UND HOCKEY: OT Win Gives UND Another Home Sweep

Photo by Kelsey Lee/Violet Turtle Photography

GRAND FORKS, ND– In a very calculated game that didn’t yield too much offense, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks got the overtime victory against St. Cloud State to sweep the weekend and finish the home portion of the first semester undefeated at 9-0-0. 

Most of the first period was played in the neutral ice with only 10 shots between both sides being shown in first frame. An errant turnover behind the net with 6:40 left in the first allowed Jack Ahcan to beat Adam Scheel and put the Huskies up first. The Fighting Hawks had a couple of chances, none that were too high of a threat to David Hrenak. 

The second started with a feeling out process before St. Cloud got into penalty trouble, including Kevin Fitzgerald getting a five minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. Most of that major, however, was negated by a Shane Pinto hooking call. Jacob Bernard-Docker finally got the Hawks on the power play, ripping one high blocker side on Hrenak to tie the game eight minutes into the second frame. While St. Cloud did get into more penalty trouble, the Hawks couldn’t find the right shot; opting to pass it around the zone in hopes to find a shot on goal. 

The third period was more of a chess match, with both teams only mustering seven shots total– UND with six, St. Cloud with one– and totalling 28 (UND 18-10) for the 60 minutes of regulation. More of the same in OT until Jordan Kawaguchi redirected a Matt Kiersted shot to end it in OT and give UND the weekend sweep. The win also marked head coach Brad Berry’s 100th with the Fighting Hawks. 

“Here in North Dakota, our culture and mentality isn’t about one guy,” mentioned Berry post game. “Very privlidged to be apart of 100 wins, but it’s the assistant coaches that spend hours in the Ralph Engelstad Arena, countless hours recruiting, it’s about the players and staff digging in each and every day to be part of something special.”

THEY SAID IT

“Everybody is like, ‘We’re back’– I don’t think we left. Last year we had trouble scoring goals. We haven’t change the way we played here in five years and now we’re starting to get some goal production from some guys and you know– that’s a big deal. So, I don’t think it’s a big surprise and I don’t ever think we were gone and I don’t think we’re back. We’re a good team that’s going to keep building.”– Berry on the hype about North Dakota’s quick start to the season. 

“We’re obviously rolling right now. We’re going to enjoy these wins, but I think at the same time– we’ve got to keep building. We haven’t accomplished anything yet at the end of the day. So we gotta keep getting better everyday and get back to work here on Monday.” — Bernard-Docker on the start of the season, but what needs to still be done.

“After the last two years, we’ve come in and missed the tournament two years in a row. I guess we’re the first class to do that in a long time. We kind of went into the summer and said, ‘Hey, it’s not going to be like that this year.’ We’re motivated, more than ever. We want to win.” — Kawaguchi on the junior class taking a big step this season.

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.

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: Scheel Solid in UND Victory

Photo: Kelsey Lee/ Violet Turtle Photography

GRAND FORKS, ND– On a night that honored the Teddy Roosevelt Medora Foundation– with a Teddy Roosevelt cosplayer to boot– the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks gave Bemidji State a rough-ride as they went on to sweep the weekend with a 4-1 victory. It marked the four-straight regular season win for the Hawks, marking the first time since the 2016-17 that the team started out undefeated at home to start the season. 

“This is our home, this is our house,” said head coach Brad Berry. “We have pride in that. I know a lot of teams come in here and see the amenities we have at The Ralph. We’re very lucky to have the Ralph Engelstad Arena and they like to have motivation to bring it down a little bit. But this is a place where we wanted to establish consistency and play a heavy game with a lot of patient pressure and establish our identity at home.” 

“We have a very resilient group,” mentioned goalie Adam Scheel. “No matter what the score is, we believe in each other in the room and know we’re just gonna get it done.There’s nothing like it in the world, a home game at The Ralph.”

It only took 36 seconds for the Fighting Hawks to strike, as Jordan Kawaguchi causes a turnover behind the net and passed it out to Grant Mismash, who had a wide open net to tap it in to opening the scoring. UND kept Bemidji to the perimeter, but one big chance happened when Ethan Somoza put a shot on a seemingly open cage, but Adam Scheel slide across to get his right pad on it to keep it out. With just over three minutes remaining in the first, Cole Smith drove through the zone hard, tried a wraparound, but Mark Senden was there to bang home the rebound for his second of the season. 

The Hawks did have some chances in the second, but it wasn’t until 13 minutes in when they struck again, with Jonny Tychonick having his first career goal come off a tasty pass from Mismash to make it 3-0. UND controlled the pace of play throughout the period and seemed to hold all the cards against the very defensive Beavers’ team. 

The action was pretty stagnant in the third, not many chances on either side until 1:17 remaining when Aaron Miller batted home a Tyler Kirkup rebound to break the shutout for Scheel on the Beavers’ 18th shot of the game. Nineteen seconds later, however, Colton Poolman put it in the empty net to make it 4-1. 

THEY SAID IT

“On the first shift, you always want to do something impactful to get yourself and your team into the game. It was kind of a broken play and Gooch (Kawaguchi) was on the forecheck there and he made a good pass and I just had to tap it in. It was a good first shift to get our line going, as well as the rest of the team.” — Grant Mismash on his goal in the opening minute. 

Adam Scheel/ Photo: Jen Conway @NHLHistoryGirl

“No matter who you’re playing, Saturday night– especially after a win– is a tough one. They came out hard. Sometimes the shots on the scoreboard don’t really reflect it.” — Adam Scheel

“A couple of guys last night struggled a little bit and that was an opportunity for other guys to come in. They do all the right things on and off the ice– they work hard in practice, in workouts, in the classroom– and they’re older and experience guys. The second game is the toughest to win. You want to have guys who have been in those battles before.” — Brad Berry on line-up changes made for Saturday night. 

UND is back home for a one-off against Michigan Tech in the US Hockey Hall of Fame Game at The Ralph next Saturday.

UND HOCKEY: Late Heroics Fuel Hawks OT Victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEY SAID IT

Westin Michaud/Photo Jen Conway, @NHLHistoryGirl

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

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

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Complete Revenge Sweep of Canisius

Photo by Kelsey Lee/Violet Turtle Photography

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

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

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

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

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

THEY SAID IT

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

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

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

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Atone for Last Year, Beat Canisius 5-0

GRAND FORKS, ND– Even with Winter Storm Aubrey in the path, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks knew they had unsettled business from last season. That’s why, on Friday night, they donned their “business suits”– all black everything– to take on Canisius College, the team that helped keep UND out of the NCAA Tournament. Those feelings carried over from last season and helped the Hawks win their first game of the regular season in a convincing fashion, 5-0. 

“A couple weeks ago we talked about it, but the thing is they’re new jerseys,” said coach Brad Berry about the decision to wear the all-black. “They’re Adidas, a new brand. We always wear white at home, so early in the season we’d like to let the fans see the green or the black. Plus, you know, it’s a business mentality. We call them our business suits and we needed a business-like mentality tonight.”

“It was eye-opening,” mentioned Grant Mismash when he saw the black jerseys in the locker room pre-game. “Everyone had the same reaction and it sent a message to their team and our fans that we’re ready to go and we mean business.” 

The Fighting Hawks got out to a quick start, dictating the speed of the play. However, Canisius’ Matt Ladd was equal to the chances. It wasn’t until Jonny Tychonick’s point shot bounced around in front with Harrison Blaisdell getting a chance, but was left in the crease for Shane Pinto to bang home his first collegiate goal. UND kept the pressure on, but Ladd made some solid glove and toe saves to keep it at 1-0 after the first, despite UND leading in shots 14-3. 

Early in the second, UND got an extended power play after Canisius captain Matt Hoover got a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head. However, even with sustained pressure for most of the power play, they came up empty thanks to the blocks in front and Ladd coming up with some timely saves. It wasn’t until under five minutes left in the second when a very broken play which saw Jackson Keane throw a shot at net, Jasper Weatherby taking a hack at it, until Dixon Bowen found the back of the net on a wide-open net to make it 2-0. 

It took less than five minutes in the third for UND to add more insurance, as Gabe Bast banked a shot off of Canisius’ Blake Wareham’s skate and made it 3-0. Grant Mismash, who was in a scary crash into the boards earlier in the game, picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and ripped one far-side on Ladd to make it 4-0. Only 53 seconds later, Bowen got his second of the night, as a shot from Jasper Weatherby pinballed to Bowen and squeaked under Ladd’s pads for a 5-0 lead. Ladd gave up the net for Jacob Barczewski. 

THEY SAID IT

“Huge. They’re a team that gets up and go. They stretch the zone and they play extremely hard and are up in your face all the time. You always wonder about the new guys in the line-up and see that level of play and I thought they did a good job. I thought our veterans did a good job of settling in and executing on what we needed to do.” — Brad Berry about the the need for a quick start against Canisius

“I think everyone in the room that we have a job to do in North Dakota. You come here and play in an institution like this, it’s the best one in the country. Guys come in here and say there’s more work to be done and this year everyone’s pulling the rope to get the job done.” — Jasper Weatherby on a more business mentality for the season. 

Dixon Bowen/Photo: Jen Conway

“It’s nice to get rewarded like that. I think our line did a good job battling puck and working low in the zone and getting pucks to the net. There’s a big emphasis to getting the puck to the house– the middle area. This year we’re trying to get everything into the house and we’ll get some luck with that.” — Dixon Bowen on his two-goal night and what UND needs to do offensively this year.

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.

Tepid Take: 2019 NHL Draft Fallout

The 2019 NHL Draft weekend has come and gone and what a weekend it was, huh?? Personally, it’s my 16th Draft and third working for the University of North Dakota. For those stories about Shane Pinto, Harrison Blaisdell, Judd Caulfield, and Brad Berry’s reaction— go to those links in the name.

Shockingly– there was more that went on. I know. So, here’s a rundown of that from me…with the most tepid of takes.

First, you can’t really talk about what happened after before you talk about the salary cap being set at $81.5M, which was a bit of a lower figure than many people thought it would be. Luckily, having it happen before the draft gave teams the time to scrambled to see what they can get done. Which…some did.

Toronto was the first to make a salary dump– which they needed to do anyway if they wanted to re-sign Mitch Marner to a big money deal. They unloaded the Patrick Marleau contract to Carolina, along with both swapping picks. Marleau’s contract has a year left and with the uncertainty of Justin Williams’ future– it’ll provide a veteran presence with this team– just in case they needed it coming off of last year’s wonderful run.

With that move, it effectively took the Maple Leafs out of the running for PK Subban; which was actually a possible destination for the Nashville defenseman….well, ex-Nashville defenseman.

Subban was moved to the New Jersey Devils for prospects and picks going to Nashville– which probably moved the Predators in the running for Matt Duchene. But to Subban– this is the second trade he’s been through, which is odd for a guy that is considered one of the premier defensemen in the league. Three years left on the contract for Subban and the Devils needing some experience back there seems like a good fit.but as much as he wants a Stanley Cup in New Jersey– it could be quite and uphill struggle to get that.

As for the Draft itself, it was a Draft that USA Hockey won’t soon forget. Seventeen players from the US National Development Program were selected and 59 US players were picked overall. It’s a huge boost to the program in itself and really shows how much the USA program is evolving and catching up to their Canadian counterparts, who had 63 players picked overall.

Overall, players jumped, players fell, the Draft is usually something you can’t tell will pan out until five years down the line and they graduate where they’re from and maybe make it to “The Show” in that time frame.

Vancouver was fun overall, personally. It’s the first re-run for me and I didn’t have my running buddies with me all the time and didn’t have a Dufferin experience– but overall it was a good time.

Next up for the NHL, it’s the free agency talking period leading into the free agency period and everyone forgetting they own a calendar and asking if it’s October yet.

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.