UND HOCKEY: Risk, Reward on the Line for Underclassmen Fighting Hawks Going Pro

shane-gersich-goal

Midco Sports Network’s Alex Heinert pointed out that there has been a helluva lot of underclassmen leaving school early and going pro. Who can blame them, honestly– when the next level is calling and money is being thrown your way– why not take it?? You can’t blame them to get the money and go for their dream job when they can before they have some kind of injury that really shelves their potential.

The University of North Dakota have two players leaving early to go onto their professional career. Last week, both Christian Wolanin and Shane Gersich signed their pro deals in two nation’s capitals– Wolanin with Ottawa and Gersich with Washington. It’s another year for UND to lose players early. Last season, they lost three players early– Tucker Poolman, Tyson Jost, and Brock Boeser and after their 2015-16 National Championship run, they lost Troy Stetcher, Keaton Thompson, Nick Schmaltz, Luke Johnson, and Paul LaDue to the pros. There’s a reason why University of North Dakota is on the cusp of having 100 players to play in the NHL.

When it comes to someone like Poolman, he really couldn’t do much more with UND. He was NHL-ready and that junior season was the icing on the cake for Poolman to try and repeat as a National Champion. The same could be said for Wolanin, who came into his own during the off-season and transferred it to his junior season, becoming the first defenseman since 1983 to lead UND in scoring for the season. Of course, on a rebuilding team and probably being a key cog in that, there’s going to be a lot of weight on Wolanin’s shoulders– especially given his pedigree being the son of a former NHLer.

Of course– there’s risks involved from leaving college early and not living up to the hype that has been out there right off the bat. That could leave people to wonder if it was worth leaving school early for. That’s something that I wonder when it come to Shane Gersich. Last season, alongside Jost and Boeser; Gersich made his name known with 21 goals and 37 points in 40 games. This season was solid for Gersich, if not frustrating at times. With only five goals and six assists in his first 20 games, you could see Gersich fighting the puck during his struggles. However, new year– new Shane as Gersich finished with eight goals and 10 assists in the second half to have some mojo going into his last games with the Fighting Hawks.

One recent example against the move for Gersich could be his former linemate in Jost, who left the University of North Dakota after his freshman season last year to sign with the Colorado Avalanche (after some alleged heavy/annoying persuading by the Avalanche brass). With only nine goals and 19 points in 59 games this season, you could argue that Jost wasn’t ready for that jump and could have used the time to stay at UND to grow more. Granted, you can’t take injuries into effect when they sign that deal, but it happens and you adapt from it.

Conversely– there’s players who may not look like they’re ready, but surprise plenty of naysayers– like Gersich’s other linemate in Boeser, who was a heavy Calder Trophy favorite with 29 goals (10 on the power play) and 55 points in 62 games until his season-ending back injury this year. Boeser could have probably went pro after his freshman year and winning a National Championship– but he decided to stick around. I’ll say upfront I didn’t think it was best for Boeser to do that, as he didn’t look that great to close out his sophomore season– but I’m glad he proved me wrong on that.

Both Gersich and Wolanin will face some hardships when they get into the big leagues– it happens with most every player, whether they leave early or stay all four years in college. There’s probably going to be questions of if they should have stayed one more year or if they should even be with the team that drafted them. In the end, they made the choice right for them and you have to respect them for it regardless of personal view now or down the road.

UND HOCKEY: Statement Game for UND in Big Game One Victory

DX57sydXcAUZvU5

Photo via @UNDmHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– With their tournament hopes on the line with this single series, the University of North Dakota and University of Nebraska-Omaha took to the ice in the first of a best-of-three NCHC Quarterfinal match-up on Friday night. With each team splitting the regular season series at two wins apiece, each side knew they were in for a tough series for a chance to make it to the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul next weekend, as well as having a better chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament. Knowing they needed a solid showing, UND came through in a big way in front of 10,125 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, taking Game One 4-0 over Omaha.

After a steady first 14 minutes, UND broke the ice as Shane Gersich rifled a wrist shot home from the the top of the circle and thanks to a screen by Colton Poolman, was able to get past Omaha’s Evan Weninger to make it 1-0 Fighting Hawks. A very quiet frame before and after with shots registering in at 11 for UND to Omaha’s six.

With 1:54 left in a carry-over power play, UND made the most of it with many great chances, but Christian Wolanin’s wrister hit the back-bar past Weninger to make it 2-0 for UND. The pace of play stayed consistent with not many good chances either way, but Nick Jones changed that with 7:21 left in the second. Coming off the bench to a loose puck, Jones went wide, then made a little flip of the puck over the Omaha’s defender’s stick and took a diving shot that went past Weninger to make it 3-0. Four minutes later, Omaha’s Joel Messner fumbled a breakout attempt, in which Joel Janatuinen made no mistake to bury it past Weninger to make it 4-0.

20180309_222114

Christian Wolanin/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Our forwards were working so hard on the forecheck, maintaining pressure and making it hard on their defense,” said Christian Wolanin. “Our defenseman did a good job moving it north quickly. All the little things made up for some big goals for us.”

One big chance in the third saw Weninger make his best save of the night with a big cross-crease glove save on Grant Mismash to deny UND a fifth goal. UND outshot Omaha 34-25 in the game. It was Cam Johnson’s third shutout of the season and 12th all-time at UND.

“The key for us was to make them play defense,” mentioned Wolanin of UND’s ability to shut down Omaha’s threats. “If we don’t give them the puck and eliminate time and space, we’re going to have success against them.”

“It’s a good start. That’s the key word: start,” North Dakota coach Brad Berry said. “It’s just one game. I thought our guys did a lot of good things. The biggest thing is focusing on tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day and our lives are on the line still. There’s going to be a business-like mentality there.”

With the win, UND moved to 14th in the Pairwise Rankings, which is heavily used in helping determine the at-large bids for the tournaments. With that win, they move ahead of Omaha and would give themselves a better chance of moving up if they can sweep the series on Saturday.

“You kind of hear about what people are saying, but we’re focused on tomorrow,” defenseman Colton Poolman said of the Pairwise. “All that stuff is in the rear-view for us. We’re just focused on tomorrow.”

Puck drop is 7:07 at The Ralph, as UND looks to move onto the Frozen Faceoff next weekend and then to the National Tournament.

UND HOCKEY: Offense Finds Its Touch in Victory Over Colorado College

DVu1ziSXcAEzbnI

Photo via @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After last night’s game, North Dakota defenseman Colton Poolman said that Saturday night’s game was a must-win for the Fighting Hawks and they didn’t disappoint in front of a sell-out 11,860 at the Ralph picking up a 5-1 victory over the Colorado College Tigers. Two line-up changes from Friday’s tilt saw Peter Thome getting the start over senior Cam Johnson, while Collin Adams was scratched in lieu of defenseman-turned-winger Casey Johnson.

“Hockey doesn’t change in a month,” said Thome. “Playing last night and playing my game well helped me be confident for tonight. Just realizing I had to play my game and not do too much out there.”

Though there was the need to come out hopping, UND did have some added urgency, but aside from two chances by Shane Gersich– one going wide, one into the chest of Alex Leclerc– there wasn’t much to be said for the Fighting Hawks offense. Colorado College alos struggled with having many chances, as Peter Thome stood tall; including helping kill two power plays. The period ended with no goals and UND leading in shots 9-6.

While not much happened in the first part of the second, UND finally broke the ice. On the power play, while they were passing more than the late rounds of the MLB Draft, Christian Wolanin put a slap-pass to Shane Gersich, who put it off the side of the net and behind it. Luckily, Joel Janatuinen was on the other side of the net to pull from behind the net and into it to give UND the lead. Later in the period, the UND power play struck again, with Shane Gersich burying his 9th of the season after a Christian Wolanin shot struck Austin Poganski’s skate and kicked out to Gersich to put it in the yawning cage.
“Every time we’ve played together, we’ve had really good chemistry,” mentioned Gersich about being put between Gardner and Poganski. “It’s nice to be back with them and hopefully we can keep it rolling. I’ve had chemistry with Pogo in the past and Gard’s is a big guy who can win draws and battle. I don’t know, it just kind of clicks.”

One outburst was Rhett Gardner, who got his fourth minor of the weekend, then added on with another ten-minute misconduct for jawing at the referee after the call. Despite being down a man, UND killed the rest of Gardner’s minor off, in time for Austin Poganski to break up a pass at the blue line, get the puck kicked ahead by Johnny Simonson, and Poganski finishing the play by going high-blocker side of Leclerc to make it 3-0 UND.

While UND started to clog up the middle, Colorado College got past the trap, as Nick Halloran got a feed from Troy Conzo and put it high blocker side on Thome, making it 3-1. The Fighting Hawks regained the three-goal lead, as Grant Mismash cut across the front of net, drawing a penalty, then getting the puck out to Jordan Kawaguchi– who’s shot got tip over to Janatuinen, who potted his second of the game. After the penalty expired, Mismash danced through the Colorado College defense, across the slot, and put it high glove on Leclerc.

20180210_215624.jpg

Joel Janatuinen/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Feels pretty good,” said Janatuinen. “I haven’t scored that much this year. I’m just trying not to think about it too much. Just trying to help the team as much as you can and the goals will come from it.”

As stated from the start, there was a must-win feeling of this game, especially since UND hasn’t won a game since January 12th and going 0-3-3 in the six games since the last win in Bemidji.

“It was huge,” said head coach Brad Berry about the victory. I know everybody’s caught up in a must-win, must-win and you’re right it is a must-win, but I think our guys did a good job of handling the process and staying with the game.”

The Fighting Hawks are on the road the next two weeks– heading to Omaha next week and then Miami the week after before coming home in March to end out the regular season against St. Cloud State.

UND HOCKEY: Little Things Stifle Fighting Hawks in Loss to Colorado College

DVpXpN8UQAAPTga.jpg

Photo from @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a week off, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks were a bit more rested and did get the services of Rhett Gardner back, though Nick Jones is still on the shelf and Ludvig Hoff is off at the Olympics in South Korea. However, coming back to The Ralph in front of 11,517 wasn’t as great as UND had hoped, as they dropped the opening game of the weekend series against the Colorado College Tigers 4-2.

While North Dakota controlled the play for the first half of the first, Colorado College struck first after Cam Johnson and his defensemen had a miscommunication, leading to Christiano Versich passing out to Trevor Gooch, who slid it over to Troy Conzo to bury it into a yawning cage. The goal was only the second shot of the period for Colorado College. Shots ended up 9-8 for UND, but the Tigers got rejuvenated after the goal to spark six more shots in the last part of the frame.

While the Tigers were attacking for the first part of the second, UND finally got their legs about thanks to some help. During a power play, Christian Wolanin wheeled down low and tried to sneak the puck past Alex Leclerc, but just created a mad scramble in front. During that scramble, a Colorado College player closed his hand on the puck in the crease, creating a penalty shot for UND. Wolanin was allowed to finish what he started and went blocker side on Leclerc to make tie the game.

The tie didn’t last long as Troy Conzo got his second of the game shorthanded, as he lasered a shot past Johnson to make it 2-1. Brad Berry gave a quick hook, putting Peter Thome in net after Johnson let in two goals on 12 shots.

“This is the time of year, you’re not worried about feelings. It’s a team-first mentality, said Berry post-game. “I think it’s a situation where not very many shots on the scoreclock and they already have a couple goals, some you like to have back. Whether you get a bump for the team or giving Peter a chance, it’s about the team first.”

UND got a little more jump in their game and with 6:23 left, UND got the equalizer, this time from the other scoring defenseman in Colton Poolman, who got a short pass from Rhett Gardner before going wide and cutting in front to put on behind Leclerc. Seconds later, Alex Pernitsky– who was a last second addition to the line-up with Max St. Pierre being scratched– scored from the top of the circle near-side on Thome to make it 3-2 Tigers. Not long after that, Versich drew a penalty shot after a slash, but was denied after trying to slowly throw off Thome’s timing, but getting nowhere. The crazy second ended with UND outshooting CC in the frame 13-11, but down 3-2 in the goals column.

“They were more mature than us,” mentioned Colton Poolman. “They were more of a team after we scored and after they scored, we just shook our heads. We’ve dug ourselves a whole, but we’re in full confidence in that locker room.”

The third started with UND on their heels, as Rhett Gardner got his third minor of the night and the Tigers put some pucks on Thome, but the freshman netminder was equal to the task. UND got a power play shortly after killing the Gardner minor, but the Tigers– as they had been all night– kept the Fighting Hawks to the perimeter, not allow a prime scoring chance on their extra-man advantage. A see-saw battle to the end, UND had more than enough chances, but Leclerc was solid and even when out of position, his defensemen were able to clamp down and keep the puck out. UND did have shots to take the slot area, but seemed to veer off to set something up from the perimeter. Colorado College got their final goal thanks to a Westin Michaud empty-net tally to make it 4-2 as the end result.

“Just gotta find a to do something to get out of this rut we’re in,” said Christian Wolanin. “We’re in a deep hole right now and we’re going to have to do some hard work to dig us out.”

20180209_222949.jpg

Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Every time we score, they came back and put one in right away,” said Berry. “Times in games when you have momentum, you can’t give momentum away. I think we played the right way, but we let the game get away from us for those things. The frustration showed a little. When the game isn’t going the right way, we let it get to us. When you keep their top line off the score sheet, you give yourself a chance to win. It’s just the other phases of the game that we weren’t good enough in.”

UND will try to find the little things to get back in the win column for the first time since January 12th (5-1 win at Bemidji) on Saturday night.

“We need this one to say the least,” said Poolman. “Every game from here on out is a must-win, but especially tomorrow night. We can’t afford to give that up.”

UND HOCKEY: Two Ties Guide Fighting Hawks Into Bye Week

DUm1PvGXcAAcqys.jpg

Photo by @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– With both Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones still out with injury and Cole Smith suspended for his hit on Adam Plant on Friday, the University of North Dakota showed plenty of grit in the second game of the series with the Denver University Pioneers, with 12,002 at The Ralph, which is the highest of the season for UND. Even with all the players out and defenseman Casey Johnson playing forward, North Dakota came away with another tie on the weekend– this time by the count of 1-1.

North Dakota had some visitors, as Tucker Poolman (Winnipeg Jets), Nick Schmaltz (Chicago Blackhawks), and Drake Caggiula (Edmonton Oilers) were all in attendance for their alma mater during the NHL All-Star Weekend. However, despite the old UND guard in the building, Denver was first to strike, as they held possession of the puck most of the first half of the first period. They finally got through after Kohen Olischefski throw a shot on from an odd angle that beat Cam Johnson, as Johnson was unable to hug the post enough to keep it out. The rest of the period was possessed by Denver, who outshot the Fighting Hawks 9-5 in the period, with UND getting their first shot of the game 13:52 into the period. Though Denver got a late power play due to a Grant Mismash interference, nothing came of it and the period ended 1-0 for Denver.

“I don’t even know,” said Johnson of the goal during post-game. “It just found a hole there. But I felt good, it was a weak goal. I like to think that’s how our luck is going, just not getting the bounces. I just tried to refocus and think of it as a 0-0 game.”

A tense moment early in the second, as Andrew Peski let a shot from the point go that hit referee Nick Krebsbach in the hand, as he was protecting his face; sending the former AHL official down to the ice. After a few minutes and some work on the bench, he was up and ready to keep going. While Denver did get some chances, they also got a crucial penalty after Liam Finlay bowled over Cam Johnson to get a goalie interference call. In that ensuing power play, Christian Wolanin got his eighth of the season, blowing a shot over the glove of Tanner Jaillet.

Not much to speak of in the third, though Denver did have a scramble in front, where Cam Johnson was equal to the task. Plenty of clogging up the shooting and passing lanes from both sides, resulting in a second overtime in as many nights. Very few chances for each side on the overtime period, which resulted in yet another tie between these two teams. In the NCHC overtime, Ian Mitchell scored for Denver after Hayden Shaw’s pass got intercepted Logan O’Connor in the UND offensive zone, which moved to Mitchell, who deked out Johnson for the NCHC extra point. The NCAA official tie is UND’s eighth of the season.

20180127_220713

Christian Wolanin/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“A tie gets frustrating,” mentioned Wolanin on the result. “For not having our full roster and playing a great team like Denver, we showed heart and resiliency. To get two ties out of it is okay. Just okay.”

The main point of this week was the special teams. Last week, UND gave up six power play goals in their weekend set against Duluth and it was a sticking point for the team in the practice this week.

“When you have someone like Coach (Dane) Jackson, who puts his heart and soul into everything; for him to come in and think that the PK didn’t do their job– we held a lot of meetings for penalty kill this week,” said Wolanin. “In Duluth, it wasn’t a matter of Coach Jackson not preparing us enough, it was us being undisciplined.”

The Fighting Hawks are off next weekend, but will be back home on February 9th and 10th against Colorado College. With the bye week, UND hopes to have a lot of their walking wounded back– as it was the second game without Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones. They’ll also get Cole Smith back from suspension; though Ludvig Hoff will be away for the Olympics.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Tie Bemidji State to End Non-Conference Schedule

DTeK6oMU8AAGMOM

Photo via @UNDMhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After going to Bemidji State and winning 5-1, the University of North Dakota traveled the 120-some odd miles back to the Ralph Engelstad Arena to face the Beavers in front of 11,868 on Saturday. Tired legs and long nights lead to a 2-2 tie between the two and brought a bit of an anti-climatic end to UND’s non-conference season.

The Fighting Hawks weren’t without their issues, as Rhett Gardner and Trevor Olson were both out due to injuries on Friday, but the team soldiered on as they often do. North Dakota didn’t let the odd travel schedule lag them down, as they were on Bemidji from the drop of the puck. Putting plenty of rubber towards Michael Bitzer, but yielding no results. Bemidji did a solid job keeping UND to the outside and with the Fighting Hawks not able to crack the middle, any threat of a rebound to the slot was directed away by the Beavers’ defense. Shots ended up 12-3 on the side of UND.

UND kept cracking at it to start the second, only to break the ice 3:28 into the frame as Nick Jones came in from the slot after Austin Poganski took a skate around the net and found a streaking Jones, who netted his third goal of the weekend. While shots were traded by and forth, it wasn’t until 13:15 in the middle frame where Leo Fitzgerald got a stick on a Brendan Harris shot on the power play to tie the game at one. Right after the goal, however, Bemidji’s Jordan Heller got a five minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind. The extended power play was needed, which got the first goal as Christian Wolanin took a skate around the zone, saw the puck passed around until it found his tape again from a pass by Collin Adams to make it a 2-1 UND lead. Despite having control of the power play for a majority of the five minutes, they could only find the net once.

The Beavers pushed hard in the third, but didn’t have many shots to show for it. However, Bemidji knotted the game up after an odd bounce off of Dillon Eichstadt and Colton Poolman’s skate before going into the net past Cam Johnson. Eichstadt got credit for the goal with Kyle Bauman getting the assist. The play stayed at neutral most of the time, with Bemidji getting a little more pressure on Johnson than UND did with Bitzer, which caused free hockey for everyone at The Ralph.

The overtime period had plenty of chances for both sides, Bemidji’s Leo Fitzgerald getting three good looks, while UND had Austin Poganski and Shane Gersich getting back-to-back chances, but yielding nothing at the end. The game ended with a tie and having UND go 6-2-4 in their non-conference schedule.

“I thought we played well those non-conference games,” said head coach Brad Berry. “Overall, it was respectable. We gotta make sure we play a consistent brand of hockey in the NCHC and get in the National Tournament.”

“We take non-conference games very seriously,” mentioned Christian Wolanin. “We know how important they are at the end of the season. But we geared up and gave it our all for every season and I hope that it helps us in the pairwise.”

With the line-up card tonight, it was UND’s 24th game with a different line-up. Players like Wolanin and Jones had never seen something like this in their playing career before, but Jones was able to put it in perspective post-game:

20180113_214329.jpg

Nick Jones/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“I don’t think they’re challenges, I think they’re positives. At the end of the year, you’re not going to have everyone you’re able to have. To have the opportunity to get everyone in the line-up and ready for the end of the year. Our ultimate goal is to win a National Championship and we’ll use it as an experience. In the end, it’s rewarding for every player and a fight to get into the line-up every night. It’s something we can use to our advantage.”

The Fighting Hawks go to Minnesota-Duluth to play the Bulldogs next weekend and are back home on the 26th for a weekend set with Denver.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Get Back Into Form With Exhibition Victory

DSWC4K0UEAEHpVJ (1).jpg

Photo from @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– With wind chills hitting -30 to -50 Fahrenheit; 10,113 came out to the Ralph Engelstad Arena to see the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks take on the US National Team Development Program Under-18 team. While many didn’t know what to expect, UND got out to an early lead and didn’t look back winning 5-2. There were some scares for UND during the game, but they got the job done in their first game back after the semester break.

The first period saw UND score early with Cole Smith deflecting a Colton Poolman shot past Michigan State commit Drew Deridder just two and a half minutes into the game. However, the US was able to get some sustained offense with Boston University commit Jake Wise ringing one off the post past Cam Johnson’s blocker. It would take until the half-way point of the 1st for UND to score again, with Austin Poganski picking up the puck in the neutral zone and going in alone to put one past Deridder and make it 2-0. Five minutes later, Matt Kiersted fired a laser of a shot high blocker after Grant Mismash set him up on a silver platter to make it 3-0. Team USA would get one back late in the first with Ryan Savage (Miami-Ohio) gathering up a rebound off a Patrick Giles (Boston College) shot.

UND didn’t wait in the second period, as they were put on the power play and make short work of it with Jordan Kawaguchi going high blocker on Deridder to make it 4-1. USA’s first chance of the period came when Erik Middendorf (Denver) streaked away short-handed, but couldn’t get a handle on the puck, making it a routine pad save for Johnson. However, at the middle of the segment, Oliver Wahlstrom (Harvard) cut down the slot and went backhand farside on Johnson to make it 4-2.

Peter Thome came on in relief of Cam Johnson in the third. Johnson’s night ended with the two goals against and 16 saves. USA tried to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone, with Jack Hughes impressing with his stickhandling through the neutral zone, but yielded nothing. Third-string goalie Ryan Anderson got into the game in the last 2:44 to keep warm during the exhibition game. Shane Gersich sealed the deal into the empty net to make it 5-2 UND.

While the game and stats don’t count for anything, it was something that many on the Fighting Hawks roster thought was a good idea.

20171230_213655.jpg

Cole Smith/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“It was a good exhibition,” said forward Cole Smith. “Something to knock the rust off and not get out huge. Just to get guys back into the flow of things.”

Christian Wolanin echoed, “The exhibitions work well. I think it was my freshman year, we played Huntsville, which was tough to get up for because you’re a little heavy and need to work the kinks out. These exhibition games work out well and we take advantage it of it.”

Even with the win, there’s always room to improve. With an almost 100% healthy roster, coach Brad Berry still says there are some things to iron out as UND gets into a bulk of their conference play in the final half of the season.

“When you have a nine, ten game break, coming off a break, there’s a little rust– as you could tell,” mentioned Berry. “I think we competed hard and execution was a little off. Defensive zone, we have to tighten up on a few things. We played against a skilled team, they played fast and we have to make things better for next week.”

UND resumes conference play as Nebraska-Omaha comes into the Ralph for next weekend’s set.

UND HOCKEY: Slow First Period Sinks Hawks 4-1 Against Union

DPcxqH1VoAEqQVv.jpg

Photo from @UNDMhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– Another slow first period start for the University of North Dakota doomed them to start the 2017 Subway Holiday Classic, as the Fighting Hawks dropped the first game of the weekend to the Union Dutchmen 4-1 in front of 11,087 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Union opened the scoring ten minutes in after sustained pressure through the first part of the first period. Then, Ryan Walker tipped in a Brandon Estes shot to make it 1-0. Union also rang two shots off of Peter Thome’s glove side post early on. During their first power play of the game, Peter Thome wandered too far from the net trying to clear and turned it over, which lead to a Sebastian Vidmar goal. UND had one power play thanks to a Anthony Rinaldi penalty, but it only yielded one chance off a Grant Mismash rebound, but Connor Light cleared the puck out of danger.

“That’s our struggle the first part of the year is getting out of the gates,” captain Austin Poganski said post-game. “The game we have losses here, we’ve been chasing the other team. That’s not a good way to play hockey. For the rest of the year, especially tomorrow, we got to figure out how to get out of the gates right away and play with the lead for once.”

“Horrible,” defenseman Christian Wolanin said of the team’s first period. “Going through the motions. Waiting for things to happen. Not North Dakota hockey.”

North Dakota pushed the play in the first half of the second, but couldn’t beat Jake Kupsky or his posts. Kupsky, a Sharks draft pick, was 1-5-0 coming into the game after a rough start to Union’s season. Things got chippy as Ryan Walker covered a loose puck, which got him a delay of game call and UND’s Cole Smith and Sebastian Vidmar coincidental roughing calls. UND didn’t capitalize with the second ending with UND up on shots, but not on goals.

Three minutes into the third, UND broke through after Christian Wolanin potted his fifth of the year off a Matt Kiersted shot that Kupsky kicked back to the open area. A minute later, however, Union regained the two-goal lead with Vas Kolias being sent in on a breakaway by Ryan Walker to make it 3-1 Union. Both sides battled back, none really getting any major opportunities, less one Rhett Gardner shorthanded break that Kupsky stopped. Brendan Taylor added an empty net to seal a 4-1 victory for the Dutchmen.

Kupsky’s 37 saves on the night was the second highest total of the season, with only his 39-save performance against Boston University on the first game of the year topping it.

However, the story is the lack of punch in the first period for UND. The Hawks have only led four times after the first period in their 15 games this season– twice against St. Lawrence, once against Minnesota, and once against Colorado College. The problem solving for this amongst the players continues to be unsolved.

“That’s the frustrating part,” said Wolanin. “The coaches can only say so much and we can only say so much in the locker room, it’s a matter of doing it. We say it back-to-back-to-back-to-back weeks and we still go out and do the same thing in the first period. It’s just a mindset.”

“I’ll take a lot of responsibility for not getting the guys going,” mentioned Poganski. “At the end of the day we have to get some of our older guys and even our younger guys….I don’t know what it is. I think that’s what we’re looking for right now how to get things going right away. We’re working through that process. It’s taking longer than we hoped, but I think we’ll find it in the next few games and we’ll be fine.”

UND looks to make it a split at home against Union at the Ralph again at 7:07.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Gain Extra Point in Shootout After Up and Down Game

DOZz_NhVoAAmdE6

Photo via @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the University of North Dakota will come out of this weekend much like they did last weekend– a win and a tie. UND and Miami tied Saturday 3-3, though UND took the extra NCHC point in the shootout.

“We’ll take it,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “To come back from 2-0, it shows a response from our guys. It’s a learning lesson as far as going down two goals, but the biggest thing is to come back from it.”

The first period was, by and large, a neutral zone affair, but Gordie Green broke the ice for Miami after a Jordan Kawaguchi turnover allowed Josh Melnick to pick it up and pass to Green, who put it high glove on Peter Thome for the lone goal of the frame.

Miami got out to a quick start in the second with Grant Frederic shooting the puck wide, but with the carom off the end-boards, it landed on Ryan Siroky’s stick with a wide-open net to give Miami a 2-0 lead. A minute later, UND cut the lead in half with a Colton Poolman one-timer off a set-up from Christian Wolanin to make it 2-1 and spark the crowd of 11,795 at The Ralph.

“(Wolanin) takes so much attention out there being such a creative player,” Poolman said of his goal. “He opened some space up for me and had a good screen and got it to go.”

“We just stepped up and stuck with it,” said forward Shane Gersich about the second period. “We weren’t hard on each other and we keep building. It’s something we got to keep in mind as we go forward.”

However, UND wasted no time in the third period, as Dixon Bowen went high-glove on Ryan Larkin just 33 seconds into the third period with assists going to Austin Poganski and Poolman. The game went back and forth for the majority of the third period before Shane Gersich potted his fourth goal of the year from an almost impossible angle from a lovely pass from across the back of the net from Grant Mismash to put UND ahead 3-2. However, with 1:24 left, Miami captain Louie Belpedio found Melnick backdoor with the extra attacker to tie the game at three.

With the game moving to overtime, both sides had decent chances to end the game, the closest happening when Johnny Simonson was whacking at a rebound in front of the net, but the puck stayed on Larkin’s pad and was determined to be no-goal, despite a camera angle making it appear to have the puck cross the line. The game officially ended in a tie game, but in NCHC play– a 3-on-3 period for five minutes was used to determine the extra point which solved nothing. The shootout then happened for the extra NCHC point, where Christian Wolanin slapped home the fourth round attempt to give UND the extra point.

20171111_221437.jpg

Christian Wolanin/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Coach (Dane) Jackson looks at the guys after those three missed dekes and was like, ‘How about somebody try shooting it’,” mentioned Wolanin of his shootout slapper. “I said, ‘I’ll take a slapshot’ and saw he was backing up a little as I was coming in with speed so I change the speed and just ripped it.”

Despite the extra points, the main message for the weekend– as it is with every weekend– is to sweep the series. It’s something that UND has only done once this season when they played St. Lawrence in the home opening weekend.

“Obviously, we’re not excited over it,” Poolman mentioned about not being able to sweep the weekend, “But to go unbeaten is not a bad thing either. We’re trending in the right way and I like where we’re going.”

“We’re happy,” offered Wolanin of the weekend. “Five out of six points is as good as you can get without the sweep. We would have liked to get the sixth point, but we showed a lot of adversity out there. We didn’t have any panic in our game, no bad energy on the bench, and we just picked right up.”

UND will be put to the test next weekend, as they will face the reigning National Champions in Denver University at Magness Arena. Denver swept #1 St. Cloud State over the weekend and could very well regain their #1 seeding to take on the current #2 UND.

UND HOCKEY: Johnson’s Shutout, Wolanin’s Pair Help Hawks Over Gophers

DMtWCPqVwAAwZ5W

Photo by @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the first time since 2012, the UND Fighting Hawks defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, this time by the score of 4-0. After having a little momentum from last night’s game, the Hawks were able to get on the board early and keep things going from there.

The first five minutes are usually the most crucial to a game and UND wanted to make sure they had the racuous crowd of 11,890 behind them for all 60 minutes. Nick Jones got things rolling with his first as a Fighting Hawks off a one-timer set-up by Grant Mismash. Jones had a lot of chances in the first five games of the season, but said he was feeling frustrated not having buried one.

The game went back and forth before Jack Glover of Minnesota checked Collin Adams from behind, which resulted in a five minute major and game misconduct. In those five minutes, UND got three more goals– two from Christian Wolanin and one from Colton Poolman in that five minute span.

20171021_214409

Christian Wolanin/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“We finally shot,” quipped Wolanin post game about the power play. “We know he (Eric Schierhorn) is a good goalie and we wanted to get one in quick to break him down bit by bit.”

One of the big things that broke the spirit of the Minnesota team was the suffocating penalty kill, which held the Gophers off the scoresheet for seven chances, bumping up UND’s PK percentage to 96.3% on the season so far.

“Our penalty kill is all coach (Dane) Jackson,” said Wolanin. “Not just on the PK, but the tenacity and passion in which he coaches, we’d run through a brick wall for him. We just go out and work. It comes down to heart and…..you know……don’t know if I can say that on camera.”

Despite only have 22 shots thrown at him, Cam Johnson stopped them all and became the first goalie to shutout Minnesota in 48 games.

20171021_214055.jpg

Cam Johnson/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

That one feels better than any other one I’ve had,” Johnson said post-game. “My job wasn’t too hard for me tonight. Good all around effort. We got the best fans on earth and I got goosebumps every time we walked on the ice. I was more engaged because I got more work, which is what I like.” 

On the final stats, Mismash had two assists on the night, as did sophomore defenseman Hayden Shaw. Collin Adams had a lone assist, along with Nick Jones, Ludvig Hoff, and Gabe Bast.

Head coach Brad Berry lauded his team after the game in dealing with the rivalry.

I thought they did a good job and there’s a lot of things that go into it. For a group that doesn’t know a lot about the tradition and history, they did a good job. I’m sure both sides would admit we have to keep doing it. It’s good for the schools, it’s good for college hockey.”

North Dakota heads on the road for two straight weekends, heading to Colorado College next weekend and then onto Wisconsin to start off November.