UND HOCKEY: Hawks Sweep Denver Off Their Feet, Weekend Series

GRAND FORKS, ND– Despite not having captain Colton Poolman in the line-up, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks pulled off a sweep of Denver University this weekend, winning Saturday night 3-1 and holding the Pioneers to just two goals on the weekend and only four goals in the four games the two met each other in this season. 

North Dakota dictated the pace through the first, holding Denver to only two shots midway through the frame. Thanks to a Liam Finlay holding call, Matt Kiersted potted his fifth of the year thanks to a ricochet off the glove of Denver’s Justin Lee went past Magnus Chrona to give UND the lead. UND’s defense kept the Pioneers to the outside, allowing Peter Thome to see the puck perfectly. Thome’s biggest save came off a cross-ice pass that forced him to go post-to-post in order to make a toe save and keep it a 1-0 game. 

For most of the second period, it was a chess match, with neither team wanting to make a wrong move and have it go against them. Denver flinched first with just under half the period to go, when Jacob Bernard-Docker started a rush, finding Jordan Kawaguchi on the wing, who then passed it cross is to Collin Adams to make it a 2-0 game. Denver got one back five minutes later, as Brett Edwards threw a shot at Peter Thome after it was dumped into the corner; Thome couldn’t get to his post fast enough and the Edwards shot went off Thome’s side and in the net. 

While the third period was more of slog, the Fighting Hawks held off late attacks by the Pioneers and ended it with Jasper Weatherby burying an empty-netter to seal the deal and sweep for the top-ranked North Dakota. The win kept the hot streak alive for North Dakota with a winning streak of five games, games in which they’ve allowed a total of five goals. It also allows UND to pull eight points ahead in the standings for the NCHC. 

THEY SAID IT

“Just an overall commitment, we’re not getting spread out. This is a good team off the rush, our d-men can’t be caught out on an island. Our forwards have to help out through the rush, through the d-zone. We always call it five-in-the-picture. We want to make sure that any time we see in our video, five guys are together, coming up and down the ice.”– Brad Berry on what’s help the defensive game in the last five. 

“I think in the third period, you could tell– they ramped it up and we ramped it up. Obviously, it’s going to be playoff hockey from here on out. It’s going to get tougher and tougher and we’ve got to get better.”– Collin Adams on the atmosphere as the regular season winds down.

UND HOCKEY: Multiple Multi-Point Nights Lift Fighting Hawks Over Pioneers

GRAND FORKS, ND– With another top-five seed on the rink, the top-ranked University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks put their skill on display as they beat Denver University 4-1 on Friday night. Peter Thome made 26 saves while Shane Pinto, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jordan Kawaguchi, and Collin Adams all had multi-point nights. 

After chances in the first five minutes, UND got on the board first with Shane Pinto taking a wild pass from Jacob Bernard-Docker at the point and Pinto knocking it past Devin Cooley. Denver was able to get two power plays in the frame, but North Dakota’s PK was solid clogging the lanes and Peter Thome was strong when called upon. UND also rang one off the post in the middle of the frame, but the frame ended 1-0. 

Early in the second, Collin Adams got called for tripping Bobby Brink, setting the Pioneers up with their third power play of the game. Brink ended the power play with a laser beam of a shot off a pass from Ian Mitchell to tie the game. Brink, however, did not finish the night, as he was injured in the second period when Cole Smith slid to block a shot and trapped Brink’s ankle and leg underneath his body weight, leading Brink to limp off the ice favoring his left leg.

Four minutes after Denver’s goal, after a too-many men call against Denver, UND got a power play goal right back with Matt Kiersted ripping wrister from the point through a screen in front to beat Cooley and get the Fighting Hawks the lead again. The Hawks padded the lead late in the frame when Grant Mismash crashed the net on a harmless shot, pokes the puck out of Cooley’s reach right to Adams to make it a 3-1 lead. 

Late in the second and onto the third, the hitting picked up– as most Denver/North Dakota games are wont to do; but it also set the tone for the series finale tomorrow. However, after a penalty for indirect contact to the head, the power play created a turnover that moved the puck to Adams, who found Bernard-Docker streaking down the slot to make it a 4-1 game. While the hitting continued, the scoring did not as UND took Friday’s game 4-1. 

With the win, North Dakota clinched home-ice in the NCHC playoffs, a feat that is always at the top of the priority list each season for the team. 

“The first thing we do is shooting for home ice, but now we have to shoot to higher things,” head coach Brad Berry said postgame. “We’ve got to string some games together down this stretch and play with momentum, starting with tomorrow’s game. We want to have a good chance to keep things going here. Every team this time of year is going to give their best and we have to make sure we’re doing our best to keep right with them.” 

THEY SAID IT

“That’s something I’ve worked a lot on with Karl (Goehring). Having a few layers of screens and looking around them. Part of that is never excepting. It’s your job to see the puck and never saying, ‘Oh, I lost it. Not really on me, I couldn’t see it.’ You got to keep battling and finding it and never giving up even if you feel it’s already been shot– working on finding where it’s at and finding positioning.” — Peter Thome on being able to see the puck better through traffic this season. 

“I don’t think my approach changes too much. It’s the same mental approach as any game and prepare the same way.”– Shane Pinto on playing in the national spotlight. 

“You kind of realize when you’re a freshman that you’re going to be here forever. Even when you’re a sophomore; it still feels so far away. Then, as a junior you start to realize you’re in the back half. We don’t want to be that class that sends this program back a few years. Every guy in our class worked their tails off in the summer to try and get better and I think that’s what you’re seeing.” — Thome on the Junior class performing this season.

UND HOCKEY: Eight is Enough for UND's Big Win Over Tigers

GRAND FORKS, ND– After only scoring one goal in last night’s win, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks made up for it on Saturday night, pummelling the Colorado College Tigers 8-1 to sweep the weekend. UND finished with seven goal scorers, 13 players with points, multi-point games from Kawaguchi, Weatherby, Adams, Mismash, and Andrew Peski; all while getting a bye-week to rest up the wounded like Gavin Hain and Gabe Bast who left early due to injury and Matt Kiersted who sat out the weekend to heal up. 

“Last night took a while, but we just kind of stuck with the process,” Kawaguchi mentioned post-game. “That’s what we want. We want to jump on teams early and hopefully go up a couple like we did tonight.” 

After a penalty to linemate Gavin Hain, Cole Smith took it upon himself to drive the net hard from the outside and put it through Matt Vernon to give UND a power play goal. Under two minutes later, Collin Adams continued his breakout season taking a cycle pass to just below the blueline and got it passed Vernon thanks to a Jordan Kawaguchi screen in front. UND kept the pressure and got a little puck luck with Vernon misplaying the puck in front of his net, allowing Jasper Weatherby tapping it in between his legs. As that goal was announced, Jordan Kawaguchi fed it across ice to Grant Mismash to beat Vernon far side and make it 4-0 in the first period of play. 

The Fighting Hawks kept the pedal down, as they took it to the Tigers early, which resulted in Kawaguchi getting his 14th of the year, driving to the net and putting it between the wickets of Vernon to make it 5-0 early in the second. Colorado College did put some pressure on in the middle of the frame, but Peter Thome stood tall and kept the Tigers off the scoresheet. With under five minutes left, Mark Senden drove the net and picked up Harrison Blaisdell’s rebound from Vernon’s pad to make it 6-0 UND. 

After Jon Flakne got into net for the Tigers, the Hawks took 50 seconds before a bouncing puck hit Kawaguchi’s pants to make it 7-0 for UND. Four minutes later, the Hawks made it eight with Jacob Bernard-Docker taking a skate before feeding Shane Pinto in front for his 13th of the season. Matt Vernon went back into net shortly after to try and stop the bleeding for Colorado College. The Tigers did get one back, as Connor Mayer put one past Thome after a centering feed from Alex Berardinelli to stop the shutout bid for Thome and the eventual final goal of the contest. 

Andrew Peski/Photo by Jen Conway

THEY SAID IT

“A couple of guys got banged up there so we had to move some lines and d-pairs around a bit. That gave us the opportunity tonight with a lead like that to see other guys like Harrison Blaisdell and Judd Caulfield in some other situations.”– Brad Berry on dealing on the fly with some injuries in his roster throughout the game. 

“We were just sticking with it. We watched some video this morning and looked at each other and said, ‘We got to pick it up a little bit.’ We didn’t have our best game last night. Even against Duluth we were playing our best. We got to take responsibility for that and go out there and do what we can.”– Kawaguchi on his line creating more chances tonight opposed to the start of the semester

“Matt (Kiersted)’s a great defenseman. He’s definitely a key to our offense and our power play, but at the end of the day as Bubs (Brad Berry) always says– next man up mentality. You saw Josh Rieger come in, he was playing defense and forward a little bit, so we call him the Swiss Army Knife. He did a great job and it’s just doing the job that you have and doing it well.”– Peski on the versatility of the roster for UND. 

“They’re a workhorse line. Smitty works the hardest I’ve ever seen. Senden works hard, too. Gavin has the most skill on that line and he’s a hard worker, too. I wouldn’t want to play against them. They’re tough and fast and play the right way. Those three together are unbelieveable.”– Kawaguchi on the energy line of Smith, Hain, and Senden

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Stave Off Counterattack to Sweep Weekend

GRAND FORKS, ND— After a blowout win Friday, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks knew they wouldn’t have as easy of a task on Saturday. The Miami Red Hawks came out prepared and had an answer for seemingly every UND attack. At the end, however, UND had the last laugh as they swept the Red Hawks with a 5-4 win on Saturday. 

It took only four minutes for the Fighting Hawks to get on the board, as Collin Adams put on past Collin Adams after a lovely pass from Jordan Kawaguchi and made it a quick 1-0 lead for UND. Miami didn’t sit back as they may have on Friday night, as Ryan Savage put one high over the glove of Adam Scheel to even the game less than two minutes after UND took the lead. The North Dakota power play kept clicking, as Jasper Weatherby buried his second goal in as many nights after a great backpass from Westin Michaud to give UND the lead back. Miami continued to score right after UND, as Phil Nies got a great feed from John Sladic with Nies tucking it over the right shoulder of Scheel to tie the game. Then things got frantic— Jordan Kawaguchi scored his 3rd on the season with a laser over the shoulder of Ryan Larkin to make it 3-2, then 11 seconds later— Westin Michaud scored off a lovely feed by Harrison Blasidell to make it 4-2. 

“It seemed like tonight we scored a goal, they scored a goal. They had an answer,” mentioned Brad Berry after the game. “It was so huge for us to have an answer when they scored.” 

It took a bit longer for UND to get on the board in the second, but it was a Adams again, putting a tap-in home after Kawaguchi took the puck off the boards, wrapped it around the net, and found the tape of Adams’ stick to make it a 5-2 game for UND. Miami responded moments later, with Chaz Switzer getting a cross ice pass from Monte Graham and put it past Scheel to make it 5-3. UND did have plenty of chances towards the end of the frame, but Larkin was solid in net to fend off the attacks by the Fighting Hawks. 

North Dakota were back on their heels a bit, as Gavin Hain took a five-minute major for boarding halfway through the third, coupled with a tripping call to Cole Smith towards the end of the major, which eventually led to a Derek Daschke goal, just as Hain’s major had expired to make it 5-4. Miami kept firing late into the game, even with the goalie pulled, but Adam Scheel kept the puck out and the Fighting Hawks swept the Red Hawks with a 5-4 victory, their ninth straight win on home ice dating back to last season and sixth straight this season. 

THEY SAID IT

“When you blow a team out on Friday like we did, you know they’re going to have a day to watch film and fix their mistakes. We know it was going to be a tough one, so we expected them to come out hard and they gave us a little pushback.”– Adams on the expectation from Miami Saturday night. 

“Those guys are finding a little chemistry together and they enjoy playing together. The challenge becomes consistency trying to do that night in and night out because what happens out there is other teams will figure it out.” — Berry on the line of Kawaguchi, Adams, and Grant Mismash. 

“I think last year, guys were holding their stick a little too tight. This year, we’re just playing our hockey. We’ve got a lot of good guys on the roster and we have the belief that pucks can go in the net and if we work hard, good things happen.”– Weatherby on the change in mentality for the team offensively this year.

“Jordan made a couple good passes out there and I’m thankful for him, but it definitely helped my confidence level. I haven’t been out in the last minute in the past few years, but when he (Berry) trusts me like that and put me out there; he has faith in me and that’s just really good as a player.”– Adams on scoring and being put out on the ice at crucial times of the game.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Stomps Miami 7-1

GRAND FORKS, ND— In trying to keep their home winning streak alive, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks made sure they left no doubt against the Miami University Red Hawks, scoring three times in 2:02 and twice again in 33 seconds to upend Miami 7-1 on Friday night.

The game started quick for UND, as they had four solid scoring chances against Ryan Larkin, but couldn’t get through the senior goalie for Miami. Thanks to some penalty issues from the Red Hawks, Jacob Bernard-Docker was able to open the scoring, as he rocketed home a wrister with UND up two-men, to break a 16 power play try drought for the Fighting Hawks. At the tail-end of that same advantage, Jasper Weatherby tipped home a Jordan Kawaguchi slap-pass to make it 2-0. Not to be overlooked, Collin Adams ripped home a shot from the face-off dot to make it 3-0 and giving Kawaguchi his third assist of the night, all in the first period. 

It took less than three minutes for North Dakota to strike in the second, as a stretch pass by Matt Kiersted to Dixon Bowen made it 4-0 after Bowen snapped a shot high glove over Larkin. The Hawks had been experimenting with the stretch pass in the first, coming close to connecting at times, but never getting the great chance generated like in the Bowen goal. Jonny Tychonick got into the act with a bomb from the top of the circle that was laid out perfectly by Harrison Blaisdell to make it 5-0, with Tychonick adding his second goal 33 seconds later pass new Miami goalie Grant Valentine to make it 6-0. 

“I want to play my game— playing with energy, playing with pace, moving the puck, and moving my feet,” Tychonick said after the game. “The big thing for me is jumping up in the play. I’m really focusing on my game right now and not getting ahead of myself and doing the little things right.” 

It only took 2:20 of the third for UND to make it 7-0, as Westin Michaud joined the party a perfectly placed wrister over the glove of Valentine, a goal that was assisted by Tychonick and Blaisdell. Miami answered back with a Noah Jordan redirect that went through the five-hole of Adam Scheel to make it 7-1, which would eventually be the final of the game. 

THEY SAID IT

“That’s a big thing. Miami has a lot of pride in that dressing room, so we know they were going to have a little bit of a push. We kind of had a lull in the d-zone there in the second period in the last ten minutes. That’s stuff we got to clean up and we really wanna focus on the details because that’ll go into tomorrow’s game. Friday night is over and done with. Now it’s time to move onto Saturday, watch some video and work on some things that need to improve on.”–Tychonick on not getting complacent after a big win. 

“Very important to score on the 5-on-3, I thought that was a key time of the game to get that first one and it seemed like they got a little more confidence on the second power play. You can take a breath a little bit and know that, yeah, we can score on the power play and keep working on it.”–Head Coach Brad Berry on getting the power play to break an 0-for-16 slump.

“We’re a really mobile corp. Unbelievable feet, unbelievable puck poise and puck management. We’re up in the play creating offense. Hockey these days can’t just be generated through the forwards, it comes from the D as well. Good D leads to good offense.” –Tychonick on the offense the defense is providing for UND. 

“They keep doing the right things time and time again. Part of that is that they’re good checkers and good defenders, but they’re also good with the puck. When you have the puck, that means the other team doesn’t. And that’s a big part of having match-ups, too. Now, tomorrow’s going to be another challenge. I thought they (Miami) played well in the second half and we got to make sure we answer the bell tomorrow.”– Berry on the Mark Senden/Cole Smith/Gavin Hain line. 

“We’re getting better opportunities on the ice, we’re getting inside to the middle and that’s a big thing for us and it’s paying off. I think the more we can from floating them from the outside and getting them to the middle of the ice, the better it’ll work for us.” Matt Kiersted on the offensive game on Friday night.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Take Out Huskies 3-1

GRAND FORKS, ND–  In a one-off US Hockey Hall of Fame game, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks took on the Michigan Tech Huskies. The Hawks would be without captain Colton Poolman who was out for precautionary reasons, which was another hit to the defensive corps; who was already without Gabe Bast. In what was another tight checking match-up, the Hawks took out the Huskies in the end, winning by a count of 3-1. 

“We talk about it all the time, it’s the next-man up mentality,” defenseman Matt Kiersted mentioned after the game. “We’ve got a really deep d-corp, so one guys goes out– next guy goes in and performs.”

The game started out quick and fast, as almost six minutes of action happened before the first stoppage, when Justin Misiak gathered up a pucking slot area and slid a backhand through a mess of bodies and under Adam Scheel to make it 1-0 for the Huskies. It took five minutes of pressure for the Hawks to get it back, as Kiersted wristed one from the point that beat Robbie Beydoun to tie the game. 

“I was just following it up,” Kiersted said of his goal. “We had a good forecheck in and it made its way up to the point and I just tried to get it on net. There was a lot of traffic in front and found a way through.” 

In terms of scoring, the second period yielded none, as both teams were playing very tight hockey. Michigan Tech only had one shot on net for the second frame, while UND only had one big chance on a power play the slide past Beydoun and out the other side. Tech was able to keep the Hawks to the outside and limit the scoring chances in high threat areas. 

More of the same in the third until 7:31 when Tech had a costly turnover that was picked up by Collin Adams and fed it to Jordan Kawaguci, who ripped one from the slot past Beydoun to make it 2-1 UND. Gavin Hain would seal the deal with the empty-netter for the 3-1 victory. 

THEY SAID IT

Matt Kiersted/ Jen Conway, @NHLHistorygirl

“It’s more than just the defense. The forwards are coming back on the backcheck. The harder they backcheck, the easier it is for us to stay up on our gaps. So it’s a whole team thing.” — Kiersted on UND having another home game holding the opponent to less than 20 shots. 

“We were a bit methodical, a bit predictable as far as moving around and getting shots blocked. They block a lot of shots and they’re a good defensive team. There’s a reason why they’re seventh in the country on defense. For us, we have to have more emotion and more playmaking to get those lanes open.” — Coach Brad Berry on the Hawks power-play woes

“Any time you’re not scoring goals, you want to shorten your bench, you want to try and get guys out there more often than not. But in this league, in college hockey, it’s a hard, heavy league and you got to have four lines that can go. I think the strength of our team in trying to get offense is having for lines that can bring the energy all the time.” — Berry on playing opposition playing a stingy defensive game.

“We’re tired of tying or losing games by one goal. Scoring goals is about confidence. We go out there and we want to win a hockey game. Doesn’t matter when it is, we just want to win a hockey game.” — Jordan Kawaguchi on the team scoring later into games this year that they didn’t last year. 

UND is back at home on November 9th with a weekend set against Miami.

UND HOCKEY: Late Heroics Fuel Hawks OT Victory

GRAND FORKS, ND– While it wasn’t the prettiest game played, the University of North Dakota came back home to start a five-game homestand on the right foot with an overtime win against the Bemidji State Beavers. However, it wasn’t until late in the third and early in overtime when the Fighting Hawks turned it on, something that coach Brad Berry was looking to do from the start, including calling his timeout midway through the first period.

“You try to find out early in the game who’s going, who has momentum,” said Berry postgame. “I thought there were probably two guys on each line going and we tried to piece three lines together at the end.” 

“I think we were a little rattled, that would be the correct term,” mentioned Westin Michaud after the game. “(Coach) just said, ‘Calm down, execute our system, play our game,’ and it was a really good time-out by him because I think that was a momentum changer, for sure.”

The first period of the game wasn’t what many people would crisp. A lot of sloppy play on both ends of the ice lead to a scoreless first and the wonder was if the game would get the first goal on an own goal. UND has held without a shot for around 11 minutes of game play, after attacking Zach Driscoll’s net in the first shift. Many missed chances by Grant Mismash handling a one-time attempt too much and a couple of ill-advised passes when there could have been shots.

After an Ethan Fritsch boarding call, Bemidji struck first, as Owen Sillinger deflected home his second of the season and made it 1-0 Beavers. The Hawks were getting shots on Driscoll, but they weren’t necessarily the most high-quality chances when it came to trying to beat the Beavers’ netminder. It seemed after getting the lead, the Beavers build a defensive dam in the neutral zone to clog up the speed of UND.

The third was mostly the Beavers clogging up the ice, keeping the Hawks to the perimeter and making a lot of their shots from low percentage areas and thrown into defenders. That was until late in the frame, when Jordan Kawaguchi redirected a pass from Jacob Bernard-Docker in past Driscoll to tie the game. No goals happened past that so we were headed to overtime. 

Less than a minute into overtime, Shane Pinto won a draw in the Bemidji zone and Westin Michaud ripped one past Driscoll to win the game in overtime 2-1. The faceoff win was one of 41 for UND, who dominated in the circle, led by Jasper Weatherby’s 13 wins in the game.

THEY SAID IT

Westin Michaud/Photo Jen Conway, @NHLHistoryGirl

“Shane Pinto won that first draw straight back to Matt Kierstad. I kind of missed it, but Kiers had a great shot tipped. I went out and said, ‘Pinto, let’s go, do it again.’ And he did. I move half an inch left and fortunate enough, I saw the defender in the back there and pulled it, dragged it, and hope for it to go in.” — Westin Michaud on his game-winning goal. 

“Obviously wasn’t pretty. We found a way to get it done. It kind of shows the team we have, just to stick with it even when things aren’t going our way and we aren’t playing our best. When a good hockey team goes into a trap and takes away some options, you’re going to have some…some…discombobulation, I guess. That’s a big word for me.” — Jordan Kawaguchi on the style of game being played.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Complete Revenge Sweep of Canisius

Photo by Kelsey Lee/Violet Turtle Photography

GRAND FORKS, ND– The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks took their 5-0 win last night and put it in a bit of the rear view, though the start didn’t see that way. After going down in the first period, the Hawks shook off the early rust and took it to the Canisius Golden Griffins, sweeping the weekend series with a 8-1 win. 

It took less than five minutes for Canisius to get on the board, as Austin Alger got a past from David Melaragni and ripped it high past Adam Scheel’s glove to make it 1-0 early. For a second straight night, Canisius has gotten kicked out– with JD Pogue being the victim after kneeing Colton Poolman. For a second straight night, however, the Hawks failed to capitalize on the extended power play. 

Under seven minutes into the second, Shane Pinto got a penalty shot after being hooked and held, but despite his slow approach, Jacob Barczewski stuck with him the whole way and kept it at 1-0. Moments later, however, Jordan Kawaguchi drove down the side and passed it across to a streaking Mark Senden to make it 1-1. After two straight icings, UND was able to have enough in the tank for Collin Adams to come in the zone, take a shot, have a follow up from Kawaguchi and then Adams banged home the Kawaguchi rebound to make it 2-1 Hawks. Towards the end of the second, the UND got the power play goal they were hunting for this weekend with Grant Mismash breaking into the zone, losing a bit of control, but having the wherewithal to keep control and feed it to Gabe Bast to make it 3-1 for UND. 

Scary moment late in the second with Barczewski getting cut up high and needed to be assisted to the dressing room for repairs, which yielded the net for Matt Ladd. Barczewski did return to the locker room during the intermission and returned to the game. 

Just over a minute into play in the third, UND struck again with Jacob Bernard-Docker wristed through Barczweski to make it 4-1. Seconds later, Harrison Blaisdell found a rebound in the feet of Canisius defenders and made it 5-1. Barczewski then got lifted again for Ladd. Good bounces found UND with Andrew Peski scoring off his leg from a Shane Pinto shot and made it 6-1. Then midway through the period, Senden drove the right side, threw it in front to Cole Smith, and the redirect squeaked past Ladd to make it 7-1. With under 90 seconds, Westin Michaud made it 8-1 after an unselfish play by Judd Caulfield to pass it over to Michaud on the mini 2-on-0 break. 

THEY SAID IT

“They’re a hard, heavy, fast team. There’s not a lot of time and space and the opportunities you have to create are ones you have to work as a team at with short passes and get puck through and get to the net and stay on it. Now, we have to enjoy it for a few minutes and now we got to move on when we get to practice on Monday and get ready for Mankato because that’s going to be an equally hard series.” — Head Coach Brad Berry on facing Canisius

“A big learning experience for me and the freshman is that after a loss for their team last night, we’ve got to be more prepared to start. They had a good push off the start and we’ve got to know it’s coming and learn from that.” –Jacob Bernard-Docker on what to take out of the series and moving forward

“We played well overall. We played 120 minutes full. A lot of people said we owe these guys and we gave it to them. A little bit of revenge for us and we feel pretty good going into next weekend.” –Jordan Kawaguchi on the weekend for UND.

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.