UND HOCKEY: What Could Have Been

Ralph Engelstad Arena, 03/12/20; Photo by Scotty Wazz

After I drop Jen off at work, I usually go for a ride around the city to decompress before going to bed. On a night like Thursday March 12th, it was probably much needed. Sports stopped on that day. Rightfully so, but still a bummer that the thing many used to distract themselves from the issues around them is not there. In any case, I decided to drive to Ralph Engelstad Arena and just zone out.

As I pulled up, no lights were on in the building or outside. Light adorn the plaza area with the statue of Sitting Bull, but not much else. It was a fitting scene for the night, as the NCHC cancelled their tournament, as did the NCAA. Again, rightfully so– still a bummer.

Mostly a bummer for the student-athletes on the University of North Dakota squad who had come back to life this season following two years of missing the big tournament. They were on pace to be one of the all-time great teams in North Dakota hockey history, as they were ranked 1st in the Pairwise and were odds-on favorites to win the National Championship.

Now, it’s a case of what could have been.

With the cancellations, all anyone can do is wonder if this team would have won the NCHC playoff title to go with the Penrose Cup, if they could have dominated the NCAA and have won the school’s ninth National Championship, and if there’d be another Hobey Baker Award winner from this team. It was a season to remember for the right reasons and for the reasons that could have been.

You hate it for the team, of course, but you really hate it for the seniors of this team. Colton Poolman, who came back because he had unfinished business; Cole Smith, the heart and soul of this team; Andrew Peski, who bookended his tenure with two solid seasons; Casey Johnson, who became a valued utility option for this club in any spot; Zach Yon, who fought through injuries his last season and was a bit of an energy guy; Dixon Bowen, who carried on the UND tradition his father started, as well as being an energy guy; Westin Michaud, who came to UND as a graduate transfer and made people wish this team had him for a full four years. Those are the guys who may not get much closure on this season.

Then you look at guys outside of the seniors that may think about leaving, but could reconsider given the way this year ended. This is going on nothing at all, but you’d have to think the Ottawa Senators were heavily invested in what Jacob Bernard-Docker did this year and may have even taken a look at him moving forward. Jordan Kawaguchi’s Hobey Baker-esque season could have gotten him looks by NHL teams, but he might stay to finish this fight off. Then there’s Shane Pinto, who was looked at by the Senators heavily in the World Juniors– like JBD– but assured everyone that he would be staying at UND; but time can changes things.

Those are the stories to look at now– who stays, who goes, who comes in. There is no pomp and circumstance, no banner, no one-last-hurrah for the seniors. It’s just over. And now UND fans and players alike will have a chip on their shoulder with how this season ended and what could have been.

Rightfully so.

UND HOCKEY: Penrose Make Appearance After Hawks OT Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– With a playoff like atmosphere and the 1980 National Championship team in the house, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks had a lot to play for on Saturday. In a tight-checking game and an emotional roller coaster in the last 47 seconds of the game, the Hawks took out the Western Michigan Broncos 2-1 in overtime. 

“It was an entertaining game that’s for sure from a fan standpoint,” UND head coach Brad Berry mentioned after the game. “From our perspective on the bench, wow, two evenly matched teams, hard fought battle, and physical series. Just glad we found a way to win in overtime and win the Penrose right away.”

It was back and forth between the two to start the game, as the Fighting Hawks got on the board first with Collin Adams putting home his 12th of the year off a rebound kicked to his stick from an initial shot from Colton Poolman. The goal came from a sharp angle, as Adams was right next to the goal line when he got the puck and fired it far-side past Ben Blacker to put the Hawks on the board first. It was a neutral zone battle for most of the period before Paul Washe tipped home a Wade Allison shot that fooled Adam Scheel to tie the game. 

The final 40 minutes of the game were a grind. Neither team let up an inch and the score remained tied at one at the end of regulation with a combined shot total of 33 shots (17-16 UND) after sixty minutes of regulation play. 

“That’s playoff hockey what you saw this weekend,” mentioned Berry. “I thought the officiating let us play and there was a lot of energy that was spent out there. A lot of plays weren’t being made because two teams were playing fierce out there”

In the overtime, there was plenty of action in two minutes to make up for the last 40, as Western Michigan thought they had a game winner, only for it to be called off on goalie interference, as there was no attempt by the Broncos player to get out of the way of Scheel. A short time later, the Fighting Hawks came back on a rush for Matt Kiersted to rip a shot from the point, which rebounded off of Blacker to the stick of Shane Pinto– who made no mistake with an empty net and sent the sellout crowd home happy and give UND a weekend sweep. With the sweep, the Fighting Hawks will get a share of the 2020 Penrose Cup for best regular season record in the NCHC.

“This whole year has been a bit different than the last two years, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” UND captain Colton Poolman said of the team this season. “We still have one more weekend to go and we’re going to try to win this thing outright, for sure.”

THEY SAID IT

“I think that’s the best goal I’ve ever scored. Just everything about it– winning for the seniors, winning the the Penrose Cup. Just the whole moment is something I’ll never forget. I really can’t gather my thoughts, but that building all night you could feel the momentum shift” — Pinto on the game winning goal.

“That shows you the focus and resiliency they had. We had to wait there for the review of the play and we just huddled up the guys and talked to them that we’re going to play longer and just make sure you’re ready to go.” — Berry on the team focus during the overtime review.

“A bad bounce for Western Michigan, but one got called back last night, one got called back tonight. That was a spark we needed honestly. We got some energy on the bench and we go out and score that one. We’ve won games in so many different ways and that’s another new, different way.” — Poolman on the team’s will to win this season. 

“It means everything. Coming in as a freshman you’re a little bit scared. It’s just how it is, it’s a new kind of environment, but they took us in with open arms and kind of taught us the ropes. They’re a special group of guys and we just want to win it for them.”– Pinto on the senior class.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Inch Closer to Penrose with Friday Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– With the NCHC regular season title in their sights, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks took one step closer with a win against Western Michigan University Friday night taking the first game of the weekend set 3-1. Adam Scheel made 26 saves in his first win since January 11th and his first start since January 24th.

“It’s always fun to get in the net no matter what,” Scheel said post-game. “I was happy and excited to be back. My team helped me, limited the chances, and played hard defense. Couldn’t have done it without them.”

After a first period that seemed more like a tight checking playoff game, UND started to come into their own during the second period. It took them to about half-way before cracking the scoresheet, with a wonderful goal off a three-on-two. Jacob Bernard-Docker started the rush out the zone with Jackson Keane on one wing, Judd Caulfield on the other; JBD found Keane, who got it back to JBD, who got it to Caulfield, allowing Caulfield to go forehand-backhand on Brandon Bussi and slip it past him for the 1-0 lead. Five minutes later, UND got on the power play, where Jasper Weatherby won a draw back to Ethan Frisch. Frisch sailed it to Matt Kiersted, who let a wrister go that fooled Bussi and made it 2-0 Fighting Hawks. 

Western Michigan cut the lead in half at 4:35 of the third, as they got plenty of whacks at the loose puck in front, but Dawson DiPietro got the last whack behind Adam Scheel to make it 2-1 UND. Up until then, Scheel had made several quality saves to start the third, getting his first start in several weekends. UND thought they got the two goal lead back when Jordan Kawaguchi scored, but the goal was called back after Bussi jumped out to make the save and while diving, hit Collin Adams’ thigh as Adams was looking for the rebound outside the crease. The NCHC officials said that it interfered with Bussi making the save and waived it off. Bussi had to leave the game, letting Ben Blacker in the net. A chippy game ensured, with many a missed call until Mattias Samuelsson got an interference call, Westin Michaud to get a tip off a Gabe Bast blast that was set-up by Kiersted to make it 3-1. 

The intensity turned dirty, as Ronnie Attard caught Shane Pinto blindsided in the UND defensive zone. The hit jarred Pinto’s head and left him laying on the ice momentarily as the scrums happened around him. Attard got a five and game for direct head contact to Pinto. With only 1:15 remaining, there wasn’t much else to do but run the clock down, as the Fighting Hawks draw closer to the Penrose Cup for best regular season record in the NCHC. 

THEY SAID IT

“That’s the last thing I wanted to do. I’m confident in my game and my ability. No need to change or hit the panic button.” — Scheel on if he adjusted his game at all since being out.

“Me and Peter (Thome) are really good friends. No matter who’s in the net, it doesn’t change our relationship. You really come to work every day with a little chip on your shoulder and work hard to be ready for your next opportunity. No matter what, Peter’s a great teammate. So you learn from a guy like that. He’s a great guy in the locker room and he was always supportive of me, so I’ll do the same for him.” — Scheel on his relationship with fellow goalie Peter Thome. 

“He had a really good two, three weeks of practice here. We always look at how goalies do against the other teams and he plays outstanding against Western Michigan. And Peter Thome has been playing outstanding as well, but this is the opportunity for someone else to come in. I think it was a combination of a lot of things, but mostly Adam staying sharp and working his tail off in practice.”– Brad Berry on the decision to start Adam Scheel.

“It was kind of a gametime decision that Cole Smith wasn’t in the lineup and it kind of throws you on your heads a little bit about what to do to replace a guy like that. I think what we did was sided on having experience and get Dixon Bowen, a senior; Casey Johnson, a senior; guys a little bit harder, heavier, quicker players to try to take away time and space.” — Berry on his line-up moves ahead of Friday’s game.

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Sweep Denver Off Their Feet, Weekend Series

GRAND FORKS, ND– Despite not having captain Colton Poolman in the line-up, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks pulled off a sweep of Denver University this weekend, winning Saturday night 3-1 and holding the Pioneers to just two goals on the weekend and only four goals in the four games the two met each other in this season. 

North Dakota dictated the pace through the first, holding Denver to only two shots midway through the frame. Thanks to a Liam Finlay holding call, Matt Kiersted potted his fifth of the year thanks to a ricochet off the glove of Denver’s Justin Lee went past Magnus Chrona to give UND the lead. UND’s defense kept the Pioneers to the outside, allowing Peter Thome to see the puck perfectly. Thome’s biggest save came off a cross-ice pass that forced him to go post-to-post in order to make a toe save and keep it a 1-0 game. 

For most of the second period, it was a chess match, with neither team wanting to make a wrong move and have it go against them. Denver flinched first with just under half the period to go, when Jacob Bernard-Docker started a rush, finding Jordan Kawaguchi on the wing, who then passed it cross is to Collin Adams to make it a 2-0 game. Denver got one back five minutes later, as Brett Edwards threw a shot at Peter Thome after it was dumped into the corner; Thome couldn’t get to his post fast enough and the Edwards shot went off Thome’s side and in the net. 

While the third period was more of slog, the Fighting Hawks held off late attacks by the Pioneers and ended it with Jasper Weatherby burying an empty-netter to seal the deal and sweep for the top-ranked North Dakota. The win kept the hot streak alive for North Dakota with a winning streak of five games, games in which they’ve allowed a total of five goals. It also allows UND to pull eight points ahead in the standings for the NCHC. 

THEY SAID IT

“Just an overall commitment, we’re not getting spread out. This is a good team off the rush, our d-men can’t be caught out on an island. Our forwards have to help out through the rush, through the d-zone. We always call it five-in-the-picture. We want to make sure that any time we see in our video, five guys are together, coming up and down the ice.”– Brad Berry on what’s help the defensive game in the last five. 

“I think in the third period, you could tell– they ramped it up and we ramped it up. Obviously, it’s going to be playoff hockey from here on out. It’s going to get tougher and tougher and we’ve got to get better.”– Collin Adams on the atmosphere as the regular season winds down.

UND HOCKEY: Multiple Multi-Point Nights Lift Fighting Hawks Over Pioneers

GRAND FORKS, ND– With another top-five seed on the rink, the top-ranked University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks put their skill on display as they beat Denver University 4-1 on Friday night. Peter Thome made 26 saves while Shane Pinto, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jordan Kawaguchi, and Collin Adams all had multi-point nights. 

After chances in the first five minutes, UND got on the board first with Shane Pinto taking a wild pass from Jacob Bernard-Docker at the point and Pinto knocking it past Devin Cooley. Denver was able to get two power plays in the frame, but North Dakota’s PK was solid clogging the lanes and Peter Thome was strong when called upon. UND also rang one off the post in the middle of the frame, but the frame ended 1-0. 

Early in the second, Collin Adams got called for tripping Bobby Brink, setting the Pioneers up with their third power play of the game. Brink ended the power play with a laser beam of a shot off a pass from Ian Mitchell to tie the game. Brink, however, did not finish the night, as he was injured in the second period when Cole Smith slid to block a shot and trapped Brink’s ankle and leg underneath his body weight, leading Brink to limp off the ice favoring his left leg.

Four minutes after Denver’s goal, after a too-many men call against Denver, UND got a power play goal right back with Matt Kiersted ripping wrister from the point through a screen in front to beat Cooley and get the Fighting Hawks the lead again. The Hawks padded the lead late in the frame when Grant Mismash crashed the net on a harmless shot, pokes the puck out of Cooley’s reach right to Adams to make it a 3-1 lead. 

Late in the second and onto the third, the hitting picked up– as most Denver/North Dakota games are wont to do; but it also set the tone for the series finale tomorrow. However, after a penalty for indirect contact to the head, the power play created a turnover that moved the puck to Adams, who found Bernard-Docker streaking down the slot to make it a 4-1 game. While the hitting continued, the scoring did not as UND took Friday’s game 4-1. 

With the win, North Dakota clinched home-ice in the NCHC playoffs, a feat that is always at the top of the priority list each season for the team. 

“The first thing we do is shooting for home ice, but now we have to shoot to higher things,” head coach Brad Berry said postgame. “We’ve got to string some games together down this stretch and play with momentum, starting with tomorrow’s game. We want to have a good chance to keep things going here. Every team this time of year is going to give their best and we have to make sure we’re doing our best to keep right with them.” 

THEY SAID IT

“That’s something I’ve worked a lot on with Karl (Goehring). Having a few layers of screens and looking around them. Part of that is never excepting. It’s your job to see the puck and never saying, ‘Oh, I lost it. Not really on me, I couldn’t see it.’ You got to keep battling and finding it and never giving up even if you feel it’s already been shot– working on finding where it’s at and finding positioning.” — Peter Thome on being able to see the puck better through traffic this season. 

“I don’t think my approach changes too much. It’s the same mental approach as any game and prepare the same way.”– Shane Pinto on playing in the national spotlight. 

“You kind of realize when you’re a freshman that you’re going to be here forever. Even when you’re a sophomore; it still feels so far away. Then, as a junior you start to realize you’re in the back half. We don’t want to be that class that sends this program back a few years. Every guy in our class worked their tails off in the summer to try and get better and I think that’s what you’re seeing.” — Thome on the Junior class performing this season.

UND HOCKEY: Eight is Enough for UND’s Big Win Over Tigers

GRAND FORKS, ND– After only scoring one goal in last night’s win, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks made up for it on Saturday night, pummelling the Colorado College Tigers 8-1 to sweep the weekend. UND finished with seven goal scorers, 13 players with points, multi-point games from Kawaguchi, Weatherby, Adams, Mismash, and Andrew Peski; all while getting a bye-week to rest up the wounded like Gavin Hain and Gabe Bast who left early due to injury and Matt Kiersted who sat out the weekend to heal up. 

“Last night took a while, but we just kind of stuck with the process,” Kawaguchi mentioned post-game. “That’s what we want. We want to jump on teams early and hopefully go up a couple like we did tonight.” 

After a penalty to linemate Gavin Hain, Cole Smith took it upon himself to drive the net hard from the outside and put it through Matt Vernon to give UND a power play goal. Under two minutes later, Collin Adams continued his breakout season taking a cycle pass to just below the blueline and got it passed Vernon thanks to a Jordan Kawaguchi screen in front. UND kept the pressure and got a little puck luck with Vernon misplaying the puck in front of his net, allowing Jasper Weatherby tapping it in between his legs. As that goal was announced, Jordan Kawaguchi fed it across ice to Grant Mismash to beat Vernon far side and make it 4-0 in the first period of play. 

The Fighting Hawks kept the pedal down, as they took it to the Tigers early, which resulted in Kawaguchi getting his 14th of the year, driving to the net and putting it between the wickets of Vernon to make it 5-0 early in the second. Colorado College did put some pressure on in the middle of the frame, but Peter Thome stood tall and kept the Tigers off the scoresheet. With under five minutes left, Mark Senden drove the net and picked up Harrison Blaisdell’s rebound from Vernon’s pad to make it 6-0 UND. 

After Jon Flakne got into net for the Tigers, the Hawks took 50 seconds before a bouncing puck hit Kawaguchi’s pants to make it 7-0 for UND. Four minutes later, the Hawks made it eight with Jacob Bernard-Docker taking a skate before feeding Shane Pinto in front for his 13th of the season. Matt Vernon went back into net shortly after to try and stop the bleeding for Colorado College. The Tigers did get one back, as Connor Mayer put one past Thome after a centering feed from Alex Berardinelli to stop the shutout bid for Thome and the eventual final goal of the contest. 

Andrew Peski/Photo by Jen Conway

THEY SAID IT

“A couple of guys got banged up there so we had to move some lines and d-pairs around a bit. That gave us the opportunity tonight with a lead like that to see other guys like Harrison Blaisdell and Judd Caulfield in some other situations.”– Brad Berry on dealing on the fly with some injuries in his roster throughout the game. 

“We were just sticking with it. We watched some video this morning and looked at each other and said, ‘We got to pick it up a little bit.’ We didn’t have our best game last night. Even against Duluth we were playing our best. We got to take responsibility for that and go out there and do what we can.”– Kawaguchi on his line creating more chances tonight opposed to the start of the semester

“Matt (Kiersted)’s a great defenseman. He’s definitely a key to our offense and our power play, but at the end of the day as Bubs (Brad Berry) always says– next man up mentality. You saw Josh Rieger come in, he was playing defense and forward a little bit, so we call him the Swiss Army Knife. He did a great job and it’s just doing the job that you have and doing it well.”– Peski on the versatility of the roster for UND. 

“They’re a workhorse line. Smitty works the hardest I’ve ever seen. Senden works hard, too. Gavin has the most skill on that line and he’s a hard worker, too. I wouldn’t want to play against them. They’re tough and fast and play the right way. Those three together are unbelieveable.”– Kawaguchi on the energy line of Smith, Hain, and Senden

UND HOCKEY: Pinto Pots Lone Goal in 1-0 Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a two-week road trip, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came back to Ralph Engelstad Arena for NCHC action against the Colorado College Tigers. Though UND held possession for most of the game, the puck didn’t bounce their way to the back of the net much, as UND took game one of the weekend 1-0. Peter Thome made 25 saves in his second shutout of his college career. 

“It feels pretty good, it’s always good in a tight game like that,” Thome mentioned post-game. The guys played hard for me in front, really stifled them. Didn’t give them too many Grade-A chance.” 

The first period possessionally was dominated by North Dakota, as they kept a lot of pressure on Matt Vernon and the Colorado College defense. However, the son of Mike Vernon was able to keep the shots at bay, with some desperation saves while getting a little help from his defensemen. While UND did have some issues trying to get the puck through the neutral zone, but some adjustments helped them correct that as the period went along. 

Colorado College picked up their pace offensively in the second with 12 shots on Peter Thome, and though he fought a couple off, the junior goalie stayed strong to keep the game tied through two. UND did have some chances, but couldn’t get too many quality shots against the freshman goalie of Colorado College. 

“His old man was a pretty good goalie,” Berry said of Matt Vernon’s father. “I thought he played very well tonight. When we did get pucks to the net, he was on them, he was focused. He was seeing the puck tonight, which says a lot about a freshman goalie.” 

Both teams were cautious to start the third, but the intensity started to pick up in the middle of the frame, resulting in Colorado College taking a tripping penalty for tripping up Shane Pinto. Pinto made them pay, as he put home a rebound off the back boards into a wide-open net. The initial shot from Westin Michaud was trying to beat Vernon near corner, but the miss turned into an assist for the graduate transfer. The goal stood as the only one for either side, as UND gets their 20th win of the season. 

THEY SAID IT

“You know, it runs through your mind a little bit. [Coach Berry] told me Monday that I was going tonight, so I had all week to prepare. That runs throughout your mind through the week, but as you get older you get more mature and figure out how to address those thoughts and prepare the right way.” — Peter Thome on maybe not getting the chance he’s getting now as a starter. 

“You can tell on the bench he was getting frustrated. I think one of those will go in. I tried to keep him calm, on the bench he gets a little rattled. He was good tonight, I don’t think he was too rattled. He had a lot of good shots, so I think one will go in tomorrow.”– Pinto on Michaud facing off against his old school.

“You can tell he really wanted one tonight. He gave himself a chance to score, he was in and around the net. He made a couple plays. I got to commend him for his focus. Sometimes in a game like that, you might get unraveled. I didn’t think he got unraveled. He did a good job of keeping the game in front of him and having a high professionalism about him.”– Berry on Michaud facing his old team. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Karl [Goehring]. It’s pretty special in college you get to work with an NHL level goalie coach and not just once or twice a week; he’s at the rink and spends all day here. He’s always pushing me, during that stretch in the first half where obviously I didn’t play, we had a few conversations where frustration may have been getting to me a little bit and he said, ‘Hey, no. Absolutely not. You gotta be a man and got to put on your work boots every day and prepare for your opportunity because one is going to come.’”– Thome of UND assistant coach Karl Goehring

Ottawa, North Dakota, and Going Pro

The Ottawa Senators seemingly trust the process that the University of North Dakota has with prospects. They’ve selected three in the NHL Draft that were committed to the school in the past two drafts– Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, and Shane Pinto. The question is now will they let those players see the process develop for more than half their term there.

A report out of the area had said the Senators were pushing hard to help the OHL’s Ottawa 67s gain the rights to Pinto in order to sign him to an entry-level deal; thus taking the freshman forward out of the UND pipeline. This comes after Pinto had an impressive World Junior tournament with four goals and seven points in five games for the US squad. After Saturday’s game, however, Pinto vehemently denied anything of the sort ever happening; proving the Ottawa media wants to get people to hope that he’d come to speed up the rebuild process.

While there hasn’t been a lot of noise made about Bernard-Docker, you’d have to think that Ottawa would want him to leave school after this season, considering his low-key breakout at the same World Juniors, playing more than any other Canadian during the tournament. Though, there might be a double-standard with bringing a defenseman out early and how much it takes for them to truly adjust to the professional game.

Ottawa is a rebuilding team and while they may like the way that UND is able to produce NHL, they probably also want to really get the players as their blossoming in their career. The Pinto situation seems familiar to the Tyson Jost/Avalanche situation, with Jost leaving after his freshman season at UND, with many saying Colorado was pretty adamant about Jost leaving after one college season. Though, Brock Boeser left after two seasons and did pretty good for himself by doing so, even though injuries have hampered both Jost and Boeser.

I’m all for these players going for the money if they feel it’ll be the most lucrative for them in the long-run. The goal for them is pro hockey and if they can reach it sooner and if the team wants them sooner– more power to them. The only hurdle is to make sure that they are, in fact, ready to make that jump. There’s cases for leaving too early and leaving too late, so it’s really a case-by-case basis.

North Dakota also doesn’t want to be looked at as a one-and-done kind of school and probably while it’s nice for them to have that aura of being a great developmental point for possible NHLers, it’s not the way they would want to be viewed overall if they only have talented youngsters for one or two years before they go off elsewhere and then UND gets behind because a player they thought they could build around for four years is only there half that time.

Sure, it’s the nature of college hockey and could happen with players who aren’t drafted, also; but in those cases– you’re getting three seasons from them and could actually have their replacement ready to go and a plan in place for it. In the day in age where the NHL is a younger players’ game with speed and skill, the college kids will definitely have a harder time wanting to stay if the idea of making a good amount of money without the schooling aspect is at their fingertips.

At the end of the day, each drafted college player is a case-by-case study of what they’re going to do. Some stick the whole four years, some leave after one, and some don’t make it to one year before moving to major junior; you can never know what could happen with each player.

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.