2-0: What a desert shutout over Grand Canyon meant for UND Soccer last year and this year

(Photo Credit: Russell Hons-UND Sports)

The 2019 UND Soccer side showcased the best iteration of football this team has played since becoming eligible for the postseason in Division One competition. This team had speed down the wing with freshman Bailey McNitt, strength in net with multiple superb goalkeepers, and strong defense with players like Hannah Olson. This team will have some turnover next year, but thanks to the way that underclassmen were utilized this past season, fans should not see too much of a drop off, and if this team can bang home a few more shots, they can compete for a Summit League Championship.

Head Coach Chris Logan deserves all the credit in the world for taking a program that had gone through multiple coaches in not a lot of time and refining them to compete in the Summit League. As we look ahead to the 2020 campaign (if able to be played), we felt it right to look back at some high points of 2019.

For us, we will look first at UND’s 2-0 road win over Grand Canyon University. While ‘Lopes did not finish the season the way they wanted, going just 4-14-1 on their 2019 campaign, they played the Fighting Hawks tough in the desert. Unlike previous years where Catherine Klein had to make double-digit saves on the evening, she only had to make four on the night.

A couple of things stand out about the 2019 team and the future of the program that became evident that night. First, the game winning goal was scored by  Olivia Knox on a header from a soaring Sarah Doran free kick. Knox showed that night that she could not only score, but track back and defend as well. Her development took another step this past year as she not only scored some goals, she played all over the front two thirds of the field. Had she played strictly striker all year, she surely would have potted more than three goals. Knox’s versatility on this night had her all over the field played a key role in limiting Grand Canyon to just four shots on goal.

In addition, that night, we saw a defensive masterpiece from UND’s back line. Throughout the evening they took away quality chances and were arguably lead by a redshirt freshman defender in doing so. Hannah Olson played a superb game in back leading her defenders to keep the Fighting Hawks in the game. In an environment packed with loud fans, the defense of UND had the loudest voice on the evening. Everyone played a part in it, from Mimi Eiden and Bailey McNitt tracking back to provide support, to Olson and others jostling ‘Lopes away from the net. The one bit of blight on the defense that night was Catherine Klein giving a penalty kick foul (on a well interesting call) that she then saved with ease. Had Grand Canyon scored that marker, it could have stolen valuable points from UND as the ‘Lopes were pushing the pace as the game went on.

As we head into the next soccer season, whenever it is (hopefully this fall!), remember this game in UND program history. It wasn’t the most “top-line” win in terms of opponent beaten or the flashiest with one goal scored in the run of play (a Megan Wright Penalty Kick provided the insurance). It was a big road win for the team and showed they could hang in any time of game. One could make the case that without the win against Grand Canyon in the way they did, that their last second heroics against the Coyotes of South Dakota a few weeks later would not have happened. The team had gained valuable close game experience and played with an even keel despite having a penalty scored on them late. That South Dakota win was arguably the difference to this team making the Summit League postseason.

In terms of momentum and program value, the win against Grand Canyon provided top class results for a team and a program that Logan has built into a top-flight contender in the Summit League.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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

Coronavirus and UND Athletics: What does it mean?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography )

Well, first off we hope everyone is heeding all appropriate guidelines for social distancing and staying safe and home where able. This is a crazy time and we do not know when sports of any sort will be back, for campuses big and small. This of course includes athletics at the University of North Dakota. In the mean time of all of this, we reached out to the General Manager of Ralph Engelstad Arena Jody Hodgson. Keep in mind that unlike the NHL and NBA, College Hockey lost its postseason. While some teams in the WCHA and other conferences knew their fates in the week before things were shutdown, the, NCHC postseason was supposed to launch the week things shutdown.

Men’s College Hockey lost all of its postseason for most of its teams, and that will impact the bottom line for UND Athletics and more.

For those not aware, the Ralph is a non profit with for-profit operating principles. All net profits it makes every year are turned over to the UND Athletics Department at the end of each event year.

Check out Jody’s answers on this situation below

1. Is the Ralph paying part time staff for cancelled events as needed through the end of the needed social distancing as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic?

” Jody’s Response: We are not planning to pay part-time event employees for hours not worked. Luckily, we were able to complete the regular season and the regular season represents the significant majority of hours for all of our part-time event employees. At most, we may have three home playoff dates to complete the 2019-2020 athletics season.”

2. Does the Ralph have any employee assistance program to help those workers who may be relying on any upcoming events to help pay bills/other expenses?

“Jody’s Response: We do have an EAP program and we will take care of our employees.”

3. What are the criterion needed for the Ralph to resume business as usual?

“Jody’s Response: This is such a fluid situation, the answer to that is yet to be determined. We’ll take our guidance from the CDC and the local public health agencies. For the time being, we will comply with the CDC guideline regarding events and gatherings.”

4. What is the early projected loss to the Ralph as a result of the NCHC first round series being cancelled and how does that harm UND Athletics?

“Jody’s Response: The playoffs are typically worth about $200,000 in net profit to us. It sure does harm UND Athletics because that is $200,000 worth of net profit that we won’t have to allocate to them at the end of the year.”

Add anything else about this situation you would like.

“Jody’s Response: Like most others in the community, we’re gathering information and trying to stay ahead of this thing as best we can. We will comply with the regulations of the CDC and local public health agencies.”

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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

 

 

:

5-3: Lakers Earn Game Three with improved defense, depth scoring and more- What to watch for in game three

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

On a Saturday night at the Sanford Center in beautiful Bemidji, the Lakers of Lake Superior State earned a 5-3 win in game two in their first round WCHA playoff series against the Beavers of Bemidji State.  Mareks Mitens stood tall for the Lakers in net making 45 saves on 48 shots faced . His counterpart, Zach Driscoll, made 24 saves on 28 shots faced. Game three takes place Sunday night at 6:07 PM to determine who moves to the WCHA Semifinals. Bemidji State most likely has to win to maintain their at-large hopes, while the Lakers need a win to continue their season.

The game winning goal was scored by a long-sweeping back hand from the mid slot courtesy of Hampus Eriksson 7:42 into the second period. That goal at the time put the Lakers up two, but ended up proving helpful insurance as Elias Rosen put home a point shot for the Beavers 13:43 into the third period precipitating a furious Beavers’ comeback attempt late in the game that came up just short.

The Lakers got contributions from all over the lineup in game two. Miroslav Mucha put home the first goal of the night to tie things up 13:33 into the first period. On the night, Bemidji State only lead 2:05 all game. Mucha’s marker combined with a Bryan Basilico tally 13 seconds later gave the Lakers their first lead of the weekend. That lead was short lived as Alex Adams tied things up 1:14 after the second Lakers’ marker.

Following that, Max Humitz potted the first of his two markers as he put home the third goal of the night 3:29 into the second period.  He later added the empty net marker right before time expired for his 21st marker of the season. The Lakers managed to play relatively penalty free on the night as well only giving up two power plays on two minor penalties on the night. One of those was in stopping a breakaway that could have lead to a Bemidji State goal.

What to watch for in the finale 

Head Coach Damon Whitten praised his depth in this one. On offense, the Lakers got big boosts from depth players like Mucha. On defense, the big Lakers back line blocked shots and made life a little easier for Mareks Mitens despite being hemmed in their own end for large points of the evening. Everyone on the team for the Lakers tonight contributed in some way and Whitten was sure to point that out. Also, the Lakers did a much better job limiting turnovers in their own end. Bemidji State still buried one of those chances, but credit to the Lakers for using their size and strength to hold the lead after claiming the two goal advantage. Bemidji State will surely try a few different things in game three to get the defenders of Lake Superior State moving. Despite getting 94 shot attempts, Mitens only saved 48. Bemidji State will want more pucks to the net, while the Lakers will want to get a little more offensive zone time. Look below for post game comments from Whitten, Mitens, Eriksson, and Beavers’ Head Coach Tom Serratore on the night.

Whitten’s Comments

Also, Mitens praised his team in front of him on the evening and explained why Eriksson’s backhand is so hard to stop especially from where he fired home the goal.

In addition, Eriksson added his thoughts on the evening.

Serratore’s comments on the night and some things to watch for from Bemidji State in the series finale.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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

 

 

 

Unkind iron: Lakers lose WCHA Round One series opener 2-0- Now What?

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into this weekend, the Lakers of Lake Superior State are undoubtedly the underdogs in their quest to upset the second seeded Beavers of Bemidji State in the first round of the WCHA Men’s Hockey Playoffs. Despite being one of the best defensive teams in the second half of the season, ironically it was two bad attempts to get out of the zone that did the Lakers. Adam Brady opened the scoring ledger for the Beavers as he found a pass from Aaron Miller and deposited what turned out to be the game winner against Lakers’ netminder Mareks Mitens who finished the night with 33 saves on 35 shots faced.

The Lakers’ inability to clear the chance from the Beavers lead to the goal that barely got past Mitens. In the first period, the Lakers held the better of play with 10 shots on net. Unlike the Beavers’, the Lakers could not capitalize on their chances all night. Their best period, the first included two hit posts from Max Humitz and Pete Veillette.

After not scoring in the first, the Lakers were again victimized by an inability to clear. Alex Adams found Owen Sillinger on the back door and he deposited the insurance marker. Bemidji State netminder Zach Driscoll finished the game with a  27 save shutout on the evening. Those goals coming at 3:07 of the first and 4:21 of the second period proved decisive on this night in a game that Bemidji State controlled the pace of for about the last two frames of hockey.

Now What? 

Heading into game two, some things to watch for with the Lakers come down to a simple ask. Score first, the Lakers had the better run of play for the first few minutes of the game and throughout the first period at large. Bemidji State Head Coach Tom Serratore noted that his team “played like the road team” throughout the first period. The Lakers were moving their feet and generating chances and forcing Bemidji State to adjust to their speed, which they later did. The Lakers missed their best chance to shape the narrative of the game by not scoring first. As noted, they hit two posts in the first period alone.

Lakers’ Head Coach Damon Whitten noted the value in getting ahead of Bemidji State. If the Lakers can earn a spot at the net front with more regularity in the Saturday night affair, they may have a better chance at earning a game three. In addition, as Lake Superior State Captain Max Humitz noted, his team needs to stay out of the penalty box. The amount of penalties that Lake Superior State took sapped the Lakers of a chance to get back into the game at five on five hockey, where they looked the best. On the penalty kill, Whitten did note the positive play of speedy forward, Yuki Miura, who consistently blocked shots and used his poise to help clear pucks time after time.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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

What’s Next for the Chargers: A Q-A With Head Coach Mike Corbett

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Saturday in Men’s College Hockey, for some teams brought an end to their season. Not all conferences offer a chance at postseason glory to all of its participants. Among one of those teams not making the second season is the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). Despite finishing with a not good 2-26-6 record, the Chargers and their Head Coach, Mike Corbett have some positives to build on heading into the next season not all easily all shown in their final record.

First off, goaltender Mark Sinclair has routinely made 40 plus saves on a nightly basis and has gotten a lot of looks all over the ice. In January he held his team in both games against a superb North Dakota side that is number one in the Pairwise. Sinclair seems to be the next in a long line of Chargers’ goalies capable of winning games on their own.

If players like Josh Latta, the Chargers’ leading scorer and just a sophomore next year can progress, this team with its large recruiting class will shock some people. Latta’s play picked up since the calendar hit November. Since November he has potted 15 of his total 18 points in 26 games. Three of those came against the number one team in the Pairwise in North Dakota.

His line mate, Christian Rajic is a rising senior and another source of hope for the Chargers. I have never seen a player shut up about 11,000 UND fans quicker than he did. 18 seconds into the Friday night fracas against the Fighting Hawks, with Latta getting the secondary assist, Rajic gave the Chargers a lead which shocked everyone in college hockey. Rajic and Latta both play a scrappy game that fits well together and both will be called on to lead the Chargers up front with Sinclair in net next season.

Now, off the ice, a lot of things remain to be decided for the Chargers heading into next year. At the time of writing this, the Chargers do not have a conference to play in beyond next year,as they were not invited at first pass to the new look CCHA which is, as of now, the current WCHA minus the two Alaska schools and the Chargers.

Head Coach Mike Corbett recently took the time to answer some questions about conference affiliation, the Chargers’ program, the impact of the program’s five departing seniors; Austin Beaulieu, Connor James, Sean Rappleyea, Teddy Rotenberger, and Brandon Salerno, along with things his staff will be doing in the offseason in conjunction with a new UAH Administration to grow Chargers Hockey.

Below are his answers to my questions. The Chargers have a long offseason ahead of them, but having Corbett at the helm who is also chief fundraiser for his program, is the right move for this team and program going forward. This program has a strong level of affinity for it, a dedicated group of donors that contribute to it, and a culture of loyalty and perseverance endemic to the type of person Corbett is. The Chargers look to have a big, yet to be finalized recruiting class that should step into the lineup right away and help them across the board as well.

Just remember, while Corbett is Head Coach for this program he is also the main one responsible for fundraising for it, and he recruits all over North America and beyond.-Corbett is currently leading the push to get UAH into a conference for play in the 2021-2022 season and beyond.

1. Have any conferences approached you to join them?

“We have not been approached by any conferences to join. Nor did we expect
to be approached.”

2. Is there a conference UAH would prefer to join and why?

” There is a place for UAH in college hockey, I truly believe that. We have
the ability to be a strong partner within the sport. First of all we have
to look at a conference that is looking to add a member, typically one that
has an odd number of teams for scheduling purposes. The new CCHA would be a
good fit geographically as teams can bus to us and it is very easy to get
here by plane. The ties we have with these schools from our time in the
WCHA, can help us moving forward with this process.”

3. How has fundraising been for the team this year?

“It has been on track with other years. We have a tremendous hockey alumni
base here… Also a strong core of UAH Hockey supporters. They not only
help us financially and they have passion for the program and see how hockey
is in the fabric of the University and the community. We have 41 years of
hockey here and a strong tradition… We have to continue to grow that base
more and more every year.”

4. What are your plans to help more people take notice of the Chargers
during the offseason?

” First of all we have to get our conference situation remedied. We need to
focus on continuing to put our program in the public eye. Especially on our
campus, and in the City of Huntsville. We have to win our 400 acre campus
first and grow from there… We have a new administration and sit down with
them and brainstorm ideas to expand our brand and put that brand in front of
as many people and businesses that we can! ”

5. Add anything else about your program that you would like to include.

” Moving forward we have to continue to solidify our program, build its
foundation with alums, fans, and our campus. We are always building and
moving forward improving. Sometimes not as fast as we like but there is
many positives as our campus continues to grow… Our administration is
100% behind us as we venture forward and attempt to get into a new
conference. We have everything a player needs to accomplish his goals
athletically and academically. We have to continue to show that to recruits
and their families. Getting players on our campus to see the growth of the
campus and the city is paramount to building this program. We have a very
strong education, a vibrant campus, and a city that is investing over 6
billion dollars in development as we speak.

My staff and I are going to work to show and educate as many people as we
can about all the positives we have at The University of Alabama Huntsville.
We are on the right track and need to find more and more players that add
value to our University. Continue building and clawing against all the
myths of what people think and show them we are ready to make an impact in
college hockey…”

6. Talk about what your departing seniors have meant to this program.

” This group has endured a lot… They have definitely left this program and
university better then when they got here…  We have had some tough
seasons, these guys have worked on the ice and in the classroom like the
strong successful young men that they are!  I am very proud of this group
how they have battled the adversity and came out on top!  They will be
successful in everything they do moving forward.”

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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

Penrose: How UND earned 2-1 win over Western Michigan and what’s next

(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.

What now?

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.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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

 

Fighting Hawks limit grade a looks en route to 3-1 win over Western Michigan: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into their final regular season series at home, this Fighting Hawks team had some questions to answer. Chief among those was how it would respond after only taking one point in a series for just the second time of the season.  As we saw tonight, St. Cloud State is roaring back into the top half of the league and is earning the respect they demanded after winning against the Fighting Hawks on Saturday.

Back to the Fighting Hawks, this Men’s Hockey team actually had to win a game while getting hemmed in their own end for a large portion of the deciding period in the third. To their credit, they bent but did not break. Adam Scheel made a triumphant return to the net saving 26 of the 27 shots he faced and earning third star in the process. Judd Caulfield potted his third marker against Western Michigan, and fourth of the season to open the UND scoring ledger 9:52 into the second. After that, Matt Kiersted wired home a scintillating seeing-eye point shot past Western Michigan goalie Brandon Bussi to provide the game winning goal.

For the Broncos, Dawson DiPietro slammed home a rebound to the far side of Scheel to provide the only blemish on his otherwise spotless night 4:35 into the third period. To close the evening, Westin Michaud tipped home a nice looking Gabe Bast point shot to provide the insurance marker against Ben Blacker, who replaced Bussi after he left due to injury caused by a disallowed UND goal. Collin Adams made just enough contact with Bussi in the crease to merit the goal being waved off on video review. It was, to put it nicely, a call not liked by the home fans. Later on in the game, Ronnie Attard walloped the head of Shane Pinto with 1:16 left in the affair and was sent to the dressing room a bit early. That was the lowlight of a fracas-filled third period, to say the least.

What does this mean for Saturday

North Dakota

This game had all of the hallmarks of a first round NCAA Tournament game. The playoff intensity vibe really turned up in the third period after DiPietro made it a one goal game. To UND’s credit, the Fighting Hawks hung tough playing without Cole Smith and having to juggle lines around again. When 66 percent of your defensive specialist line (Cole Smith and Gavin Hain) both are out, others have to step up, and Casey Johnson played one his most complete games of his UND career seeing some of the most ice he has since coming to UND. We could see Smith back in Saturday as he was recovering from a minor practice injury and informed the coaches he needed the night of rest to get back to his normal self. Credit to the coaches for not pushing Smith through his injury to play extra.

If Smith is still out tomorrow, one potential option for this team should be moving Jasper Weatherby to his own line to center things. Western Michigan played UND almost even in the faceoff dot, losing one more draw than they won (30-31). Weatherby with Pinto and Michaud down the stretch of a game when benches are shortened to fit the needs of the team is one thing and a good deployment of his skills. Weatherby only won two of the six draws he took, and one of them lead to the Kiersted tally.

In net, Adam Scheel played his best game of the year in terms of the quality of shots faced throughout the game and being able to hold a team in the game against a desperate opponent. His defense limited shot quality in the third, where Western Michigan got 15 shots on net to UND’s seven. There were a few points throughout this one where Scheel needed to be sharp to hang on for the win and he did. This team has two brilliant goalies who can win against any type of team they face, and will most likely use both Scheel and Peter Thome throughout the rest of the season and should UND win its first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament, we could see the other goalie play the next night. Since we have started covering this team, Scheel and Thome are the best tandem we have seen in net, and credit to this coaching staff for using both of them when needed.

Western Michigan 

Other than the third period, the Broncos did not do enough to make Scheel work much throughout the night. The Fighting Hawks kept the majority of the first 40 minutes’worth of shot attempts to the outside for the Broncos and it shows on the shot chart. If you are a fan of the Broncos, you want to bottle up the good effort from the third, remove the dirty hits that Attard brought on Pinto which ended any hope of a comeback, and try to get to the middle of the ice a bit more. This team has to play with a little more speed to have a chance against UND. The Fighting Hawks are so good at playing a compact zone defense that in order to earn goals, you almost have to not worry about zone time. Teams that play through the neutral zone and avoid the pinching UND defenders are the only ones that have beaten or come close to beating this team this year.

Whatever the result, the finale on Saturday night should be a fun one at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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.

Why Alabama Huntsville should be extended an NCHC invite: My thoughts

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

With the news official that seven of the ten WCHA Men’s Hockey teams will leave to revive the CCHA (announcing the name was the news) after next season, three men’s teams need a home. I have a solution for one of them. Extend an invite to the Chargers to join effective in the 2021-2022 season. I have a few reasons why, part of which extends from seeing how passionate Head Coach Mike Corbett is about his program and how he has brought them back from the brink of being shut down once.

Define “National”

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference, as it stands, and especially if it loses the Red Hawks of Miami of Ohio, the Broncos of Western Michigan, or both, will cease to have a consistent presence outside of the upper midwest and Mountain West. The conference is, as it stands, the thing that binds together disparate institutions across multiple divisions with one goal, making Men’s Hockey their flagship sport. The Chargers share that goal. They would be another Division Two school with one Division One team in this conference.

Currently,the Chargers play in a shared complex with the Southern Professional League’s Huntsville Havoc, and before their final weekend this season have averaged 1483 fans (in a mere 12 games) in a building that seats 6600. While that is not ideal, the team is currently building a recruiting class from all around the world with less support arguably then last year’s new entrant to the NCAA Tournament, AIC. This year, AIC fresh off their tournament success and in the middle of another Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Championship season, has only averaged 706 fans in a building they share with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the American Hockey League. The arena capacity is 11294.

I say all of that to say this, do not use attendance as a reason to keep the Chargers out. Huntsville itself is a beautiful city within a short two hour drive of Nashville and even closer to other beautiful Tennessee cities like Chattanooga. If you want to grow college hockey as a sport, adding new men and women’s teams while helping the ones in it stay in it is a big deal. Also, when UND fans sell out Bridgestone Arena in October as the Fighting Hawks take on Penn State they will only be two hours north of Huntsville.

Chargers’ Head Coach Mike Corbett tried to schedule the Fighting Hawks around that time but had no luck. If accepted into the NCHC, in conference, a school with strong ties to NASA would play a school with a strong flight program at least twice a year.

Give him help

Immediately, Head Coach Mike Corbett would get a lot more donations to his program if he had to fund trips to NCHC schools, and would get a lot more eyeballs on his program. Right now Corbett holds what amounts to two full time jobs at most Division One Schools. He fundraises for his own program, a very rare thing for a Head Coach to do at this level, all while working on building a team and trying to get the Chargers to have a better future as a program. Having a national television deal’s money coming to the school, combined with a better streaming deal would be a big infusion into the coffers of the Chargers. The Chargers’ external media coverage (if you write for UAHHockey.com you are excluded from this) the past few years, other than when they were on the brink of losing their team, has been, to be frank, not good enough.

Our coverage of the Chargers in their efforts to upset UND this January has been the most extensive of any non local media/blog news source I have seen in the past few years. This program deserves a chance to show what it can do. If Corbett can keep a team afloat and produce an NHL goalie (Cam Talbot) while helping graduate several players onto pro hockey and pro careers in other wonderful endeavors. imagine what he could do for hockey in the south with even a bit of a fair playing field.

Who do we want this sport to be for?

If you truly support hockey being for all, as we do here, I would strongly ask that you consider supporting finding the Chargers a new home, in my mind ideally in the NCHC. Yes, there would be a talent gap immediately and for a few years the Chargers and teams on the lower end of the table would battle for positioning, that alone is not enough to disqualify them from being in the NCHC. Do I think the Chargers would be a better team than a lot of people would give them credit for and make teams sweat close games like they did to UND for a bit? Yes I do.

However, I truly believe that this sport is better when it brings in more people from around the world, supporting programs that grow the footprint of your game are something that the NCHC should strongly consider. In addition, as college sports do not have relegation we do not kick teams out of conferences for finishing last for a number of years and nor should we. If college sports are about the student athlete experience, having the NCHC play games in a building that has more seats than a few of its own barns do is something I would consider, along with giving student athletes more of a respite from the cold weather in the dead of winter.

I think Corbett and the Chargers have shown that through their fundraising efforts and willingness to go anywhere to play the game, that their fans would respond well to being a part of the most title-laden conference in Men’s College Hockey.They are outdrawing a team that was one win away from a Frozen Four last year as well. If a man doing two jobs with little external support bar his own donor base can keep a program afloat in a conference that does not provide anywhere near the exposure of the NCHC, imagine what his program could do with a level playing field.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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.

Fighting Hawks earn sweep with 3-1 win over Denver: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, the Fighting Hawks cemented a series sweep over Denver with a 3-1 hard-earned victory. Matt Kiersted, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby (empty net) all notched markers to help the Fighting Hawks get closer to the next goal, winning the NCHC Penrose Cup.

How did it happen? Well Peter Thome was arguably the best player on defense fo the Fighting Hawks. He managed to make 25 saves on 26 shots tonight. To add to that, UND Head Coach Brad Berry said that he did it ” in style”. The Pioneers through streches of the second and third period played peskier hockey and turned UND over. Multiple times they had multiple looks in close on Thome, but to his credit he handled the challenge well. His counterpart, Magnus Chrona played really well making his first start at the Ralph. He finished the night with 21 saves on 23 shots in a game fans may see again in St. Paul at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, or perhaps at the Frozen Four in Detroit this April. This game not only had the feel of playoff hockey, but a top-end, herculean battle worthy of the national spotlight,

Now What?

For Denver, well, if you are Head Coach David Carle, you show your team the video of the weekend in two parts. First, you show them all the good things they did to get looks. Last night Denver had more shot attempts and different types of looks for Thome to see. Tonight, were more close-in rebounds, but tough shots never the less. In part two of the film, you question what you need to do better as a team in the rest of the regular season and postseason to bury more of those looks. Denver had plenty of chances to earn a win tonight, even while missing one of the best rookies in the country, Bobby Brink, on a play last night where Cole Smith clipped him and avoided any sort of penalty somehow. Denver being able to put together arguably a better game without Brink in the lineup bodes well for the Pioneers,

Why?

Well Denver is a younger team this year akin to the last two UND has fielded. The difference here is overall team speed. The Pioneers are much faster than the last two UND iterations. The difference between the groups is the ability of speed to make up for a wide array of mistakes. Turning play over quickly on defense and transitioning is a hallmark of Denver Hockey, and this team is no different in that sense. Doing it with more depth players involved bodes well for the national tournament as speed and transition often sets the tone for goaltending and everything else. Ask AIC how much speed mattered to them earning the win over St. Cloud last spring, they will probably spend hours discussing it.

For UND, this weekend showed a lot of things good and bad. A lot more good was shown, but we will talk about both here in some measure. First, to the good, again Jasper Weatherby and Shane Pinto were solid up the middle for the Fighting Hawks. each won a large majority of their draws (11-5, 10-2) and set the tone for the forwards all night. Weatherby’s ability to play defense and utilize his frame has grown in his time at UND, and tonight he rewarded himself for his work with the empty net goal to seal things.

Peter Thome played well, again. His ability to track pucks through traffic, and pick up that complete skill in one offseason has been a sight to behold. He does not overreact to goals any more, and the one allowed tonight came on a shot off the boards going right to Brett Edwards who fired a goal to the middle part of the right side of the net before Thome could react. In close Thome seemed to get better with each multi-save sequence, and as we have been saying here all year, has been worthy of more looks and he has run with them. We would like to see some more of Adam Scheel as the year winds down but when the postseason starts, until proven otherwise it is Thome’s net to defend, every night his watch begins anew now (for those who do not know, Thome has the Night King on his mask and is a huge Game of Thrones fan).

What should UND work on off this weekend before facing a resurgent St. Cloud on the road next weekend? Well i do not think many crews will let as many things grow as the one run by Voss and Wieler did this past weekend. On both sides, a lot of uncalled penalties were left to slide, and other officials we be tougher on the physical game UND plays, seeing the team adapt to different officiating styles will be something to watch, especially in the NCAA Tournament as you never have an official from the NCHC officiating a UND or any other NCHC game.

All in all UND had a good weekend, Denver had some good moments to build on and has some things to fix, like finding the net more, and a great weekend of college hockey took place. Now for the Fighting Hawks, St. Cloud State awaits, take them lightly at your own peril fans.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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.

Fighting Hawks Soar to 4-1 win over Denver: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

On Friday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey Team earned a 4-1 win over Denver playing one of their best games of the season to date. Shane Pinto got the scoring underway on a deflection from a point shot in the first period. In the second, Bobby Brink got Denver on the board capitalizing on a rare passive penalty kill from UND. Denver ping-ponged the puck through the lane to Brink and he found the back of the net. Later in the second Brink would leave with an injury after getting his legs taken out on an interesting play where Cole Smith dove through Brink’s legs to get the puck, no penalty came from this action.

Following the Brink marker, Matt Kiersted wired home a superb wrist shot on the power play from the slot to provide the game winning goal. Collin Adams and Jacob Bernard Docker would add insurance markers to provide the final score for the evening.

In net, Peter Thome again had another quality night for the Fighting Hawks. He allowed no goals at even strength, and on the night stopped 26 of the 27 shots on net that he faced. His counterpart, Devin Cooley, did not have the best evening as he only saved 19 of the 23 shots on net he faced.

Now what? 

First off, the officiating on Friday was at best inconsistent. Multiple penalties on both sides were not called. One of the most odd non calls was not issuing even a minor penalty to Cole Smith for diving into the legs of Bobby Brink and injuring him. I understand it was a heat of the moment play and things get missed, but Smith dives into Brink’s legs while going for the puck and gets no call. Did UND have a few calls go against them? Sure they did, but to me, the non call on Brink shaped the course of the game as UND kept one of its most important defensive players in Smith for the whole game while Denver lost one of its best offensive threats in Brink .

Secondly, credit to UND for focusing on efficient shot distribution, something we have harped on all year. Of UND’s 32 shot attempts, 23 found their way on net, and Denver blocked seven of them. While the Fighting Hawks always want more offensive zone chances, their ability to be efficient with what they were given is a promising sign for the postseason, where teams play with speed and pace all game, and who wins the shots on net battle does not always equate to who wins the game. Of Denver’s 54 shot attempts, UND blocked 13 of them which means that Denver missed the net 14 times. Part of that is attributed to Thome of course, but another part arguably is the fast start of the Fighting Hawks.

As they took control of puck possession, it looked liked Denver gripped their sticks a bit tighter. The Pioneers are more than fast enough to do well against the Fighting Hawks. They had several breakaways as they almost punished UND’s defense for pinching with goals the other way, but Thome and missing the best looks stopped them.

For the finale, watch how many breakaways Denver actually puts on net. Thome has played plenty well this season on breakaways but has faced a more limited number per game than Adam Scheel, his net minding colleague. How Denver makes Thome change direction could change the direction of the series for the Pioneers.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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.