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: Fighting Hawks Saddle Broncos 4-3 in Physical Affair

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Photo by @UNDmhockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– Friday night set the tone for the weekend, as the University of North Dakota took the first game of the weekend set against Western Michigan University 4-3 in a chippy, physical affair that saw many a scrum break out.

UND opened the scoring in the first on the power play, as Rhett Gardner broke up a Western Michigan breakout, which tipped over to Grant Mismash before eventually finding the stick of Austin Poganski, who went five-hole on Ben Blacker to put the Fighting Hawks up 1-0 just five minutes into the game. Minutes later, after drawing a penalty on Christian Wolanin, Dawson DiPietro came down the wing on the ensuing power play over Cam Johnson’s glove hand to tie the game. UND struck back minutes later, while on a 5-on-3 power play, which Austin Poganski potted his second goal of the night from a lovely feed from Jordan Kawaguchi to make it 2-1.

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Austin Poganski/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet and help like that,” said captain Poganski after the game, “But things go unnoticed, like Ludvig blocking some shots and there were some big blocks at the end. It’s not always about scoring goals and getting assists. It’s about the little things people don’t see as often.”

Western Michigan tried to challenge offsides, but it was to no avail. Just over a minute later, Ludvig Hoff got in on the action, tipping a shot from Colton Poolman and going over the shoulder of Ben Blacker to make it 3-1 UND. Three minutes after that, WMU cut the lead to one as Brett Van Os deflected a Cam Lee shot to go over the shoulder of Johnson to make it 3-2, which is where the first period ended. It was only the sixth time this season UND had the lead after the first period.

A lot of beating, banging, and exchanging of power plays, but it wasn’t until midway through the second where UND increased their lead. Collin Adams went broke up a clearing attempt, took a skate across the top of the circle and ripped it high blocker on Blacker to make it 4-2 Fighting Hawks. While the play continued to be physical, it didn’t come without issues– as Andrew Peski and Ludvig Hoff left the game with undisclosed injuries.

More physical play until late in the period when Wade Allison got Western Michigan to within one goal on the power play, as he blew by the UND defense of a small dish from Corey Schueneman to make it 4-3 UND. However, UND thought they got the two-goal lead back when Joel Janatuinen put the puck past a laid out Blacker, but due to Luke Bafia being pushed into his own goalie– the goal was disallowed. As the game went along, it got more physical, but UND rode the edge a little too close and then over, getting three penalties within the last two minutes. Thankfully for the face-off work of Johnny Simonson and the defensive play by Gabe Bast, two late-game face-offs in front of Cam Johnson were all for not as UND went on to win 4-3 Friday.

“I thought that was a man’s game out there tonight,” said UND head coach Brad Berry. “It was fast, it was heavy, a lot of up and down the ice. Two teams that have unbelieveable will. It came down to the last play and the last face-off.”

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Cam Johnson/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

With the win, Cam Johnson goes to 6-2-1 after a four-week layoff when he was injured during morning skate of the Wisconsin series

“It’s been a long month or long eight games, whatever it was,” said Johnson, “But it’s good to be back and good to get a win at The Ralph. I felt good all the way through, but I think I need to drink more liquids before the game. Trying to get the pacing of the way the game speed is as opposed to practice took a bit, too.”

“It was as close to 60 minutes we’ve played all year,” Berry stated. “It’s tough to play a perfect game, especially with a good team on the other side like that. Consistency and the start is something we have to make sure we off-set tomorrow.”