(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)
Tonight, at a sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey team earned a share of the Penrose Cup with a 2-1 win in overtime over the Broncos of Western Michigan. This game had a playoff like atmosphere with neither team eclipsing 20 shots on net. Opportunities for fancy highlights were few and far between in this one.
The game was won on a perfect Shane Pinto shot off a rebound in overtime to seal a share of the NCHC Regular season championship.The Fighting Hawks also got a goal from Collin Adams in the first period on superb zero angle shot that Shane Pinto called “sick.” Western Michigan had a disallowed goal in overtime a few seconds before UND raced down the ice and scored the game winner. In judgement of the officials, it was determined that Hugh McGing did not do enough to avoid contact with Adam Scheel.
It was a coin flip call that went UND’s way tonight, but could go against them with officials from a different conference in the postseason. Next up for UND is a final regular season trip to Omaha to take on a Mavericks team looking to get on the good side of the ledger before heading to the NCHC playoffs in the following week.
For the Fighting Hawks some things stood out in this one. First off, Jasper Weatherby is viewed by this coaching staff as a top six forward. He has superb numbers as a center this year, but rolled on the wing of Pinto and compliments his skill with net front presence and rangy ability to win battles n the corners. What that also means for UND is that other centers have to do better in the faceoff circle going forward. Other than Pinto, the other three centers that played tonight won 10 draws and lost 20. Keep an eye on how UND deploys its lines to improve on that stat going forward.
As we said before, this team has two worthy playoff goalies that can play against anyone on any night. Perhaps next week the Fighting Hawks will get Peter Thome and Adam Scheel a start each to get a little more film before the postseason begins. In the postseason, opponent matching goalies is not a bad way to go if you have two starters on one team. It worked for UND this weekend and could very well work in the NCAA Tournament where, should UND win, they could face two very different teams in two days.
The accomplishments of this team are superb and this group has made up for the past two years of National Tournament misses that do not sit well with a fan base used to seeing their team play into April ,let alone late March. These Fighting Hawks are the number one team in the land and Penrose Cup Champions, but as St. Cloud State can tell you, it takes one bad period , one bad sequence, or just one off moment to ruin dreams of even the best team in the land. While UND winning everything is the goal, every game before the NCAA Tournament should be used as a learning opportunity. Yes winning still matters, but given that UND will be in the NCAA Tournament this year, they can play pressure free hockey in March before the national tourney begins. That is in and of itself its own luxury and one not to be taken for granted.
If UND can sure up some defensive gaps in their game against teams faster than Western Michigan, then there will be two Fighting Hawks banners in the Ralph next fall, one white one for their accomplishments over the season winning the Penrose, and one green one for a National Championship.
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