(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)
In front of 12,002 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Denver Pioneer Logan O’Connor created a turnover, and started a break away in the second three-on-three overtime session at the Ralph in two evenings. Just like last night, the result was the same. Denver defender Ian Mitchell took a feed from O’Connor on the ensuing two-on-one breakaway and found the back of the net 01:19 into the extra overtime to give the Pioneers four points on two ties for the weekend. While UND ended the weekend with two ties, it finished tied for eleventh in the pairwise with Minnesota.
In the first period, Kohen Olischefski took a feed from Ryan Barrow, went to the goal line and fired one into the opening short side against Cam Johnson. The puck just went through the small opening to give the Pioneers another lead. In the first, Denver controlled possession through large swaths of play. The Fighting Hawks did not get a shot on net for the first 13:52 of the game. They ended the first frame with only 13 shot attempts to Denver’s 21. The Pioneers had eight high percentage scoring from the low slot area. UND only generated one.
In the second period, UND picked up the pace. They got more pucks on net and forced Denver to defend more in the first half of the period then they did in the entire first period.
A few minutes into the second, Liam Finlay interfered with Cam Johnson in the blue paint. This gave the Fighting Hawks their first chance on special teams all night.
They did not waste their opportunity.
About halfway through the power play 09:26 into the second stanza, Christian Wolanin took a feed from Shane Gersich and fired a perfect shot past a completely screened Denver netminder Tanner Jaillet. The Ottawa Senators’ prospect’s eight tally of the year equalized things. The score would remain the same through the end of the second and third period. While UND out shot Denver 16-11 in the last two regulation periods, they could not solve Tanner Jaillet the rest of the way.
Thoughts Heading into the Bye
- The NCHC is capable of getting six or seven teams into the tournament. This conference has every team but Colorado College and Miami in the top 13 of the pairwise heading into February. Accounting for the Atlantic Hockey Tournament winner, and Hockey East Tournament winner, the top 14 teams would make the tournament in the pairwise right now.
- UND looked much better on special teams this weekend, they only allowed one power play goal on the weekend. Their penalty kill was much more aggressive and forced Denver to make quicker decisions with the puck while limiting time and space for their skilled forwards to generate high percentage shots.
- If UND can use this weekend where it was missing its top two centers, Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones, along with top four defender Gabe Bast, to help develop players like Josh Rieger and Matt Kiersted, both of whom played well in their replacements then this weekend could help UND down the road. In addition, defenseman Casey Johnson slotted in at forward and helped UND in spots in the game. The Fighting Hawks’ ability to develop their depth players during this long season of injuries will prove crucial in the long run.