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: 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

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Keep Home Cooking Fresh, Beat St. Cloud 4-2

GRAND FORKS, ND– After getting into the top-five nationally this week, the University of North Dakota had to take on the St. Cloud State Huskies in an NCHC match-up. While the Huskies have struggled this year, the team still has a lot of solid players and made it a difficult sixty minutes for the Fighting Hawks. In the end, however, the Hawks came out with a 4-2 victory for their eighth straight home win of the season and 10th straight over the last two seasons.

Up to the first media timeout, St. Cloud looked like the team who was ranked in the top-five in the nation, controlling the play and forcing North Dakota to make ill-advised turnovers. However, after the first media timeout, UND got back on it as Shane Pinto put it behind David Hrenak after a great pick-pocket and pass by Westin Michaud. St. Cloud tried to charge back, but Adam Scheel was stellar in net to stave off the pressure. 

“We found a way to win, but we’ve got to be a lot sharper with our execution,” said head coach Brad Berry. “We came out in our first shift very good, but I thought half of our team tonight wasn’t that sharp and the other half was. When you’re playing a team like St. Cloud, everyone’s got to be sharp. The NCHC is a tight lead and you have to be ready to go every night.

An early power play in the second period yielded another Pinto goal, this time off a great pass from Jordan Kawaguchi cross-ice in Pinto’s wheelhouse and it was no doubt off his stick to the back of the net. Minutes later, however, St. Cloud got one back as Luke Jaycox found the puck after a mess in front to make it 2-1 for UND. Collin Adams restored the two-goal lead, putting it through Hrenak’s five-hole after a soft little pass from Kawaguchi at the side of the net. After a second too many men call, Nick Poehling banked a shot off the pads of Scheel and the power play goal cut it to a one-goal game again.

A back and forth third period yielded a few chances on either side, but both Hrenak and Scheel were stellar. Just before a minute to go, Cole Smith sealed another home win for the Fighting Hawks, as he put his fifth into the open net to make it a 4-2 lead and victory. 

THEY SAID IT

“He’s a strong, heavy-bodied centerman. The one thing on that power play goal is he drew that penalty and ironically scored that goal. He did a lot of good things to create the offensive game.” — Berry on Shane Pinto’s play tonight

“Wes is the Energizer Bunny. He’s always playing well and he’s always playing hard. He just always brings the energy. It’s good to be around and it’s good to uplift everyone.” — Pinto on having Westin Michaud as a teammate

“It’s nice having him out there. He’s seen it all. Playing for four years, it’s good to have that experience in our line-up. After practice, he’s always out there working on his shot. He pulls guys aside and ask them what they want to work on. He just wants to make people better around him.” Judd Caulfield on Westin Michaud.

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.

When There’s No Fan Advantage on Home Ice

Student sections in college hockey are a treat. Plenty of passion from the student-body, representing their school and doing all they can to hype them up for the game going on below them. On Saturday at The Ralph, that was very much on display…by the visiting fan base’s student section. And the picture from the Michigan Tech Twitter tells it all. Tech fans up and yelling, while University of North Dakota fans were sitting there taking it.

Even when the North Dakota student body and other fans in the building tried to drown them out, it was only for a fleeting moment before they got worn out and the Michigan Tech’s Mitch’s Misfits took over the building with their chanting and support. Big props to them for not only travelling all that way to come into North Dakota, but for also supporting as loudly as they did and for as long as they did. That’s dedication.

But it also shows a big problem I’ve seen with The Ralph when it comes to crowd noise– which is that there’s very little of it for very long periods of time. Aside from the Minnesota game a few years ago, the atmosphere hasn’t been anything too special for home game at The Ralph, there’s nothing that makes it special for North Dakota. Sure, the arena is one of the biggest, sure it sells a lot of tickets and gets the attendance numbers, but there’s times that a library would be considered louder than during game play at a Fighting Hawks game. It’s even more noticeable when the students are on a semester or holiday break and they aren’t at the games– things are even more sterile in terms of cheering outside of momentary occurrences of goals, hits, or saves.

It didn’t used to be that way, as the old Winter Sports Center was a rucousy place for UND fans. Like many old college arenas, it had it’s own special feel to it with the fans right on top of the action…hanging over the boards, even. That seemed to change with the more corporate feel that The Ralph has. Not to say it isn’t a lovely building and all that, but it seems like it’s too clean for college sports. The student-athletes get plenty out of it with the facilities being akin (or in some cases better) to professional venues, but the other atmosphere seems to be lacking with this arena despite the North Dakota paraphernalia around the concourse and up in the rafters.

Now, this isn’t a knock on the student section per se– they can only do so much with what they’re allowed to do in the environment and according to NCAA bylaws and such; but it seems they don’t carry on as much as they could or should be able to. There are some outside of the student section that tries to get some people going, but it’s few and far between. People are content on just watching the game rather than trying to feel like they’re a part of it. The games seem more like a place to be seen than a place to be hear among the masses. It’s a shame, especially in a building as big as The Ralph, you’d think that the sound would be even bigger; really making it hard for opposing schools who may already be caught off-guard by the size of the arena to begin with. Without a distinct noise-level or other distractions– once they get over the size of the arena, they settle in and don’t get as rattled as they could get.

One of the biggest thing is the fact that while The Ralph has a big attendance number for tickets sold, there’s noticeable empty seats through the arena as of late. While the team has had a few off years and many in the area can’t deal with not being one of the top-dogs every year (which is noble, but also a bit headstrong), that’s no reason to not show up after you’ve bought the tickets for the game. It’s bad optics for an event and bad for an atmosphere that’s already lacking in vocal support for the team.

Maybe these heel tactics– while true in some cases– will actually get people’s attention to the lack of home-ice advantage in the stands in Grand Forks. It really showed this weekend when Mitch’s Misfits were far-and-away the loudest bunch in the rink and the North Dakota faithful couldn’t drown them out or even keep up with them.

Prove me wrong, UND faithful– prove me wrong.

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: Fighting Hawks Win Tune-up 5-1

Photo via @UNDMhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– It was another long off-season for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks hockey team, as they are coming off a second straight season of missing the NCAA tournament. They looked to put that all behind them, as they started off with an exhibition against the University of Manitoba. The Fighting Hawks sent the sell-out crowd of 11,760 home with a big 5-1 win in the tune-up for the regular season.

While they did dictate the offensive game in the start, Manitoba struck first after a broken passing play, as Colton Veloso picked up the puck in the slot off a deflected pass attempt by Sean Christensen and put it past Adam Scheel to make it 1-0 Bisons. Right after the goal, Mantioba went on to commit two penalties, putting the Fighting Hawks on the two-man-advantage.

Despite several chances and Gabe Bast ringing a shot off the crossbar, Jacob Bernard-Docker was able to beat Riley Lamb just as the first penalty was about to expire. A pass across from Grant Mismash in JBD’s wheelhouse allowed the sophomore d-man to get a nice wrister near-side on Lamb. UND didn’t let up in the first, as Gavin Hain tallied after a pass in traffic from Mismash and had it pinball all over past Lamb. UND was on the power play after that goal and Collin Adams found a rebound on the top of the crease and buried it past Lamb to make it 3-1 and giving Mismash his third assist of the night, only in the first period. 

As the second period started, redshirt freshman Harrison Feeney got some time in the net. After coming up midseason from the NAHL as an emergency back-up, Feeney could be seen as a competitor with Peter Thome for the back-up slot to Scheel. It took 14 minutes of game play for the Hawks to notch their fourth goal, as Hain tipped a shot from Mismash past Lamb. Jonny Tychonick made the play happen with a skate around the perimeter before dishing it off to Mismash. Feeney wasn’t all that tested, but was able to get out on a couple shots, while also stopping a penalty shot by Jonah Wasylak late in the frame. 

Thome got into play in the third, but unlike his predecessors; saw a little bit more action from the Bisons, but held the fort down for the Hawks. Shane Pinto got on the board five minutes into the third on the power play after a tip of a Matt Kierstad shot from the point, with Bernard-Docker getting a secondary assist on the play. 

“Obviously it was a good win and confidence boost for the whole team,” Mismash said after the game. Good start to the season, but it’s just exhibition and we got a lot of work and we’re looking forward to that Canisius series next weekend. It’s still pretty bitter from last season, but we got to play our game and see what happens.” 

“(The power play) was good. Both units were going well and our puck movement was good. We were making plays, making passes, the fundamentals were pretty good,” mentioned Mismash. 

Obviously, Mismash will be part of the power play being successful, but Hain played an equal role in that this game with two goals and getting to the open space. 

“I’m excited to make that jump into a bigger role on the team,” Hain commented about his role on the power play. “I want to be able to make a bigger impact on the team and help us win games. I’m looking forward to keep doing it.”

With Mismash, he’s now a junior and will be looked at as one of the leaders of the team going forward, something that the coaching staff talked to him about in the off-season.

“One of the things we talk about with Grant and Collin Adams is that you’re upperclassmen this year,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “You’ve been here a couple years and you know how we do things here and lead by example on the ice.” 

Despite all three goalies playing, coach did not tip his hand how the order would be going forward.

“You know what, don’t read anything into the order in which they played,” cautioned Berry. “We wanted to give everybody equal opportunity in net and I thought all three did a very good job with that. They didn’t have a lot of action, but they had a couple tough saves to make. It’s always tough to go in for one period and focusing for 20 minutes instead of 60.”

UND starts it for real next Friday, as they play Canisius, the team that swept them in Buffalo last year and was a main reason for the Hawks to not get an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.

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.