5-4 OT Winner From Kawaguchi Saves Senior Night for UND: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Last night in front of a strong crowd braving the elements at Ralph Engelstad Arena we saw a microcosm of the University of North Dakota’s season in one game. When this team starts fast, they typically do well. Nick Jones, senior forward playing on senior night, took a cross-ice feed from Rhett Gardner and wired home the opening salvo of the night 37 seconds into the game. Later in the period, Omaha forward Tyler Weiss banged home a loose puck in the crease with the majority of skaters sharing time and space with Peter Thome to tie it up.

In the second, Jordan Kawaguchi made his first contribution to the box score taking a cross-checking penalty. Zach Jordan made UND pay for that mistake with a sensational release on a wrist shot to stake the Mavericks to their only lead of the evening. That lead would last 5:51 as Kawaguchi would return to the box score, this time to the good converting a power play marker on a Nick Jones feed.

The third is where everything happened.Cole Smith converted the only really “soft” goal of the evening against Omaha netminder Evan Weninger who played an otherwise stellar evening. He finished with 41 saves on 46 shots. After a Gavin Hain tally gave UND a two goal lead, the Mavericks rallied back to tie things up with tallies from Nate Knopke and Tristan Keck. The Keck marker came off a Kawaguchi turnover with an extra attacker.

Kawaguchi made up for it with a clean shot past Weninger 16 seconds into overtime. He is UND’s leading goal scorer after the regular season with only ten goals.

Now What

For Nebraska Omaha, if they can some how find a way to hold Duluth down a bit defensively than the expected result may be a little harder for the Bulldogs to achieve in the first round. The Mavericks showed this weekend that they do not need much time or space to have a chance with their quick transition game and Weninger’s ability in net.

As for UND, this weekend did result in two wins pushing the Fighting Hawks closer to the NCAA Tournament. That said, this team still has things to clean up. Every week this team seems to take some undisciplined penalties that skew their rhythm and force them to alter what Head Coach Brad Berry likes to do, getting everyone involved in the game. This team has also dealt with a lot of injuries over the course of the season and is closer to being healthy with the return of Grant Mismash on Friday in limited minutes, and the return of Nick Jones. The most consistent line for this team this year is the GMC line of Gavin Hain, Mark Senden, and Cole Smith. Brad Berry did not have the option to deploy this line to shutdown the game at the end of regulation because Cole Smith was given a ten minute misconduct for involvement in a fracas with UNO 13:30 into the third period.

Puck possession is this team’s strength, and even when healthy, as this weekend showed, they cannot take undisciplined penalties and need to find ways to stay ahead in games. Credit the seniors for playing well on senior night. Now UND has to take on a fast Denver team and take the series on the road to stay in the NCAA Tournament hunt.

Fighting Hawks Fight Past UNO 2-1: Recap and Now What?

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, the setup for the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota could not have been more simple. Win two games against the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha this weekend and hope for some help from Miami (OH) against Western Michigan this weekend. One of those things happened as UND earned a 2-1 hard-fought victory over the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha.

On Friday night, not only did Western Michigan ensure UND’s home ice streak for the first round of the playoffs would end.Now the Fighting Hawks will be on the road next week for the first round of the conference tournament for the first time since 2002. The Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha almost battled past UND and featured another stellar performance by netminder extraordinaire, Evan Weninger.  He made 38 saves on 40 shots faced on the night and could have taken home star honors for his play. As for scoring on the night, Gabe Bast started the scoring soiree with a sublime wrap around to pot one past Weninger 3:45 into the first.

Following the Bast salvo, things would remain quiet until Zach Jordan buried a five-on-three marker on a cross ice feed against Peter Thome. UND Head Coach Brad Berry noted that Thome would have liked to have made that play laterally, but he did not have much of a chance. Jordan hides a howitzer of his quite well and uses it to his advantage. All though he is not on the level, ask how many goalies are able to stop an Alex Ovechkin cannon from that spot, the answer of course is very few, even on their best day. Then finally in a third period that saw Rhett Gardner benched for taking two terrible penalties, Nick Jones came back to the lineup and tipped home a Colton Poolman shot on a draw Jones himself won. If centers could get two assists on their same play, the goal would read Jones from Poolman and Jones.

Now What

UND needs to play more disciplined. The Fighting Hawks were,arguably, one non call on Jacob Bernard-Docker as he did knee Tristan Keck with the puck having left the area, away from losing their best defender and having to play with five defenders. The Fighting Hawks need to get better at two things for their home finale. First, maintain better discipline and make UNO drive 200 feet to get a good chance on you. Their only goal came on a power play that occurred because of two fast penalties that did not need to be taken.

As for the Mavericks, protect Evan Weninger because he is a treasure to be better guarded than he has been this season. He made 38 saves but was under consistent duress all night and made plenty of grade-a stops to burnish his impressive career mix tape. Same two teams wrap up their regular season Saturday from the Ralph at 7:07 PM, how this one starts and how many penalties UND takes will determine who wins.

Simental and Sound Shooting Pioneers Sour UND Women’s Basketball Senior Day with 92-91 OT Win:Quick Recap and Thoughts for Both Teams

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND– Coming into the final home game for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Women’s Basketball team, the Fighting Hawks needed to clamp down defensively. They did not do that as the Pioneers of Denver University were able to shoot 41.7 percent on the day including 24 points from Lauren Loven. That said, UND was able to battle back from a double digit Pioneer lead and looked to earn the comeback victory. They lead by three points with a little over seven seconds left and looked to have a senior day victory in their grasp.

That all changed as time expired in regulation as Pioneers’ senior Haley Simental was able to drain her first field goal. A buzzer-beater from three sent it to overtime where the Pioneers held serve.

What does all of this mean for UND? Well it means that the team has a tough two final games on the road at Fort. Wayne and nationally ranked South Dakota. This team showed its ability to battle back and overcome adversity despite going down double digits. In addition, the Fighting Hawks were able to diversify their offense away from Lexi Klabo as the game went on. The all-world forward had 33 points, but Julia Fleecs, and Melissa Daley were each able to chip in 15 and 14 points respectively. How UND responds to adversity combined with its ability to limit shots will determine its future.

What does this mean for Denver? Well Lauren Loven tied the Summit League single season three-point record today. This team can shoot the ball from anywhere, and needs to do a little bit better defending the paint. Today, they gave up 18 second chance points on 23 offensive rebounds. That said, the Pioneers also finished the game minus Loven and Claire Gritt due to fouls. This team played down three players due to foul trouble in overtime and still found a way to win. If the Pioneers can limit the offensive glass a bit more and continue this superb shooting from the three point line, then anything could happen for them in Sioux Falls. Credit to the Pioneers for dealing with the counter-punch of UND and being able to finish the game strong.

Poise and Powerful Start Propels UND to 4-1 win over Minnesota Duluth

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND– Coming into this Friday night fracas against the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth, the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota needed a fast start. They got it as 44 seconds in Mark Senden tapped home a superb feed from Jordan Kawaguchi. He would take home first star honors on the evening as he finished with a goal and an assist on a Hayden Shaw shorthanded marker later on to ice the game. Casey Johnson contributed the game winner 13:22 into the first, and Cole Smith added an empty net marker 18:30 into the third to provide the final 4-1 margin.

On this night, the poise and powerful start of UND guided them to a much needed victory to prop up the Fighting Hawks faint postseason chances. With the win, they move back into the final home ice spot over Denver (Pioneers have one extra game to play so they have a game in hand) and moved up two spots in the pairwise to number 19.

Throughout this game two things were apparent. First, this UND team is consistently stringing together superb starts. Last weekend against Western Michigan, even in a loss on a Saturday night, the Fighting Hawks also scored a goal within the first minute of festivities commencing. Another thing was easily apparent. This was the most complete all-around game UND played. The offense not only got them a quick lead, but was able to answer UMD’s only marker of the evening coming 1:25 into the first on a superb, slowed down, and skillful shot from Nick Swaney. Throughout the night UND limited the majority of Duluth’s chances to outside the slot and beyond the dots. A series of low percentage shot attempts made things easier for the Fighting Hawks.

However, the Bulldogs still were able to get a few good looks each period. After the first, Peter Thome was able to come back from injury and fill in for Adam Scheel to play a flawless last two periods. In addition, Thome noted the biggest piece of his development since his last start in November was his improving poise. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect did not look out of place for the last 50 minutes of the game as he found his groove throughout. Thanks to timely defense and Thome’s improving positioning, UND held a team trailing for two goals for the majority of it to the same amount of shots on net and shot attempts as them. He has an opportunity to earn back his starting job with his play over the next few weeks.

Maybe the recipe for this team is not predicated on quantity of shots on net or blocked shots, but quality. While UND finished the night with 13 blocks, a mere four more than UMD, a few of those were on grade-a chances and kept the lead at two before the empty-net goal. Saturday provides another opportunity to show that this team can string together multiple wins against a top-10 side.

It has not done so as of yet in a long while, now is the best and last chance for this team to do so, as the last two teams it plays, Colorado College, and Nebraska-Omaha are both below them in the standings. Consistency will determine this team’s fate, and we get another look into their efforts to achieve it Saturday night at 7:07 PM.

Beyond UND: Q-A With Minnesota Whitecap and UND Women’s Hockey Alum Amy Menke

(Photo Credit: Minnesota Whitecaps)

Since the UND Women’s Hockey program was cut in 2017, its players have gone around the world. Some have moved on to other colleges, others graduated and moved on to post-hockey academic pursuits. A few, like 2016-2017 Captain, Amy Menke, have moved on to professional hockey. She is one of the Minnesota Whitecaps competing in their first season as a member of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

I had a chance to catch up with her recently and discussed her current pursuits, some things she learned from her time at UND, and more, read on below to see my questions and her answers.So far this season,  she has nine points in thirteen games with the Whitecaps.  She finished her career at UND with 108 points (50 G, 58 A) in 146 games.

What has been your favorite off-ice moment of your pro hockey career?

“1. My favorite off ice moment from my pro career has been palling around with my teammates on road trips. We’ve got an awesome group of women, on and off the ice, so it’s been a lot of fun getting to know everyone better and making memories along the way.”

What was your favorite off-ice moment from your time at UND?

“2. My favorite off ice moments at UND included partaking in shenanigans with teammates. We’d hide in lockers or boxes to scare each other, try the shampoo in a towel trick, tape a paper cup on someone’s helmet during pregame skate so they didn’t know it was there but everyone else did, gift a hamster as a secret Santa (that was Gracen Hirschy actually and it was hilarious).[In addition] Gracen Hirschy and I once taped all of Halli Kryznaniak’s room decorations to her ceiling. A bean bag and all.”

What is one thing the NCAA could do tomorrow to better promote women’s hockey and women’s sports in general?

“3. The NCAA could promote women’s hockey and women’s sports better by aiding in TV time. I’m not sure if they have a role in what games/sports get real, quality air time, but all women’s sports could use more exposure on that platform.”

What is the biggest misconception people have about women’s hockey and your response?

“4. The biggest misconception about women’s hockey is that it is less entertaining because we can’t check each other. It’s true we play a different style than men, but that doesn’t mean the games are not physical.”

What was your favorite class at UND?

“5. My favorite class at UND is a toss up between anything Professor Munski taught, and my independent study taught by Professor Chuck Haga. The independent study was on how media impacts/portrays women’s sports.”

What is one thing the NHL could do tomorrow to grow the game at a grassroots level?

“6. Growing the game starts by having more exposure and opportunities for kids to try the sport of hockey. I know USA hockey sponsors a “try hockey for free” night in areas across the US. More events like that, or possibly helping in some way by getting kids the equipment to play. Many parents stray away from hockey due to the cost of the gear.”

At the pro level, do you think the NWHL/CWHL would support involvement of their top players in All-Star Weekend similar to the integration the NBA and WNBA have?

“7. Yes, I think that idea is awesome. Last year, some women’s players from the USA national team got to demonstrate the skills competitions on TV for the all star weekend. Hilary Knight even technically beat Connor McDavid’s time on the accuracy shooting challenge… Even that little bit of exposure was cool to see. But more involvement would always be very beneficial to the NWHL/CWHL.”

How long do you think it will be before the two leagues (NWHL/CWHL) integrate and how beneficial to the game would that be?

“8. Combining the two leagues will be huge for women’s hockey. As for a timeline, I’m not sure. Maybe in a couple years. Both leagues still need to grow and secure funding for travel and salary expenses.”

How proud are you to see the success of UND Women’s Hockey alums around the world and how often are you able to follow them on and off the ice?

“9. I love seeing my fellow UND alums succeeding in their new roles. I was able to play in Sweden last year with 4 of my former teammates for a couple months. That was a lot of fun. I also get to play with Tanja Eisenschmid on the whitecaps this season. Many of the UND girls that had to transfer schools are having tons of success on their new teams, which is fun to watch.”

10. What are some of the biggest things you learned from each coach you worked with at UND and how have they helped you?

“Coach Idalski taught me I shoot off the wrong foot. Sorry Brian, I still do that.

Coach Fabian taught me an awesome move on how to get through a D when I’m entering the zone on my backhand. [I] wish he would have taught me that freshman year instead of junior year.

Coach Elander taught me, and a few other former UND players [including] Jocelyn Lamoureux  a move called ‘oops, I did it again’ “.

Beatty’s 35 Points Helps Oral Roberts Best UND Women’s Basketball 80-58

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, North Dakota– Coming into a key Saturday matchup, their second to last home game at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center this season, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks needed a win to get back in to top-half contention in Summit League play. They were not able to pull ahead of their opponent, Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles flew past UND 80-58 lead by 35  points from Lakota Beatty. She put together a superb outing including going 6-8 from the three point line and helping stymie any instance of momentum UND tried to build.

Beatty had one instance in the first half where she connected on two straight threes combined with the Fighting Hawks trying to force the issue by getting a pass to a heavily guarded Lexi Klabo. That six point swing took the lead for the Golden Eagles to 16 and forced UND to play outside of their game the rest of the way.

Lexi Klabo lead the way for UND with 24 points. She was the only Fighting Hawk to reach double figures. UND never lead in this game and was unable to adjust to counter Beatty or anything else on offense that the Golden Eagles were able to do.  In addition, Head Coach Travis Brewster noted that the team has to spread the offense out a bit more. Because UND does not have a strong three point shooting game this season, teams have been able to double or triple team Klabo on a consistent basis. Tonight that was no different as that ability to collapse with help side defense on Klabo was a key component in the win for Oral Roberts.

UND finished with 20 turnovers on the evening as the Golden Eagles earned 12 steals on the night. A lot of those came on passes into Klabo in heavy traffic. Finally, look for UND to take some positives from this one. They play a strong outside shooting team in Denver and will look to learn some things on defending the three point shot a bit better. While they were able to get Klabo looks, this team needs to get more players involved. When teams are able to triple team your best player, and others do not knock down more shots then results typically do not trend to you. The most field goals made after Klabo’s eight were three by Faith Dooley.

As to Oral Roberts, for a young team with minimal veteran leadership, for them to come up to North Dakota and earn a 22 point victory was impressive. While South Dakota is the class of the Summit League, a hot shooting Golden Eagles squad lead by Beatty could surprise some folks in Sioux Falls. For a team with only three seniors (two of them being fifth year seniors) the Golden Eagles all played like seasoned veterans today.

Quick Recap and Podcast: GMC Line Steers Fighting Hawks to Split with 5-1 Saturday Night Win over St. Cloud State, Now What?

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography

Throughout the season UND has had some inconsistent times and play. The most constant force on this team is a line composed of Gavin Hain, Mark Senden, and Cole Smith. This line was the driving force for this team in the finale as they helped UND to a 5-1 victory over the St Cloud State Huskies. As noted in some previous games, this line has been the most dependable for the Fighting Hawks this year in terms of everything but goal scoring. Last night, three of the five goals were scored by this line as Gavin Hain contributed his first multi-goal (2) game of his college career.

Listen to the podcast for more on the game, and what to look for next week. UND played a perfect game Saturday against the number one team in the nation. Check out the podcast below for more.

 

 

Podcast: SCSU 3 UND 1 in Series Opener, Now What?

Photo Credit (Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Check out a podcast with more on the series opener between UND and St. Cloud as the Huskies won 3-1. The podcast includes the following in 20 minutes.

  1. A quick goal recap
  2. A message to St Cloud State Fans
  3. A message to UND fans
  4. A Thought on the Schuldt hit on Mismash (should have been a penalty and reviewed, listen to find out more)
  5. All throughout I mention what both sides should build on for Saturday

Special Teams Stats Prove Deceptive as St. Cloud State Takes Opener 3-1

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography

When a team goes 3/3 on the penalty kill (not including empty net goals) and owns five on five play for at least around half of the game things typically go well right? Well for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks things went poorly tonight as they gave up three unanswered goals (the third goal was an empty net marker from Blake Lizotte as UND was trying to bounce back and tie things on the penalty kill late in the third period) to lose the series opener to the number one team in the nation, the St. Cloud State Huskies 3-1.

Micah Miller and Patrick Newell took away a 1-0 lead provided by Nick Jones on an interesting angle shot from below the goal line 11:21 into the first period and gave St. Cloud the lead it would not relinquish. Both St. Cloud goals came mere seconds after UND killed off penalties. Miller’s goal came 18 seconds after UND killed a Matt Kiersted penalty in the second period. He took a feed from Nolan Walker, walked into the UND zone in transition and rifled one past UND netminder Adam Scheel on his left side just above his pad.

In the third period, 17 seconds after the Fighting Hawks killed off a Jasper Weatherby penalty, the puck was fired down towards the UND end. It looked as if a UND defender was close enough to play the puck, and Scheel reached out to play it as well negating any chance of an icing call. Colton Poolman tried to play the puck behind the net but made a very rare mistake and turned the puck over to Nolan Walker. He then found one of the best goal scorers on the Huskies, Newell, in the slot and he did not miss the game-winning goal.

UND was out shot in the second and third periods combined 41-22. The Huskies utilized their strong transition game throughout the second and third period. If not for a very close goal review on a potential Nick Perbix goal, the margin could have better reflected the shots on goal disparity. UND took issue with a potential penalty on Jimmy Schuldt as a hip check on further review looked to result in knee-on-knee contact on Grant Mismash who required help to leave the ice. He will definitely not play in the finale. UND needs to improve in consistency. The result is different as the Huskies outplayed the Fighting Hawks in the final two frames, but the path was the same for UND. The Fighting Hawks started the game well, got chances and limited grade-a chances for the other team. Then the opponent got into their game and this time said opponent was not Omaha or Canisius but St. Cloud State.

These are not the same Huskies that lost to Air Force in the NCAA tournament last March. This is a team with all of the speed and skill of last year’s squad combined with a consistent commitment to team defense to further highlight their skills. For UND to salvage a split they need to play a perfect 60 minutes all the while knowing any mistake they make has a marginally decent chance of ending up in the back of their own net. Saturday night at the Ralph will be a fun one.