UAH Hockey: Four Games in, Miles Different

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography )

While the fate of this 2020-2021 Alabama Huntsville Hockey team is unknown. We know some things. For instance, it has a group of 13 freshmen developing daily under the tutelage of this new staff lead by Lance West. Some stats already stand out showing a sharp divide between this and last year’s first four games.

This is showing how far this team has come in four games, year over year. While the Chargers played a superb Lowell side last year, then a speedy Omaha side, this team has not played slouches. Robert Morris is a heavy veteran group that could challenge AIC for Atlantic Hockey supremacy, and Lake Superior State is a veteran laded group poised to rise above their finishes the past few years with a longshot Hobey Baker Award contender in net, Mareks Mitens. These teams are both veteran heavy groups that have taught these Chargers a lot about what they need to rise up the standings in the WCHA this year.

Let’s look at some comparisons from last year to this year.

Goals Scored

19-20 team: Three goals in four games

20-21 team: Nine goals in four games

So far, this is the most immediate improvement this team has seen. Goal scoring was a desperately neeed commodity and these Chargers seem to possess more of that ability than some of their previous iterations. The speed of this forward group is a big reason for that. Their speed combined with the hard work of driving the net has lead to some tap-ins that last year’s team did not have as many of. These Chargers would probably like to get that average up, but the offense from year to year has improved about three times in terms of raw per game output.

Goals Conceded

19-20 team: 19 goals in four games

20-21 team: 14 goals in four games

This is another area of immediate improvement for this team. Also this includes conceding five goals in the third period of their opener against Robert Morris, where David Fessenden sustained an injury during the final frame’s warmups. While this staff will not make excuses for that period or any other goal conceded, we will note the difference in this team that allows the immediate reduction. The team defense of this side is miles ahead of the previous year’s group. So far, we have seen defenders not over-extending and trying to rush up too much, focusing on playing a more neutral zone trap style of game. It’s not always conducive to high scoring affairs, but it stretches’ the value of your goals when you do put one home. This team also prides itself on quality shot suppression. They will let you take unscreened shots all day and box you out for the rebound. In basketball terms, these Chargers guard the key and force you to bang home three-pointers from the blue line on one look when they are humming, which aside from a third period against the Colonials, they have been.

Power Play

19-20 team: Two goals in 19 chances

20-21 team: Four goals on 14 chances

This statistic shows two things for this current group. First off, this team has less than half of their goals on the power play, which is good to get some diversity of goal scoring chances on different situations. If you cannot score at full and even strength, you will not win win many games in any league. This team’s power play utilizes the found speed of their freshmen like Tyrone Bronte to set up things. In addition, we are impressed with the steps of sophomore defender Lucas Bahn. Coach West was quite happy that he has taken on a bigger role, including running a power play unit. He is a cerebral defender who is adept at making key passes, and has already put home half of his point total from last year (31 games) in four games played this year getting two assists to his name. In addition, this also shows how well this team is doing at drawing penalties, averaging almost four power plays per game, which makes the even strength play easier as benches shorten to kill penalties and optimal deployment for non penalty killers is not always achieved.

These are just three of the stats through the first four games that have stood out to us. Lance West and his staff have managed to change the culture of this program in about half a year during a pandemic. That alone is impressive. Regarding these stats, look for the 13 freshmen to continue to improve and make their own history as Chargers. Every good thing this team does is proof positive that the infusion of youth on this roster is what was needed, and further proof of the success of West.

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 like unique untold stories across college hockey 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

Opinion: Do Not Sleep on the WCHA

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Given this wild season we find ourselves in, we will go to the eye test for a lot of our argument here, but this article was spurred by the Bowling Green Falcons’ sweep over the 11th ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats on the road in one of the biggest true non conference series that will happen in this pandemic influenced season. The Falcons swept a team with one of the best undrafted free agents in the country in Odeen Tufto, along with an incredibly stout defense. Bowling Green has shown that they will be a threat for the McNaughton Cup. In addition, we see nothing going against the Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks or Bemidji State from being in the mix as well. Both teams’ good performances have not been surprising given the play of their returners. The rest of this will focus on some potential up and comers to watch as we slowly inch towards conference play.

That’s just the Falcons, we move to the state of Michigan to note other up and coming teams in the Lakers of Lake Superior State. They have not lost any of their games, and still have some room to improve. The team has not put together a full 60 minute effort against any of their opponents and still has not lost. They have one of the better goalies in the country backstopping them in Mareks Mitens to start with. Ashton Calder’s development into one of the better goal scorers in this league early on has been interesting to see. Following them, we have the Huskies of Michigan Tech. They have the highest retained draftee of the Arizona Coyotes from the Arizona Coyotes on their roster (Carson Bantle, 2020 Fifth round) and a lot more. Blake Pietila in net for them as a Freshman has been a revelation early on this year, and has a sub 1.6 goals against average. They also have a veteran backup in Mark Sinclair to mentor him as well as an always stout defense. If this team gets any scoring throughout the year they could finish higher than predicted.

Finally, we will touch on the Alabama Huntsville Chargers. While this team is unheralded, after talking to their coaches, and a few of their players, they seem to prefer that moniker. Tyron Bronte up front for them is our pick for fastest skater with the puck in the league. In addition, they have a goalie that has not lost for them in David Fessenden, and a developing defense corps that seems to be getting better each week. The Chargers have a lot of things to work on, but they are trending upward for now, and Head Coach Lance West wants to keep it going that way.

The WCHA this year outside of the Mavericks, looks to be underrated again. We only offer one bit of advice to those across this level of men’s college hockey this bit of advice regarding your view of what this conference’s representatives will do in the tournament. Underestimate the WCHA at your own risk.

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 like unique untold stories across college hockey 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

Friday Night Tie Against Lakers Pulls and Binds UAH Together: Now What

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The University of Alabama Huntsville Chargers (UAH) have improved from their campaign last season, already. Now, they have not won a game yet, but the first three games of this team have shown progression and an ability to fight back that we have not seen at this scale since we started covering them. The Chargers coming back from a two goal deficit to earn their first point of the season is a big step. How they played against the Lake Superior State Lakers today shows there is more to come.

Let’s run through the game first. A Yuki Miura shot leading to a Miroslav Mucha tap in put the Lakers up 1-0 in the first period. 20 seconds after that marker, Chase Gamelin wired home a superb shot from around the top of the right circle past UAH netminder David Fessenden to make it a 2-0 Laker lead in the first. The Lakers were the better team in the first, and even through that, the Chargers began to show their system a bit more than in their Friday night affair with a physical Robert Morris squad from a few weeks ago.

In the second, the period was the Chargers’ to utilize, and make good use of it they did. Adrian Danchenko put home a rebound for his first goal of the season 4:30 into the second to make it a one goal marker. The sophomore forward did not score his first goal as a freshman until his ninth game of the year last season, and already has equaled his goal total from a year ago. Away from the puck, Danchenko played with a strong physical consistency that helped his line push things to the good. 1:09 after the first goal, the reigning WCHA, and Hockey Commissioners’ Association’s Rookie of the Month, Tyrone Bronte found his way to the front of the net on the power play. He tapped home a rebound with traffic around him to tie the game and provide the final 2-2 margin.

On this goal the Melbourne, Australia native went from the North American Hockey League to being the top line center for the Chargers to start the season and has not looked out of place. His line faced off against Miura’s line all night and was up to the task for matching their speed and grit. The Lakers won what hopes to be a meaningless shootout. Multiple reports indicate that should future WCHA games be canceled, the shootouts done in non conference play would then count for standings, so the shootout will hopefully not mean much.

What does this mean now?

Well, the ten minute stretch in the second where the Chargers were running things was the best singular stretch of hockey this team has played in a while. They were able to overcome a less than ideal start and exert their will a bit on the game. This game also showed the value of David Fessenden. Several times in the first and third, he was there when needed and read second chance looks well. He showed the same skill in making 25 saves as many Charger goalies have had to show making 40 or more in a game. That means fundamentally, we see a future for Fessenden, and a better one when this team plays their aggressive system around him and limits good looks.

In addition, Bronte and this freshmen class make this team eons faster than what left the ice in Huntsville last February. Bronte often times against the teams Huntsville needs to beat to ensure a postseason place if one is played will be the fastest player on the ice. His ability to get to the net and distribute is something that will only grow over time, especially as a graduate of the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Knights program, one known for developing skill and speed driven players ready to work towards their NHL dream in college hockey.

Another thing to keep in mind for this team in the short run is finishing this week strong. This Lakers team will finish higher than their picked station because of their system, structure, and goaltending. We have covered their goaltender Mareks Mitens since 2016 and have not seen a more unheralded goalie do so much for his team as he did a year ago. He set records on his way to nearly willing his team past a Bemidji State side capable of competing for a national championship. In addition, every year we have seen the Lakers, their speed gets better to compliment their physical defense.

The Chargers have all of those elements in place, and need to come out of the gate a bit better in their last two non conference games against the Lakers and Bulldogs of Ferris State to showcase what the Rocket City has been waiting awhile to see. This team has already done some to delete the past, and setting the tone of more of their games rather than answering it needs to be next on their to-do list.

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.

David Fessenden-Dedicated to Getting Better

(Photo Credit: UAH Athletics)

David Fessenden is the incumbent netminder for University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) Chargers this season as a sophomore netminder. He is six feet and six inches tall and uses all of his frame in his game to his advantage. He was perfect in two periods to open the Chargers’ season against Robert Morris before leaving with an injury sustained in warmups. The barrage that the Colonials threw at him was impressive, but Fessenden played every shot the right way and worked to limit rebounds, not an easy task for any goalie let alone one playing in a season opener with 13 freshmen on the roster.

With that said, there is more to Fessenden then what fans saw on that sheet of ice in Pennsylvania.

The Parker, Colorado native is an incredibly loyal competitor as Charger fans and Northeast Generals Fans know. This quote from the time he comitted to the Chargers sums up a lot of what we have seen from him las year and this year, along with a hope for the future.

Head Coach and General Manager of the Generals Bryan Erixson had the following to say on Fessenden’s commitment:

“David has been with us almost since the beginning. He had to endure a lot being the goalie on a 4-win team two years ago, but never wavered in his love of the Generals. He bought in 100% on Day 1 and shared the organization’s vision of building towards the future. He is one of the main reasons for our dramatic improvement this past year. This commitment is a testament to all the hard work he has put in on and off the ice. He is a truly amazing young man.”

Like every returner on this team, Fessenden chose to stay and could have pursued their college hockey craft elsewhere given the sudden cutting of the program. Instead, he stayed and cemented himself as part of the legacy of the next chapter of college hockey in the south.

Moving back to the team Fessenden is backstopping this year, he had some interesting notes on the skaters he faces everyday that has somewhat been borne out through on ice performance.

When asked about his teammates who have the most deceptive shot, he noted how good all of the skaters on this team are, but on that specific trait, he noted junior forward Bauer Neudecker who is tied for the team lead for two goals, and freshman Frank Vitucci. He currently leads the Chargers with seven shots on goal in the first two games of their season.

As to what goalie Fessenden models his game after, he noted two goalies for their calm style and ability to stay composed under pressure. Both goalies Robin Lehner, and Andrei Vasilevskiy use their size and positioning to stay calm in net and control the game in their own end. Fessenden wants to do the same thing and harness that ability to stay cool under pressure moving forward. For him, developing includes things like honing the start to his game, among other things.

Why did Fessenden play goalie? Well he was simply drawn to it from the beginning of his time playing hockey. As he said he noted when he was younger “I want to try the guy with the pads.” He also thought the sliding around goalies get to do looked cool when he first decided to play the position. Fessenden has always been well liked throughout his life and has a number

Finally, when asked about what to expect from the Chargers this year, Fessenden said plainly “we are going to prove some people wrong.”

Look for more features on this unique roster as the Chargers persevere through a unique year, and as Fessenden said look to “prove some people wrong.”

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.

How to win a game in 90 seconds: Force defeat Stampede 4-3

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into tonight’s USHL skirmish between the Fargo Force, and Sioux Falls Stampede, both teams had something to prove. The Force setout to lay claim to their fourth win in six games and grow their Western Conference lead, while the Stampede were aiming to get back to .500 on the season.

While Fargo had the last laugh tonight, things took awhile to get there.

After a first period where the Force controlled everything but the score, generating 14 shots on opposing netminder Trent Burnham to a mere five on Force netminder Brennan Boynton, it looked like the Force would take control of things in the second period. They did not, as Sioux Falls forward Michael Citara would get going towards a hat trick as he would score the next three goals after Jeremy Davidson opened things up on the power play.

The Providence commit looked to be the story of the evening as he was the star of the show. His line dominated play for every time they were on the ice, and in addition to that, the rest of the Stampede looked to bottle the Force’s quick strike offense up.

The plan almost worked

Then, St. Cloud State commit, Mason Salquist, got things rolling with a snipe 13:41 into the the third. Next, a mere 48 seconds later, Kyle Smolen pounced on a loose puck in the Sioux Falls end and fired one home to make it a tie game. Scheels Arena, with its socially distant crowd was rocking.

Owen Gallatin would then provide the game winning goal 15:12 into the final frame. He took a feed from Michael Suda and put the game back into the lead for the Force, and provided the final 4-3 margin.

This game showed a lot about both teams. For Fargo, it showed their continued resilience and ability to battle back through the face of adversity. The Force were really the better team for a five miute stretch to end the game, and in the heavy shot first period. Sioux Falls showed how their veteran side can grind down opponents and what they can do to start up after a slow beginning.

They also showed how they are vulnerable with turnovers and over reactionary play at times leading to bad results. It is only the sixth game of the season for these teams, and the playoffs are a long way away. Both have a lot to like, yet both team’s coaches will scratch their heads at points of this game. Bookmark this rivalry for later as both of these teams will play each other many more times this season.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, and underdogs everywhere, including in junior hockey, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the amateur 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.

UAH-Robert Morris: A Battle of the unknown

(Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee Violet Turtle Photography)

This season in men’s college hockey will be like no other. Schedules have changed, travel limited, and most teams will be playing only teams in their conference. The opener for the Chargers has them playing a rare true non conference game against the Colonials of Robert Morris. This team competes in the always competitive Atlantic Hockey Association. Like the Chargers, the Colonials have a big group of new players coming in, with nine new additions to their roster. The Chargers, with new Head Coach Lance West, have 13 additions to their roster.

Reading through bios of players West helped recruit in the short time of tumult after the program was saved for this season, there seems to be a theme to the 12 skaters West brought to Huntsville. They are all team first, mostly two way players that will annoy the stuffing out of other teams. Watching some of them, like Yardley Pennsylvania native Frank Vittuci play in the OJHL for the Wellington Dukes, it is more evident that West is looking to this group to be the new tradition for the Chargers. The team has been in talks with Atlantic Hockey about joining after this season, and has a history of hardworking programs combined with unique and elite academics in key areas that make them a worthy candidate to join this conference next year. “Frank was an early target as he is a natural goal scorer,” SUNY Geneseo said on its Twitter account yesterday. “His breakaway speed and hockey IQ make him an instant threat.”Reading through bios of players West helped recruit in the short time of tumult after the program was saved for this season, there seems to be a theme to the 12 skaters West brought to Huntsville. They are all team first, mostly two way players that will annoy the stuffing out of other teams. Watching some of them, like Yardley Pennsylvania native Frank Vittuci play in the OJHL for the Wellington Dukes, it is more evident that West is looking to this group to be the new tradition for the Chargers. The team has been in talks with Atlantic Hockey about joining after this season, and has a history of hardworking programs combined with unique and elite academics in key areas that make them a worthy candidate to join this conference next year.

Back to Vittuci for a minute, he put up 108 points in 105 games with his Dukes and was not given a chance at the Division One Level until West brought him on this summer. The Division Three school that he had comitted to before a Division One look was given, SUNY Geneseo said ““Frank was an early target as he is a natural goal scorer…His breakaway speed and hockey IQ make him an instant threat.”

West has a roster of high character and high talent players that no one seems to have given much of a chance elsewhere at this level to play. Going back to the first series, which will happen on November 20, and 21st, what should you be looking to see from this team?

Well, West seems to want to replace the departed players with similarly tough players that can put up numbers with speed. The Chargers’ roster reads similarly to a school like Lake Superior State. Strong goaltending with David Fessenden, combined with a big bruising defense lead by newcomers like Ayodele Adeniye all go to how this team will play. If West sees what former bench boss, and current Colonials Assistant, Mike Corbett does, that the gap for most college hockey players between Division Three and one, this could be an interesting season for the Chargers. One of their biggest issues last year was staying out of the box, something that this team has to improve on, along with limiting quality shots. While UND beat this team 5-2 both nights last year, a lot of players from that team that provided the grit are still here. UAH was never blown out by a team that could have won a national championship because its structure guides how it plays.

Finally, when you watch this team play, remember, things will change, especially early on this season. 13 newcomers will come in and out of the lineup, and West knows what wining at UAH looks like from his time as a player here, and knows what needs to happen to secure a future for this team, in a town full of devoted fans to its success.

NOTE: We will be writing about UAH Hockey this year as part of the teams we cover, if you are a business or individual and want to help sponsor what we do and get new impressions around Chargers Hockey, click our paypal link here and send us a message about potential sponsorships.

Force Show Potential in Intrasquad Affair

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The Fargo Force were scheduled to open their USHL preseason against the Sioux Falls Stampede. That did not happen as two people of the Stampede’s traveling party tested positive for Covid-19, and out of an abundance of caution the game against them was canceled.

That did not mean fans did not get to see some action though. The 2020-2021 Fargo Force played a free intrasquad scrimmage where the black team won 5 to 2, scoring the final five markers unanswered.

Some players stood out in this one, and will need to for this team to get far in a tough Western Conference this season. Grant Slukynsky (Northern Michigan) drove play up front for the blue team with his speed, and played with a bit more physical snarl in his game than we saw at the state tournament. He contrinuted an assist on the first goal of the night, a Jake Braccini (Minnesota) wrister from the slot. A few minutes later, Cade Stibbe (Arizona State) found the back of the net as his shot squeaked off Jack Peart’s (St. Cloud State) leg and into the net. The blue team had the better of play for most of the first half.

However, spurred on by some blue team penalties, the Black team answered back with two late period goals to tie things before the second 23 minute half. Huston Karpman and Tristan Broz (Minnesota) would tie things up. Broz’s goal came off a back door feed on a five-on three power play with about 8 seconds left in the first frame.

In the second half, the black team ran the show as Kyle Smolen would contribute the game winner before Mckay Hayes and and Jackson Borst would provide the final margin. This game allowed a lot of players, from key cogs, to affiliates who may see time later on to get their first gameday experience. Every player added some things to their tape for revew, most good, and some moments to improve upon. Such is an intrasquad exhibition. Look for more from this Force team as they work to narrow their roster down to their main players who will carry the way most of the year.

The flashes of brilliance showed by players like Smolen who was all over the ice in a positive manner, along with Sluykynsky show the potential of this team. They have a few more exhibition skirmishes before the regular season 2020-2021 campaign commences.

Photos (Credit Kelsey Lee of Violet Turtle Photography): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=VioletTurtlephotography&set=a.1402695903262316

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

UND Men’s Hockey: Nobody Cares Work Harder

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee- Violet Turtle Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

Why does that matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can they get their ninth title in program history?

Sure they can.

Will they?

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

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Opportunistic Bemidji State earns 7-1 victory over Lake Superior State

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

If you look at the score, you see a 7-0 Bemidji State win, and rightly so. Adam Brady finished with two goals  along with Charlie Combs to lead the way in scoring for the Beavers, Kyle Looft earned his first career college hockey goal, and Zach Driscoll earned a 28 save victory with superb play throughout, including on multiple key breakaways in the first period where he kept the game tied before Bemidji State found their footing and took hold of the game. Max Humitz provided the only marker for the Lakers on a breakaway late in the third period.

Looking beyond the box score you see how close this game was in the first despite the score. Ian Johnston and Louis Boudon each hit the frame of the goal in the first period, arguably each were the Lakers’ two best early chances. The Lakers would keep things close on shot attempts through the first period, only trailing by six, 23-17. Those two hit pipes changed the course of the game and gave the Beavers and opening they did not miss. The Lakers paid for those misses throughout the game, as they never really controlled time and space for very long other than the first few minutes where they hit those pipes on Friday night.

After the first, in terms of possession, Bemidji State began to assert themselves a bit more. Their stymieing style of defense sinking back four players in the neutral zone made it tough for the Lakers to get through with any consistent speed. In the second, the Beavers added two of their five markers to provide the final score at the end of Mitens’ 40 minutes of tough service.Despite being pulled after two periods, Mitens made several great saves and showcased his lateral quickness throughout the game, he typically as beat on grade a chances that the Lakers need to clamp down on to have a better chance at winning the finale, Mitens’ lateral quickness has actually improved year over year since we have first started covering him, and he faced an absolute barrage of shots on net tonight. After the game, Coach Damon Whitten and forward Yuki Miura both noted the need to limit shots on net. Whitten noted the need to win more puck battles, which often cost the Lakers dearly. Roman Bengert finished up in the third period for the Lakers making 10 saves on the night facing 12 shots fired towards him.

If the Lakers can get an early goal, like they have done with some regularity this season, in the series finale, they can make the Beavers do what they had to tonight, play out of their comfort zone. When the Lakers attack and press the issue this season they typically can compete with most teams. When their opponents score first they have had to force passes not always there and look for stretch passes and play out of their system.

Look for more on these Lakers in the coming weeks, but for tomorrow night keep an eye on who scores first, for the most part this season that has told the story of win or loss for the Lakers of Lake Superior State University. If they can earn a split on the road before facing off against Michigan Tech at home, that is the best outcome they can hope for Saturday night in Bemidji.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about college 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.