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: Fighting Hawks Dropped Spirited Affair Against #1 Ranked Huskies

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a split of a weekend in Omaha, the University of North Dakota came home on Friday for their last season in a month at The Ralph and it would be no easy task for the Fighting Hawks, as they took on the top-ranked St. Cloud St. Huskies for the weekend. There was a buzz in the arena that I personally haven’t felt since Minnesota came to town last year, which was a welcome change for a game of this profile. However, most of the 11,608 were sent home disappointed, as St. Cloud beat UND 3-1 on Friday night.

While the first part of the opening frame was a feeling out process, North Dakota had a slight advantage in their offensive zone in the first half of the period. Nick Jones opened up the scoring for UND with a rebound from a Jordan Kawaguchi shot that hit off the backboards, flicking a backhand off SCSU’s David Hranek and into the net for the 1-0 lead. The best chance for SCSU came when UND’s Hayden Shaw turned the puck over in his own zone to give Patrick Newell a mini-break on Adam Scheel. Scheel– however, was equal to the task, flashing the glove to preserve the 1-0 lead at the end of the period.

Another back and forth period, but business picked up when St. Cloud appeared to tie up the game, as the puck bounced and appeared to bounce over the goal line, but after review– the evidence was inconclusive, which kept the game tied up at one. However, St. Cloud atoned for that when after a power play, Micah Miller got a cross-ice pass from Nolan Walker  and put it five-hole on Scheel to tie the game with 13.7 left in the frame.

St. Cloud showed off why they were the top-ranked team in the nation in the third, controlling the play in the neutral and offensive zone, moving the puck around to create several chances for themselves to break the tie. Luckily for UND, Scheel and the shot-blockers got in the way of many pucks to hold the tie. After UND killed another crucial penalty, Nolan Walker picked Colton Poolman’s pocket behind the net, slid a pass across to Patrick Newell, who beat a sprawling Scheel to make it a 2-1 Huskies lead.

Colton Poolman/Photo by Jen Conway

“I accept responsibility for that second goal,” an emotional Poolman said after the game. “I owe my teammates better to be more focused at a critical juncture in the game like that. That’s where it went sideways, so I accept responsibility for that.”

Later in the period, Grant Mismash took a hit by Jimmy Schuldt and was down on the ice in pain, but got a penalty for slashing the stick out of Schuldt’s hand. No penalty was given to Schuldt, as the refs told UND coach Brad Berry that they deemed the hit to be clean. A hit like that is reviewable by the referees, but neither decided to go to the scorer’s table to review it.

“I am very, very disappointed,” said Berry. “I’m not going to get in any trouble by making a comment, but that was a knee-on-knee play that should have been reviewed. We have a protocol in place and it was reviewed and I’m very disappointed. It’s not the result of the game I’m alluding to, it’s one of those things where you know when anything is 50/50 in a game like that, it’s got to get reviewed. We have that in our protocol.”

When asked about Mismash’s status for tomorrow, Berry simply said, “He’ll be out.”

As UND pulled the goalie, Blake Lizotte fired it into the open net to give SCSU the 3-1 win. Though, after the hit– you could see the emotion rising, plenty of activity after the whistle and in the penalty boxes, as well with both SCSU and UND players yelling at each other between the boxes. This should be a great precursor for the game on Saturday night.

UND HOCKEY: Another Night of Free Hockey, Another Two Points for North Dakota

GRAND FORKS, ND– Following an overtime victory last night, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks looked to add another notch in the win column and complete the weekend sweep of Colorado College. It would be a bit of a different look for UND, as Gabe Bast was out of the line-up due to a suspension from his hit on Alex Berardinelli. The team was also hampered with a sick goalie, as Adam Scheel came to the rink in the morning under the weather and not at 100%. However, he made a quick recovery to help the Fighting Hawks sweep the Tigers with a Saturday night victory in overtime.

Hayden Shaw got the Hawks out to a quick start with Jordan Kawaguchi finding Shaw streaking down the slot and put it bottom right corner on Alex Leclerc just 1:18 into the game. While UND did get some chances on the power play, it wasn’t until they were down a man that they would get their second goal, as Andrew Peski’s clearing attempt was picked up by Dixon Bowen, who streaked in to beat Leclerc under the blocker side to make it 2-0.

Dixon Bowen/Photo by Jen Conway

“Finally nice to get that monkey off my back,” Bowen said. “It’s funny because in practice when I try to deke, I never score and the boys make fun of me in practice and say I’m a shooter. So I was like okay, I’m gonna just shoot this one and it went in.”

Colorado College would open up the scoring the second with a shorthanded goal of their own as Adam Scheel kicked out a rebound off a Grand Cruikshank shot to the stick of Westin Michaud and cutting the lead to one. Colorado College could have had two more goals, but both were called off– first for goalie interference and then as the puck when in just hundredths of a second after time had expired.

The Tigers did even it up, as Cole McCaskill made a fantastic stretch pass to Trey Bradley, who broke in behind the defense and beat Scheel far-glove side to even it up at two. North Dakota kept the pressure on, sustaining pressure on Leclerc and playing with patience– though you could argue too much patience. With no goals to be scored after Bradley’s equalizer, we got another night of free hockey.

The free hockey didn’t last long, as just 50 seconds into the free frame, Nick Jones’s forecheck proved to be as deadly as usual, gaining possession behind the goal-line, trying to wrap it around, but getting blocked. Luckily, Jordan Kawaguchi was streaking in to put home the game-winner for UND in order to sweep the weekend.

“Honestly, I just blacked out the whole play,” said Kawaguchi post-game. “I remember seeing the puck and trying to get it towards the open net. Jonesy made a helluva play.”

A few years back, it was a different scene as the BCHL alums were jawing at each other on different sides of the puck in the playoffs. However, the combination of them both at UND has proved to be a solid match for the Fighting Hawks.

“It’s kind of ironic they’re playing together right now,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “They both came from very good, storied programs and they were very dominant players for each of them. There’s not a lot of love loss between them. But that’s the beauty of North Dakota. I remember years back, players coming in from different leagues and there was real animosity. But when you get together, you’re a teammate and your goal is to win a National Championship.”

The Fighting Hawks will take this sweep in stride as they prepare to travel to Omaha to face the Mavericks next week in yet another NCHC battle.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Need Extra Time to Topple Tigers

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a weekend that saw them throw everything and the kitchen sink against their opponent, but still only able to muster two goals in the weekend; the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks needed to rebound quick, as NCHC play started back up in full force. This weekend, they welcomed the Colorado College Tigers into The Ralph and used almost every minute of regulation and overtime to get a 4-3 win on the first game of the weekend.

It took until halfway through the first for UND to solve Alex Leclerc and it took a power play to do so. After the two-man advantage was killed, Nick Jones got the puck down low from Jacob Bernard-Docker and somehow was able to find space where there didn’t seem to be any over the shoulder of Leclerc to make it 1-0 for the Hawks. While UND did have a shot advantage in the first of 11-7, they seemed to have better quality chances against Leclerc than Colorado College had against Adam Scheel.

After plenty of sustained pressure in the zone, Andrew Peski’s shot from the point went off of Colorado’s Zach Berzolla and past Leclerc to make it 2-0 for the Hawks. Colorado College cut the lead in half after a power play goal by Westin Michaud– who drew the penalty– as his shot trickled past Scheel despite the UND goalie getting a glove on it– but couldn’t stop the momentum afterwards.

Under three minutes into the third, Colorado College tied it up after Erik Middendorf picked up the puck off a blocked shot and put it past a scrambling Scheel. Off the goal, Gabe Bast leveled Colorado’s Alex Berardinelli, which resulted in Berardinelli needing help off the ice, as Bast got a five-minute major and ten-minute misconduct for targeting the head. Less than thirty seconds into the power play, former North Dakota forward Chris Wilkie put home his fourth of the season with a wicked shot from the top of the circle and put the Tigers up for the first time in the game, though it was the only goal on the extended power play. With almost five minutes to play, UND got back on the board, as Jordan Kawaguchi tipped home a Nick Jones slap-pass/skate tip shot to knot the game at three, which led to overtime.

Jordan Kawaguchi/Photo by Jen Conway

“I didn’t see anyhing,” said Kawaguchi post-game. “I just went to the net with my stick on the ice. I don’t know if Nick’s shot would have gotten in or not, but just going to the net with my stick on the ice. It’s something coach has been talking about, getting into the dirty areas and goals will come.”

Just when it looked like it would go to a shootout to see who got the extra NCHC point, Ludvig Hoff tipped a Jacob Bernard-Docker point shot over Leclerc’s shoulder to give UND the overtime win by a score of 4-3.

“It was huge for a lot of reasons,” remarked head coach Brad Berry. “First of all, get back in the win column. Second climbing the standings in the NCHC, Pairwise is a big thing. But the morale of the group here. You’re working hard all year and in the end, sometimes you don’t get rewarded. We got rewarded tonight.”

UND is hoping that the rewards continue and try to finish the weekend with four points on Saturday night.

UND HOCKEY: Jones’s Late Heroics Lift North Dakota in Sweep of Omaha

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Photo from @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– On Saturday, it was a story of two teams desperate for different reasons. North Dakota was desperate to end the series in a sweep to help their Pairwise ranking and to get an extra day of rest. For Omaha, they were desperate to extend the series and hope for the best in a Game Three. It took extra time, but North Dakota got the best of Omaha in overtime to send the 10,351 at Ralph Engelstad Arena home happy and sweep the playoff series and move on to the Frozen Faceoff next weekend in St. Paul.

The energy was up for UND, creating plenty of chances in the first five minutes, but showing nothing for it. UND was getting to the hot spot and tried to spread out the game, but Evan Weninger was equal to the task early on in the game. The first goal cam on a loopy call, as Matt Kierstad’s shot went in off the post, bounced off Weninger’s back-end and into the net to make it 1-0 after a lengthy review. Minutes later, Dixon Bowen made it 2-0 after taking a lovely pass off the boards from Trevor Olson and beating Weninger on the backhand. After the under-five media timeout, Teemu Pulkkinen tipped a Lukas Buchta shot to put Omaha within one. Shots after the first were in UND’s favor by the count of 11-4.

“It’s been a while,” mentioned Bowen of his goalless drought, which happened on November 11th against Miami. “It’s good to get the monkey off my back. It’s playoff hockey and anything can happen.”

Five minutes into the second, right after Hayden Shaw’s penalty expired, Pulkkinen got his second of the night after the Fighting Hawks couldn’t get it out of the zone. After yet another two-goal lead slipped away, UND looked to be playing on their heels a bit in the second with giveaways and a bit of an inability to get the puck deep enough to create many chances for themselves. Though they had some sustained pressured towards the end of second, no goals were to show for it and the period ended tied at 2.

The third period started with a goal review for Omaha that was waved off due to inconclusive evidence, but Omaha officially broke the tie when Jake Randolph scored off a crazy scramble in front that had Cam Johnson flailing all over his goal crease. UND tied the game at the mid-point of the third after Nick Jones tipped home a Colton Poolman blast on the power play. Chances on either side were few and far between, which lead to the game going into overtime.

“When we went down there, we showed a lot of character to get one back,” said Bowen after the game. “We never gave up. We’re glad to get down to the cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and check off another box.”

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Nick Jones/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

The overtime was quick and dirty, as Nick Jones banked a Jordan Kawaguchi shot off Weninger to win it just 53 seconds into the overtime to advance UND to the Frozen Faceoff.

“You see goals like that all the time, just throwing it at the goalie,” said Jones of his game-winner. “I’ve tried that 15, 20 times and just lucky to get a bounce this time. He was playing pretty far out of his net and I just threw it out there hoping for a bounce.”

“He picked a good time to score,” said coach Brad Berry of Jones after the game. “He bring instant experience to your lineup. He was in another program, went back to juniors, as an older player with college experience; he’s a seasoned vet. He does all the little things and his leadership qualities are impeccable.”

It is the 16th-straight year that UND will move on from the first round, but they’ll have to wait to see who their opponent in the second round will be. Both the Miami/St. Cloud and Denver/Colorado College series are going to a third and final game. The standings will be re-seeded after the first round with Miami and Colorado College both seeded lower than UND could cause a little havoc going into the semifinals.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Shake-Up, Make Up For Friday Loss

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Photo from @UNDMhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a dismal showing for North Dakota Friday night, head coach Brad Berry decided to shake up the line-up. Peter Thome started the game, while Berry also sat freshmen Collin Adams and Grant Mismash for Zach Yon and Dixon Bowen. The changes seemed to work, with UND sending home the 10.816 at The Ralph home happy with a 7-0 victory against Omaha.

“I wanna start by saying that the reason we lost last night was not because of Cam Johnson,” stressed Berry post-game. “We didn’t play well in front of him. That being said, he’s part of the group and we wanted to make changes tonight to give guys opportunities and hold guys accountable and the guys responded.”

“It gave us a shot in the arm,” said forward Rhett Gardner. “That’s the thing with North Dakota, there’s some healthy internal competition. Some good players are going to be out of the line-up because of it.”

The team responded in the first minute of the game, getting two solid chances in front of Kris Oldham, but nothing to show for it. Shots were at a premium in the first, but UND’s Rhett Gardner got the Hawks on the board first after getting his own blocked shot off of Joel Messner to rip home his fifth of the season. Omaha led in shots 6-5 after the first frame.

“It starts with our urgency,” said Gardner. “We were first to loose pucks and went from there. Last night, I thought our line had created some good chances, but they didn’t fall.

Three minutes in, on their first power play of the game, Colton Poolman hammered home his fifth of the season after a great face-off win by Rhett Gardner and pass by Gabe Bast. UND kept it going two minutes later, as Jordan Kawaguchi banked a pass off the boards to Joel Janatuinen as JJ went near-side glove on Oldham for a 3-0 UND lead. Though they had chances, the Fighting Hawks potted another one before the end of the frame as Janatuinen had a lovely dish over to Christian Wolanin to make it 4-0 UND. Omaha only had one shot in the period, which came with two seconds left.

“It was boring,” said Thome. “I had to do a lot of hot laps to keep moving. I was thinking about juggling in between the periods, but never got around to it.”

It took until midway through the third frame for UND to get on the board as Austin Poganski put away a Shane Gersich feed to make it 5-0. Gardner got his second assist of the night and third point of the game on that goal. Minutes later, Andrew Peski got his first career NCAA goal that redirected off of Omaha’s Lawson McDonald, which came off a lovely feed from Jordan Kawaguchi. UND closed the scoring on the power play as Austin Poganski cut through the Omaha defense and scored while falling down to make it 7-0 UND.

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Peter Thome/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

The shutout was the first of Thome’s college career and he did it on a bit of a short notice.

“I found out during morning skate,” Thome said. “I was excited. It’s been a while since my last start and I wanted to get back in there.”

Another first was for Andrew Peski, who’s first goal comes after a 48-game drought with North Dakota and his first since playing at Tri-City of the USHL during the 2015-16 season.

“I played it out in my head about how I would get it,” confessed Peski. “I’ve been waiting a long time for that one. It was good to see the boys were happy for it. I was thinking about giving it (the puck) to my mom, she’s probably back home crying and excited for me. She’d love to have it.”

UND is back next weekend with a home-and-home with Bemidji State– Friday in Bemidji and Saturday in Grand Forks.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Saddle Broncos 4-3 in Physical Affair

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Photo by @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– Friday night set the tone for the weekend, as the University of North Dakota took the first game of the weekend set against Western Michigan University 4-3 in a chippy, physical affair that saw many a scrum break out.

UND opened the scoring in the first on the power play, as Rhett Gardner broke up a Western Michigan breakout, which tipped over to Grant Mismash before eventually finding the stick of Austin Poganski, who went five-hole on Ben Blacker to put the Fighting Hawks up 1-0 just five minutes into the game. Minutes later, after drawing a penalty on Christian Wolanin, Dawson DiPietro came down the wing on the ensuing power play over Cam Johnson’s glove hand to tie the game. UND struck back minutes later, while on a 5-on-3 power play, which Austin Poganski potted his second goal of the night from a lovely feed from Jordan Kawaguchi to make it 2-1.

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Austin Poganski/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet and help like that,” said captain Poganski after the game, “But things go unnoticed, like Ludvig blocking some shots and there were some big blocks at the end. It’s not always about scoring goals and getting assists. It’s about the little things people don’t see as often.”

Western Michigan tried to challenge offsides, but it was to no avail. Just over a minute later, Ludvig Hoff got in on the action, tipping a shot from Colton Poolman and going over the shoulder of Ben Blacker to make it 3-1 UND. Three minutes after that, WMU cut the lead to one as Brett Van Os deflected a Cam Lee shot to go over the shoulder of Johnson to make it 3-2, which is where the first period ended. It was only the sixth time this season UND had the lead after the first period.

A lot of beating, banging, and exchanging of power plays, but it wasn’t until midway through the second where UND increased their lead. Collin Adams went broke up a clearing attempt, took a skate across the top of the circle and ripped it high blocker on Blacker to make it 4-2 Fighting Hawks. While the play continued to be physical, it didn’t come without issues– as Andrew Peski and Ludvig Hoff left the game with undisclosed injuries.

More physical play until late in the period when Wade Allison got Western Michigan to within one goal on the power play, as he blew by the UND defense of a small dish from Corey Schueneman to make it 4-3 UND. However, UND thought they got the two-goal lead back when Joel Janatuinen put the puck past a laid out Blacker, but due to Luke Bafia being pushed into his own goalie– the goal was disallowed. As the game went along, it got more physical, but UND rode the edge a little too close and then over, getting three penalties within the last two minutes. Thankfully for the face-off work of Johnny Simonson and the defensive play by Gabe Bast, two late-game face-offs in front of Cam Johnson were all for not as UND went on to win 4-3 Friday.

“I thought that was a man’s game out there tonight,” said UND head coach Brad Berry. “It was fast, it was heavy, a lot of up and down the ice. Two teams that have unbelieveable will. It came down to the last play and the last face-off.”

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Cam Johnson/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

With the win, Cam Johnson goes to 6-2-1 after a four-week layoff when he was injured during morning skate of the Wisconsin series

“It’s been a long month or long eight games, whatever it was,” said Johnson, “But it’s good to be back and good to get a win at The Ralph. I felt good all the way through, but I think I need to drink more liquids before the game. Trying to get the pacing of the way the game speed is as opposed to practice took a bit, too.”

“It was as close to 60 minutes we’ve played all year,” Berry stated. “It’s tough to play a perfect game, especially with a good team on the other side like that. Consistency and the start is something we have to make sure we off-set tomorrow.”

UND HOCKEY: Thome, Jones Lead UND Past Miami

GRAND FORKS, ND– In front of 11,389 of his newest friends, Peter Thome got his first home win of his college career, while helping the UND Fighting Hawks overcome a slow first period to beat Miami University (of Ohio) 4-1 in game one of their weekend set.

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Peter Thome/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“It was awesome,” Thome said of playing in his first game at The Ralph. “I couldn’t sleep during my pre-game nap. I was bouncing off the walls of my dorm I was so excited. And it was a great atmosphere and it was great to get the win.”

The first period was a sloppy one for the Fighting Hawks, as they were only able to muster four shots on Miami’s Ryan Larkin and eight chances overall. Miami, however, has 21 chances at goal with nine hitting Thome. UND was lucky not to get burned on the ice, especially after an overt amount of turnovers in their own end and not being able to wrangle in passes from out of the zone. The one big chance for UND came with a slight 5-on-3 advantage when Shane Gersich was at the side of the post and almost buried a cross-ice pass, but was stoned by Larkin– even with the goal horn and fireworks going off from the arena staff.

“They came out really hard right off the hop, you have to give credit to them,” Thome said. “It’s not that we were slow, but they had an extra jump. The guys keep a lot of the shots to outside and they were making sure that there were no second chances.”

In the second frame got off to a rocky start, as Nick Jones got a hooking penalty early in the period, but redeemed himself when he stepped out of the penalty box to pick up a Colton Poolman outlet pass, outwait Larkin and bury his fourth goal of the season.

“It was just a fortunate bounce,” Jones mentioned of his first goal. “(Poolman) was just trying to get it down the ice and didn’t go as fast down the ice. He didn’t really see me.”

Late in the second, UND went up 2-0 after Rhett Gardner picked up a failed wrap-around attempt by Shane Gersich, which ended up more of a pass than a shot. The power play goal was his third of the season and first since October 20th in the first game against Minnesota. Even later, Nick Jones got his second of the game after he picked up a loose puck that rattled around Jordan Kawaguchi’s skates to put UND up 3-0. That was Jones’ ninth point in the last six games.

“When (Jones) was in the BCHL, he was used in a lot of scoring situations, head coach Brad Berry said after the game. “He was a vital force in the BCHL, but we also knew he’s an unbelievable two-way player. When you have someone new coming to your organization, sometimes it’s surprising, but he’s an experienced guy. He invests in his game– whether it’s the weight room or in practice– so there’s no surprise”

The third was a safe period for UND, which saw them give a goal to Karch Bachman of Miami– getting his second of the year. After that, UND fought back and Grant Mismash got UND’s tallied the 4-1 goal after an odd happening where the officials didn’t know if a whistle went or not. After audio review, the goal counted and gave Mismash his fourth goal of the season.
With Thome’s second win in three games, the loss of Cam Johnson doesn’t seem as bad. Of course, Johnson has been a vital part to UND over his four seasons, but with Thome blooming as he has been, the injury to Johnson is something that the team isn’t too concerned with thanks to Thome’s play.

“It’s allowing our team to grow under another goaltender,” mentioned coach Berry. “It also gives him experience. It’s a good situation for him to be in and helps build a team, as well.”

Thome and the Fighting Hawks will look to sweep Miami on Saturday night.

UND HOCKEY: Three in First, Big Penalty Kill Leads UND to Weekend Sweep

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Photo from @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– What the University of North Dakota has been lack in the early part of this season has been scoring. Saturday, however, they turned that around with six goals from six different goal scorers to cruise to a 6-1 victory to conclude the series sweep of St. Lawrence.

After needing 19 minutes to get one goal last night, the Fighting Hawks were able to get three in that time-span in Saturday. Christian Wolanin, Shane Gersich, and Grant Mismash all got their first goals of the season in the first, with Gersich getting his on the power play. Colton Poolman had two assists on the Wolanin and Gersich goals, while Mismash’s goal came off a turnover on a St. Lawrence breakout.

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Shane Gersich/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“We were using our strength and our speed and really overwhelming them,” said Gersich. “We were causing turnovers and that’s what creates offense. We were playing great off the puck, too,”

As good as Arthur Brey was on Friday, he didn’t have the stuff on Saturday. Coach Mark Morris swapped out Brey for sophomore Daniel Mannella, who was tested early, but only let in one second period goal by Jordan Kawaguchi, another power play tally.

Things almost took a turn after the Kawaguchi goal, as Mismash got a five minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head of Philip Alftberg. While Ben Finkelstein of St. Lawrence got a penalty, UND got back-to-back calls against them to make it an extended 5-on-3 for St. Lawrence. Cam Johnson and the defense was equal to the task, stopping everything thrown at them as St. Lawrence was held scoreless on the power play.

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Cam Johnson/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“It was tiring, but it was nice to get some action there,” said Johnson of the 5-on-3. “Had a couple choice words when it happened, but I thought our penalty kill did unbelievable not giving them too many quality chances. It was a huge momentum builder for us”

“The could have gone either way, but he was our best penalty killer,” Poolman mentioned of his goaltender. “He comes up big in big moments and his rebound control is unbelievable. He’s a steady influence back there.”

Eventually, St. Lawrence was able to break the ice in the third with a goal from Jacob Pritchard almost four minutes into the frame. UND answered back towards the end as Cole Smith and Rhett Gardner got their first goals of the season sending the 11,599 at The Ralph home happy off a successful weekend.

“The biggest thing is I think guys knew we could play better tonight,” commented head coach Brad Berry. “Last night, we were grateful for the win, but we talked about it and knew we could be better.”

One down note was the loss of Johnny Simonson, who got hit awkwardly in the second period, not to return for the game. Coach Berry said he was be evaluated and they’ll see how it goes throughout the week leading into next week’s rival series against Minnesota.