(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)
Coming into this one, both teams had some injury issues, and tonight North Dakota came out on the short end of things on the ice losing 2-0. The Fighting Hawks out shot the Broncos 32-19 but lost the game 2-0. Western Michigan goalie Trevor Gorsuch spun a 32 save shutout in the win. Peter Thome made 17 saves on 18 shots for UND.
The lone goal of the affair came on a double deflection in the third period 12:24 in as Josh Passolt deflected a Hugh McGing pass off the skate of Hayden Shaw and past Thome. Colt Conrad added an empty net marker a few minutes later to provide the final 2-0 margin for the Broncos. Of the 62 shot attempts for the Fighting Hawks, only 32 found their way to Gorsuch.
Despite having three power plays in the first, UND generated only eight shots on net during them combined. None of them found the back of the net. Western Michigan utilized an aggressive penalty kill and took away the time and space of the Fighting Hawks, especially on the points on special teams to limit good power play looks. UND actually lead the night in blocked shots with 18 (18-13) but Western Michigan’s aggressive defense limited quality looks and increased misses for the Fighting Hawks on the evening.
Read on to find out how UND can build on the opener to get a few more in the back of the net Saturday night.
Whenever UND comes up short this seems to be a theme for the Fighting Hawks. UND needs to simplify its approach on special teams to generate more chances from high-quality scoring areas. As Western Michigan utilizes an aggressive penalty kill and system to limit quality chances, UND needs to find a way to capitalize on that system. One idea is generating a few more head-fakes and juke moves to open lanes. Think back to the Jacob Bernard-Docker overtime winner against Wisconsin. That patience and poise allowed him to make a nice move to open a lane and provide the final margin that night. That same ability to wait out an opponent did not manifest itself for UND as much on Friday night at the Ralph.
If the Fighting Hawks finish the series finale with less shots reaching the net, but more goals, no one will be disappointing. The top line number of 32 shots on net was nice, but a lot of those chances as the game wore on were outside chances. It would be equivalent to a basketball team taking a lot of extra shots from beyond the three-point line but not connecting. If UND is able to find more chances down low utilizing the skills it has to mitigate the physical style of hockey the Broncos play, the result in the finale could be a bit different.
One of the things that impressed me when UND went on its five game win streak was its patience. If shots did not open up right away, the Fighting Hawks made the extra pass and did not force the issue unnecessarily. That ability to be patient is one of the hallmarks of this team when it is rolling. So now, we patiently wait for game two of the series and see what the Fighting Hawks have in store on a Saturday night in Grand Forks.