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: Early Period Goals Help Hawks Take Down Mavericks

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks’ logo

GRAND FORKS, ND– The Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota close out their regular season and home schedule this weekend against Omaha. While there was the slimmest of margins to get home-ice for next week’s playoff round, the Hawks went about their business and found a way to win over Omaha 2-1 on Friday night.

After an early power play failed, Gabe Bast got UND on the board first with a lovely wrap-around goal. Coming down the wing, Bast sold a pass to the slot to make Evan Weninger commit to the pass, fumble on his feet, while Bast went around and tucked inside the post for the early 1-0 lead. North Dakota controlled play for the first period, outshooting Omaha 21-6 by period’s end, but did get into penalty trouble with two penalties by Zach Yon and Rhett Gardner to put the Hawks a two-man disadvantage at the end of the first and heading into the second.

The penalties paid off for Omaha, as Zach Jordan scored with the two-man advantage by banking a one-timer off the side of Peter Thome to tie the game a minute into the second period. Throughout the rest of the period, the play was fairly even, with Omaha getting more shots towards Thome, while their defense kept the shooting gallery away from Weninger. Omaha did outshoot UND in the frame by a count of 11-10.

North Dakota broke the stalemate in just under three minutes into the third period with Nick Jones tipping in Colton Poolman shot from the point, after Jones won the face-off back.

“I won the draw a little too clean,” mentioned Jones, “I was trying to win it to Yon there and it got back to Colton. He made a hell of a play with me off the to the side there and I was able to get a stick on it. I felt like the tips all year haven’t gone my way and I was fortunate enough to get it.”

After that, it seemed like a methodical game with not a lot of chances getting through to Thome or Weninger. Despite the last two minutes playing with an extra attacker, North Dakota held on for the 2-1 win.

The game marked the return of two key elements to the UND line-up in Jones and Grant Mismash. Mismash has been out since January 25th after take a knee-on-knee hit from Jimmy Schuldt of St. Cloud and was used as the extra skater tonight.

“We wanted to use him early,” said coach Brad Berry after the game. “In a one goal game with a guy who’s been out for six weeks, it’s tough to give him a regular shift. With conditioning, he’s not quite there yet, but he’ll get there. We thought by putting him in there a bit five-on-five that we might get a spark offensively.”

Western Michigan won against Miami, which meant that regardless of UND’s result– they will be on the road for their playoff match-up next weekend for the first time since 2002. The team found out about the game before the third period, but it did not shake them at all.

“We knew it wasn’t in our hands this weekend,” Jones mentioned. “We know we’re going to have to win two on the road next weekend. You’d obviously love to play at home– especially me with my last game at home tomorrow– at the end of the day, we have to win two games no matter where it is.”

“It doesn’t change anything that we have to do,” Bast said. “If we got to win a series on the road we’re going to do that. We’ve got to string a few games together and get into the national tournament that way. We have the group to do that right now. Home ice is home ice, but we’re confident going on the road and getting two wins.”

The last home game of the season and Senior Night is Saturday at the Ralph.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Shake Off Rust in Exhibition Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– After three weeks off, the University of North Dakota came back to shake off the rust of the holiday season with an exhibition game against the US National Under-18 Team. It was a bit of a look into the future with UND, as two prospects for the Fighting Hawks were in the U-18 line-up in forward Judd Caulfield and goalie Cameron Rowe. Though coming into the game, the U-18s were 6-6 against NCAA Division teams, they were downed by the Fighting Hawks 6-2 in the exhibition.

It was a special game, as UND busted out a Fighting Sioux jerseys to honor the 1958-59 team, the first ever National Champion for UND. It’s the first time the team has wore a jersey with “Sioux” on it since 2012 after the nickname was dropped by the school due to NCAA rules.

After a flurry of offense from Team USA to start the first period, UND was the first to strike on the power play, after Jacob Bernard-Docker (JBD) set-up Rhett Gardner on a one-timer to put it past Rowe and give UND the early lead. The Hawks got up two when Grant Mismash crashed the net off a USA turnover and a Nick Jones cycle, put a shot on net, with Ludvig Hoff finding the rebound and putting it through Rowe’s five-hole to make it 2-0.

Just 90 seconds into the second, Matthew Boldy put the U18s on the board after pickpocketing Mismash in the UND zone, poked just barely off Patrick Moynihan’s shinpad, went in on a mini-breakaway before going forehand-backhand to go five-hole Adam Scheel. UND got the two-goal lead back midway through the period, after Jackson Keane drove into the zone, missed the net, but picked up the loose puck to find Casey Johnson; who then went near-side high-glove on Rowe to make it 3-1 UND. The Fighting Hawks made it 4-1 on the power play after some fancy passing in the zone, including a deflected pass, led to a Mismash goal with Jones and JBD getting assists on the goal.

The Hawks swapped out goalies, as Peter Thome came into the game to start the third, while Ryan Anderson finished. In only 16 minutes, Thome faced 18 shots and only gave up one goal.

Peter Thome/ Photo by Jen Conway

“It’s always interesting when you get thrown in there and kind of under siege right away,” Thome said. “I was able to get the first one and then the second on and kept trying to go from there. I just tried to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead.”

Collin Adams made it 5-1 halfway through the third from a great set-up from beside the net from Joel Janatuinen, putting it past Rowe’s glove. Alex Turcotte cut the deficit to 5-2 after tipping home a Boldy shot from the top of the circle, after Gabe Bast took a holding penalty. Gavin Hain made it 6-2 with an empty net goal from an alley-oop pass by Matt Kiersted with Thome getting a secondary assist on the goal.

For Thome, who hasn’t had the best season thus far, going 1-3-0 with a 3.75 GAA and .838 save percentage. His last action was during UND’s 5-0 loss a month ago against Duluth. For him, it was a time to get a confidence boost.

“First half, personally, hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to,” Thome says. “Now, having a good first outing is definitely a step forward and hopefully there’s more to come. It’s such a mental position. If you don’t really have confidence, it seems everything can go wrong, but if you have confidence; you can do no wrong. I’m just trying to get back to that state that I’m playing my best.”

With almost a month off, the game was a little rough at times. With a long break and some holiday treats, it took some time to get things going.

“Some parts were a little slow and a little sloppy, but it’s kind of expected,” mentioned Mismash about the first game after the break. “We had a couple good practices kind of getting back in shape. It wasn’t a terrible game. We’ll ramp it up going back into the regular season.”

When asked about the exhibition games themselves, Mismash said; “I don’t want to say I feel bad for teams who hop right back into the season rather than have exhibitions, but it’s nice to get these games. Just to get a feel for it again and get your legs under you before you get going again.”

“This is one of the most skilled and fast and offensive teams that we’ve ever played against the 18s,” said UND head coach Brad Berry. “They’re record is 20-7-2 and they knocked off the #1 team in the nation the other night, so it’s one of those things we’ll take it as far as trying to get better. We have to make sure our last two non-conference games against Canisius count.”

Which is where UND heads next, as they’ll head to Buffalo, New York to take on Canisius to officially kick off their second-half of the year.

UND HOCKEY: Defensive Lapses Doom Hawks, Lose 6-2 to Broncos

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks' logo

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks’ logo

GRAND FORKS, ND– It was a weekend to forget for the University of North Dakota, as they were swept at home for the first time since January 2017, as Western Michigan closed out the two-game series with a 6-2 victory on Saturday night and got their first sweep against North Dakota in the program’s history.

North Dakota struck first, making the most of their power play chances. Jasper Weatherby got his first NCAA goal after crashing the net and finding a Colton Poolman rebound off the pads of Trevor Gorsuch and hitting the back of the net as he dove to make sure he got the rebound off. Colt Conrad got it back for Western Michigan later in the frame, as during a scrum in front, he found the loose puck and flicked it with the toe of his stick to the back-bar to tie the game at one, which is where the frame would end.

Midway through the second, the bad bounces haunted UND again, as a Corey Schueneman broke his stick on a one-timer, but the puck bounced off UND’s Andrew Peski for a 2-1 Broncos’ lead. Two minutes later, WMU struck again on the power play, as Wade Allison went top-shelf on Adam Scheel to make it 3-1 for the Broncos. The Broncos continued their second period charge, as Josh Passolt ended Adam Scheel’s night by rifling a wrister from the top of the circle high blocker on Scheel making it 4-1 and putting Peter Thome in the cage for UND. Defensively, the Fighting Hawks weren’t the best this weekend. Blowing coverages, ill-advised passes, bad transitioning– not a good look after an otherwise solid start to the season.

The start of the third showed the lack of defensive coverage, as Colt Conrad and Josh Passolt had a give-and-go on an odd-man rush, ending with Passolt scoring on a wide-open cage to make it 5-1. Penalty troubles for UND put them two-men down and the Broncos capitalized late with Hugh McGing banging home a one-timer to make it 6-1. With 10.2 seconds left, Rhett Gardner tipped home a Matt Kiersted shot to make it 6-2 and then it ended with UND being swept at home for the first time since January 2017 against Minnesota-Duluth.

Post-game, you could see how distraught the Fighting Hawks were to this loss, especially given their disappointing defensive performance. Captain Colton Poolman seemed to take the loss very hard, coming into the interview room almost at a loss for words about not only Saturday, but the weekend as a whole.

“I think we lost our cool,” Poolman said trying to control his emotions. “We turned on each other for a little bit. It’s hard to say but that’s the truth. We just didn’t play well. We just started trying to do things by ourselves. Some guys tried to do too much. Some guys weren’t going enough. That’s what happens. That’s pretty embarrassing. That’s not Sioux hockey. That’s not what we do as a family, but we call a spade a spade when we put performances like that. That’s not good enough for the caliber of program we should be.”

“Tonight, it seemed everyone was on a different page as far as D-men stepping up and out of the neutral zone, forwards not coming back through the neutral zone,” said head coach Brad Berry. “We weren’t crisp in our team play and that resulted in what you saw. We had guys doing things that we normally don’t do. Over the course of our first 10 games, our play away from the puck has been impeccable, giving up less than probably 10 scoring chances per game.”

The Fighting Hawks are probably in for a big week of practice before the annual Thanksgiving weekend set, this year welcoming in Alaska-Anchorage. The upside is that the Seawolves come into these games with only one win on the season. The downside is that the Hawks need to really show their skill and will on the weekend to show they’re back on the right track and gelling together as a unit rather than individuals.

UND HOCKEY: Bad Bounces, Missing Net Doom Fighting Hawks in 2-0 Loss to Western Michigan

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks' logo

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks’ logo

GRAND FORKS, ND– Coming off a split in their first NCHC weekend, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came back to The Ralph to kick off the home side of their conference schedule against Western Michigan University. For the first time in six contest, sophomore Peter Thome was in net for the Fighting Hawks, a crease that freshman Adam Scheel had carved out for his own.

“Obviously exciting to get back in there,” said Thome. “We were playing great hockey. Sucks sitting out, but it’s all about being a good teammate. When you’re winning games, you can’t say coach should change the line-up.”

“(Thome) worked hard in practice,” said head coach Brad Berry of his roster change. “Last couple of weeks he’s been doing all the right things that warranted the opportunity to play. I thought he was sharp and has looked that way the last couple of weeks.”

The first period was controlled by UND for the most part. With 16 shots in the first period, they had their chances, especially with three power plays in the frame. However, Western Michigan’s Trevor Gorsuch was solid thanks to his defense in front of him keeping high percentage shots to a minimum and allowing Gorsuch to see a lot of the Fighting Hawks best chances. The same story for the second period, less the power plays. North Dakota kept making Gorsuch look good with shots right into his pads.

“It’s hockey sometimes,” captain Colton Poolman remarked after the game. “You can do all the little things and then maybe they won’t go. The goalie played really well, they blocked a lot of shots. We got frustrated in the second. It’s something we have to address in the locker room. Sometimes things will go that way. We just got to keep plugging away.”

Luck struck for Western Michigan in the third, as an errand pass to Josh Passolt went off his stick, then off the toe of Hayden Shaw’s skate and behind Thome for the 1-0 Broncos’ lead. UND pressed and pulled Thome with about three minutes left, but the Broncos kept the Hawks off the scoresheet, got it out of the zone, and killed time with their passing before Colt Conrad was able to bury the empty-netter.

“Always have to look at yourself,” mentioned Thome. “It’s a tough play, but tough plays happen. If I would have found a way to have that one stay out, we’d probably still be out there, but it was a tough bounce.”

“You’re defending and boxing the guy out and doing all the things right to prevent a goal and that’s hockey,” said Berry about the bounce on the game-winning goal. “Hopefully the bounces even out and we can get some tomorrow.”

As mentioned before, UND seemed to get frustrated. Plenty of shots at Gorsuch, but nothing getting through. It was another game that the Hawks outshot their opposition by double-digits, but didn’t have a win to show for it. As the game went along, the biggest thing for the Hawks was to keep things level-headed.

“It’s just on the bench, just trying to keep things up,” Poolman said of the frustration level. “You know, you may not score on the shift, but you got to keep the momentum going. You’re not going to take a negative on the shift. Shift-by-shift you got to keep the calm kind of demeanor out there.”

“You got to stay with and the way to stay with it is to play the third period like you played the first two period,” mentioned Berry of the frustration level. “I think there’s a little desperation on our part to stretch a little bit or do things out of the normal of our system. One thing that was evident tonight was we had some pretty good chances and we missed the net. When we have those chance, you have to hit the net. If you don’t score, you can create a rebound.”

North Dakota will try to get that win back Saturday night at The Ralph before going into the Thanksgiving holiday.

UND HOCKEY: Despite Quick Offensive Start, UND Drops Weekend Opener to Mankato

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Photo via @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a disappointing first week of the season, the University of North Dakota looked to shake off their offensive woes to make the second week far better than the first. From the quick start, it looked like the offense finally was back. However, two goals in 29 seconds to start the second for Minnesota State-Mankato put UND in a hole they couldn’t come out of, with the final being Mankato winning 7-4.

UND got off to a quick start, as they go a power play nine seconds in and Collin Adams waited until the last part, as he had a puck dribble in on Mankato’s Dryden McKay after McKay seemed to misjudge where he post was and slid into his own net, allowing the puck to go in. Seconds later, Mankato tied it up after Marc Michaelis found fellow German Parker Tuomie at the side of the net to sneak it past Peter Thome near-side glove to tie the game. It wasn’t a minute later when UND took the lead back, as Zach Yon held the puck just enough to open up McKay on the glove side and make it 2-1 Fighting Hawks. Two goals in 2:44 for the Hawks matched their output from last weekend over 125 minutes.

It seemed like the tide was going to turn back Mankato’s way, as Rhett Gardner got a five minute major and game misconduct on a hit from behind. However, the UND penalty killers were solid, though they did allow a goal in the last minute of the power play to Max Coatta. Jared Spooner tapped a deflected shot to Coatta, who put it past Thome to tie the game, which is where the period would end.

“I thought we had a good start, but then we took a five minute major which took us out of the game and took one of our better players out of the game” lamented head coach Brad Berry. “That put us on our heels a little. It’s the start we wanted, but it’s not the finish we wanted.”

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Matt Kiersted/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

Mankato came out firing in the second, as first Coatta let a shot fly from the top of the circle that fooled Peter Thome and went over his shoulder to make it 3-2. Seconds later, Tuomie added his second of the night with an off-wing shot that went over Thome’s left shoulder. Thome was pulled for Adam Scheel after letting in four goals on 10 shots. Though they let up some Mankato chances, UND kept Mankato off the board and got one of their own seven minutes into the frame, as Matt Kiersted got his first off the year with a wrister from the point that went over the shoulder of McKay. About a minute later, Mankato regained the two-goal lead, as Nick Rivera got a lovely cross-ice pass from Spooner and went five-hole on Scheel to make it 5-3. Mankato kept it going in the closing seconds of a UND PK, as Coatta struck again to finish the hat trick with a tip over the shoulder of Scheel from a hard-pass from Jaremko to make it 6-3. With 90 seconds left in the second, Ludvig Hoff got the Hawks to within two as he was left an open net after a Kiersted shot rang off the post, came to Hoff’s stick and put it in the yawning cage. UND outshot Mankato in the 2nd 17-7.

The third period was by the numbers. Mankato played very defensive, while North Dakota tried to push. However, despite traffic in front; UND couldn’t find that next goal. Even with an open net, McKay shut the door on the Fighting Hawks. In the end, Michaelis got an empty-netter with 1:06 remaining to seal the Game One win for Mankato.

“We’ve been working all week on offense and it worked,” said forward Jordan Kawaguchi. “It’s the d-zone odd-man rushes, that kind of killed up. We have to clean that up before we go on offense tomorrow night. Maybe we weren’t talking when we should have, so we have to clean that up tomorrow night.”

“I thought we took care of stuff offensively, but we have to bear down on the d-zone and work on the d-zone out,” said defenseman Matt Kiersted. “We pressed offense hard this week and I think a couple guys tried to create offense. But there were a couple pinches where they got around us. In the d-zone we’ve got to lock out the front of our net.”

“We haven’t won in three games now and I think it’s gut-check time,” mentioned Kawaguchi. “We’re four games in and we need to figure this out.”

North Dakota has the chance at the split Saturday night at The Ralph, where they hope both facets of their games come together to change the script a little bit.

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Survive Exhibition, Beat Manitoba 3-2 in OT

GRAND FORKS, ND– Hope springs eternal for another season of University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks hockey. After missing the NCAA Tournament last year, the Hawks are primed to get back in there and leave no doubt that they should be there. With seven incoming freshman, seven sophomores, seven juniors, and five seniors; the Hawks have a solid spread of classes. They would start their march back to the big tournament with a usual foe in the University of Manitoba Bisons.

The pace was dictated by North Dakota in the first period, though the 1-0 score after 20 minutes didn’t show it. Shots were 18-3 for UND, who were trying to get a lot of the first game jitters out of their system as quick as possible. Grant Mismash got UND on the board late in the first, putting home his own rebound after the initial shot was stopped by Manitoba’s Byron Spriggs. Mismash got a lovely centering feed by Collin Adams, as the Fighting Hawks were on the power play.

It took under four minutes in the second for UND to strike again, as Gavin Hain took the zone and found a wide-open Dixon Bowen streaking down the slot, who put it high-glove on Spriggs to make it 2-0. Not much else happened in the middle frame, as UND held Manitoba to no shots in the period at all. A tough task to get a read on goaltenders if you can’t get them to put more than three shots in 40 minutes of gameplay on them.

“You take the positives out of it,” said senior forward Nick Jones. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the puck on our stick as much as we did in this game. You just got to bear down a little more in practice. You see with Grant Mismash, he had seven or eight elite scoring chances and scored one goal. The goalie played well. I’d rather create 10 chances in a game to score one than create two chances in a game to score two.”

While most of the third seemed like clean-up duty, Manitoba cut the lead to one when Thomas Lenchyshyn put home the rebound that Ryan Anderson kicked out to his stick blade to make it 2-1. Two minutes later, Manitoba captain Jonah Wasylak put one five-hole on Anderson after a lovely feed from Devon Skoleski to tie the game with 4:32 remaining. In what should have a been a good tune-up turned into a full fight, as this game went to overtime.

“I felt so bad for (Anderson),” captain Colton Poolman said. “He’s such a competitor in practice. It was so unlucky for him to get those breakaways. It’s so hard for him, because he’s coming in stiff and cold. He hasn’t played for 50 minutes or something. I feel bad for the guy. I know he battles hard. I wish we could have done more for him.”
It took a power play in OT, but UND came through as Rhett Gardner, who had four penalties in the game, took a back-ass from Jasper Weatherby to put it past Spriggs with under two minutes left in OT.

In net, Byron Spriggs was sensational for the Bisons with 52 saves in the game. While UND had Peter Thome stop all three shots he faced, Adam Scheel stopped the only shot he faced, and Ryan Anderson stopped three of the five he faced.

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UND Head Coach Brad Berry/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“I thought we missed the net a few time, we’ve gotta dial that in a bit,” said head coach Brad Berry postgame. “You know what, we played against an older, experience team. They played hard in their own end of the rink and played against a good goalie. I thought we accomplished a lot in what we wanted to do, but we need to get better in other aspects.”

With only nine shots on goal and four total against the projected top two goalies, Berry said it was a bit difficult to get a read on how they would play into the season.

“It affects a couple things,” Berry explained, “First, goaltending, but also D-zone coverage. But I’d rather play in the other team’s end then our end of the rink. We’re going to playing some teams where we’ll be playing in our end. We’ll make sure we work on it everyday in practice.”

With this dress rehearsal done, the Fighting Hawks go into their first weekend with a home-and-home with Bemidji State with Friday’s game being in Bemidji and Saturday back at The Ralph.

UND HOCKEY: Offense Finds Its Touch in Victory Over Colorado College

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Photo via @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After last night’s game, North Dakota defenseman Colton Poolman said that Saturday night’s game was a must-win for the Fighting Hawks and they didn’t disappoint in front of a sell-out 11,860 at the Ralph picking up a 5-1 victory over the Colorado College Tigers. Two line-up changes from Friday’s tilt saw Peter Thome getting the start over senior Cam Johnson, while Collin Adams was scratched in lieu of defenseman-turned-winger Casey Johnson.

“Hockey doesn’t change in a month,” said Thome. “Playing last night and playing my game well helped me be confident for tonight. Just realizing I had to play my game and not do too much out there.”

Though there was the need to come out hopping, UND did have some added urgency, but aside from two chances by Shane Gersich– one going wide, one into the chest of Alex Leclerc– there wasn’t much to be said for the Fighting Hawks offense. Colorado College alos struggled with having many chances, as Peter Thome stood tall; including helping kill two power plays. The period ended with no goals and UND leading in shots 9-6.

While not much happened in the first part of the second, UND finally broke the ice. On the power play, while they were passing more than the late rounds of the MLB Draft, Christian Wolanin put a slap-pass to Shane Gersich, who put it off the side of the net and behind it. Luckily, Joel Janatuinen was on the other side of the net to pull from behind the net and into it to give UND the lead. Later in the period, the UND power play struck again, with Shane Gersich burying his 9th of the season after a Christian Wolanin shot struck Austin Poganski’s skate and kicked out to Gersich to put it in the yawning cage.
“Every time we’ve played together, we’ve had really good chemistry,” mentioned Gersich about being put between Gardner and Poganski. “It’s nice to be back with them and hopefully we can keep it rolling. I’ve had chemistry with Pogo in the past and Gard’s is a big guy who can win draws and battle. I don’t know, it just kind of clicks.”

One outburst was Rhett Gardner, who got his fourth minor of the weekend, then added on with another ten-minute misconduct for jawing at the referee after the call. Despite being down a man, UND killed the rest of Gardner’s minor off, in time for Austin Poganski to break up a pass at the blue line, get the puck kicked ahead by Johnny Simonson, and Poganski finishing the play by going high-blocker side of Leclerc to make it 3-0 UND.

While UND started to clog up the middle, Colorado College got past the trap, as Nick Halloran got a feed from Troy Conzo and put it high blocker side on Thome, making it 3-1. The Fighting Hawks regained the three-goal lead, as Grant Mismash cut across the front of net, drawing a penalty, then getting the puck out to Jordan Kawaguchi– who’s shot got tip over to Janatuinen, who potted his second of the game. After the penalty expired, Mismash danced through the Colorado College defense, across the slot, and put it high glove on Leclerc.

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Joel Janatuinen/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Feels pretty good,” said Janatuinen. “I haven’t scored that much this year. I’m just trying not to think about it too much. Just trying to help the team as much as you can and the goals will come from it.”

As stated from the start, there was a must-win feeling of this game, especially since UND hasn’t won a game since January 12th and going 0-3-3 in the six games since the last win in Bemidji.

“It was huge,” said head coach Brad Berry about the victory. I know everybody’s caught up in a must-win, must-win and you’re right it is a must-win, but I think our guys did a good job of handling the process and staying with the game.”

The Fighting Hawks are on the road the next two weeks– heading to Omaha next week and then Miami the week after before coming home in March to end out the regular season against St. Cloud State.

UND HOCKEY: Little Things Stifle Fighting Hawks in Loss to Colorado College

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Photo from @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a week off, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks were a bit more rested and did get the services of Rhett Gardner back, though Nick Jones is still on the shelf and Ludvig Hoff is off at the Olympics in South Korea. However, coming back to The Ralph in front of 11,517 wasn’t as great as UND had hoped, as they dropped the opening game of the weekend series against the Colorado College Tigers 4-2.

While North Dakota controlled the play for the first half of the first, Colorado College struck first after Cam Johnson and his defensemen had a miscommunication, leading to Christiano Versich passing out to Trevor Gooch, who slid it over to Troy Conzo to bury it into a yawning cage. The goal was only the second shot of the period for Colorado College. Shots ended up 9-8 for UND, but the Tigers got rejuvenated after the goal to spark six more shots in the last part of the frame.

While the Tigers were attacking for the first part of the second, UND finally got their legs about thanks to some help. During a power play, Christian Wolanin wheeled down low and tried to sneak the puck past Alex Leclerc, but just created a mad scramble in front. During that scramble, a Colorado College player closed his hand on the puck in the crease, creating a penalty shot for UND. Wolanin was allowed to finish what he started and went blocker side on Leclerc to make tie the game.

The tie didn’t last long as Troy Conzo got his second of the game shorthanded, as he lasered a shot past Johnson to make it 2-1. Brad Berry gave a quick hook, putting Peter Thome in net after Johnson let in two goals on 12 shots.

“This is the time of year, you’re not worried about feelings. It’s a team-first mentality, said Berry post-game. “I think it’s a situation where not very many shots on the scoreclock and they already have a couple goals, some you like to have back. Whether you get a bump for the team or giving Peter a chance, it’s about the team first.”

UND got a little more jump in their game and with 6:23 left, UND got the equalizer, this time from the other scoring defenseman in Colton Poolman, who got a short pass from Rhett Gardner before going wide and cutting in front to put on behind Leclerc. Seconds later, Alex Pernitsky– who was a last second addition to the line-up with Max St. Pierre being scratched– scored from the top of the circle near-side on Thome to make it 3-2 Tigers. Not long after that, Versich drew a penalty shot after a slash, but was denied after trying to slowly throw off Thome’s timing, but getting nowhere. The crazy second ended with UND outshooting CC in the frame 13-11, but down 3-2 in the goals column.

“They were more mature than us,” mentioned Colton Poolman. “They were more of a team after we scored and after they scored, we just shook our heads. We’ve dug ourselves a whole, but we’re in full confidence in that locker room.”

The third started with UND on their heels, as Rhett Gardner got his third minor of the night and the Tigers put some pucks on Thome, but the freshman netminder was equal to the task. UND got a power play shortly after killing the Gardner minor, but the Tigers– as they had been all night– kept the Fighting Hawks to the perimeter, not allow a prime scoring chance on their extra-man advantage. A see-saw battle to the end, UND had more than enough chances, but Leclerc was solid and even when out of position, his defensemen were able to clamp down and keep the puck out. UND did have shots to take the slot area, but seemed to veer off to set something up from the perimeter. Colorado College got their final goal thanks to a Westin Michaud empty-net tally to make it 4-2 as the end result.

“Just gotta find a to do something to get out of this rut we’re in,” said Christian Wolanin. “We’re in a deep hole right now and we’re going to have to do some hard work to dig us out.”

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Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“Every time we score, they came back and put one in right away,” said Berry. “Times in games when you have momentum, you can’t give momentum away. I think we played the right way, but we let the game get away from us for those things. The frustration showed a little. When the game isn’t going the right way, we let it get to us. When you keep their top line off the score sheet, you give yourself a chance to win. It’s just the other phases of the game that we weren’t good enough in.”

UND will try to find the little things to get back in the win column for the first time since January 12th (5-1 win at Bemidji) on Saturday night.

“We need this one to say the least,” said Poolman. “Every game from here on out is a must-win, but especially tomorrow night. We can’t afford to give that up.”

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.