankful for him, but it definitely helped my confidence level. I haven’t been out in the last minute in the past few years, but when he (Berry) trusts me like that and put me out there; he has faith in me and that’s just really good as a player.”– Adams on scoring and being put out on the ice at crucial times of the game.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Stomps Miami 7-1

GRAND FORKS, ND— In trying to keep their home winning streak alive, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks made sure they left no doubt against the Miami University Red Hawks, scoring three times in 2:02 and twice again in 33 seconds to upend Miami 7-1 on Friday night.

The game started quick for UND, as they had four solid scoring chances against Ryan Larkin, but couldn’t get through the senior goalie for Miami. Thanks to some penalty issues from the Red Hawks, Jacob Bernard-Docker was able to open the scoring, as he rocketed home a wrister with UND up two-men, to break a 16 power play try drought for the Fighting Hawks. At the tail-end of that same advantage, Jasper Weatherby tipped home a Jordan Kawaguchi slap-pass to make it 2-0. Not to be overlooked, Collin Adams ripped home a shot from the face-off dot to make it 3-0 and giving Kawaguchi his third assist of the night, all in the first period. 

It took less than three minutes for North Dakota to strike in the second, as a stretch pass by Matt Kiersted to Dixon Bowen made it 4-0 after Bowen snapped a shot high glove over Larkin. The Hawks had been experimenting with the stretch pass in the first, coming close to connecting at times, but never getting the great chance generated like in the Bowen goal. Jonny Tychonick got into the act with a bomb from the top of the circle that was laid out perfectly by Harrison Blaisdell to make it 5-0, with Tychonick adding his second goal 33 seconds later pass new Miami goalie Grant Valentine to make it 6-0. 

“I want to play my game— playing with energy, playing with pace, moving the puck, and moving my feet,” Tychonick said after the game. “The big thing for me is jumping up in the play. I’m really focusing on my game right now and not getting ahead of myself and doing the little things right.” 

It only took 2:20 of the third for UND to make it 7-0, as Westin Michaud joined the party a perfectly placed wrister over the glove of Valentine, a goal that was assisted by Tychonick and Blaisdell. Miami answered back with a Noah Jordan redirect that went through the five-hole of Adam Scheel to make it 7-1, which would eventually be the final of the game. 

THEY SAID IT

“That’s a big thing. Miami has a lot of pride in that dressing room, so we know they were going to have a little bit of a push. We kind of had a lull in the d-zone there in the second period in the last ten minutes. That’s stuff we got to clean up and we really wanna focus on the details because that’ll go into tomorrow’s game. Friday night is over and done with. Now it’s time to move onto Saturday, watch some video and work on some things that need to improve on.”–Tychonick on not getting complacent after a big win. 

“Very important to score on the 5-on-3, I thought that was a key time of the game to get that first one and it seemed like they got a little more confidence on the second power play. You can take a breath a little bit and know that, yeah, we can score on the power play and keep working on it.”–Head Coach Brad Berry on getting the power play to break an 0-for-16 slump.

“We’re a really mobile corp. Unbelievable feet, unbelievable puck poise and puck management. We’re up in the play creating offense. Hockey these days can’t just be generated through the forwards, it comes from the D as well. Good D leads to good offense.” –Tychonick on the offense the defense is providing for UND. 

“They keep doing the right things time and time again. Part of that is that they’re good checkers and good defenders, but they’re also good with the puck. When you have the puck, that means the other team doesn’t. And that’s a big part of having match-ups, too. Now, tomorrow’s going to be another challenge. I thought they (Miami) played well in the second half and we got to make sure we answer the bell tomorrow.”– Berry on the Mark Senden/Cole Smith/Gavin Hain line. 

“We’re getting better opportunities on the ice, we’re getting inside to the middle and that’s a big thing for us and it’s paying off. I think the more we can from floating them from the outside and getting them to the middle of the ice, the better it’ll work for us.” Matt Kiersted on the offensive game on Friday night.

When There’s No Fan Advantage on Home Ice

Student sections in college hockey are a treat. Plenty of passion from the student-body, representing their school and doing all they can to hype them up for the game going on below them. On Saturday at The Ralph, that was very much on display…by the visiting fan base’s student section. And the picture from the Michigan Tech Twitter tells it all. Tech fans up and yelling, while University of North Dakota fans were sitting there taking it.

Even when the North Dakota student body and other fans in the building tried to drown them out, it was only for a fleeting moment before they got worn out and the Michigan Tech’s Mitch’s Misfits took over the building with their chanting and support. Big props to them for not only travelling all that way to come into North Dakota, but for also supporting as loudly as they did and for as long as they did. That’s dedication.

But it also shows a big problem I’ve seen with The Ralph when it comes to crowd noise– which is that there’s very little of it for very long periods of time. Aside from the Minnesota game a few years ago, the atmosphere hasn’t been anything too special for home game at The Ralph, there’s nothing that makes it special for North Dakota. Sure, the arena is one of the biggest, sure it sells a lot of tickets and gets the attendance numbers, but there’s times that a library would be considered louder than during game play at a Fighting Hawks game. It’s even more noticeable when the students are on a semester or holiday break and they aren’t at the games– things are even more sterile in terms of cheering outside of momentary occurrences of goals, hits, or saves.

It didn’t used to be that way, as the old Winter Sports Center was a rucousy place for UND fans. Like many old college arenas, it had it’s own special feel to it with the fans right on top of the action…hanging over the boards, even. That seemed to change with the more corporate feel that The Ralph has. Not to say it isn’t a lovely building and all that, but it seems like it’s too clean for college sports. The student-athletes get plenty out of it with the facilities being akin (or in some cases better) to professional venues, but the other atmosphere seems to be lacking with this arena despite the North Dakota paraphernalia around the concourse and up in the rafters.

Now, this isn’t a knock on the student section per se– they can only do so much with what they’re allowed to do in the environment and according to NCAA bylaws and such; but it seems they don’t carry on as much as they could or should be able to. There are some outside of the student section that tries to get some people going, but it’s few and far between. People are content on just watching the game rather than trying to feel like they’re a part of it. The games seem more like a place to be seen than a place to be hear among the masses. It’s a shame, especially in a building as big as The Ralph, you’d think that the sound would be even bigger; really making it hard for opposing schools who may already be caught off-guard by the size of the arena to begin with. Without a distinct noise-level or other distractions– once they get over the size of the arena, they settle in and don’t get as rattled as they could get.

One of the biggest thing is the fact that while The Ralph has a big attendance number for tickets sold, there’s noticeable empty seats through the arena as of late. While the team has had a few off years and many in the area can’t deal with not being one of the top-dogs every year (which is noble, but also a bit headstrong), that’s no reason to not show up after you’ve bought the tickets for the game. It’s bad optics for an event and bad for an atmosphere that’s already lacking in vocal support for the team.

Maybe these heel tactics– while true in some cases– will actually get people’s attention to the lack of home-ice advantage in the stands in Grand Forks. It really showed this weekend when Mitch’s Misfits were far-and-away the loudest bunch in the rink and the North Dakota faithful couldn’t drown them out or even keep up with them.

Prove me wrong, UND faithful– prove me wrong.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Take Out Huskies 3-1

GRAND FORKS, ND–  In a one-off US Hockey Hall of Fame game, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks took on the Michigan Tech Huskies. The Hawks would be without captain Colton Poolman who was out for precautionary reasons, which was another hit to the defensive corps; who was already without Gabe Bast. In what was another tight checking match-up, the Hawks took out the Huskies in the end, winning by a count of 3-1. 

“We talk about it all the time, it’s the next-man up mentality,” defenseman Matt Kiersted mentioned after the game. “We’ve got a really deep d-corp, so one guys goes out– next guy goes in and performs.”

The game started out quick and fast, as almost six minutes of action happened before the first stoppage, when Justin Misiak gathered up a pucking slot area and slid a backhand through a mess of bodies and under Adam Scheel to make it 1-0 for the Huskies. It took five minutes of pressure for the Hawks to get it back, as Kiersted wristed one from the point that beat Robbie Beydoun to tie the game. 

“I was just following it up,” Kiersted said of his goal. “We had a good forecheck in and it made its way up to the point and I just tried to get it on net. There was a lot of traffic in front and found a way through.” 

In terms of scoring, the second period yielded none, as both teams were playing very tight hockey. Michigan Tech only had one shot on net for the second frame, while UND only had one big chance on a power play the slide past Beydoun and out the other side. Tech was able to keep the Hawks to the outside and limit the scoring chances in high threat areas. 

More of the same in the third until 7:31 when Tech had a costly turnover that was picked up by Collin Adams and fed it to Jordan Kawaguci, who ripped one from the slot past Beydoun to make it 2-1 UND. Gavin Hain would seal the deal with the empty-netter for the 3-1 victory. 

THEY SAID IT

Matt Kiersted/ Jen Conway, @NHLHistorygirl

“It’s more than just the defense. The forwards are coming back on the backcheck. The harder they backcheck, the easier it is for us to stay up on our gaps. So it’s a whole team thing.” — Kiersted on UND having another home game holding the opponent to less than 20 shots. 

“We were a bit methodical, a bit predictable as far as moving around and getting shots blocked. They block a lot of shots and they’re a good defensive team. There’s a reason why they’re seventh in the country on defense. For us, we have to have more emotion and more playmaking to get those lanes open.” — Coach Brad Berry on the Hawks power-play woes

“Any time you’re not scoring goals, you want to shorten your bench, you want to try and get guys out there more often than not. But in this league, in college hockey, it’s a hard, heavy league and you got to have four lines that can go. I think the strength of our team in trying to get offense is having for lines that can bring the energy all the time.” — Berry on playing opposition playing a stingy defensive game.

“We’re tired of tying or losing games by one goal. Scoring goals is about confidence. We go out there and we want to win a hockey game. Doesn’t matter when it is, we just want to win a hockey game.” — Jordan Kawaguchi on the team scoring later into games this year that they didn’t last year. 

UND is back at home on November 9th with a weekend set against Miami.

UND HOCKEY: Scheel Solid in UND Victory

Photo: Kelsey Lee/ Violet Turtle Photography

GRAND FORKS, ND– On a night that honored the Teddy Roosevelt Medora Foundation– with a Teddy Roosevelt cosplayer to boot– the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks gave Bemidji State a rough-ride as they went on to sweep the weekend with a 4-1 victory. It marked the four-straight regular season win for the Hawks, marking the first time since the 2016-17 that the team started out undefeated at home to start the season. 

“This is our home, this is our house,” said head coach Brad Berry. “We have pride in that. I know a lot of teams come in here and see the amenities we have at The Ralph. We’re very lucky to have the Ralph Engelstad Arena and they like to have motivation to bring it down a little bit. But this is a place where we wanted to establish consistency and play a heavy game with a lot of patient pressure and establish our identity at home.” 

“We have a very resilient group,” mentioned goalie Adam Scheel. “No matter what the score is, we believe in each other in the room and know we’re just gonna get it done.There’s nothing like it in the world, a home game at The Ralph.”

It only took 36 seconds for the Fighting Hawks to strike, as Jordan Kawaguchi causes a turnover behind the net and passed it out to Grant Mismash, who had a wide open net to tap it in to opening the scoring. UND kept Bemidji to the perimeter, but one big chance happened when Ethan Somoza put a shot on a seemingly open cage, but Adam Scheel slide across to get his right pad on it to keep it out. With just over three minutes remaining in the first, Cole Smith drove through the zone hard, tried a wraparound, but Mark Senden was there to bang home the rebound for his second of the season. 

The Hawks did have some chances in the second, but it wasn’t until 13 minutes in when they struck again, with Jonny Tychonick having his first career goal come off a tasty pass from Mismash to make it 3-0. UND controlled the pace of play throughout the period and seemed to hold all the cards against the very defensive Beavers’ team. 

The action was pretty stagnant in the third, not many chances on either side until 1:17 remaining when Aaron Miller batted home a Tyler Kirkup rebound to break the shutout for Scheel on the Beavers’ 18th shot of the game. Nineteen seconds later, however, Colton Poolman put it in the empty net to make it 4-1. 

THEY SAID IT

“On the first shift, you always want to do something impactful to get yourself and your team into the game. It was kind of a broken play and Gooch (Kawaguchi) was on the forecheck there and he made a good pass and I just had to tap it in. It was a good first shift to get our line going, as well as the rest of the team.” — Grant Mismash on his goal in the opening minute. 

Adam Scheel/ Photo: Jen Conway @NHLHistoryGirl

“No matter who you’re playing, Saturday night– especially after a win– is a tough one. They came out hard. Sometimes the shots on the scoreboard don’t really reflect it.” — Adam Scheel

“A couple of guys last night struggled a little bit and that was an opportunity for other guys to come in. They do all the right things on and off the ice– they work hard in practice, in workouts, in the classroom– and they’re older and experience guys. The second game is the toughest to win. You want to have guys who have been in those battles before.” — Brad Berry on line-up changes made for Saturday night. 

UND is back home for a one-off against Michigan Tech in the US Hockey Hall of Fame Game at The Ralph next Saturday.

UND HOCKEY: Late Heroics Fuel Hawks OT Victory

GRAND FORKS, ND– While it wasn’t the prettiest game played, the University of North Dakota came back home to start a five-game homestand on the right foot with an overtime win against the Bemidji State Beavers. However, it wasn’t until late in the third and early in overtime when the Fighting Hawks turned it on, something that coach Brad Berry was looking to do from the start, including calling his timeout midway through the first period.

“You try to find out early in the game who’s going, who has momentum,” said Berry postgame. “I thought there were probably two guys on each line going and we tried to piece three lines together at the end.” 

“I think we were a little rattled, that would be the correct term,” mentioned Westin Michaud after the game. “(Coach) just said, ‘Calm down, execute our system, play our game,’ and it was a really good time-out by him because I think that was a momentum changer, for sure.”

The first period of the game wasn’t what many people would crisp. A lot of sloppy play on both ends of the ice lead to a scoreless first and the wonder was if the game would get the first goal on an own goal. UND has held without a shot for around 11 minutes of game play, after attacking Zach Driscoll’s net in the first shift. Many missed chances by Grant Mismash handling a one-time attempt too much and a couple of ill-advised passes when there could have been shots.

After an Ethan Fritsch boarding call, Bemidji struck first, as Owen Sillinger deflected home his second of the season and made it 1-0 Beavers. The Hawks were getting shots on Driscoll, but they weren’t necessarily the most high-quality chances when it came to trying to beat the Beavers’ netminder. It seemed after getting the lead, the Beavers build a defensive dam in the neutral zone to clog up the speed of UND.

The third was mostly the Beavers clogging up the ice, keeping the Hawks to the perimeter and making a lot of their shots from low percentage areas and thrown into defenders. That was until late in the frame, when Jordan Kawaguchi redirected a pass from Jacob Bernard-Docker in past Driscoll to tie the game. No goals happened past that so we were headed to overtime. 

Less than a minute into overtime, Shane Pinto won a draw in the Bemidji zone and Westin Michaud ripped one past Driscoll to win the game in overtime 2-1. The faceoff win was one of 41 for UND, who dominated in the circle, led by Jasper Weatherby’s 13 wins in the game.

THEY SAID IT

Westin Michaud/Photo Jen Conway, @NHLHistoryGirl

“Shane Pinto won that first draw straight back to Matt Kierstad. I kind of missed it, but Kiers had a great shot tipped. I went out and said, ‘Pinto, let’s go, do it again.’ And he did. I move half an inch left and fortunate enough, I saw the defender in the back there and pulled it, dragged it, and hope for it to go in.” — Westin Michaud on his game-winning goal. 

“Obviously wasn’t pretty. We found a way to get it done. It kind of shows the team we have, just to stick with it even when things aren’t going our way and we aren’t playing our best. When a good hockey team goes into a trap and takes away some options, you’re going to have some…some…discombobulation, I guess. That’s a big word for me.” — Jordan Kawaguchi on the style of game being played.

UND Hockey: Trying to Find the Way Again

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks’ logo

After putting up 74 shots in their two playoff games with Denver and only registering two goals, the University of North Dakota will go a second straight season without making it to the NCAA tournament following getting swept in Denver this past weekend. It will be the first time since 1994-95 and 1995-96 in which North Dakota has missed the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons. In fact, North Dakota missed six NCAA tournaments in a row from 1991 until 1996.

Of course, with all the success in the recent past– the questions are coming about what’s wrong with the team following a National Championship in 2016 and limited success since then. Obviously, heavy hitters offensively left the team early like Brock Boeser (who would have been a senior this year), Shane Gersich (senior), Christian Wolanin (senior) and Tyson Jost (junior); but the promise of the players who were coming in had the pedigree of being top scorers to replace those who left. With only 93 goals scored this season (tied for 36 in the nation) and only one player in double-digits for goals, a decent amount is left to be desired from this team. The 93 goals is the lowest since the 1963-64 team that only produced 79 goals in their season.

But what is to be done with this team?? It’s not like UND couldn’t get pucks on net, because they were able to put an average of 32 shots per game this season (1187 shots for, 13th in the nation), but only had 2.51 goals per game this year. They consistently outshot opponents, but whether it’s not getting bounces or poor shot selection or making every goalie look like a Richter Award nominee– the goals just didn’t come.

Jordan Kawaguchi, who was the only double-digit goal-scorer, came out of Junior A with two 30-goal seasons before coming into UND last year and has 15 goals over his two seasons as a Hawk. Though injuries hampered him this season, Grant Mismash hasn’t been as electric for goal-scoring as many thought coming out of the US Development Program. There’s plenty of role players on the team who have the ability to score, but there isn’t that one player who stands out as leader for the offensive. With three defensemen in the top-five in team scoring– people have to scratch their heads when it comes to how the offense is progressing.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, to be honest, as UND did seem to find themselves a solid line in Mark Senden, Gavin Hain, and Cole Smith as they year went on. They progressed as the energy line that UND needed and sparked plenty of offense in the latter half of the season through their fierce forechecking and solid board-play. Though Smith will be a senior next season, if this line can keep the same chemistry next season, they’ll be a tough line to play against moving forward.

Defense was obviously the top priority for the Fighting Hawks and the play of Adam Scheel and Peter Thome were solid– though there were an odd game where it went sideways. UND gave up 90 goals this year, which ranked 19th in the nation, while giving up the third least amount of shots in the nation with 858. Of course, giving up so few shots and that amount of goals gives Scheel and Thome a bit of an off-kilter save percentage (.894, tied for 48th in nation), but those two played stellar when they needed to, but couldn’t get the goal support necessary.

Special teams left plenty to be desired for UND, with the Fighting Hawks finishing 52nd in the nation on the power play working at a 14.2% efficiency on the year. The PK wasn’t great either, finishing tied for 36th in the nation and working at a 79.9% kill rate.

So how can you balance a solid defensive showing while also give goal support for that defense so it’s not as white-knuckled every game as it has been?? Maybe it’s as simple as letting the scorers be scorers, taking some of the defensive responsibilities off of the likes of Kawaguchi and Mismash and let them start to control the game on the opposite end. Two commits coming in next season in Carson Albrecht and Carter Randklev could also provide some punch offensively– though it’s hard to put that pressure on freshman, coupled with Randklev coming off an ACL tear this past season. However, something needs to click so that North Dakota doesn’t become the New Jersey Devils of the mid-90s and hope suffocating defense is the road to success.

That’s also depending on whether or not Colton Poolman returns to UND or not. His brother, Tucker, left after his junior year to play in the Winnipeg Jets organization and now a decision is to be made for Colton– who ESPN ranked in their top-15 of NCAA free agents. Poolman said he will try to make his decision quick to not drag on the process for himself or the team. We’ll see how it all shakes down, as Poolman will probably be the only non-senior to league this year if he does.

The past two seasons, players were talking about playing the “North Dakota way”– especially when the team was going through some kind of slump. The question is now what the North Dakota way actually is and how this team is going to find it. There’s going to be plenty of time for soul-searching on this team and it’ll start with how the coaching staff wants to approach next season. Though I doubt a firing will be in the cards for Brad Berry or his staff, you’d have to think that they’ll be looked at under a bigger microscope than before with this team missing out on two straight tournaments and lacking scoring, as they have been. With this year’s team not even making it to the Frozen Faceoff (NCHC’s championship weekend), it could be the harsh wake-up call needed to really put a fire under the players and staff.

UND HOCKEY: Quick Strike in OT Gives Hawks the Weekend Sweep

Graphic from University of North Dakota Twitter (@UNDMHockey)

GRAND FORKS, ND– It was the ending of an era. Not just because the North Dakota Fighting Hawks won’t be hosting a playoff game for the first time in 17 years, but because they say goodbye to five seniors from the team on this night. Rhett Gardner, Joel Janatuinen, Hayden Shaw, Ryan Anderson, and Nick Jones all skated their last time on the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena, but make sure to not let that emotion get in the way of the task at hand against Omaha. It took extra time, but Jordan Kawaguchi scored in OT to get the sweep of Omaha and give UND a 5-4 win and a three-game win streak heading into the NCHC playoffs.

The seniors were ready to play, as only 23 seconds into the game, Nick Jones got a lovely pass from Rhett Gardner and put in a backhand past Evan Weninger to make it 1-0 UND within the first minute of the game. UND was firing on all cylinders, putting plenty of good chances on Weninger, but getting nothing out of it. However, a wild sequence of events which saw Peter Thome stop a Nate Knoepke shot, but Dixon Bowen lost the handle of the rebound into Peter Thome, which saw Tyler Weiss crash the net, into Thome, and in the net. After a long official review, the goal stood.

After a penalty to Jordan Kawaguchi for cross-checking, Omaha’s power play struck as Fredrik Olofsson found a wide-open Zach Jordan on the far wing and put it past Thome to make it a 2-1 game. UND got a power play of its own in the middle of the frame and made short work of it, as Jones found Kawaguchi in the slot, putting it past Weninger to tie the game at twos.

While there was some offensive pressure by Omaha, a bad clearing pass found the stick of Cole Smith, who snapped it to the glove of Weninger, where it bounced off the cuff and into the net to make it 3-2. It took to the middle of the frame for Gavin Hain to make it 4-2 on a rebound off a Smith shot to make it 4-2. After a fracas in front of the Omaha net, it went to four-on-four.

While Gardner was dragged down on the play, it resumed and resulted in Knoepke streaking down the slot and putting Omaha within one-goal, with Gardner down in the Omaha zone. UND did get into some penalty trouble, going down two men following a fracas in front and a tripping call seconds after the initial penalties. However, the team sold out on the power play in order to keep the puck out of Thome’s net and preserve the one-goal lead. With only 1:07 remaining in regulation, Tristan Keck tied the game with Weninger pulled after Kawaguchi couldn’t get a handle on a cross-ice pass and it landed on Keck’s stick, who went off the cross-bar and past Thome.

It only took 16 seconds for UND to end the game with Kawaguchi picking up an interception off the stick of an Omaha defenseman with Weninger out of position to end it quick and sweep the weekend for the Hawks. It was a goal that Kawaguchi said was his after giving up the Omaha tying strike.

“You know that turnover was on me,” Kawaguchi said post-game. “I take responsibility for that. I should have gotten the puck out of that area and I didn’t and they score. Obvious feel pretty bad about myself. I got back to the bench and I told the boys, ‘It’s on me, but I can get you back, I got this one’ and just so happened first chance I got was right in the first shift.”

“I think he felt pretty bad,” mentioned coach Brad Berry after the game. “He had the puck on his tape on the tying goal and he came back to the bench and you know, I really commend him because he said, ‘You know, it was my fault guys, I got the next one, I got the one in overtime.’” And you know what, 16 seconds later he got it so it says a lot about him.”

It was also a big deal with the seniors being sent off with a win and a sweep. It was also the last class to be a part of the 2016 National Championship team.

“It was fitting with a win,” mentioned Berry. “They came in their freshman year, they only had six losses in it and they won a lot this year. This team has a lot of pride and the seniors have a lot of pride and they wanted to end their career here at the Ralph with a win. The challenge going forward from here, and our guys are embracing it, is that we’re going on the road and keep continuing this thing.”

“They put so much into this program and we wanted to show them how much they meant to us,” said Smith. “They’ve given everything they’ve had. They got us the start we needed and the finish we needed.”

Now, UND will travel to Denver next weekend to take on the Pioneers in a best-of-three series for the right to play in the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul in two weeks.

UND HOCKEY: Early Period Goals Help Hawks Take Down Mavericks

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks’ logo

GRAND FORKS, ND– The Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota close out their regular season and home schedule this weekend against Omaha. While there was the slimmest of margins to get home-ice for next week’s playoff round, the Hawks went about their business and found a way to win over Omaha 2-1 on Friday night.

After an early power play failed, Gabe Bast got UND on the board first with a lovely wrap-around goal. Coming down the wing, Bast sold a pass to the slot to make Evan Weninger commit to the pass, fumble on his feet, while Bast went around and tucked inside the post for the early 1-0 lead. North Dakota controlled play for the first period, outshooting Omaha 21-6 by period’s end, but did get into penalty trouble with two penalties by Zach Yon and Rhett Gardner to put the Hawks a two-man disadvantage at the end of the first and heading into the second.

The penalties paid off for Omaha, as Zach Jordan scored with the two-man advantage by banking a one-timer off the side of Peter Thome to tie the game a minute into the second period. Throughout the rest of the period, the play was fairly even, with Omaha getting more shots towards Thome, while their defense kept the shooting gallery away from Weninger. Omaha did outshoot UND in the frame by a count of 11-10.

North Dakota broke the stalemate in just under three minutes into the third period with Nick Jones tipping in Colton Poolman shot from the point, after Jones won the face-off back.

“I won the draw a little too clean,” mentioned Jones, “I was trying to win it to Yon there and it got back to Colton. He made a hell of a play with me off the to the side there and I was able to get a stick on it. I felt like the tips all year haven’t gone my way and I was fortunate enough to get it.”

After that, it seemed like a methodical game with not a lot of chances getting through to Thome or Weninger. Despite the last two minutes playing with an extra attacker, North Dakota held on for the 2-1 win.

The game marked the return of two key elements to the UND line-up in Jones and Grant Mismash. Mismash has been out since January 25th after take a knee-on-knee hit from Jimmy Schuldt of St. Cloud and was used as the extra skater tonight.

“We wanted to use him early,” said coach Brad Berry after the game. “In a one goal game with a guy who’s been out for six weeks, it’s tough to give him a regular shift. With conditioning, he’s not quite there yet, but he’ll get there. We thought by putting him in there a bit five-on-five that we might get a spark offensively.”

Western Michigan won against Miami, which meant that regardless of UND’s result– they will be on the road for their playoff match-up next weekend for the first time since 2002. The team found out about the game before the third period, but it did not shake them at all.

“We knew it wasn’t in our hands this weekend,” Jones mentioned. “We know we’re going to have to win two on the road next weekend. You’d obviously love to play at home– especially me with my last game at home tomorrow– at the end of the day, we have to win two games no matter where it is.”

“It doesn’t change anything that we have to do,” Bast said. “If we got to win a series on the road we’re going to do that. We’ve got to string a few games together and get into the national tournament that way. We have the group to do that right now. Home ice is home ice, but we’re confident going on the road and getting two wins.”

The last home game of the season and Senior Night is Saturday at the Ralph.

UND HOCKEY: Hain, Bowen Net a Pair Each in Win Over St. Cloud

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a tough 3-1 loss on Friday night, the University of North Dakota looked to bounce back in game two Saturday against the top-ranked St. Cloud State. The Hawks would be without Grant Mismash after the hit he took on Friday, while St. Cloud had Jack Poehling and Robby Jackson out in what’s being called “unhealthy scratches.” With that boost and playing on emotion from the Mismash injury, the Fighting Hawks took down the top-ranked Huskies 5-1 on Saturday.

“I think what really fired us up was Mismash,” said UND coach Brad Berry. “That play there that probably ended his season– we took it to heart. We felt we got slighted there a little bit and you know, guys are prideful. That’s the on thing about North Dakota– we’re a team-first mentality here and our guys wear their hearts on their sleeves.”

With emotions high, Gavin Hain opened the scoring after Mark Senden took the puck away from Jimmy Schuldt, broke in and found Hain down the slot, catching David Hranek going side-to-side and pass his outstretched blocker. UND had control of the offensive game in the first half of the game, holding St. Cloud to only two shots through 16 minutes of play; but St. Cloud started to show signs of life by the end of the frame, getting five more shots in the last four minutes to close out the frame.

While St. Cloud started the period with sustained pressure, Senden was able get on the other side of the scoring sheet, with a great anticipation in his own zone to pick off a dump-in attempt, came rushing up the ice, and snapped a shot over the blocker of Hranek to make it 2-0 for the Fighting Hawks. Not to be outdone, Dixon Bowen picked the puck off the boards and was streaking down the right side, letting a shot go that slipped through the five-hole of Hranek. After that goal, Hranek’s night was over in lieu of Jeff Smith. Smith and SCSU withstood plenty of onslaught from UND before Schuldt was able to get a shorthanded goal after Adam Scheel kicked out a Patrick Newell shot that was retrieved by Schuldt and put past Scheel to cut UND’s lead to 3-1.

UND got off the hop quick in the third with plenty of chances, including Senden. It wasn’t until Colton Poolman picked off a pass in the neutral zone, tried to drive through the middle, but lost the puck. Luckily, Hain was trailing behind him, picked up the puck, fired at Smith, getting his own rebound to make it 4-1 UND, adding another goal to the Hain-Senden-Cole Smith trio.

Brad Berry/Photo by Jen Conway

“They’re super hard to play against,” Berry said about the line. “We had the match-up against (Blake) Lizotte’s line and they did an outstanding job limiting them in our zone, but they played in their zone. They made it hard to play against and possess pucks and not to mention score goals. So when you can get that from that line, you’re gonna win a lot of games that way.”

“We three have kind of a grind mindset,” Hain said of his linemates. “We get pucks down and support each other. Just work the puck below the goal line. We have been doing that all year. Sometimes we get some goals, like we did tonight, but other times we don’t. This time it worked out for us.”

With just under six minutes remaining, Dixon Bowen picked off a Patrick Newell own-zone cross-ice pass, had the initial shot get stopped by Smith, but the puck squeaked through Smith and Bowen had a tap-in.

“It was great on us,” said Bowen post game. “We came together this morning and talked about it. Put yesterday behind us and come today and have fun. Biggest key was staying disciplined and keeping them off the PP and we got a couple of bounces and got the W.”

Discipline was correct for the most part, but things fell apart at the end of the game, starting with Jasper Weatherby getting into a shoving match with Schuldt, then Gabe Bast slashing Ryan Poehling, and ended with UND having five players in the penalty box at the game’s end. It was for not though, as UND held on for the victory.

It doesn’t get much easier, as the Fighting Hawks will now be on the road for most of February and not be back at home until they host Minnesota-Duluth on February 22nd. UND will take on Denver next week, then a bye weekend, before going to Western Michigan after Valentine’s Day.