(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)
In front of 11,266 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena we were treated to a few things. This series has representatives of 13 NHL teams on the combined rosters. If you wanted to see the potential future of the National Hockey league you could do a lot worse than turning on UND taking on Wisconsin. We also saw UND legend Jim Archibald take one final shift before the game as he came out to the blue line with the rest of the Fighting Hawks and skated around a bit to a loud ovation from all of those in attendance.
When the puck dropped we were treated to another chapter in the storied UND-Wisconsin rivalry. This one belonged exclusively to the Fighting Hawks. UND won this game 5-0 on a Rhett Gardner hat trick, Adam Scheel shutout, and all-around team effort.
With 16:31 left in the first period, Rhett Gardner opened up the scoring ledger for the Fighting Hawks on the weekend. With their first shot on goal he made no mistake. The Dallas Stars prospect took a perfect feed from Islanders prospect Colin Adams in the slot and wired one past Berry. Wisconsin almost came back on the next shift and scored, but the puck rolled along the goal line and out. This was the first major turning point of the game, and dramatically altered both teams’ fates.
With 6:43 left in the first period, Nick Jones looked to have the second goal of the evening for the Fighting Hawks as he appeared to have put one past Berry. However, the call on the ice was overturned after video review as the Badgers’ netminder did enough to cover the puck combined with incidental contact preventing him from playing his position. That did not deter the Fighting Hawks, They used the review time to stay together as a team and focus on their next goal. A few minutes later with 2:54 left in the first Nick Jones found Jacob Bernard-Docker. He then did the rest as he juked a Badgers defender, walked into the slot and wired a sensational wrist shot past Jack Berry to finally make it a 2-0 Fighting Hawks lead. That would be the margin after the first frame. That goal was reminiscent of UND program alum Christian Wolanin, who like Bernard-Docker was also drafted by the Ottawa Senators.
That margin would not remain the same for long as 29 seconds into the second, Gardner buried his second salvo of the night on a nice wrist shot from Berry’s blocker side. A little over ten minutes later Colton Poolman found the back of the net as his shot from just inside the left point went in off a Wisconsin skate just in front of the goal line.
In the third period, Gardner completed the hat trick as he sent home a superb shot from the top of the slot to make it a 5-0 game. Scheel and the UND defense did the rest, holding Wisconsin off the board to preserve the shutout. In this game, Berry played the first 32:49 in net for the Badgers giving up four goals on 15 shots. Daniel Lebedeff played the final 27:11 and gave up Gardner’s third goal as his only blemish on his record. Lebedeff faced eight UND shots in his relief role. For UND, Scheel saved all 24 shots faced over a full 60 minutes of work.
UND will need to maintain this level of excellence if they want to come anywhere close to replicating this result again the rest of the year. This team’s motto is zero. Every day they start over and look to build up the best game they can. Saturday night is now no different. The Badgers are still quite capable of making Saturday a much more close game than the opener. Look for another epic chapter in this long historic rivalry to take place Saturday night at the Ralph.