(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)
In front of a raucous sold out group of 11,862 fans at the Ralph Englestad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (3-1-1) came up short against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2-0, 1-1).
Steve Johnson had the game winning marker for the Gophers 12:08 into the third period. The senior defenseman took a pass from Rem Pitlick, and fired the puck past Cam Johnson to give the Golden Gophers a 2-0 lead.
Forward Rhett Gardner would capitalize on a Fighting Hawks power play 92 seconds later to provide the final margin for the evening. Gardner tapped home a rebound from a Grant Mismash shot. This would be the beginning of a furious Fighting Hawk rally in the third period that did not change the final score.
Minnesota netminder Eric Schierhorn was superb on friday, he made 34 saves on 35 UND shots on net. He was the first star of the evening, Pitlick with two points, and Rhett Garndner took home the second and third star honors.
11:00 into the first period, Tyler Sheehy fired a pass to Sabres’ prospect Casey Mittelstadt who fed Nashville Predators prospect Rem Pitlick. He walked in and fired a clean shot past Cam Johnson to open the scoring 11 minutes into the opening stanza. The Fighting Hawks killed off three Gopher power plays to keep the score 1-0 Minnesota after the first period. UND had several chances but could not capitalize on any of them.
The Fighting Hawks generated plenty of chances in the second but could not convert on their three second period power plays. Eric Schierhorn made 13 saves to keep UND off the board in the second frame. The Gophers blocked 11 of their 29 blocked shots during this period. They were able to do just enough to keep the Fighting Hawks from soaring into the lead.
In the third period, once again the Fighting Hawks would generate chance after chance, yet thanks to 29 total blocked shots, one successful power play out of six, and timely Minnesota scoring, UND could not tie things up.
The Fighting Hawks look to rebound tonight at 7:07 PM at the Ralph.
Thoughts for Tonight
Improve the Power Play
The Fighting Hawks have to be better on the power play. While they did convert a power play on Friday night, they were unable to solve the Gophers’ penalty kill five times. The Gophers blocked a fair amount of their 29 shots when killing penalties. One thing UND did on the last power play chance that provided the goal was rotate their passing a bit more. While you want as many shots to reach the net as possible, you want them to be good shots. Both shots on goal on that particular power play came on the Gardner goal.
UND utilized cross ice passes to open up the shooting lanes it needed to score. That ability tonight will be a key to solving the Gopher defense.
Stay Out of the Box
UND took seven penalties last night. While the Fighting Hawks did a superb job being aggressive and limiting Gopher power play chances, they do not want to let the Gophers skilled forwards like Pitlick and Mittelstadt get extra time on the power play. The Fighting Hawks have to keep penalties down tonight to have a chance to win. If they can hold the Gophers to one power play per period or less, their chances to earn a split dramatically increase.