GRAND FORKS, ND– With the Penrose Cup for best regular season record in the NCHC in the building, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks came into the day looking to take care of some business on home ice. They did just that with a big 7-1 win against the Omaha Mavericks, capturing their second straight Penrose Cup and fourth in the program’s history.
“I’m extremely proud of this team,” head coach Brad Berry stated, “I’ve been here a lot of years. This ranks up there as one of the highest in trying to capture it. Players who come here, they have to be team first, but at the same time there’s chances to go to the next level. There are guys who could have went elsewhere after last season, but chose to come back. This has to rank as one of the toughest to win because of pod at the beginning of the season, because you grind away and then have to come back and wait for the weekend game and try to stay focused. This one is at the top with all that adversity they went through.”
It took less than 90 seconds for UND to get on the board, as Shane Pinto made a backhanded pass from behind the net out in front to Brenden Budy, who put it past Isaiah Saville to make it 1-0 Fighting Hawks. While UND tried to control the pace, Omaha wouldn’t go away. Their consistency paid off as Kevin Conley redirected a Kirby Proctor shot and made it 1-1. The Fighting Hawks answered with under 90 seconds left in the period, as Tyler Kleven picked up a Jasper Weatherby pass and wired it past Isaiah Saville to make it 2-1.
The second had Omaha get plenty of control in the offensive zone, but couldn’t cash in thanks to Adam Scheel. Just after a flurry by the Mavericks, a turnover in the neutral zone after a Mavericks’ defenseman lost an edge allowed Jordan Kawaguchi to break in alone and beat Saville blocker side to make it 3-1. Penalty trouble plagued the Mavericks, as back-to-back calls against Omaha allowed for North Dakota’s power play to be out there and after one unsuccessful round, Jasper Weatherby wired home his 10th of the season after great work from Jake Sanderson and Jacob Bernard-Docker to move the puck around the perimeter to start the power play. After trading penalties, Collin Adams notched another power play goal off a rebound from a Riese Gaber shot, which ended the night of Saville.
Penalties were on the mind of Omaha in the third, after a quick start for the Mavericks to get some shots on Scheel. However, after Shane Pinto got denied by Austin Roden, Pinto made good for it with a rocket on the power play to extend UND’s lead to 6-1. As North Dakota was playing somewhat conservative, another Collin Adams goal happened off the face-off thanks to a solid pass by Judd Caulfield, who had an Omaha defender draped all over him.
With under a minute left, many emotions boiled over as Louis Jamernik cross checked an Omaha player off the face-off and all hell broke loose. The result was Gabe Bast, Louis Jamernik, Jackson Keane, Griffin Ness, and Tyler Kleven from UND and Jonny Tychonick, Brandon Scanlin, Noah Prokop, Joey Abate getting ejected from the last minute.
When all was said and done, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks came out a 7-1 winner and lifted their second straight Penrose Cup for best team in the NCHC’s regular season. However, there’s still two games left for UND over the next two weekends– both against Omaha. Berry, who started to rest some of the top players at the end of this game, said they’ll start to focus on how to go about the rosters on Monday.
“It’s a good thing we clinched,” said Berry. “It’ll allow us as a coaching staff on Monday to look at what we’ve got and make sure we’ve got everyone at the top of their game going into the playoffs.”
THEY SAID IT
“You could feel it in the morning skate and going into the meetings. There wasn’t a lot of laughing and guys being loose, it was a business attitude. You kind of knew we were going to get our best tonight. Everyone was focused and I gotta hand it to them– they dug in and focused and tried to hang another banner.” — Berry on the mentality of the team going into Saturday’s game.
“They’re a team on the rise and we both play hard. We’re all trying to get top four, when you get two top teams in the conference, that’s what happens. The NCHC gets you ready for the postseason by grinding it out during the season. The NCHC has success because of the gauntlet going on in the regular season.” Berry on the budding UND/Omaha rivalry
“It was a lot of unexpected turns of events. The first half in the pod, nothing like that has happened. Then you have to go back and deal with the rescheduling and all that. You have to roll with the punches and overcome the adversity.” — Scheel on the craziness of the season
“It’s the friendship in the room. We’re best friends off the ice and that’s why we play so well on the ice because we all play for each other.” — Scheel on the comradery of this year’s Fighting Hawks team.