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.

UND Athletics Unsung Heroes:Men’s Hockey and Soccer

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Here at Seamore Sports, we take pride in looking beyond the box score and covering unsung heroes for their contributions on the field, rink, or anywhere else Fighting Hawks and collegiate student athletes play.

It is in that spirit that we look to start a weekly feature on unsung heroes for the Fighting Hawks. Every week we will talk about one unsung hero for a men’s and women’s team so you will read about two student athletes’ on-field exploits not readily apparent by a mere viewing of the box score or recaps published after the game.

First, let’s discuss UND Soccer. The Fighting Hawks have won ten games for the first time since moving to Division One, and finish out their regular season this week against the Bison of North Dakota State on the road under the lights in Fargo at 6 PM on Thursday. The female unsung hero of the past week is redshirt freshman defender Hannah Olson. If you want to see why this team has been able to play forward so much and put more pressure on opposing teams’ back lines, looking to UND’s defense as a major strength is one reason this team is doing so well. So many times this season, and against Omaha this past week, UND Head Coach Chris Logan when asked has noted her play as superb on the back line. So many teams in the Summit League have superb goal scorers, and baring the game against Denver where Logan noted that he was moving players forward for the last 45 minutes, this team has given up no more than two goals at home. That is a hard feat in the Summit League, and tough to complete against an Omaha side playing for its postseason life on Sunday.

Olson has been at the forefront of UND’s defense all year. She consistently make superb reads on attacking players and is quite skilled, as she showed Sunday, in angling attacks out to the side to allow her back line to reset and push things forward.She has often been the answer to the “who had the best game in the field not based on the box score” question and their variations this year. Olson is a major key to this Fighting Hawks’ defense and does not get talked about as much as their superb attacking group. Without Olson’s superb play on the back line against Omaha, one has to think that the Mavericks could have gone up 2-0 in the first half with more chances. That one goal difference made a world of difference in the second half as it allowed the Fighting Hawks to keep playing their game.

Olson’s superb ability to read the angles and get the ball forward when asked has gone without a lot of if any mention from those not playing for the team. She is the Female Unsung Hero for UND Athletics this past week and one of the key reasons why this is the best team in the Division One Era the Fighting Hawks have had based on record. Hannah Olson is the Female Unsung Hero of the Week for the Fighting Haw

weatherby 2

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

As to Men’s Hockey, let’s talk some more about Jasper Weatherby and what he did for his team in the past weekend. The Sharks’ prospect did not put up a goal, but he did run the faceoff dot for this team both nights. In addition, he is continuing to own the net front for the Fighting Hawks and is a consistent presence for this team. Head Coach Brad Berry compared his prowess in the dot to recently to recently departed Rhett Gardner. Weatherby adding this element to his game has been a massive part of why UND has started so well.

When the Fighting Hawks play well in all of their zones, it comes to how they start, winning the faceoff and Weatherby’s development in the dot, combined with his net front presence were important parts of the sweep over Bemidji State. Even when he has a zero point night, his presence screening the goalie and strong work in the dot are essential to the continued success of this team. Weatherby is the Male Unsung Hero of the Week for the Fighting Hawks.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for  all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

 

UND Sweeps Bemidji State- What to look for next

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight at a sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks needed to get off to a good start in their series finale against an always tight-checking Bemidji State Beavers side eager for a split. They did just that as 36 seconds in, Jordan Kawaguchi made Beavers’ netminder Henry Johnson pay for playing the puck behind his own net. He created a turnover and fired the puck to Grant Mismash who buried it in the wide open net. This goal set the tone for the period and evening at large. 16:56 into the first period, Cole Smith used a wrap around to end up bouncing a puck to Mark Senden who found the back of the net in tight shooting to an empty net as Johnson over played the first shot.

That would remain the margin through the first period and most of the second as the Fighting Hawks controlled the pace of things through the game. Jonny Tychonick added an insurance marker in the second as Mismash would add a primary assist to his ledger. He found Tychonick activating into the rush and wired across a superb pass. Jonny potted his first career goal on that rush and slammed into the boards in celebration. As UND Head Coach Brad Berry noted, it was good to see him finally get rewarded for the offensive prowess he brings to the UND blue line. Colton Poolman added an empty net marker late in the third period to restore a three goal lead after Aaron Miller found the back of the net for the Beavers 18 seconds earlier.

Now, the Fighting Hawks have one week to get ready for a one game date with the Huskies of Michagan Tech at the Ralph. How they continue the last five periods of play from this weekend will determine the result.

Beyond the scoring, UND goalie Adam Scheel played well tonight, especially as the game progressed and made more tough saves throughout the waves Bemidji State was trying to throw at the Fighting Hawks. He finished with 19 saves on the night and had a big role in keeping things calm as UND grew its lead.

In addition, Brad Berry praised Jasper Weatherby for the consistency in his game. He has begun to fill the very important role vacated by Rhett Gardner. Weatherby is now the center the staff looks to when they need a big draw won in the defensive zone to stymie a potential chance. Adding his skill at the dot is a big addition to the team this year. While he did not score for the Fighting Hawks he again spent a lot of the night parked in front of the Bemidji State net and tipped some pucks wide and just missed a few others.

In addition,  the staff mixed up the lines a little bit tonight. They rewarded Josh Rieger with time as the seventh defenseman and slotted in Casey Johnson up front. Both players played their roles, and we could see them more this year. The lineup changes were made in part due to how last night’s game finished and the coaches wanting to get different players some game action.

Next week will provide another test against the Huskies of Michigan Tech. Tonight, against a decent Bemidji State team that makes life tough for their opponents when able to defend we saw the blueprint to win for this team executed to perfection. Score early, and make responsible plays throughout to add insurance as needed. When this team can make other teams open up their game to try and score just to catch up, good things will happen.

This team has too much skill to try and play grind heavy games as a first resort if not needed, if they can get one quick and defend that allows them to roll all of their skaters and not need to worry about shortening the bench. It may not seem like much now, but spreading out minutes for as long as possible will help later on in the year. Developing depth to add with skill is not a bad idea, and hopefully this team can do so as we progress in this still early on season.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories you will not see elsewhere about UND Hockey and other college hockey teams, please click this link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story we right as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Things you may not know about Karl Goehring: The View from Syracuse

Alexandra Ackerman has had many years experience covering the Syracuse Crunch, and over the AHL affiliate’s lifespan one particular goaltender seems to have captured the hearts and minds of Crunch fans, and recently had the chance to return to Syracuse and coach with the Crunch in a paid role where he could . Fighting Hawks fans know this goalie and coach quite well, as he has now come back to Grand Forks as a paid assistant coach. His name of course, is Karl Goehring. I had a chance to get an insight into all that Karl is bringing back to Grand Forks with him from lead Syracuse Crunch writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning SB Nation site, and assitant editor, Ackerman herself. Check out my questions and her thoughts on all things Karl Goehring.

1.What is your favorite memory of Karl’s time in Syracuse?

“Although I’ve been following Karl since 2004, his return in 2007 was the catalyst for a lot of memorable moments that season. At the time, I was still relatively new to the heartbreak that the AHL creates, so the joy I felt with the news that he had been signed to a PTO was pretty strong. I knew the sport more at that point than I did in 2004, so I think I was able to better appreciate the talent he had and the work ethic he was bringing.

At the end of that season, the Crunch went on a run of 15 games in a row, and it all started with a shootout loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the beginning of March. It might be weird to remember Karl for a loss he took, but the point the team earned that night was largely in part to Karl’s shootout prowess, and it is still remembered as the magical start to that run that took the team to the second round of the playoffs. The Crunch had struggled that season, and no one had any real expectations of winning that game. Getting just that point out of that contest seemed to create a turning point for the Crunch, and I think it was also the night that reminded the fans of Karl’s talent, and showed everyone what he was still very much capable of.Karl went on to win Goaltender of the Month for March 2008.”

2. What is his lasting impact from his coaching role with the Crunch?

“Karl truly showed how important the role of a goalie coach is in the minor leagues (and, I’d argue, on most hockey teams). During his two years with the Crunch under the Lightning, he saw the team through quite a bit of goalie drama. He worked with whatever the organization handed him, and helped keep the Crunch’s crease shored up the entire time.

In 2017-18, Karl worked with seven goalies, all in various stages of their careers. Veterans Michael Leighton, Louis Domingue, Eddie Pasquale, and Peter Budaj all passed through Syracuse, sharing the net with youngsters Connor Ingram (a Lightning prospect [since traded to Nashville after this interview]), Olivier Mantha, and Nick Riopel. Whether Karl was helping to keep the vets sharp or assisting the young guys with the pro transition, he was the steadying hand the organization needed him to be.

This past season, Syracuse had a fair bit of goaltending drama. Ingram had an apparent falling out with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, and the rift set off a small goaltending carousel. Veteran Eddie Pasquale was looked to for the bulk of the work, while backups Martin Ouellette and Atte Tolvanen were expected to be sharp whenever Pasquale needed a break. Balancing everything that was going on, while keeping his goalies focused on the game and not on the drama, had to be challenging. Having a dedicated coach helping them was essential.  ”

3.To fans worried that a goalie coach may not be a good fit for the assistant coach role what would you say to them?

“Karl has always been an extremely hard worker. Most are probably aware of the doubts he had to fight during his playing career because of his height. He’s faced adversity almost his entire career, and he’s used those experiences to learn and become a well-rounded person and coach.

Although he’s mainly been a goaltending coach due his playing position, I know UND wouldn’t have been able to find anyone who will work harder at making sure he’s accessible to all players he needs to work with. It also isn’t such a bad thing to have an assistant coach know so much about goaltending, especially at the college level, where money for an actual goaltending coach can be tough to come by (as you all know).

Finally, Karl has gathered so many various experiences during his own playing and coaching career, and he’s worked with athletes at nearly every stage of their hockey careers. He knows how to speak to them, and knows what they need to hear. Assistant coaches have to be good at interpersonal relationships, and from everything I’ve heard, Karl excels in that area. He knows how to take his own experiences and translate them for young athletes.”

4.Karl’s role is not completely defined here, that said what are some things organizationally that the Crunch improved on since he came there that would reassure any nervous UND fans?

“Although I am not really privy to the inner workings of the team, Karl’s time with the Crunch has been sprinkled with quotes from players and from Syracuse head coach Ben Groulx about how much Karl’s video work has improved the team. Players credited Karl’s scouting with knowing how to score on other goalies and knowing the weaknesses in the defense of opposing teams. Karl worked with all of the guys on the Crunch to make sure they understood their positives and their areas of concern. Karl has studied this game for so long, and has clearly worked to understand more than just goalten/ding.”

5.With Karl returning to UND do you see Tampa perhaps looking at more UND players in the future?

“I’d hope so. The Lightning don’t seem afraid to look far and wide for talent, and I don’t foresee that ending anytime soon!”

6.If UND fans would like a player in the Bolts’ system to track as a pupil of Karl’s whom would you recommend and why?

“Connor Ingram is probably the closest to a pupil we can get, although given the rift I previously stated, I am not actually sure how much longer Ingram will be in the organization.” [These words have proven true as previously stated Ingram has been traded to Nashville since this interview was conducted]

 

7.Could you see Karl as a head coach at some level soon?

“I absolutely think he has the drive and the hockey IQ. I am not sure if he has the temperament (and that isn’t a bad thing at all, or a knock on the “traditional” hockey head coach). Karl is just definitely not your traditional grumpy head coach, that’s for sure.”

8.What traits does Goehring have that make you think he will excel in this new role?

“His tenacity is incredible. Karl does not give up when he wants something, and he has the work ethic to back it all up. He loves the sport, and he understands how important fans are to teams.

Also, I feel the need to add that the Lightning organization does not mess around when it comes to prospect development. Yes, Karl was 100% in the right place at the right time to be able to impress Steve Yzerman enough to get himself considered for the job in Syracuse, but if the Lightning had any inkling at all that Karl was not a good fit for that job, he would not have gotten it. Having the confidence of that kind of an organization in you is a very big deal.

I also don’t think that the Lightning would have let Karl go had he not gotten an opportunity like this. Clearly the organization respected his wishes enough to let him go and interview for something like this, knowing that they would lose him if he secured the position. I think that level of respect says a lot.”

9. Add anything else to this about Karl you’d like.

“I’ve been lucky enough to see Karl come back to Syracuse three times since he first left in 2005 – once as a player and twice as an assistant coach. That’s rare in this league (rare in any league, really). Every time he returned, he came back better than ever, something else that’s pretty rare in this world. I know he’ll be happy back with UND, and I wish him nothing but the best. He’s truly one of a kind!”

Why Not You? Thoughts from Day Two of MJHL Player ID Camp at the Ralph

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-MJHL)

Today, Kelsey and I were on hand to cover the second day of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Player Identification camp at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. She was able to provide photos for this event for the league today and we were both able to see some superb hockey take place.

Most if not all teams from the league were represented. Commissioner Kim Davis and Kevin Saurette, director of Hockey Operations, were on hand for the second annual event at the Ralph. Below are some quick thoughts on the day and the MJHL in general.

  • First, if able, go watch these teams play in season and their postseasons. The dedication players in this league show is second to none, and year after year more college and NHL players are being developed in the MJHL. Cole Smith, and Jackson Keane, two UND forwards, were on hand to share their experiences in junior hockey to the perspective players at this invite-only camp. These teams are run and supported by small towns all across Manitoba and all have passionate followings of these players as they progress with the team, and beyond as they go to the next level of their hockey and academic pursuits.
  • For those who do not know, Tucker Poolman has another brother besides Colton. Mason Poolman is quite good and showcased his speed today. He is still a few years away from college hockey and was out skating players today multiple years his senior. He plays a quick game and can generate a lot of good looks in the offensive zone. He centered a line with Mitchell Idalski, son of former UND Women’s Hockey Head Coach, Brian Idalski. Their line was the best forward line in either game we were able to cover today (the first two). Idalski put home a nice rebound on a shift where Poolman served as the catalyst. As for Poolman, before he moves on to junior hockey and beyond, if able, go watch him play for the East Grand Forks Green Wave next season.
  • This camp was very organized and well put together. To the credit of the Ralph, they do a superb job maximizing efficiency of their building year-round for all things sport and entertainment related. This camp is a superb example of that. As it is in only its second iteration this season, it will continue to grow under the leadership of General Manager Jody Hodgson.
  • On ice in game one, Logan Johnson stood out the most and was arguably one of the top defenders in the first two games. He consistently was activating into the play and was able to use that offensive ability to create time and space. With that space, Johnson wired home one of the truest shots of the day for one of the cleanest goals of the day. He played this past season for the North Star Christian Academy Knights, helping his team capture a NAPHL championship and leading them to a 41-10-6 record on the season.
  • Finally, this camp has shown another example of the MJHL utilizing its growing footprint to reach out to more talented players. Plenty of players today had superb showings for the legion of scouts and team personnel in attendance. The Ralph provided a superb backdrop for some quality hockey and information dissemination relating to all things Junior-A hockey and beyond. Kudos to the MJHL, the Ralph, and all involved in providing these players a sensational setting to showcase their skills this weekend. The camp wraps tomorrow with two more games.

Grand Theft Larssony: How Denver Earned a 2-0 Regional Semis Victory over Ohio State

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee- Denver Athletics)

Coming into this game, we knew both Denver and Ohio State played a similar type of game. Both teams are structured and do not break ranks in their own end very often. The winner of this one was going to need not to out shoot their opponent as Ohio State did 24-13, but to capitalize on the rare occurrences of bad play in their opponent’s defensive zone. In addition, that team would need perfection in net. Denver got all of that tonight as Filip Larsson,once again, stole a game from a team that did nearly everything better than Denver but put pucks behind him.

On the evening Larsson finished with 24 saves with half of those coming in a frantic first period. In that period and for the majority of the second, the Buckeyes controlled the pace of play and looked to slow down the Pioneers. He utilized his calm demeanor and style to keep the Pioneers tied with the Buckeyes, the moment was never too big for him and he was composed all game.

The game remained tied until the 19:20 mark of the second period. Senior graduate transfer defender Les Lancaster found a rare opening and walked into the void. He took a feed from Emilio Pettersen and lasered a perfect shot through the five-hole of otherwise perfect Ohio State netminder Tommy Nappier. That was arguably the best chance Denver had all day and they capitalized on it.

Throughout the third period, Ohio State threw everything it had at Larsson, not much got through as he only had to make five saves. Denver’s only shot on net came with Nappier pulled for an extra attacker Colin Staub found the back of the net to provide the 2-0 margin of victory with 58 seconds left.

To prepare for tomorrow, Denver needs to improve in its faceoffs. Tonight the Pioneers played defense a lot as they won only 14 puck drops on the evening. The Buckeyes won the other 37. Liam Finlay noted that Denver’s wingers need to help out their centers to win a few more draws tomorrow. If the Pioneers can do that, they will not have to chase as much of the game, and Larsson will not need to make as many grade-a saves as he did today.

Beyond UND: Q-A With Minnesota Whitecap and UND Women’s Hockey Alum Amy Menke

(Photo Credit: Minnesota Whitecaps)

Since the UND Women’s Hockey program was cut in 2017, its players have gone around the world. Some have moved on to other colleges, others graduated and moved on to post-hockey academic pursuits. A few, like 2016-2017 Captain, Amy Menke, have moved on to professional hockey. She is one of the Minnesota Whitecaps competing in their first season as a member of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

I had a chance to catch up with her recently and discussed her current pursuits, some things she learned from her time at UND, and more, read on below to see my questions and her answers.So far this season,  she has nine points in thirteen games with the Whitecaps.  She finished her career at UND with 108 points (50 G, 58 A) in 146 games.

What has been your favorite off-ice moment of your pro hockey career?

“1. My favorite off ice moment from my pro career has been palling around with my teammates on road trips. We’ve got an awesome group of women, on and off the ice, so it’s been a lot of fun getting to know everyone better and making memories along the way.”

What was your favorite off-ice moment from your time at UND?

“2. My favorite off ice moments at UND included partaking in shenanigans with teammates. We’d hide in lockers or boxes to scare each other, try the shampoo in a towel trick, tape a paper cup on someone’s helmet during pregame skate so they didn’t know it was there but everyone else did, gift a hamster as a secret Santa (that was Gracen Hirschy actually and it was hilarious).[In addition] Gracen Hirschy and I once taped all of Halli Kryznaniak’s room decorations to her ceiling. A bean bag and all.”

What is one thing the NCAA could do tomorrow to better promote women’s hockey and women’s sports in general?

“3. The NCAA could promote women’s hockey and women’s sports better by aiding in TV time. I’m not sure if they have a role in what games/sports get real, quality air time, but all women’s sports could use more exposure on that platform.”

What is the biggest misconception people have about women’s hockey and your response?

“4. The biggest misconception about women’s hockey is that it is less entertaining because we can’t check each other. It’s true we play a different style than men, but that doesn’t mean the games are not physical.”

What was your favorite class at UND?

“5. My favorite class at UND is a toss up between anything Professor Munski taught, and my independent study taught by Professor Chuck Haga. The independent study was on how media impacts/portrays women’s sports.”

What is one thing the NHL could do tomorrow to grow the game at a grassroots level?

“6. Growing the game starts by having more exposure and opportunities for kids to try the sport of hockey. I know USA hockey sponsors a “try hockey for free” night in areas across the US. More events like that, or possibly helping in some way by getting kids the equipment to play. Many parents stray away from hockey due to the cost of the gear.”

At the pro level, do you think the NWHL/CWHL would support involvement of their top players in All-Star Weekend similar to the integration the NBA and WNBA have?

“7. Yes, I think that idea is awesome. Last year, some women’s players from the USA national team got to demonstrate the skills competitions on TV for the all star weekend. Hilary Knight even technically beat Connor McDavid’s time on the accuracy shooting challenge… Even that little bit of exposure was cool to see. But more involvement would always be very beneficial to the NWHL/CWHL.”

How long do you think it will be before the two leagues (NWHL/CWHL) integrate and how beneficial to the game would that be?

“8. Combining the two leagues will be huge for women’s hockey. As for a timeline, I’m not sure. Maybe in a couple years. Both leagues still need to grow and secure funding for travel and salary expenses.”

How proud are you to see the success of UND Women’s Hockey alums around the world and how often are you able to follow them on and off the ice?

“9. I love seeing my fellow UND alums succeeding in their new roles. I was able to play in Sweden last year with 4 of my former teammates for a couple months. That was a lot of fun. I also get to play with Tanja Eisenschmid on the whitecaps this season. Many of the UND girls that had to transfer schools are having tons of success on their new teams, which is fun to watch.”

10. What are some of the biggest things you learned from each coach you worked with at UND and how have they helped you?

“Coach Idalski taught me I shoot off the wrong foot. Sorry Brian, I still do that.

Coach Fabian taught me an awesome move on how to get through a D when I’m entering the zone on my backhand. [I] wish he would have taught me that freshman year instead of junior year.

Coach Elander taught me, and a few other former UND players [including] Jocelyn Lamoureux  a move called ‘oops, I did it again’ “.

Special Teams Stats Prove Deceptive as St. Cloud State Takes Opener 3-1

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography

When a team goes 3/3 on the penalty kill (not including empty net goals) and owns five on five play for at least around half of the game things typically go well right? Well for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks things went poorly tonight as they gave up three unanswered goals (the third goal was an empty net marker from Blake Lizotte as UND was trying to bounce back and tie things on the penalty kill late in the third period) to lose the series opener to the number one team in the nation, the St. Cloud State Huskies 3-1.

Micah Miller and Patrick Newell took away a 1-0 lead provided by Nick Jones on an interesting angle shot from below the goal line 11:21 into the first period and gave St. Cloud the lead it would not relinquish. Both St. Cloud goals came mere seconds after UND killed off penalties. Miller’s goal came 18 seconds after UND killed a Matt Kiersted penalty in the second period. He took a feed from Nolan Walker, walked into the UND zone in transition and rifled one past UND netminder Adam Scheel on his left side just above his pad.

In the third period, 17 seconds after the Fighting Hawks killed off a Jasper Weatherby penalty, the puck was fired down towards the UND end. It looked as if a UND defender was close enough to play the puck, and Scheel reached out to play it as well negating any chance of an icing call. Colton Poolman tried to play the puck behind the net but made a very rare mistake and turned the puck over to Nolan Walker. He then found one of the best goal scorers on the Huskies, Newell, in the slot and he did not miss the game-winning goal.

UND was out shot in the second and third periods combined 41-22. The Huskies utilized their strong transition game throughout the second and third period. If not for a very close goal review on a potential Nick Perbix goal, the margin could have better reflected the shots on goal disparity. UND took issue with a potential penalty on Jimmy Schuldt as a hip check on further review looked to result in knee-on-knee contact on Grant Mismash who required help to leave the ice. He will definitely not play in the finale. UND needs to improve in consistency. The result is different as the Huskies outplayed the Fighting Hawks in the final two frames, but the path was the same for UND. The Fighting Hawks started the game well, got chances and limited grade-a chances for the other team. Then the opponent got into their game and this time said opponent was not Omaha or Canisius but St. Cloud State.

These are not the same Huskies that lost to Air Force in the NCAA tournament last March. This is a team with all of the speed and skill of last year’s squad combined with a consistent commitment to team defense to further highlight their skills. For UND to salvage a split they need to play a perfect 60 minutes all the while knowing any mistake they make has a marginally decent chance of ending up in the back of their own net. Saturday night at the Ralph will be a fun one.

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.”

 

 

Double Deflection Does in Fighting Hawks in 2-0 Loss to Western Michigan: Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, both teams had some injury issues, and tonight North Dakota came out on the short end of things on the ice losing 2-0. The Fighting Hawks out shot the Broncos 32-19 but lost the game 2-0. Western Michigan goalie Trevor Gorsuch spun a 32 save shutout in the win. Peter Thome made 17 saves on 18 shots for UND.

The lone goal of the affair came on a double deflection in the third period 12:24 in as Josh Passolt deflected a Hugh McGing pass off the skate of Hayden Shaw and past Thome. Colt Conrad added an empty net marker a few minutes later to provide the final 2-0 margin for the Broncos. Of the 62 shot attempts for the Fighting Hawks, only 32 found their way to Gorsuch.

Despite having three power plays in the first, UND generated only eight shots on net during them combined. None of them found the back of the net. Western Michigan utilized an aggressive penalty kill and took away the time and space of the Fighting Hawks, especially on the points on special teams to limit good power play looks. UND actually lead the night in blocked shots with 18 (18-13) but Western Michigan’s aggressive defense limited quality looks and increased misses for the Fighting Hawks on the evening.

Read on to find out how UND can build on the opener to get a few more in the back of the net Saturday night.

Simplify

Whenever UND comes up short this seems to be a theme for the Fighting Hawks. UND needs to simplify its approach on special teams to generate more chances from high-quality scoring areas. As Western Michigan utilizes an aggressive penalty kill and system to limit quality chances, UND needs to find a way to capitalize on that system. One idea is generating a few more head-fakes and juke moves to open lanes. Think back to the Jacob Bernard-Docker overtime winner against Wisconsin. That patience and poise allowed him to make a nice move to open a lane and provide the final margin that night. That same ability to wait out an opponent did not manifest itself for UND as much on  Friday night at the Ralph.

Add Quality

If the Fighting Hawks finish the series finale with less shots reaching the net, but more goals, no one will be disappointing. The top line number of 32 shots on net was nice, but a lot of those chances as the game wore on were outside chances. It would be equivalent to a basketball team taking a lot of extra shots from beyond the three-point line but not connecting. If UND is able to find more chances down low utilizing the skills it has to mitigate the physical style of hockey the Broncos play, the result in the finale could be a bit different.

Patience

One of the things that impressed me when UND went on its  five game win streak was its patience. If shots did not open up right away, the Fighting Hawks made the extra pass and did not force the issue unnecessarily. That ability to be patient is one of the hallmarks of this team when it is rolling. So now, we patiently wait for game two of the series and see what the Fighting Hawks have in store on a Saturday night in Grand Forks.