UND Earns 4-1 Saturday Victory over Omaha: What’s Next?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Last night at another sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks earned a 4-1 Saturday victory over the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha. Collin Adams potted the game winner in the first period, and was joined in his scoring efforts by Casey Johnson, Mark Senden, and Shane Pinto. Taylor Ward added a goal for the Mavericks on the loss.

What happened? Well as Mavericks Head Coach Mike Gabinet noted on Friday night, his team needed to do better supporting the puck carrier in the offensive zone and build some cycle time into the game to slow down UND. The Mavericks were very unable to do that last night. Every time they found the zone, they would get an occasional look or two than have to back check against a UND team that often times likes to reside in its opponents’ defensive zone.

UND Assistant Coach Dane Jackson noted the improvement in his defense from Friday. The Fighting Hawks tracked Omaha better and made zone entry a lot more contested, leading to less offensive zone time for the Mavericks and UND’s eventual goals.

The Mavericks had plenty of chances to earn the sweep, but hit three posts on the evening. In addition, they had multiple odd-man looks that went wide of the net and required no action from Adam Scheel, who played well in net making 18 saves on 19 shots faced.

Finally, Shane Pinto did play well on this night for the most part, but did something very unnecessary that could have him on the wrong end of some supplementary discipline from the NCHC. He retaliated for a marginal hit from Joey Abate with arguably one of the least disciplined choices in his arsenal. Pinto came back over to Abate when the play was moving away from that area and violently cross checked him in the back, right between the numbers as well. He rightly earned a game misconduct and a five minute major which UND did survive unscathed; however that is not the point of this part of the recap. If the NCHC wants to showcase itself as the best league in Men’s College Hockey that cares about its players, it needs to strongly consider suspending Pinto for the opener of UND’s Miami of Ohio series next weekend if not more. Has UND had bad things happen to their players and not get called majors or result in suspensions, well yes, the knee on Jacob Bernard-Docker Friday night was pretty bad but was in the run of play and the Maverick who caused that did not do anything but skate through the area. Pinto went back and cross-checked Abate for some odd reason away from the play. Doing things to players away from the play that are injurious in nature deserves a harsh looking at and potential suspension. Pinto is one of the best players on this team and he has been and still is a joy to watch for the Fighting Hawks, this is an issue with the game itself. When players retaliate and its away from the play, there needs to be action taken to discourage it in the future. Ask yourself this, in the NHL if a player on the other team did that to one of your favorite players how would you feel?

Let’s move on to next week now for UND.

For Miami of Ohio what I would like to see from this team 

First off, Adam Scheel played great Saturday, but I will note this until Peter Thome this year gives me reason not to do so. Thome needs to play one night next weekend. He stabilized the team Friday night after Scheel was pulled, and looked calmer in his game on limited work than he did through a lot of last year. While Jackson noted that Scheel has been “money in the bank” for this team, in a sport where losing one game in its tournament ends your season, that statement alone should not justify sitting Thome all year. If Scheel is injured or has a bad game or two ahead, one would think seeing more from Thome would be reassuring to fans of this team. Ask St. Cloud State fans about how good “money in the bank” is from a goalie come Tournament time the past two seasons. Scheel looked better, but Omaha also did not capitalize on some odd man chances and did not event test him on a few of them. Having two goalies that can play and  limiting the workload of your number one (Scheel) occasionally should not be viewed as any sort of bad thing.

With that said, one more thing to watch as the team heads on the road to Oxford to take on Miami of Ohio. That team, much like the Mavericks, plays a transition game and likes to score laterally on the rush. The defense of the Fighting Hawks needs to be able to track the forwards through the neutral zone consistently to ensure smooth sailing on the road. The RedHawks scored most of their goals in their November series here in transition on lateral feeds to get Scheel moving the wrong way.

Here are some thoughts from Jasper Weatherby on the weekend and UND’s next opponent

 

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6-3: How Nebraska Omaha Upset UND and what to watch for Saturday Night

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Throughout this Friday night fracas at the Ralph Engelstad Arena between UND and the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha, one thing was clear really early. The bad start this team had against Alabama Huntsville before finding its game was not a one-off. The Mavericks, while not getting enough consistent pressure in the offensive zone to sustain long zone time, scored their goals on quick transition plays and made Adam Scheel’s life tough.Getting scored on first and letting teams hang around, for the first time in conference play, has finally grounded hopes of going undefeated in conference play. In addition,  Scheel was pulled after allowing four goals on the evening. His replacement, Peter Thome played well on limited shots faced.

Towards the end of the game, UND had a chance to tie things up with under three minutes left to play and an offensive zone faceoff. Teemu Pulkineen took the draw for Omaha and won it against Shane Pinto. Then Martin Sundburg found the puck and put it into the empty cage to secure the victory for Omaha. For UND, they lost only their second game of the season with a few things to fix going into the finale on Saturday night. Omaha on the other hand had a lot of things go right, but were able to use their speed to put UND on their heels all night. Their ability to play a speed game finally translated into a win for UND’s opponent on the road this year.

What to watch from Omaha 

Head Coach Mike Gabinet had his team well prepared for the opener. He was generally happy with the effort and consistency of the team along with the strong work of Saville in net (26 saves on 29 shots). He kept Omaha in the game when the team faltered on clearing looks and were hemmed in their own end.  Saville played a very sound game and his ability to stay level and not over pursue a lot of looks made his life easier in a game where he was tested.

What to look for from the Mavericks comes down to how much zone time they can get. Omaha played fast through every zone but offense. The way to beat this North Dakota team is using your speed to take them out of their element. Through scoring first, boxing out in front of their net, and working  to get quality shots on net they can make UND’s life even more tough if they can carry their transition speed and the mentality needed to get the quick looks to hold the puck a bit and make Saville’s life a little easier.

What to look for from UND 

Peter Thome needs to start a  regular game this season, perhaps even the series finale against Omaha. I am not saying Adam Scheel is unfit to start, he is a great goalie most nights with tonight being a rare exception. If this staff wants to feel better about its two goalies, then the only way to help them is to play them both regularly. I am interested to see how Adam Scheel responds in net the next time out.

In addition, for UND fans , this game had to feel like a flashback Friday to the last two seasons for a night. The team is arguably the best or one of the best in the nation at puck possession. That has translated into a lot of rebounds in front of the net and tougher chances for the goalie to stop. Omaha did a wonderful job of clearing the net and keeping UND’s chances far enough away that they were lower percentage looks.

Tonight, look at Scheel and how he responds on defense along with how well this team can establish a net front presence. Those two things will arguably play the biggest role in determining the outcome of the series finale Saturday at the Ralph.

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Bring the Chargers to the Winter Classic: A few reasons why

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Next year, the Minnesota Wild will host the 2021 Winter Classic at Target Field as part of a celebration of the game in Minnesota. As part of this celebration one would have to think given the history of Minnesota College Hockey, a Minnesota team would also get to play outdoors as part of this wonderful event. This event, to any program that could participate, would be the largest exposure in terms of viewers and reach that their school would get all year. Hopefully both Men and Women’s schools get a chance to play.

Now, as you see in the title, I would strongly ask the decision makers at large to consider an opponent for a Minnesota team to play for this outdoor game. The University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers should be part of this experience. Head Coach Mike Corbett has built a program at the Division One Level largely on his own fundraising efforts. He not only coaches a team in a market that is a newer one for the game we all love, but he fundraisers for them. He runs so much of the Chargers program and they get so little exposure even among legacy media outlets that the Chargers have a story the national audience would love. A team on the brink of being cut being saved by Corbett and his fundraising, and one fighting daily to bring college hockey to the southeastern most locale in the country is a story made for a Netflix series, and the Winter Classic as well.

Why do I say this? Well Corbett talked to us after the Saturday finale where his team held tough against the Fighting Hawks in a second 5-2 loss, and mentioned exposure. His program barely makes television at all despite representing a school that churns out engineers for NASA, and other quality companies in the area. The amount of free media coverage the school and town would get could not be adequately measured.

Imagine for a minute, the amount of Huntsville fans that could be created from tuning in for a few minutes to watch this game. Now you may be saying why them? This program has to find out what to do in the 2021-2022 season and beyond as they are one of the programs not looked on with favor from the departing members of the WCHA. This team needs a chance to showcase its school, its town and its market on a national stage. Playing a Minnesota school on the national stage is one easy way to show the commitment of the NHL and all its partners to growing hockey nationwide.

Corbett tried to schedule one-off games against Penn State and UND in Nashville at the home of the Predators around the Hockey Hall of Fame Game next year, and was unable to find success in doing so.This matters here, because it shows his dedication towards finding his program more exposure, and the Winter Classic is a great place to meet that goal.

Therefore if the Chargers want to play a destination game, the Winter Classic could be an option if those in power would allow them to participate. To me, the Winter Classic should be a platform to grow the game for all, having a Women’s Hockey Tournament and having the Chargers play perhaps a WCHA game against say the Mavericks of Minnesota State-Mankato, or Bemidji State would be a good way to promote all who want to play the game.

If the Winter Classic folks wanted to, they could schedule multiple outdoor games at Target Field over two days or even on the first, given the right time for the ice to improve. This event would be a great way to promote college hockey to new fans across the country, and Americans love a story of underdogs working to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. To me, the Chargers are that team for this moment.

These are some thoughts after seeing the Chargers play, seeing how dedicated Corbett is to making his team better, and growing the game at large is arguably the best way to expand the amount of schools offering the game. His team would relish the opportunity, Huntsville would get national television coverage, and the game of hockey would reach people it likely never has before.

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UND sets the standard with second 5-2 win over Alabama Huntsville: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming in, we knew some things about the Chargers of Alabama-Huntsville that proved true. Like always, they have goalies with high compete levels that often times stand on their heads to keep their teams in games. Like Carmine Gurriero and Jordan Uhelski along with others before him, Mark Sinclair did just that, saving multiple grade a looks en route to giving up four goals on 37 shots faced. One of those goals was a highlight reel-between the legs maneuver from Sinclair’s junior hockey teammate at Chilliwack, Jordan Kawaguchi. When asked if he had seen that move from him before, he said “probably”.

What we did not expect from this team, especially one that had not the best faceoff statistics coming in was how it played in the dot tonight and chopped down one of UND’s biggest strengths to size. The Chargers finished plus four and plus six in the dot in eaach of the first two periods before finishing the night ahead of one of the best faceoff teams in the country 30-29.

As Chargers Coach Mike Corbett encouraged “read the box score the way its supposed to be read.” The man who not only is the reason for Huntsville having Division One Hockey, but also its chief fundraiser for its continued existence, noted how hard his team competed and how close they fought the number one team in the nation. For the Chargers they took away a lot from a weekend where they got swept 5-2 each night (one empty net goal per night). Josh Latta stepped up on the weekend with three points, as his line was arguably the best the Chargers had this weekend. Corbett was quite pleased to see the St

Sinclair played outstanding continuing a streak of good play since Thanksgiving, and this team gained confidence it will need to make the WCHA Postseason as they jump right back into conference play this Thursday against Bemidji State at their rink, the Von Braun Center. Regardless of whichever team you may support, if you are able to, I would strongly urge you to email Coach Corbett at michael.corbett@uah.edu and ask how you can dontate or help spread awareness of the program. Make no mistake, Huntsville is not the only program that needs help, but given the precarious position they and their counterparts in Alaska find themselves in, raising money is tough.

If we want NCAA Division One Men’s College Hockey, to grow beyond 60 Division One teams, and encourage more Women’s programs to play along with this expansion we need to expand the reach of the sport, that means supporting those programs that are in newer markets and urge schools around them to join through supporting them. Helping the Chargers and Coach Corbett fund raise is a huge part of that.

To put this in perspective for Fighting Hawks fans, this school has the Champions Club, the Alumni Foundation, and many other private donors who donate to this team yearly. They play in a 100 million dollar rink given by the Engelstads that quite frankly has more amenities than some professional rinks do and is more full on a percentage basis than more than a few NHL rinks.  The Chargers have an arena that seats about one-fifth of the Ralph, share it with an SPHL team and have one man, Corbett, lead a smaller staff and spend time fundraising. Email the man and see if you can help, not because this writer told you to, but because supporting the growth of college hockey should be a goal we all aspire to. We all want as many people to enjoy this sport as possible, and donating to the Chargers and other similar programs goes a long way towards that goal. 

For the Fighting Hawks, this weekend, one could argue, serves as a Rorschach test for what you think about where this team will be. An optimist could say that the team showed its depth and resiliency in its ability win games in different ways. Someone a bit more concerned could rightly point to how the lowest ranked team in the country got multiple odd-man rushes and good chances against a team that routinely dominates possession stats. The team looked a little better with Shane Pinto back from World Juniors, but not having Jacob Bernard-Docker on the back end yet hurt this team immensely.

Also, no matter your thoughts on the team, I think we can put Jordan Kawaguchi in the top end of the Hobey Baker Award conversation. That third goal of the night off a rebound was a sight to behold. To go between the legs from that close of an angle against his former teammate had to be a tough move to do in front of one, let alone over 11,000 people watching.

Also, Adam Scheel, UND’s netminder, played ok all weekend, however of the goals he has given up, he has shown a propensity to give up cross ice feed plays off the rush. In addition he seemed to be fighting the puck at times both nights. UND’s defense is so good at boxing out that long shifts leading to goals are hard to find for teams. Perhaps Nebraska Omaha may look for those quick outlets through the neutral zone to find cross-ice looks. The Mavericks are sure fast enough to do things like that, and the NCHC season is far from over.

Scheel did not have to make as many grade-a saves as Sinclair did, but one wonders what a team that can hang with the Fighting Hawks a bit better from a shots on net percentage wise will be able to put up against them. Also, next week keep an eye on the faceoff dot for the Fighting Hawks. They should win that battle easily but if the Mavericks can utilize their aggressive wingers to help on more 50-50 battles, those numbers could turn out similar to tonight’s final tally (30-29 Alabama Huntsville).

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 Uses Strong Second to hang on against Alabama Huntsville: Now What?

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Last night at a nearly sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey team hung on through a close checking first period against the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville and were able to get their second half of the season started right with a 5-2 win.

Do not let the score fool you, this game was a lot closer than the final totals indicated. While the Fighting Hawks out shot the Chargers 36-15, they also were not able to solve the Chargers’ netminder, Mark Sinclair, early enough to put the game in a more comfortable position. The Fighting Hawks also had to play from behind early as Christian Rajic fired home a shot 18 seconds in to put UND in a position it has not been in a lot, trailing early.

The Fighting Hawks responded with two goals from Grant Mismash and Jordan Kawaguchi, and an empty net tally from Cole Smith for the final margin. Read on for some thoughts for each team on how to be a bit better tonight.

If you want UND to do better, read this section

The second period should be the benchmark for this team. The Fighting Hawks were a lot better at moving pucks around and not  letting the Chargers plug shooting lanes as much. For a comparison, in the first period, the visitors blocked eight shot attempts, in the second they only blocked two. That alone forced Sinclair to see more shots and in part because of how Huntsville defends, opened up more chances.

As Grant Mismash noted, since the Chargers were playing a man-to-man coverage when he shook loose from his defender and had open space. Therefore, he had a decently easy net front drive for one of his markers. If this team can work on getting more isolation-like looks, they should be able to drive the net more and make Sinclair’s life harder than it was last night.

In addition, Head Coach Brad Berry noted a rare needed improvement for the Fighting Hawks, they need to win more faceoffs. A team that routinely wins the large majority of its draws only won 33 of 60 total on the night. Players were getting kicked out and the Chargers’ ability to have their wingers come and help made a big difference.

UND should have enough to win on Saturday, but keep reading to see what the Chargers can do to make things more interesting than on Friday.

If you want the Chargers to do better, or know what UND needs to watch for, read this section. 

Well, when the Chargers get chances they have to convert more of them. They had a few breakaways that did not even result in a shot on net. In addition, when UND holds them in for a long period of time, they have to make the simple play and get the puck to the neutral zone. Their inability to do this directly lead to a goal on a long shift where Sinclair had his head down for a minute after. A Charger had a chance to clear it but did not put enough zip on the pass and it stayed in the zone. UND being the good team it is was able to bury the puck .

I will say this for the Chargers, this is a team not afraid of anyone, and they hung with the number one team in the country pretty much all night. They have some things to clean up, but woe unto teams taking them lightly because they have won one game, If the Chargers clean up their defensive zone a bit and tighten their box to force some more blocks who knows what we could see. Easier said than done of course, but this team played with no fear in front of the biggest crowd it will see all season. If Sinclair stands on his head as he did multiple times last night, UND will have to earn their win.

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.