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.

UND HOCKEY: Slow First Period Sinks Hawks 4-1 Against Union

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Photo from @UNDMhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– Another slow first period start for the University of North Dakota doomed them to start the 2017 Subway Holiday Classic, as the Fighting Hawks dropped the first game of the weekend to the Union Dutchmen 4-1 in front of 11,087 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Union opened the scoring ten minutes in after sustained pressure through the first part of the first period. Then, Ryan Walker tipped in a Brandon Estes shot to make it 1-0. Union also rang two shots off of Peter Thome’s glove side post early on. During their first power play of the game, Peter Thome wandered too far from the net trying to clear and turned it over, which lead to a Sebastian Vidmar goal. UND had one power play thanks to a Anthony Rinaldi penalty, but it only yielded one chance off a Grant Mismash rebound, but Connor Light cleared the puck out of danger.

“That’s our struggle the first part of the year is getting out of the gates,” captain Austin Poganski said post-game. “The game we have losses here, we’ve been chasing the other team. That’s not a good way to play hockey. For the rest of the year, especially tomorrow, we got to figure out how to get out of the gates right away and play with the lead for once.”

“Horrible,” defenseman Christian Wolanin said of the team’s first period. “Going through the motions. Waiting for things to happen. Not North Dakota hockey.”

North Dakota pushed the play in the first half of the second, but couldn’t beat Jake Kupsky or his posts. Kupsky, a Sharks draft pick, was 1-5-0 coming into the game after a rough start to Union’s season. Things got chippy as Ryan Walker covered a loose puck, which got him a delay of game call and UND’s Cole Smith and Sebastian Vidmar coincidental roughing calls. UND didn’t capitalize with the second ending with UND up on shots, but not on goals.

Three minutes into the third, UND broke through after Christian Wolanin potted his fifth of the year off a Matt Kiersted shot that Kupsky kicked back to the open area. A minute later, however, Union regained the two-goal lead with Vas Kolias being sent in on a breakaway by Ryan Walker to make it 3-1 Union. Both sides battled back, none really getting any major opportunities, less one Rhett Gardner shorthanded break that Kupsky stopped. Brendan Taylor added an empty net to seal a 4-1 victory for the Dutchmen.

Kupsky’s 37 saves on the night was the second highest total of the season, with only his 39-save performance against Boston University on the first game of the year topping it.

However, the story is the lack of punch in the first period for UND. The Hawks have only led four times after the first period in their 15 games this season– twice against St. Lawrence, once against Minnesota, and once against Colorado College. The problem solving for this amongst the players continues to be unsolved.

“That’s the frustrating part,” said Wolanin. “The coaches can only say so much and we can only say so much in the locker room, it’s a matter of doing it. We say it back-to-back-to-back-to-back weeks and we still go out and do the same thing in the first period. It’s just a mindset.”

“I’ll take a lot of responsibility for not getting the guys going,” mentioned Poganski. “At the end of the day we have to get some of our older guys and even our younger guys….I don’t know what it is. I think that’s what we’re looking for right now how to get things going right away. We’re working through that process. It’s taking longer than we hoped, but I think we’ll find it in the next few games and we’ll be fine.”

UND looks to make it a split at home against Union at the Ralph again at 7:07.

UND HOCKEY: Thome, Jones Lead UND Past Miami

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

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Peter Thome/Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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