UND HOCKEY: Slow Starts Sours Senior Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEY SAID IT

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

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

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

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

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks One Win Away from Back-to-Back Penrose Cups

GRAND FORKS, ND– Need two wins in their last four games in order to win the NCHC regular season, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks are in charge of their own destiny. They’ll be facing off against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in all four of those games. They took the first step in securing the Penrose Cup by beating Omaha Friday night 4-1. 

The first period featured a bit of a tight checking start, with only six shots total through the first half of the frame. Passing for both sides weren’t hitting their mark, which caused golden chances to go by the wayside. North Dakota did break the scoreless tie first, as Jacob Bernard-Docker let a shot go from the point, through a mass of humanity in front, and lighting the lamp for his second of the season. As the teams loosened up, so did the shot total, as Omaha outshot UND 14-10 after 20 minutes. 

“Our first period was rough,” Bernard-Docker mentioned post-game. “(Coach Brad Berry) came into the room and told us to clean it up, mainly in the neutral zone. I think we really found our game after that.”

After more tight checking and some chances on either side, Bernard-Docker was the focal point of the second gaol, as he took a Harrison Blaisdell pass, weaved through the offensive zone, put a backhanded shot on Isaiah Saville, but when Saville couldn’t hold onto the puck; Jackson Keane was there to put home the rebound for his first of the season. UND kept the pressure going, making sure they didn’t give Omaha any chance to breathe, which culminated in a Tyler Kleven tally. North Dakota worked the puck around smoothly, ending when Collin Adams set-up Kleven in Kleven’s wheelhouse and hammered home the 3-0 tally. Omaha broke the shutout after a point shot from Jason Smallidge ricocheted off the back boards and to Tyler Weiss, who had a wide-open net to put it past Adam Scheel. 

An uneventful start to the third period had action pick up on a North Dakota power play, which had been stymied all night up to that point. During the last throes of the power play, Mark Senden moved the puck to Bernard-Docker, who found a streaking Jasper Weatherby, who unleashed a brilliant snapshot past the glove of Saville, giving UND the 4-1 lead and victory. UND did catch-up in shots, outshooting the Mavericks 41-25. 

“It’s a team mentality,” Berry stated. “When you go up one or two goals, most players would want to get another goal or another assist for their stats. Our guys play a team mentality and are doing anything to get the win and not working about personal stats. It’s doing the things in game blocking shots, playing short shifts, and it’s reassuring to see it on a consistent basis.”

This was the first of four straight against Omaha to end the regular season for North Dakota. With another win, they’ll clinch the Penrose Cup for regular season champion of the NCHC. They’ll have to do that against a team who is undefeated in the back-end of the back-to-back series. 

“It’s not going to come easy,” Berry said. “We’re playing a team that’s 5-0 in second games of back-to-back games. We firmly believe they’ll be excited to play this and we’ll have to play our best game to win it. We have to come into the rink with a workman-like attitude.” 

“It’s something you think about,” mentioned Keane about winning the Penrose at home. “It sounds weird to say you don’t want to win it on the road. Our plan is to win it tomorrow. We don’t want to leave anything to chance.”

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Break Skid, Win 5-2 Over Anchorage

20181123_184259.jpg

GRAND FORKS, ND– After an eye-opening series last weekend, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the University of Alaska-Anchorage 5-2 on Friday night. Peter Thome made 20 saves in his first win of the season, while the Fighting Hawks had five different goal-scorers in the winning effort. It was the second time this season that UND has put up five goals, the first coming against Wisconsin earlier in the month.

UND got some chances early, with an exceptional chance on Joel Janatuinen getting a penalty shot after getting hauled down, but his attempt rang off the post after Anchorage’s Kris Carlson cut down the angle very well. But, the Fighting Hawks were able to bury one of their goals, as Ludvig Hoff found the back of the net off a scrum in front and batting one out of mid-air, off of Carlson’s helmet, and in. It was Hoff’s first game back since the Wisconsin series earlier in the month. UND was in command the shot counter again with a 16-3 total over Anchorage in the first 20 minutes.

The Hawks took advantage of an early power play after a too many men on the ice call, where Grant Mismash took a whiffed shot attempt by Jacob Bernard-Docker and put a wrister glove-side on Carlson to make it 2-0. Almost 90 seconds after that, freshman Jackson Keane got a feed from Casey Johnson and had a highlight reel goal toe-dragging passed a diving defender, going forehand, backhand, and then in the back of the net to make it 3-0.

20181123_221303

Jackson Keane/Photo by Jen Conway

“It was pretty cool,” said Keane after the game. “I don’t have words to describe it. It’s something I’ve dreamed about for a long time. I was just happy to be in the line-up tonight. I kind of just blacked out. I saw him slide down and I really couldn’t tell you what happened after that.”

Keane, however, would take a penalty his next shift and it would allow Anchorage a chance, which they cashed-in. After a Jonah Renouf shot from the point got lost in the pads of Peter Thome, Nicolas Erb-Ekholm banged in the puck in the crease to make it a 3-1 game. UND got it right back after a Drayson Pears penalty, Mismash found Rhett Gardner in front to tap home the redirection and make it 4-1.

While both teams went end-to-end, Anchorage got onto the board first in the period, after Nils Rygaard tapped home a solid Jeremiah Luedtke pass from behind the net to go five-hole on Thome. The Hawks regained the three-goal lead after Dixon Bowen came out of the corner to get to the slot, but lost the puck in a crowd. No one could find it except Casey Johnson who picked up the loose puck and put it home for his first of the season, closing out the scoring for both teams.

“It was pretty easy to get up for this one,” said Gardner after the game, “It was a good bounce-back. We answered and did what we had to do to get a win. We kind of talked about it all week. We had a real hard work week. We knew what the past is like on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but we got it into our mind it was gonna be like any other home weekend.”

The Black Friday game at home hadn’t been too kind to North Dakota, as they were winless in their last four Friday home games after Thanksgiving (0-3-1).

“I thought we came out strong. We had a good energy level and did what we needed to do,” said head coach Brad Berry. “All the records on the day after Thanksgiving, but that was secondary. Our mindset was the biggest thing and trying to play the game the right way.”

North Dakota will look to sweep the weekend on Saturday night at The Ralph.