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.