NCHC Frozen Faceoff Day 1: Fighting Hawks, Huskies Move Onto Semis

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the first time in the eight year history of the NCHC, the Frozen Faceoff playoffs weren’t held in one of Minnesota’s twin cities, but in Grand Forks at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The decision came as ideas were thrown about with the playoffs and how they would be handled, especially after the success of the Pod in Omaha to start the season. You can see that story from Brad Schlossman here

Friday and Saturday have two quarterfinals with the semis on Monday and final on Tuesday. 

The first game had the very barebone team in Colorado College and St. Cloud State. The Tigers had only 16 skaters and a single goalie for this game due to COVID protocols being in place for the team. That didn’t deter Colorado College, who kept the St. Cloud offense at bay for most of the game, but the Huskies came out on top thanks to a late goal by Nick Perbix to move onto the semifinals with a 2-1 win. 

After a scoreless first, Colorado College got on the board two minutes into the second after McKay Flanagan threw a harmless dump pass onto net, but the puck handcuffed Huskies goalie David Hrenak to put the Tigers up 1-0. Late in the second, Colorado College’s captain Zach Berzolla went knee-on-knee with Veeti Miettinen, which resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct. St. Cloud tied the game up thanks to a Zach Okabe shot with 1:01 left in the second. 

It was all St. Cloud in the third, as it seemed Colorado College was just trying to hang on. The Huskies outshot the Tigers 17-0 in the final frame and only scored the one goal late thanks to the smart and sometimes desperate play of Matt Vernon in between the pipes for the Tigers. However, the Tigers couldn’t find the extra gear for the equalizer and the Huskies moved onto Monday’s semifinal. 

THEY SAID IT

“I’m really proud of our guys. They competed right to the end and we gave ourselves a chance. We had to shutdown a pretty high potent offense. Really proud about how we competed and battled.” — Colorado College head coach Mike Haviland

“It was more or less staying above them and not giving them a chance off the rush. I thought we did a great job. Four defensemen down the stretch hurt us, but we played above them. That was the game plan going ahead.” — Haviland on the game plan with a small roster. 

“These kinds of opportunities don’t come very often. I’ve always considered myself a playoff player. I knew that every single one of the guys would give it there all and I had to make sure I did the same.” — Vernon on his mindset coming into the game.

“You’re not used to having teams not forecheck you. The flow of the game was off. It took us a while to get adjusted to their game plan. About the 10 minute mark, we saw what they were doing, readjusted our game plan to go against them.” St. Cloud head coach Brett Larson on how his team adapted to the unique CC game. 

“We tried to stay with it and try to wear them down. Just work it low and get our chances in front of the net.” –Purbix about the St. Cloud mindset. 

“Obviously we were getting all our chances. We were fighting all day, but we knew one of them would go in.” –Okabe on the offensive chances St. Cloud had.

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In the second match-up, the top-seeded and host North Dakota Fighting Hawks took on the Miami RedHawks. The only match-ups between these teams came at the NCHC Pod in December, North Dakota winning both of those games. 

North Dakota got off to a quick start, with Collin Adams putting UND up 1-0 only 14 seconds into the first after a two-on-one with Jordan Kawaguchi. Miami had plenty of pressure after that goal, creating turnovers in the UND end. However, the Fighting Hawks counterpunched that saw Louis Jamernik tally his first college goal and make it 2-0. Seconds later, Adams got his second of the game off the face off and banking a passing attempt over a Miami defender to put the Fighting Hawks up 3-0. Miami got one back after the half-way point of the period, as Phil Knies put one over the right shoulder of Adam Scheel to make it 3-1. Riese Gaber got the three-goal lead back after picking up his own blocked shot to put it past Ludvig Persson and make it 4-1. 

UND made it a four-goal lead with Jacob Bernard-Docker getting a tally from a one-timer at the point through traffic in front to make it 5-1. While UND carried the pace for most of the period, Rourke Russell was able to sneak a shot past Adam Scheel, as a rising shot caught Scheel off-guard, bouncing off his blocker and kicked off his skate to make 5-2. 

Brendan Budy made it 6-2 when he gathered up a shot off the post from Adams and put it into the open net. For Adams, it was his fifth point of the night. A scary moment in the third when Bernard-Docker was retrieving a puck, he tripped himself up on a pivot and the side of his head hit the back boards. He laid in a heap as Miami continued to possess the puck before getting back into the play and helping out the penalty kill. After that sequence, he went to the dressing room and did not return. No immediate update on his status for Monday. 

THEY SAID IT

“This is a serious time for Miami hockey. We’re looking for people that can help us win. And I say that meaning this game tonight. If you can’t help us try and win this game tonight, you’re wasting your time and you’re wasting our time. Because that’s the bar.” Miami head coach Chris Bergeron on the future of the RedHawks program.

“What I liked from our group was the fight back. A tough thing about playing North Dakota is going nose-to-nose and letting them know you’re here to play. We pushed back and we had opportunities. It’s not moral victory time, it’s baby-steps. It’s changing the culture and going from there. The vibe on our bench was not a team that was down. We kept pushing back and I like that in a group.”– Bergeron on the feeling on the bench against a top-ranked team.

“Just how resilient this group is. We went through a lot of adversity and there were a lot of sacrifices made to make sure this season went ahead. The guys in this room know something great is going on and there’s definitely a bright future for those guys in the room there.”– Knies on the team this season and the direction of the Miami program. 

“We referenced that game (St. Cloud/Colorado College) in our locker room about how this league is so tough that you have to get out to a quick start. Got to commend CC for the line-up they had and they played a tough game against a tough St. Cloud team. Where you are in the standings in the regular season doesn’t matter. You got to prove it every day now.” — North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on his team’s focus at the fast start. 

“You have to have an answer. If you get scored on, you want to have an answer right away to show the other team you don’t want to back down. When team’s score a goal, you have to get right back at it again.” — Berry on the counter-attack his team had against Miami.

“Those guys are pro hockey players. It’s not surprising, they know what to do and how to do it. Collin should have had a hat-trick, he’s had a couple chances. A five-point game is nice, but to us, it’s no surprise.”– Jamernik on the Adams/Kawaguchi duo.

UND HOCKEY: Pinto Pots Lone Goal in 1-0 Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a two-week road trip, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came back to Ralph Engelstad Arena for NCHC action against the Colorado College Tigers. Though UND held possession for most of the game, the puck didn’t bounce their way to the back of the net much, as UND took game one of the weekend 1-0. Peter Thome made 25 saves in his second shutout of his college career. 

“It feels pretty good, it’s always good in a tight game like that,” Thome mentioned post-game. The guys played hard for me in front, really stifled them. Didn’t give them too many Grade-A chance.” 

The first period possessionally was dominated by North Dakota, as they kept a lot of pressure on Matt Vernon and the Colorado College defense. However, the son of Mike Vernon was able to keep the shots at bay, with some desperation saves while getting a little help from his defensemen. While UND did have some issues trying to get the puck through the neutral zone, but some adjustments helped them correct that as the period went along. 

Colorado College picked up their pace offensively in the second with 12 shots on Peter Thome, and though he fought a couple off, the junior goalie stayed strong to keep the game tied through two. UND did have some chances, but couldn’t get too many quality shots against the freshman goalie of Colorado College. 

“His old man was a pretty good goalie,” Berry said of Matt Vernon’s father. “I thought he played very well tonight. When we did get pucks to the net, he was on them, he was focused. He was seeing the puck tonight, which says a lot about a freshman goalie.” 

Both teams were cautious to start the third, but the intensity started to pick up in the middle of the frame, resulting in Colorado College taking a tripping penalty for tripping up Shane Pinto. Pinto made them pay, as he put home a rebound off the back boards into a wide-open net. The initial shot from Westin Michaud was trying to beat Vernon near corner, but the miss turned into an assist for the graduate transfer. The goal stood as the only one for either side, as UND gets their 20th win of the season. 

THEY SAID IT

“You know, it runs through your mind a little bit. [Coach Berry] told me Monday that I was going tonight, so I had all week to prepare. That runs throughout your mind through the week, but as you get older you get more mature and figure out how to address those thoughts and prepare the right way.” — Peter Thome on maybe not getting the chance he’s getting now as a starter. 

“You can tell on the bench he was getting frustrated. I think one of those will go in. I tried to keep him calm, on the bench he gets a little rattled. He was good tonight, I don’t think he was too rattled. He had a lot of good shots, so I think one will go in tomorrow.”– Pinto on Michaud facing off against his old school.

“You can tell he really wanted one tonight. He gave himself a chance to score, he was in and around the net. He made a couple plays. I got to commend him for his focus. Sometimes in a game like that, you might get unraveled. I didn’t think he got unraveled. He did a good job of keeping the game in front of him and having a high professionalism about him.”– Berry on Michaud facing his old team. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Karl [Goehring]. It’s pretty special in college you get to work with an NHL level goalie coach and not just once or twice a week; he’s at the rink and spends all day here. He’s always pushing me, during that stretch in the first half where obviously I didn’t play, we had a few conversations where frustration may have been getting to me a little bit and he said, ‘Hey, no. Absolutely not. You gotta be a man and got to put on your work boots every day and prepare for your opportunity because one is going to come.’”– Thome of UND assistant coach Karl Goehring