Eight Unanswered: How UND Earned a Series Sweep over Canisius and Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

In front of a nearly sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena crowd, the Fighting Hawks played Canisius similarly to start the match like they did last night, and in their ignominious series sweep at the hands of the Golden Griffins last January. Griffins Head Coach Trevor Large noted that his team needed to be better at shortening their passes and simplifying their game.

Ausin Alger got that message for the visitors as he took a feed from David Melaragani and walked in a mere 4:05 into the first period and stunned the crowd. He went bar down on UND netminder Adam Scheel to give the Griffins their first lead of the weekend.

That lead would last into the second period. Once again the Fighting Hawks were presented with a chance to score a bushel of goals before their opening salvo as Canisisus again spent most of the evening down a skater. J.D Pogue earned the honor with a kneeing major penalty and a game misconduct 12 minutes into the first period. While no goals were scored, the penalty kill tired out the Griffins and it would bear dividends later on in the evening. UND was able to build off of the major penalty and used the extra skater it had with Canisius being down a man to their advantage later on in this one.

In the second, 1:03 after a Shane Pinto penalty shot was stopped by Jacob Barczewski, 7:24 in to the frame, Mark Senden took a feed from Jordan Kawaguchi and wired it home on the weak side to start the scoring bonanza that followed. Colin Adams and Gabe Bast would pitch in markers to end the second period and put the lead at two.

The third period is where the deluge of goals came as Cole Smith twice added to the tally along with, Harison Blaisdell, Andrew Peski, and Westin Michaud all pitched in markers to secure the 8-1 win. Jordan Kawaguchi lead the assists on the evening with three and earned second star honors on the evening. Again, Jasper Weatherby had another good night in the faceoff circle (11-4) along with Shane Pinto (11-7).

With key players like Rhett Gardner moving on, we have begun to see the staff rely on Weatherby and Pinto so far to win faceoffs in key moments. For instance, Head Coach Brad Berry singled out Pinto for winning a faceoff on his off side in UND’s end at a key point in the game. UND’s faceoff numbers are good for those two, but Berry noted a need for it to be by committee and those two were the only skaters to win double digit draws.

While Scheel finished with 11 saves on the evening, his biggest challenge was staying engaged during the countless times UND seemed to take up residence in the Canisius defensive zone. He looked pretty good but does not have enough of a body of work to judge yet, like the rest of this team.

Now What? 

Their next test against Minnesota State Mankato, one of the best teams in the nation, will tell us a lot more about the potential for this team the rest of the year. If this team can put together a complete game, like it did tonight, and force the Mavericks to play perfect hockey to beat them, things could go well on the road. If UND gets away from rebound goals, cross crease goals, and tries too much to score off the rush, then we will be in a repeat of the last season.

A test against a top ten team in the nation next weekend on the road is a good measuring stick for this team, and will provide them plenty of film before they return home in two weeks to take on the always defensively sound Bemidji State Beavers.

Fighting Hawks Earn 5-0 Season Opening win Over Canisius: Two Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, in front of over 11,000 brave souls who braved the terrible conditions of a fall blizzard, the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota Men’s Hockey team earned a season opening win over the Golden Griffins of Canisius 5-0.

Shane Pinto opened up the scoring for UND in the first period, he was joined later on by Dixon Bowen who potted two markers on the evening along with Gabe Bast and Grant Mismash. This deluge of scoring included three third period goals to ice the game and that provided the final 5-0 margin

Bowen benefited from the strong play of Jasper Weatherby who keyed his line. Again Weatherby’s faceoff performance (13-4) proved important on the evening. He and Pinto drove the success up front by combining to win 27 of UND’s 37 faceoff wins.

Over time look for Weatherby’s line to see more ice time as the coaches see his ability to continue sucess in the faceoff dot, a welcome supplement to the strong physical game that he plays.

Adam Scheel finished the evening in net for the Fighting Hawks with an 11 save shutout, and outside of a nice barrage from Canisius in the first few minutes of the third period, did not face a lot of chances on the evening.

Beyond the Box Score 

For UND: Don’t Overreact 

This team played a solid third period that saw their three goals put the game out of reach for Canisius. The Fighting Hawks tonight were the better team and all of the normal metrics from shot attempts, to goals and possession time bore that fact out. With that being said, we saw something similar to the formula other teams used to beat this Fighting Hawks side last year.

When Canisius was at their best, they were almost allowing low percentage shots and cleaning up in front of the net as needed. They got some key saves from Matt Ladd and his replacement, Jacob Barczewski who both used their lateral quickness to stymie a lot of backdoor looks where it seemed that UND was telegraphing where they would shoot.

Canisius Head Coach Trevor Large did not commit to which goalie we would see in net tomorrow, but the Griffins goalies, despite the top line score showed that when the defense cleaned up the loose change in front of the net, that for the most part they could hang with this stacked Fighting Hawks side.

Why am I not screaming praises of this Fighting Hawks team? Well simply put, I believe seeing more from this team is needed. I am not sure what to expect out of this team. When you earn a five minute major and get the other team’s captain ejected you need to convert on that power play throughout the season.

Despite nearly four minutes of zone time UND did not do so.  In addition, while I was impressed with the consistent all out pressure of this team, regardless of the result Saturday, their next opponent in the Mavericks of Minnesota State Mankato will present an entirely different test.

This win for UND is cathartic after the sweep they endured last January where a lot of those following this team saw as the low point for the 2018-2019 side. It was like that because UND could not convert rebounds. The Fighting Hawks did that tonight against a high effort Canisius side and took the drama out of the game early in the third period. What happens tomorrow, and further on in the season will prove much more to the long-term success or failure than 60 minutes against a team that had not even played an exhibition against another team before this one. Now that Large and his staff have game tape to dissect, what changes will they make and how will UND Head Coach Brad Berry react?

For Canisius: Short and Sweet 

If you are reading this and a Canisius fan, thank you for reading this far first off. I was impressed with the ability of this team deprived of one of the best offensive players in the country last year and called “instant offense” to hang around against a superb UND side. The Griffins showed that they can hang in for two periods and execute a game plan to keep the game at least close against a team replete with NHL-caliber talent.

Large noted after the game that the one reason why Canisius had some success later on in this one in finding better chances was the passing game. When the Golden Griffins kept their passes a little shorter, they did not give UND as much of a chance to limit their ability to get to higher percentage areas. The Griffins effort on defense reminded me a bit of the effort shown by AIC against St. Cloud State last March in Fargo. The difference between the two was offense. Last March, AIC did what Large wants his team to do tomorrow which include keeping the passes short and focusing on quality over going for stretch passes like Canisius did tonight. Doing that while limiting penalties and focusing on your effort and ability to block shots could keep this game closer than the highly partisan crowd at the Ralph Engelstad Arena would like.


UND Hockey: Unpacking a 5-1 Exhibition Win

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey team earned a 5-1 exhibition win over the Bisons of Manitoba. This game did not require overtime like last year’s version, and there were some marked improvements for this team to keep an eye on going forward.

To open up the scoring, UND took advantage of a five-on-three power play.  San Jose Sharks’ prospect Jasper Weatherby provided a wonderful screen of Bisons goalie Riley Lamb leaving home no time or space to see a wired home shot from Ottawa Senators’ prospect Jacob Bernard Docker.

Weatherby did not make the score sheet tonight but was singled out by UND Head Coach Brad Berry for his net-front presence and his prowess taking faceoffs. This is something to keep an eye on as he won 11 of the 15 draws he took. Only Weatherby and another Senators prospect, freshman Shane Pinto won double digit draws (both won 11) with the next best Fighting Hawk winning four (Westin Michaud).

Grant Mismash was the star of this game. The Predators’ prospect finished with four assists and helped establish UND’s offense for the evening. His precision passing provided primary assists on the first four goals for the Fighting Hawks. If Mismash can add this passing element to his game this season to complement the heavy shot he brings and ability to play in all three zones consistently, then we could see a lot more out of him this year.

In net, the line chart read Adam Scheel, Harrison Feeney, and Peter Thome in that order, but Berry cautioned people to not read anything into the order in which the goalies played. All had some highlights with the only real down moment coming on a late-stage power play goal from Colton Veloso against Adam Scheel.

Veloso picked one side of the net, and Scheel looked the other way. Other than that, with limited chances, Scheel, Feeney, and Thome all looked solid. Scheel finished with two saves on three shots, Feeney finished with four saves on four shots faced and saved a penalty shot as well, and Thome finished with six saves on the evening rounding out the evening.

Each goalie played a full period. As to who starts and earns the backup role, that is still to be decided. I would not look at the order that the goalies played in as indicative of anything other than wanting to give each goalie an equal sample on which to be evaluated.

What does all of this mean? Well going forward, what stood out to me most was where UND earned its chances. The vast majority of UND’s 49 shots on net came from the higher percentage area, not a common theme last season. When UND gets to the slot area, with the skill on this team, combined with their ability to screen the goalie, good things can happen for this team.

They have an opportunity next week to make up for their season defining sweep at the hands of the Canisius Golden Griffins in Buffalo last season. What happens next weekend at the Ralph Engelstad Arena will be determined in a large part by how well this team can earn the slot and get rebounds, if they replicate their effort from tonight, the season could start quite well.

UND Soccer: What a game

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Yesterday, in a game defined by two teams battling on a slow and wet field, Mimi Eiden and Emma Bangert rose above a tough South Dakota Coyotes back line and exploited their weaknesses to score the two goals needed for UND to take a 2-1 victory to earn their first Summit League win against a team they could see again should both make the postseason tournament in the Summit League.

This game featured a lot for UND. First, Eiden earned the goal sprinting past and holding off three defenders all trying to foul her and put home a superb shot to give UND its lead. From there the Coyotes had the better run of play despite a few chances from the Fighting Hawks. Olivia Knox drew a penalty kick but her penalty shot was parried aside by Emma Harkleroad, South Dakota netminder.

Here is where the game got interesting, towards the end of the game, South Dakota had multiple chances in the 18 yard box to equalize things. Initially with about 15 minutes left, they looked to have earned a penalty kick off a handball. To his credit, official Connor Dunn checked with his assistant referees that had a better view, and the call was changed to an inadvertent whistle as the ball looked to go off the back of a UND defender, not their hand.

A few minutes later Alexis Mitchell would capitalize on a penalty kick for the Coyotes to tie things up in a game that looked to be going  to overtime. However, after a lot of good chances in the game, including a quality one earlier on stopped by Harkleroad, Emma Bangert found the back of the net for her first goal of the year with 1:18 left in the match. That deciding goal lifted up the Fighting Hawks to a 1-0 record in Summit League play by defeating a Dakota-based rival.

Why wow? Well, this was a game that showed us again how good Mimi Eiden is at running past everyone. Three Coyotes tried to foul her on her goal, and she still paced through them and did not let them alter her superb shot. In addition, credit to the officiating, I have seen UND play a lot of games and I have never seen an official chat with an assistant official to get the call right.

The officials called this game evenly, and even UND Head Coach Chris Logan thought the penalty kicks called both ways could have been not called. Connor Dunn and the officials that worked yesterday kept their cool despite an understandably upset Coyotes bench after the overturned penalty kick.Give full credit to the officials for keeping the game going and being as even as they could be.

Finally, this win is monumental for this team because they showed as Logan has hammered home every time he has spoken that they truly can compete with anyone. South Dakota is a team that plays physical soccer with speed, at points in the game they manufactured chances and kept UND from exploiting their speed advantage on the wings. For this team to grit out a win like they did yesterday shows their is not limit to how they can win. Their next test is in Brookings on Sunday against the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, Summit League Tournament hosts. How this team competes against the class of the Summit League will go a long way to determining their finish.