(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.