Pro Fighting Hawk’s Next Steps: Mason Bennett

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Mason Bennett has done darn near everything playing for the Fighting Hawks on the defensive side of the ball. He is a tall defensive end with enough speed to rush off the edge and cover the flat on a routine basis. At 2019 media day, he was asked who he modeled his game after, and  he noted Kansas City Chief, Frank Clark. Both are lanky edge rushers versatile to go where their defense needs them to.

Mason’s agent, Dr. Ray  Haija said of Mason that he, “is a top-flight edge rusher, his game is reminiscent of Bradley Chubb, he possesses great leverage to win the outside battles to the QB.” He has plenty of film from this year alone to consider to the good in that regard. In addition, when Bennett was injured this year, the defense suffered and getting an edge rush was much harder to get consistently. 

One could make the case that he is similar to another Chief, Terrell Suggs. Bennett and Suggs are both crafty enough to not only blow through you, but they are both able to set the edge and keep the run game between the tackles in the box. When UND had the limited modicum of success on defense against NDSU that it did, Mason setting the edge was a part of that. 

As for what’s next for Mason, Haja said that, “beginning the first week of January, Mason will begin training and enter into an intensive 9 to 10 week training program that will work to address his agility, quickness, speed, and strength. Scouts are interested in seeing how the on the field quickness and strength (that has drawn their interest in Mason) will translate into quantitative testing numbers at his pro day.”

Haja’s firm also represents Canadian Football League players, a league that if the NFL does not come calling, Mason will find himself in as a top-10 prospect. On either side of the border Mason Bennett will have a chance to be a pro Fighting Hawk on the football field. 

As to what lead Haja to work to signing Bennett, Haja said ” Mason is a bona fide the NFL prospect, there is significant interest among scouts, and what has drew us to Mason beyond his on-the-field talents is that he is a high character individual who possesses tremendous maturity and takes a professional approach to his football career. We have no doubt he will take that same professionalism into his pro day preparations and his NFL pursuits.” Every interaction we have had with Mason has backed up Haja’s thoughts of his character. Combined with his on the field acumen and calm respectful demeanor off it, one would think one of 32 NFL teams would like to see how Mason could improve their edge rush game.

In a league that seems to be heading to dual threat quarterbacks, having a rusher who can set the edge and take away the outside lane is more valuable than any stat line could indicate. Suffice it to say, Mason Bennett is an absolute NFL Draft pick in the late rounds, that, depending on how the preseason shakes out could prove a lot of teams wrong for passing on him multiple times.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics, and under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

 

UND Men’s Hockey: Nobody Cares Work Harder

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee- Violet Turtle Photography)

The first half of the men’s college hockey season is in the books. At the break we see the Fighting Hawks perched atop of all national polls, and the Pairwise. UND has faced many tests this season, and while it is scoring goals in bunches and playing its same sound defense, this team has not done anything yet in the bigger picture.

Ok, since you read the headline, let me explain where it comes from. Nobody cares work harder is the unofficial saying of the best team in the National Football League to this point, the Baltimore Ravens. Like UND, the Ravens lost a few winnable games early in their season before going on a run. After a tough game against the Chiefs, the Ravens ended up not winning against Cleveland and have so far proceeded to not lose a single game since then, running through a gauntlet of top-tier NFL sides so far. After a two game series in Mankato, the Fighting Hawks did not win two winnable games in situations they had a chance to do so in. Since those outcomes, both teams have not loss.

Why am I writing about the Ravens in a UND Men’s Hockey article? Well, other than being a Baltimore native, I strongly believe that Nobody Cares Work Harder should be the mantra of this Fighting Hawks team the rest of the year, as it is for the Ravens.

This is a team lead by upperclassmen who have experienced not success, like their forerunners in Rhett Gardner and Christian Wolanin among others, but failure. Sure the past two teams have played good defense, but neither could find the back of the net with enough consistency to make the tournament. In Grand Forks, when you do not even participate in the postseason, your in season accomplishments get overlooked, and people lose faith in the program, right or wrong.

No one on the current roster was there when this team won its last tournament game, National Championship Number Eight in April of 2016.

Why does that matter?

Well, for all of the great work put in by this team in the first half to get where it is, keep in mind that they still have a long way to go just to get to the win or go home scenario the NCAA Tournament presents lead by players who have not won a game in the National Tournament.

Like the Ravens, if this team loses in the national playoffs in any part given how good this first half was and the amount of time it expects to spend at home, it will be only remembered for what could have been.

This team is impressive, seeing players like Jasper Weatherby become one of the best centers in the country in only his second year of college puck is impressive. On the back end, seeing a player like Andrew Peski earn ice time in key situations and play well has been encouraging. Adam Scheel, barring some moments against Miami of Ohio and St. Cloud State, has played, for the most part, well behind a defense that is limiting the quality chances he has to face.

This only scratches the surface of what this team has done, and what it can still do is limitless.

Think UND making the second round of the NCAA’s is a guarantee? Well, as Atlantic Hockey has shown (UND’s likely opponent will probably come from Atlantic Hockey) the NCHC in the past two years (St. Cloud State) there are no guarantees in a one and done, and if they get the first goal, well anything is possible.

Again, this is not an article designed to upset anyone, UND is a great team, but we need to see them put together a full body of work and follow it up in the NCAA Tournament for this season to have resonance. I do not think UND now by being given a number one ranking in the polls has any special target on them, they are not the back-to-back champions, Minnesota Duluth is. Any team with Hunter Shepard in net is tough to beat at any time, let alone in the postseason.

Even though UND should be heavily favored to beat the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville, one has to think that the Chargers will look to wrest away some points from the Fighting Hawks on the road. That program has a history of producing goalies that can steal games despite less than ideal scoring in front of them (Cam Talbot and Carmine Guerrero come to my mind first).

The Fighting Hawks have a lot more hard work to do in order to accomplish the only goal that will bring them the validation that anyone in Grand Forks wants above all else, National Championship number nine. The players in the room know that, and through public comments the sense that this team is beliving in the No

Can they get their ninth title in program history?

Sure they can.

Will they?

Ask me again in April, because predicting long-run college hockey outcomes given the postseason is at best a coin flip especially before the new year comes.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics, and under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

 

UND Soccer 2019 Review: On the Ascent

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

This season, the Fighting Hawks Soccer Team came in looking to do something that had alluded Head Coach Chris Logan, and this program at large since they became eligible to go to the postseason in their Division One history, make the conference tournament.

That was the zenith for this program as they fell short 3-0 in the semifinals against a Denver team felled by penalty kicks in the tournament’s finale against South Dakota State.

Looking back, this 2019 team was the culmination of the first three years of Head Coach Chris Logan’s reign here in Grand Forks. For a look at how he has helped develop players and coaches while here let’s look at Mimi Eiden and Chris Citowicki. In the first year of his time here, Logan made a statement by having his team defend on the road in the season opener against an always formidable Bison side. That team won thanks to an Emma Contino free kick goal and stellar goalkeeping. That team played good defense and worked hard to put goals home. The 2018 team built on that success and came just short of postseason play.

That year, we saw a glimpse of the future of this program with Eiden coming to campus to compliment Katie Moller, the all world striker who finished her career with the Fighting Hawks in the 2018 campaign doing everything but getting the team to the Summit League Tournament. Oh yeah, since taking over the Montana Grizzlies after his year here, Citowicki has gone on to win a Big Sky Regular Season Championship, and one conference tournament. He has a really good side in Missoula and is one of the reasons the Fighting Hawks are were they are.

As for Eiden, one would sincerely hope the Summit League gives her some preseason hardware next season as she comes into the 2020 campaign as arguably the fastest player in the league, and one of their most capable goal scorers. Up front, her with Bailey McNitt on the wing in her second season should be quite fun to watch, as McNitt’s technical skills on the ball and her speed along with Eiden’s finishing ability is a great combo.

Back to the 2019 side, coming into the year we knew Catherine Klein would start in net, and she had another superb season. For me, the highlight of her season was her penalty kick save in a defensive struggle against Grand Canyon on the road. Doing that off a questionable call against the Fighting Hawks before they would go on to win on the road in a packed stadium was impressive, and a save that UND Soccer fans will talk about for years on end.

Backing her up were two freshmen, Madi Livingston and Hallie Byzewski. They both played well in relief and in exhibitions, but Livingston’s play late in the season stood out. While her save percentage may not reflect her skills, she showcased what Assistant Coach Amanda Raso had worked on with her all year through some key games. She saved a penalty kick against the NDSU Bison, again on the road and showed a lot of potential for years to come. Her poise grew with each game she played, and she will have a chance to earn the net next year for the Fighting Hawks.

On to the back line for this team, they stood out quite well and in hockey terms, limited grade a chances for other teams, making their netminder’s life a bit easier. Hannah Olson stood out for me the most throughout the year. As Coach Logan is a Liverpool fan, Olson reminds me a bit of one Virgil Van Dijk. She is a physical defender who can play the ball up in space and is not afraid to jump ahead to put defenses on their heals. She still has three years to grow and get even better. Suffice it to say, the back line of UND lead by Olson will only improve.

Finally, just a note to follow along with us in the offseason for more on UND Soccer. We will have something up about the full soccer recruiting class soon and what to look for going into the next season once soccer’s schedule is revealed. This 2019 team left their mark on UND and is the benchmark for future squads to try and exceed. Credit to Chris Logan and his staff for the quick turnaround, and if he can completely rebuild a program in three years, imagine what he and his staff can do next season.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics, and under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.