The Comeback: UND Survives Colorado College Comeback to Take 4-3 OT Victory

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Last night in front of 11,094 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota, once again, finished a game more than doubling its opponent, the Colorado College Tigers, in shots on net. Once again, they were playing from behind in the third period. The Tigers scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead and were using superb play from their netminder, Alex Leclerc, to keep themselves ahead. That all changed 14:!4 into the third period as Jordan Kawaguchi tipped home a Nick Jones shot to tie the game and send it into overtime. In the extra frame Ludvig Hoff tipped home a game winner 4:15 into the extra frame.

Unlike previous games this year where the opposing team was able to hold onto leads despite being out shot by the Fighting Hawks, this one was different. The Fighting Hawks played a solid game from the beginning and took a 2-0 lead before the Tigers got on the board. Nick Jones waited out Leclerc 10:11 into the first and went short side top shelf to make it 1-0 on the power play. Andrew Peski then wired a puck home through multiple defenders to give UND a 2-0 lead. Over the second and third frames, Westin Michaud, Erik Middendorf, and UND transfer Chris Wilkie gave the Tiger a 3-2 lead. The Wilkie goal came on a five minute major and game misconduct given to Gabe Bast. He went high and directly hit Alex Berardinelli in the head to give the Tigers a five minute power play. Bast could face supplemental discipline for that hit.

While Wilkie did score 26 seconds into that power play, UND was able to limit the harm to one goal. The feeling among UND was one of relief but not happiness. Given how the non-conference season finished, and their out of conference record against non-ranked teams, UND needs to win a fair amount of games to secure a spot in the tournament regardless of the postseason.

On to Saturday

The good to bring forward for UND? Consistency, as the Fighting Hawks scored a goal a period for the entire game and did not let up all night despite having a two goal lead at one point. The team was able to get multiple goals off deflections, as the team is looking for other ways to convert on chances.

What should UND work on for the finale? While the Fighting Hawks were able to make a big difference with tips and deflections, throughout the game they almost tried to find a perfect opportunity in the slot that got blocked. This team has a strong defense that is good at getting pucks on net to get tipped. If the team keeps waiting for perfect chances, none will arise. All of this being said, the Fighting Hawks played a good game, and still have one more hill to climb to earn a sweep against the Tigers.

 

92-91: UND Men Lose Close One to Omaha- What Was Good, What to Improve Upon, and What’s Next?

(Photo Credit:Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Coming into this one, UND had a prime opportunity to pull even in Summit League play before taking on a Western Illinois team picked near the bottom of the league Saturday. That did not happen as Omaha was able to use a last second three to clinch a remarkable comeback win against the Fighting Hawks at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in front of a loud crowd. Conner Avants came inches away from equalizing things with a free throw that rang off the rim with .6 seconds left to end it at the 92-91 loss.

That is how the game ended. The final score is not indicative of the good that happened for the Fighting Hawks as they played a consistent game throughout. Avants lead the way for UND with 24 points on offense. Aanen Moody provided a spark off the bench for the team knocking down six three-pointers on the night for 18 points. Cortez Seales contributed another strong effort with 16 points. The team found ways to score and fast routinely tonight. This multi-faceted inside-outside game the Fighting Hawks played tonight is repeatable in the Summit League to get this team where they want to go.

What should not be repeated and what did the Fighting Hawks in was the lack of rebounding. Head Coach Brian Jones noted the issues Omaha had coming in with its rebounding and small average of offensive boards(he noted seven). Tonight, the Mavericks finished with 15 offensive boards which lead to 19 second chance points. UND had nine offensive boards and 13 second chance points. Jones and Avants noted the need for the team to improve quickly in the rebounding category.

If they can consistently rebound and get a similar amount of offensive production they can put away more teams the rest of the way. That all starts this Saturday against the Leathernecks of Western Illinois.

 

 

Deep Depth Lead by Leet Spurs UND Women to 68-57 Win Over Omaha

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Coming into tonight’s key Summit League matchup, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks were 2-1 in the league and had a unique challenge. They had to figure out how to get a lot of scoring without Lexi Klabo, Summit League scoring leader. In addition, they had to content with a 2-3 zone from Omaha designed to force them to convert on more outside shots.

Both of these quandaries were solved by the team gelling throughout including a 17 point second quarter where the team outscored the Mavericks by six (17-11). As the game wore on Fighting Hawks fans got a glimpse of how deep this team is through multiple players. Julia Fleecs, making her first start had a superb night from the field ending with 14 points to pace the Fighting Hawks on offense. Her leadership combined with the depth of the Fighting Hawks lead the way.

The player that provided the most help in strengthening the depth of the team and that stood out most tonight was Melissa Leet. She was able to neutralize Mavericks’ forward Elena Pilakouta throughout the evening and provided some timely wing shooting to stretch the defense. She finished with nine points on the evening. Leet noted the help of her team in getting her to this point. For example, her work  with Faith Dooley in practice was one of the encouragements for her developing an improved outside game. Dooley’s post presence has provided an opportunity for Leet to work on other parts of her game.

As Head Coach Travis Brewster noted, if Leet can continue this contribution  it would be a big boost to the team. Having Klabo and Dooley with Leet able to spell either one would preserve everyone a bit more and give UND another player who can shoot the wing shot a bit more consistently.

UND’s ability to maintain a strong post game and shoot the outside ball, in the rhythm of the offense are the key to this team’s success moving forward. The delicate balance of this will determine how far this team will go. If players like Leet can add into what starters like Alaina Jarnot (3-4 from beyond the three point line, 13 points on the evening) did, then this team has no limit.

UND faces a test players noted was similar to Denver on Sunday in Western Illinois. The Leathernecks are a high-tempo three point shooting squad. UND gave up 13 threes on 22 attempts against Denver. For Sunday to go a bit differently, look for UND to contain the tempo and limit quality threes for the Leathernecks. How UND responds to the pushed pace will determine how Sunday will go.

UND Hockey Alum Interview: Chris VandeVelde

(Photo Credit:Red Bull Salzburg)

Chris VandeVelde is in the middle of a long career in professional hockey. He played four years at the University of North Dakota before moving on to the pro ranks. The Moorehead,MN native has played 278 games in the NHL and 236 in the AHL.

Recently he made the move abroad to take his talents to Europe. After spending the 2017-2018 campaign with Lukko of the SM-Liiga in Finland, he then moved on to the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL), the top hockey league of Austria with Red Bull Salzburg.

There he found a familiar face in Ryan Duncan. The two played together for three years at UND. While Duncan has spent most of his career with Salzburg, VandeVelde has come to the European game after a career in the North American game where he often was a top depth center for whatever team he played for and a reliable penalty killer. Duncan also talked with me as well. Look for more from him in the next few days.

Both players are currently participating not only in the EBEL but in the Champions Hockey League. This tournament involves the top leagues in Europe (minus the KHL) and Salzburg is in the semifinals against their fellow Red Bull Side, Munich.

After the first game yesterday, the teams are tied at 0 (the CHL uses aggregate goals to determine winners in its pre-final elimination rounds over a two game series). They play the return game of the semis one week from today. The winner goes on to the Grand Final to play for the championship. If the pattern is the same as the first game, the second half of the semifinal game be broadcast in America on NHL Network at 1:20 PM Central Time.

Below are my questions to VandeVelde and his responses.

1. What has it been like playing with Ryan again this season?

“It’s been great and a lot of fun. He helped make the transition to Austria very smooth for my family and me. We haven’t got the chance to play together, since we are both centers, but it’s always fun watching him play.”

2. As a team, what do you guys need to build on to fly past Vienna in EBEL play who are lead by J.P Lamoreux in net, another UND alum.

“First off, it was great to see JP and to say hi to his family. To catch Vienna we are going to have to start stringing some wins together like we did earlier in the season. Just play more confident and limit mistakes.”

3. What does the upcoming semi against Munich mean in the CHL?

“I didn’t know much about the CHL before I came here, but it is a big deal and teams take a lot of pride in trying to win it all. With the two Red Bull teams making the semi finals it just makes it that more special and competitive.”

4. How has your side utilized the CHL to build your game for EBEL play?

“I think as a team we have realized how good we can be if we play well. We feel like we can beat anyone if we play our game.”

5. How would you describe the rivalry between Salzburg and Munich?

“I don’t know much about the rivalry. I have heard it’s pretty intense, which will make the CHL semifinal even more fun.”

6. What is one thing about Ryan Duncan fans do not know?

“Ryan is one of the healthiest eaters I have ever met. Except on his weekly cheat day. He has a lot of discipline and is very professional.”

7. What is your best Ryan Duncan off ice story from your time at UND?

” UND was a lot of fun and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I remember I played a lot of halo on Xbox with some guys. I suppose we also did some partying. We also had a beer pong league.”

8. What has your NHL experience brought to the club?

“Most of all I would have to say leadership. Maybe some of the younger guys have watched some of the smaller things I have done on the ice. Which they can learn from and develop.”

9. Why should UND fans tune into the CHL semis and finals?

“It is a great rivalry and it’s really good hockey. I think it’s a lot of fun to watch compared to some other leagues. Also to support Ryan and me.”

10. What has been your favorite CHL city to visit and why?

“We haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time away from the rink in any of the CHL cities we have played in. I would have to pick Bern, Switzerland though. Just a really nice city.”

“What is the biggest area of your game Dave Hakstol helped you develop.”

11. “Hak has continued to help me throughout my career. In college he really helped me with my confidence coming in as a freshman and with some of the early struggles that came with that. He gave me plenty of opportunities. In Philadelphia he continued to push me to become a better player and to grow my game. He is one of the best coaches, if not the best, I have ever played for.”

 

 

Consistent Effort Propels UND Into Second Half with 6-2 Exhibition Win:Quick Recap and Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, UND needed to build on a few things. First, the Fighting Hawks needed to find a way to have their consistent hard work of the first half show up more on the scoreboard. Tonight it did as they finished with six goals on shots against a strong USA National Development Team U18 side stacked with top talent primed to take the NHL by storm. Next, the Fighting Hawks needed to maintain their discipline as they have had games where they have put themselves at a large disadvantage with conceding power plays. They did well there as they conceded the same amount of power plays as they earned. of time. Finally, they needed to get consistency up and down their lineup as they look to build a solid side for the upcoming second half.

Tonight all of those goals were accomplished with a 6-2 exhibition win. Six different Fighting Hawks scored tonight as the team got the second half of their season rolling. The team had more than ten shots on net each period during the game. All three goalies played, and the only two goals conceded where on skill plays made by the Under-18 team.

Quality and Quantity

The Fighting Hawks were able to get multiple good looks throughout the game. Head Coach Brad Berry was happy about how his team played and their ability to generate a constant volume of shots throughout the evening. This consistency tonight against a team of multiple first and second round quality talents is the benchmark for sucess. How this team replicates it will go a long way to determining where their season ends.

Good Goaltending 

Adam Scheel and Peter Thome are both capable netminders able to help this team. Scheel’s play against top opponents and consistency have earned him the starting role for now. It was great to see Thome make plenty of grade-a saves in a tough third period where the NTDP had multiple tough chances.

Now What? 

The Fighting Hawks travel on the road to Buffalo to face Atlantic Hockey foe Canisius next weekend. This is the regular-season opener of their second half. What UND needs to do is the same thing it did last night. The Fighting Hawks need consistent play from all 18 skaters and capable goaltending. If they produce high-quality shots, limit chances, and get decent goaltending, they can compete with most anyone with a lineup one player short of being completely healthy. This team does not have a Brock Boeser anymore that can take over games. What it has instead is a lot of quality players that, working in conjunction, can rely on each other to play well.

32 Sensational Larsson Saves Sink UND to Split with 2-1 Overtime Loss Against Denver

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, UND knew what it needed to secure a sweep over the Denver Pioneers. They did not achieve their goal of a sweep in front of a nearly sold out crowd of 11,545 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.  Denver used a strong first period and superb goaltending from Red Wings prospect Filip Larsson to take the series finale and secure a split. He finished saving 32 shots on the evening including multiple grade a chances for UND. In overtime he provided the spark for the Pioneers as he helped stop two shots. After the last chance for UND, Slava Demin for the Pioneers was able to find the stick of Jarid Lukosevicius in over time to tip it home for the winner.

The Fighting Hawks got more pucks on net more consistently, but could not find the winner, and were 21.2 seconds away from earning at least four out of six points against the Pioneers. Now the team has a chance to recoup and hopefully see the return of most of its injured players for the start second half of the regular season.

In the first period, Jaakko Heikkinen took a feed from Colin Staub who drew two defenders below the goal line out of position. Heikkinen found the perfect spot against UND netminder Adam Scheel to give Denver their first lead of the weekend a mere 70 seconds into the contest. That goal would be the only one from either side until late in the third period as Larsson held off UND in a strong second period. The Fighting Hawks got 16 shots on net in the second but could not find the back of the net. Shot wise, that was the best period for UND all weekend but they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

In the third period, 17:25 in, Jacob Bernard-Docker found the back of the net for the only UND goal of the evening. He took a feed from Colton Poolman and fired one off a Denver defender and in to send the game to overtime.

Two Thoughts

For Now, Start Scheel 

This weekend, against the quality of opponent and on the big stage showed that Adam Scheel deserves a full weekend in net for the Fighting Hawks. Both him and Peter Thome have had highs and lows this season, yet Scheel has done his best work against the top teams on UND’s schedule so far. This is not to say either goalie should be handed the job exclusively, but Scheel’s game last night was impressive despite the final result. Games where goalies go long stretches without much work can be just as hard mentally as ones where they are peppered consistently.

GMC Line Should Stay In Business

This weekend, with UND shorthanded due to injuries, they showed, power of their team depth. The most impressive line of the weekend was the Gavin Hain-Mark Senden- Cole Smith forward group (the GMC Line). All of those players have seen increased minutes due to injuries up front for the Fighting Hawks. They all play a tough and physical game that feeds well off one another and are all responsible players in their own end. Their responsible play allowed Bernard-Docker to feel better about stepping into the rush to create the game-tying goal in the third period. Look for more opportunities for the GMC group to showcase their skills as the second half starts.

 

Fast Start Propels UND to 4-1 Friday Night Win over Denver Plus Thoughts on Series Finale

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, North Dakota had started to find a formula to play well in the NCHC, get a fast start and then follow that with stout defense. They got all of that with a 4-1 victory over the Denver Pioneers in front of 10,949 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday night.

Gavin Hain provided the fast start. On a Mark Senden contested faceoff win, Hain took the puck from his left wing spot, and walked in on Denver netminder Devin Cooley. with limited space, Hain was able to pull the puck to his backhand and open up just enough space to go glove side on the Denver netminder. 7:46 in to the first period, UND had their first lead of the night.

5:10 later, Hain’s line would strike again. This time, Senden would benefit from the play of his other wing, Cole Smith. Taking on multiple Pioneers, Smith fed an area pass to Senden in front of the net. Instantly he was able to convert the one-timer to make it a 2-0 Fighting Hawks lead.

That first period start, combined with UND goalie Adam Scheel making all seven saves in the second period on some better looks for the Pioneers gave UND a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. That effort, combined with a perfect penalty kill for the Fighting Hawks helped them to their lead.

A few minutes into the third, the Fighting Hawks would add to their lead. Nick Jones did yeoman-like work behind the net and created time and space to wire a superb pass to Matt Kiersted. The sophomore defender wired the 13th shot of the night past Cooley to provide UND a 3-0 lead. That margin would not remain all night as 9:29 into the third, Colin Staub fired in a Ryan Barrow feed from close in to make it a 3-1 game and give Denver their first goal of the weekend.

Finally, after a missed Brett Stapley penalty shot for Denver with 2:02 left, Colton Poolman would then provide the final margin with an empty net marker. Adam Scheel got the only assist on this goal. He finished the evening saving 21 of the 22 shots he faced.

Two Thoughts for the Series Finale 

Finish Strong 

UND needs to do a better job maintaining their pressure. In the third period, Denver outshot UND 9-2 with a goalie in net for the Pioneers. While UND did score on one of those shots, the pressure they build throughout the game needs to be consistent in the third period. If it wanes like that against more skilled teams like Denver, starting Saturday night, then the Fighting Hawks will risk losing hard-earned leads throughout the season.

Maintain Shot Quality 

UND needs to continue their pressure in the offensive zone. The Fighting Hawks were a lot more selective with their chances and it showed in their efficiency. They finished with three goals against Cooley on 14 shots. While they need to play a consistent game with 5-12 shots or more per period, they also did improve in the quality of their chances.

 

 

Fantastic Finale: Three Goal Third Sends UND to Series Sweep with 4-3 Saturday Night Victory Against Alaska Anchorage

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into the series finale against Alaska Anchorage,  UND gained some experience dealing with being down multiple goals late in games. Often times, things did not go their way, like last Saturday against Western Michigan. The Fighting Hawks did learn some lessons in that one that they carried through to the series finale . Thanks to a three goal third period in front of 11,086 fans, they salvaged a series sweep against the Seawolves. with a 4-3 victory. Matt Kiersted opened up the scoring ledger in the third with a superb shot on a power play to bring UND within one goal. He took an expert feed from Jordan Kawaguchi who effortlessly weaved his way through multiple Seawolves to the middle of the ice to find the open Kiersted who deposited the first third period marker into the back of the net 8:05 into the final frame.

43 seconds later, UND tied things up on the power play as Rhett Gardner perfectly tipped home a Jacob Bernard-Docker point shot on the power play to tie things up. All of this happened within a few seconds of the penalty being assessed. Gardner added an even strength tally to provide the final margin of victory 41 seconds later.

Finally, UND held on in the third despite the Seawolves hitting the post with an extra attacker with a little over one minute remaining.

What enabled the Fighting Hawks to comeback in this one? Simplifying their game and activating their defense corps. The best example of this came on the two power play tallies. After winning faceoffs, UND made a change. Instead of their winger heading to the net they utilized the center a bit more in front of the net to force the issue. It paid off. On both tallies, UND benefited from an improved net front presence that dramatically improved the quality of each shot. They made Kristian Stead have to not only make grade-a saves consistently which he did throughout the first two periods, but have to do all of this unable to see the puck.

Stead kept the Seawolves in it and required the Fighting Hawks to adjust their game to have a chance. He finished with 32 saves on 36 shots on net and an assist on the first Seawolves goal on the evening.

Heading into UND’s next series against Minnesota Duluth, the Fighting Hawks still have some work to do. They have not played a full 60 minute game in some time this season, and everyone i agrees that is the next biggest step to take. The Bulldogs are defending national champions for a reason. They not only have the physical element in their game, but they also have high-skilled Riley Tufte and company who can bury the puck at will. How UND is able to start each game will determine their outcome. The Bulldogs have been consistently one of the best teams in the NCHC for many reasons, but the biggest one is their ability to recruit physical players like Tufte who possess a high skill ceiling to their game.