Duluth’s Dominant First Sends Them Back to the Frozen Four

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 8,015 screaming fans at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,  the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs used a dominant first period against the Air Force Falcons to earn a return trip to the Frozen Four.

The Bulldogs won 2-1 thanks to goals from Joey Anderson and Nick Wolff. Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard chipped in 11 saves on 12 shots in the last two periods.

Coming into the game, the University of Minnesota Duluth needed to use its speed combined with its physicality to capitalize on its chances. They were able to hold Air Force without a shot for the first 23:56 of the game. UMD dominated in all three zones and did not give Air Force any time or space to create much offense for the first half of the game. The Bulldogs did not wait too long to open up the scoring as 9:03 into the first period, Joey Anderson took a perfect rebound from a Riley Tufte shot and backhanded it into a wide open net past Air Force goalie Billy Christopoulos.

Just over three minutes later, Nick Wolff scored on the 10th UMD shot of the game past Christopoulos who was at the top of the crease.He took a feed from Jade Miller and did not miss his chance 12:12 into the first period.

Air Force Head Coach Frank Serratore summed up the first period best: ” Duluth came out and they took us to the woodshed in that first period in a big-time way… we hadn’t seen speed like that all year.”

Air Force did not record a single shot on net during the first twenty minutes.  One interesting thing that precipitated the change in momentum was the Air Force forecheck. Until the second goal was scored they attacked Duluth with two forecheckers at all times instead of one. The Bulldogs made them pay and converted on their chances.

Once the Falcons changed to one forechecking forward, the game tightened up and swung in Air Force’s favor.

It took until 16:04 remained on the clock in the second for Air Force to record a shot. Air Force got its first six shots of the game during the second period. The Falcons had the better of play for most of the second, and controlled the pace a lot more during the period but could not score.

In the third period the Falcons finally broke through. 13:44 into the final frame, Evan Giesler banked a puck off UMD goalie Hunter Shepard from behind the goal line on the power play to make it a one goal game and provide the final margin.

For the last few minutes of the game the pace was fast and furious mostly in the UMD defensive zone. The Bulldogs were able to do just enough to advance to the Frozen Four in St. Paul where they will play the winner of Ohio State and Denver tomorrow.

Coach Serratore also summed up what Duluth’s opponent in two weeks will have to deal with: ” Whoever gets them in the Frozen Four, they’re going to have their hands full. ”

One final stat from tonight. Duluth was able to block 19 Air Force shot attempts tonight. Duluth blocked ten more shots than Air Force, and was able to keep their rebound chances limited thanks to their superb ability to clear pucks, and limit screens in front of Shepard.

Mackay’s Magic Lifts UMD to Regional Final in 3-2 OT Thriller

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to the University of Minnesota State Mankato and won on a thrilling Parker Mackay game winner in overtime to set up a regional final tomorrow against Air Force.The Mackay goal came 2:28 into the overtime period.

The 3-2 comeback was keyed by three unanswered goals from the Bulldogs. Karson Kuhlman energized the team with a breakaway goal 6:38 into the second period.

Minnesota Wild prospect Nick Swaney sent the game into overtime with a power play tally 15:52 into the third period. He took a superb cross-ice feed from Jared Thomas and buried the puck into a wide open net.

During the overtime period, Minnesota Duluth had to survive an overturned goal for goaltender interference, and a Mankato player shooting a puck past UMD goalie Hunter Shepard, and off of a Maverick who was sitting on the goal line.

This furious UMD comeback was needed after Zeb Knutson and Ian Scheid opened the scoring for the Mavericks. Duluth used nearly the whole game to undo the deficit Mankato created in  a mere 06:37. UMD’s team defense eventually wore Mankato down and helped open up some chances as the game wore on.

Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin talked about the effort of senior captain Karson Kuhlman to keep his side in the game. Shortly before his first goal he nearly scored on another breakaway and seemed to give UMD a boost when they needed it the most.

For tomorrow against Air Force, UMD will be the decidedly faster team unlike tonight. It cannnot veer from its principles that helped it to comeback tonight. It needs to limit Air Force chances, and use its own speed to get multiple looks on net. Simple shots with multiple rebounds will be how UMD needs to attack Air Force’s superb defensive systems and goaltending lead by Billy Christopoulos. If UMD can activate its mobile defense corps and force Air Force to extend their forechecking a bit, it will open up more breakaway and quick chances and limit Air Force’s ability to generate deflections and tip in goals. A trip to the Frozen Four is on the line tomorrow, which ever team can best execute its game plan has the best chance of advancing.

Never Surrender: How Air Force Upset St. Cloud State 4-1

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

Tyler Ledferd’s two goals and Billy Christopoulous’ 39 save effort against the number one overall seed St. Cloud State Huskies was enough to provide the upset. Air Force used two empty net goals to make the final margin 4-1. Blake Lizotte provided the only tally for St. Cloud on a feed from Patrick Newell 17:09 into the third. Air Force struck for its first empty net goal from Jordan Himley 1:17 after the Lizotte goal. Kyle Haak added the final empty net tally to provide the 4-1 final score.

This was the second time in history that a number 16 overall seed has defeated the number one overall seed.The last time this happened,  RIT defeated Minnesota State Mankato in the 2015 tournament.

Early on, this game was a defensive chess match. Both teams did not generate a lot of shots on the opposing netminder early on. The best early chance came from Evan Giesler early on for the Falcons. Neither team could score in the first period.

2:57 into the second period, Tyler Ledford  swatted a puck out of mid air and past St. Cloud State netminder David Hrenak to open up the scoring. The play would get reviewed for a high stick but ended up counting.  The call was so close, even Ledford was not sure if it would count. Since the call on the ice was a good goal, it was not overturned since the evidence was not conclusive despite the long review time.

A few minutes later, Ledford would strike again. This time he redirected a Matt Koch pass past David Hrenak to make it a 2-0 game 6:29 into the second. From that point on, St. Cloud State generated the majority of its chances. They utilized their team speed to generate different looks from multiple angles.

It would not matter.

The Falcons played a defensively superb third period, and limited second and third chances. They also guarded the front of the net well, and eliminated a lot of the backdoor scoring plays St. Cloud State likes to utilize with its superb speed. The Falcons blocked 29 of the 78 attempted shots from St. Cloud State on the evening. They did just enough to limit the Huskies when it mattered, and capitalized on the rare St. Cloud State mistakes.

For Air Force to have a chance tomorrow, they will have to face a fast team in Minnesota Duluth or Minnesota State Mankato once again and need to replicate the game they played today. If the Falcons can help their dialed in netminder Christopoulos see the puck well, who knows what could happen tomorrow.  Since Air Force scores a lot by comitee, whomever it faces has to utilize its speed early, and generate traffic in front of Christopoulos. If they can do that, then they can score before the Falcons’ netminder settles in. If not, then the winner of game two tonight could be in for the same fate tomorrow as St. Cloud State was tonight.

Tournament Time: NCAA Tournament Predictions-West Region

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

This year, North Dakota just missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade. The Fighting Hawks came up just short in overtime against St. Cloud in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not get enough help on Saturday to earn a tournament bid. That being said, we have some superb hockey coming up all around the country over the next few weeks.

Below are some predictions for the West Region, where we will be providing coverage of all three games.

West Region- Sioux Falls, SD

  • 1 St. Cloud State vs 4. Air Force
    • UND fans know what to expect out of this team, they can score in bunches from anywhere on the ice. Their team speed is something to behold. Canadians’ super prospect Ryan Poehling is one of the most skilled players in this tournament. Slovak netminder David Hrenak has been a superb find, backstopping the Huskies to this tournament run. Air Force will need to play a perfect game to have a chance in this one.
    • Prediction
      • St. Cloud takes this one 4-1 to open up the first round out west.
  • 2. Minnesota St. Mankato vs. 3. Minnesota Duluth
    • High scoring defense, strong goaltending, and physical play from both teams. These are things to look for in this one. To me, this game is a complete coin flip. Look for the team with more postseason experience to draw on it to advance to the regional final.
    • Prediction
      • UMD wins this one 2-1 in a close game, where the offensive defenseman from both teams set the course for this one.
  • Final
    • St. Cloud State vs UMD
      • Both teams can move on to St. Paul in this one. I do see two key differences in this one. St. Cloud State is faster on paper than Minnesota Duluth. The team speed St. Cloud has to me will be the difference early on.Can the speed of the Poehlings, and superb play of Jimmy Schuldt on the back end vault St. Cloud to an insurmountable lead? I do not think so. If UMD can use its superior physicality to neutralize the speed of St. Cloud, and wear out the Huskies, then the result could be completely different. This game is a coin flip given all of this. In the end, look for the physical nature of UMD to carry them to St. Paul. Duluth will win this one, 3-2 in overtime. Riley Tufte will score the game winner.


Bank on It: Nick Jones Sends UND Back to the Frozen Faceoff with OT Game Winner

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND

53 seconds into overtime, the bank was open for the University of North Dakota. Forward Nick Jones picked up the overtime winner for the Fighting Hawks off of Omaha goalie Evan Weninger. Jones tied the game for UND in the third period on a redirect past a screened Weninger on the power play.The junior forward took a rebound from a Jordan Kawaguchi shot, and used the positioning of Weninger to his advantage.In addition, that goal provided Kawaguchi with his first collegiate assist. His two tallies provided the difference for a UND side that needed a spark after giving up another two goal lead. The Jones tally sent 10351 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena home happy.

This sweep in the NCHC First Round keeps UND’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament alive. They still have more work to do. The only thing this win guarantees the Fighting Hawks is two more games next weekend. It also showed that UND can come back from deficits, and that its experience in numerous overtime games helped equip them for tough situations like tonight.

After a long review it was determined that Matt Kiersted opened the scoring 10:13 into the game as he just squeaked the puck over the goal line before Weninger pulled the puck out of the net.

A few minutes later Bowen took a feed from Trevor Olson and walked in on breakaway. He went forehand-backhand to put the puck past Weninger 14:05 into the first.

The Mavericks answered right back as  Teemu Pulkkinen redirected a powerful Lucas Buchta wrist shot past Cam Johnson 15:28 into the first. UNO got its first goal in its last six periods. on that tally.

Pulkkinen would strike again in the second period, and tie things up for the Mavericks. UNO fought back from the first period and played UND even throughout the second frame and into the third period. In the third stanza, Jake Randolph gave UNO the lead 5:41 into the final regulation frame.

Nick Jones would score the first of his two goals on a redirect past Weninger. Jones’ net front presence made it impossible for Weninger to see the puck. The score would remained tied for the final 9:46 of regulation time.

UND will await the results of the Miami-St. Cloud, and Colorado College-Denver game threes tomorrow. These results determine UND’s opponent on Friday in St. Paul.  The Fighting Hawks still have to win at least one if not both games depending on their opponents next weekend. In addition, UND cannot cough up another two goal lead, this habit has cost them games and almost hurt them tonight.



Fighting Hawks Change Their Friday Night Song With 4-0 Victory

(Credit all photos to Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this postseason opener, UND needed a few things. The Fighting Hawks needed to stay out of the penalty box, play sound defense, and use their depth to their advantage. They did all of these things throughout the postseason opener against Nebraska Omaha.

to defeat the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks 4-0. The Fighting Hawks  used an opening tally from Shane Gersich, combined with a superb three goal second period to put away the Mavericks.

The Fighting Hawks made one key change before the game. They, lead by senior goaltender Cam Johnson, and Director of Hockey Operations Patrick Swanson, completely changed their Friday warmup song list. This seemed to help the Fighting Hawks change their mindset heading into the postseason.

In front of 10,125 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, UND changed up the beat both during warmups and during the game.

Shane Gersich opened the scoring with a superb shot on net past a screen from Colton Poolman. He took a drop pass from Austin Poganski and wired his twelth goal of the season past Evan Weninger, UNO goalie, 13:52 into the first period. This goal would end up being the game winner, but the Fighting Hawks were no where near done scoring.

In the second period, Christian Wolanin opened up the scoring with a superb juke move to open some space and then he picked his spot to make it a 2-0 game one minute into the second on the power play.

Nick Jones added to the scoring with a superb cross ice move and scored falling down. This photo from Kelsey Lee showcases how unique this goal was.


Finally, Joel Janatuinen would round out the scoring with a superb turnover and wrist shot on Weninger to provide the end margin of victory. UND goaltender Cam Johnson would add a scoreless third frame to collect another shutout on the season.

Photos from Friday Night 


UND Hangs on for Home Ice in 2-2 Tie: Gardner Saves Senior Night With Three-on-Three OT Winner

(All Photos used in this recap are courtesy of Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 12, 093 screaming fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota did just enough to secure another postseason series in front of their fans. They earned a 2-2 tie against St. Cloud State guaranteeing them a home date with Nebraska Omaha next weekend. They also built a little momentum winning the three-on-three overtime with a superb shot from forward Rhett Gardner 04:14 into the three-on-three frame.

UND was lead offensively by junior defenseman Christian Wolanin. He had primary assists on all three goals and keyed the offensive attack for UND. Wolanin also tied Austin Poganski for the blocked shot lead last night with three.

On senior night, freshman Grant Mismash took a Wolanin  point shot and fired it past St. Cloud goalie David Hrenak from the slot to give the Fighting Hawks a 1-0 lead 5 minutes into the game. UND would generate a lot of chances in the first but could not add any insurance to their initial 1-0 lead.

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14:39 into the 2nd period Rhett Gardner got the puck on his stick off a perfect cross-ice feed from Wolanin. The Dallas Stars’ prospect had enough time to get the perfect corner picked and he did not miss.


The third period was not kind to UND. Canadians super prospect Ryan Poehling scored another superb goal on a re-direct from a Robby Jackson shot on the power play 02:42 into the final frame. A few minutes later, 09:42 into the third, Grand Forks native Jacob Benson sent the fans in his hometown in to a panic for the final few minutes of the game. He went top shelf on Cam Johnson just after another power play had ended.

UND called timeout, and head coach Brad Berry reminded his team that “hey, we’re fine.”  Berry was able to calm the ensuing storm from St. Cloud and helped steer his team into the first overtime frame where it generated two shots on net. Neither of them found the back of the net, and UND guaranteed home ice at the end of the first overtime based on Omaha and Colorado College’s regulation losses.

Next week, UND can hopefully learn its lessons from this series to play against Omaha. The Mavericks bring the best power play in the conference, lead by the best player on the power play, senior forward David Pope, to the Ralph. UND gave up five power plays last night, and one goal shorthanded. UNO converts just over 25 percent of their power plays, so staying out of the penalty box next weekend will be crucial for the Fighting Hawks.


(Game Highlights, Video Courtesy of UND Insider)






Poehling Powers St. Cloud to 4-3 OT Win Over UND: Quick Recap and Look Ahead

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography

Montreal Canadians super prospect Ryan Poehling stole the show riday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. His two goals propelled the Penrose Cup Champion Huskies to a 4-3 win in overtime against a University of North Dakota side that played one of its better games of the year. While UND generated  65 shot attempts on the evening, St. Cloud was held to 52. Unfortunately for the Fighting Hawks, the final shot from St. Cloud lost them the game a mere two minutes and 48 seconds into the overtime frame. Poehling was the best player in the last three periods of hockey for either team. Christian Wolanin, Nick Jones, and Jordan Kawaguchi contributed the three UND goals on the evening.  UND came so close to winning the game in heroic fashion, but Shane Gersich had his shot blocked with 4.3 seconds left in regulation.

Now What

UND does not control its own destiny for home ice any more in the NCHC. In most years this would mean they are out of the out large picture but are still not out of things this year. Assuming the Atlantic Hockey Champion does not finish in the top 16 of the Pairwise, UND occupies the 15th and final at large spot in the tournament. For UND to better its place tonight, a couple of things need to change.

  • UND had 65 attempted shots, and only 32 found their way on net. If UND can simplify its game tonight and make one less cross ice pass and focus on getting gritty goals via rebounds, they can generate more on net chances.
  • Stay out of the box. If UND can reduce its penalties by even just one or two from last night, they limit St. Cloud’s superb power play chances. The two SCSU power play goals by Jimmy Schuldt and Poehling gave the Huskies two of their leads.

Friday night was so close, that UND could play this same game 100 times and win 50 of them. If UND can make small changes to improve on what it did well last night, tonight’s result could dramatically improve.