NHL Pyramid: UND Fighting Hawks 2018-2019

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee Violent Turtle Photography)

Every year for the past few seasons, Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan and Youtuber extraordinaire, Steve Dangle, has created a prospect pyramid for the Leafs and inspired countless blogs and videos with this system. A few years ago, I created an NCAA adaptation of this with the NHL Pyramid for UND. Let’s see what this year’s tiers look like for the Fighting Hawks. This pyramid will focus on a player’s chance to make the NHL, and play at least enough games to no longer be considered a rookie.

Tier One: 75 percent or better chance 

Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, Grant Mismash, Colton Poolman

The pair of incoming recruits were both drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first and  second rounds, respectively. Bernard-Docker, and Tychonick have played together before on a defensive pair. The two compliment each other quite well. Bernard-Docker is more of a two-way defender that can make the occasional play on offense. On the other hand, Tychonick is an offensive dynamo who is able to generate offense in bunches. Both have strong components to their game. Each defender also had the advantage of spending this summer with the newest Senator and former UND defender Christian Wolanin. They know what it takes to get drafted, and spending time learning about what to expect from Wolanin, combined with a coaching staff featuring head coach Brad Berry, who has a track record of working with and developing defenders in the pro game. How long they each spend here will be a function of their personal goals, and what happens with the Senators this season. One good thing UND fans have going for them with Bernard-Docker and Tychonick is their drafting team. Ottawa has seen what three years can do for development with Wolanin. They will not be rushed to the pro game, as the Senators already see the reward for waiting for a player to develop.

As for Mismash, the second round pick  of the Nashville Predators is in the mix for another spot on the World Juniors’ roster this year. One thing that stands out to me about his game is his consistency. Even if his stats don’t reflect themselves in the box score, he is improving in the defensive end with his positioning. The Predators’ prospect looks to earn himself more time this season, and be a key contributor for the Fighting Hawks in all situations.

As for Poolman, he is the only undrafted free agent to make this list. He has already turned down NHL offers, according to Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. Poolman is a strong two-way defender that will be called on to lead the younger defensive corps the Fighting Hawks will have this season. He did earn an invite to Vancouver Canucks’ development camp. As a junior, look for him to embrace his captaincy for UND and lead the team from the back end. He will not jump up into every single rush for the Fighting Hawks, but when he does he usually makes good things happen. Every NHL team has a need for strong, puck-moving, and responsible two way defenders. Look for more from Colton this year, and look for him to consider his options when the season ends.

Tier Two: 50-75 percent chance

Nick Jones, Peter Thome, Colin Adams, Rhett Gardner

Each of these three players has a strong quality to their game, and something to add on this season. Nick Jones is coming off of a season where he averaged nearly a point-per-game (30 points in 34 games). He is a smaller forward who does not let his height define him. Jones plays a solid two-way game, and this season his chances of earning an NHL deal hinge on his ability to replicate his success, and show scouts his defensive prowess on the penalty kill. The NHL is filled with superb forwards under six feet, no reason why Jones can’t develop into one with a consistent well rounded game this year. His continued development and leadership will be a strong benefit to a younger UND team this season.

As for Thome, to me his rank this high is for a few reasons. First, he earned multiple games in net from a national champion goalie (Cam Johnson who signed a pro deal with the New Jersey Devils upon his season ending) because of his calming play. The Minneapolis native is 6’4″ and uses every bit of his frame to cover a lot of net.Thome plays a smooth game as a netminder. He does not make a lot of highlight reel saves because his positioning and frame allow him not to have that as a constant need. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect gained key experience going up against high-powered teams last season in his limited time. What Thome can build on this season, is lateral movement and puck handling this year. If Thome can improve his lateral game to help his defense out, combined with his superb glove play and positioning he could rise to the top tier here relatively soon. The other issue for Thome is Columbus itself. While Sergei Bobrovsky is locked in as the starter,  Thome will have to develop for a few more years at UND and then look to move up from Columbus’ AHL team, the Cleveland Monsters’ soon.

The Blue Jackets have three goalies that are drafted and not signed, just like Thome. His toughest competition within the system comes from Elvis Merzlikins playing overseas for HC Lugano in Switzerland this year. Look for Thome’s game to take the next step as he moves into a full time starting role for the Fighting Hawks this season.

As for Colin Adams, he showed flashes of brilliance with his goal scoring prowess this year. He scored a goal in two of his first three games last year. Adams only finished with five tallies but still profiles as a strong sniper able to generate offense as needed, especially on the power play. With one year under his belt, I look for him to have an improved season as long as his defense can allow him to generate more ice time and therefore more goal scoring chances. Good, and cheap goal scoring is always in demand in the NHL, Adams developing his game to get more time on the ice will allow him to better showcase his skills. He put up 51 goals in two seasons in the USHL. If Adams can earn more ice time he will score more this season. The Islanders will be closely watching their prospect develop this season.

Finally, while I think Rhett Gardner has developed dramatically in his time at UND, he is in this tier more as a function of who else the Stars have and the amount of time I expect him to spend in the AHL. Rhett will get an NHL look and very soon, but he will be competing against Riley Tufte and other forwards who possess Rhett’s same defensive prowess, but are able to score a few more goals more consistently than Rhett has shown so far. Will Rhett Gardner play in the NHL? In my opinion, yes. Will that happen before a longer stint in the AHL than some other Stars’ prospects, I don’t know. Gardner has a senior season ahead of him to build the offensive side of his game and become a leading goal scorer for UND.

Tier Three: 25-49.9 percent chance of making the NHL

Jasper Weatherby, Gabe Bast, Gavin Hain

The Oregon native is a strong power forward that the Sharks thought enough of to trade up to get in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He developed in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild. He put up 106 points in 104 BCHL games. Weatherby is 6’4″ like Thome and will see immediate chances on UND in at least a bottom-six role. If he showcases the gains he has made in his game over the summer, combined with the needs of the team he could get even more time. UND develops all types of forwards, but, like Austin Poganski before him, he is a strong two-way player that will develop into an all around player at the NCAA level.

As for Bast, he came off shoulder surgery as a freshman and only played 27 games on defense for UND. I think he is a potential gem for the Fighting Hawks for a few reasons. Bast’s physical style of play and responsibility on the back end will help open up opportunities for UND’s offensive-minded defenseman this season. In addition, there is offensive potential not discovered at this level for Bast. He can generate offense as shown in his last full season of junior hockey, he put up 40 points (9 goals, 31 assists) in 49 regular season games for Penticton.

Gavin Hain was also drafted this offseason by Dave Hakstol’s Flyers. Look for him to compete for time on ice with sophomores Jordan Kawaguchi and Colin Adams, just to name a few. He will develop here for a few years, and has an impressive background playing for the USA National Development Team before coming to UND.

Tier Four: Everyone Else

As for every other UND player, I hope to be proven wrong. This team has a lot of depth this year, including senior leader Hayden Shaw.  The point is to say that this team, like every college hockey team, has a lot of depth and players develop at irregular intervals and times.

Also, college hockey championships are not won without depth players. Regardless of NHL capability, every player on this roster is here for a reason and belongs on this team.

Finally, UND has over 40 players playing in pro leagues around the world. To me that means that all players are being scouted every game by pro organizations around the world. Look for a lot out of everyone on this team this season. I hope multiple people not named on this list make the NHL and prove me wrong.

 

 

DOT Champs: Another Chat with Ryan Duncan

To close the 2017-2018 NHL season, Washington Capitals forward, and star UND Alum T.J Oshie won the Stanley Cup as the Caps defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in five games. This marks a milestone for the famed Duncan-Oshie-Toews line that delighted UND fans in the 2006-2007 season. Everyone who played on that line has one at least one league championship in their professional careers.

Toews and Oshie both have their Stanley Cups(Three for Toews, One for Oshie), while Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Duncan has four league championships in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga  (EBEL) , the top pro league in Austria,  with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria along with an IIHF Continental Cup Championship. Duncan’s season kicks off in a few weeks as his side takes part in the Champions Hockey League, a European competition that is a best-on-best tournament for most top leagues in Europe.

Duncan has had some time to reflect on his two linemates, and the unique aspect of all three members of a college hockey line winning a league championship in professional hockey. Below are some questions of mine on his time at UND, and his thoughts on the success of his linemates along with some unique stories about them.

Tell us something about your linemates that people do not know.

1. “It’s tough to think of something that people don’t already know about both Osh and Jon because they’re such big public figures now but I have two stories about them that people might not know. First with Osh, I don’t know if this story has been told yet but I think he wasn’t supposed to come to UND in 2005. I think the original plan for him was to go play a year of junior and then come to UND in 2006. There were a couple guys who left early and signed pro in the summer of 2005 and that opened up a spot for Osh. As soon as he arrived on campus it was pretty evident he was more than ready for the college game and his outstanding freshman season proved that. Kind of a similar story with Jon. Jon had just turned 15 years old and decided to move from Winnipeg to Shattuck-St. Mary’s to further his hockey career. He was very highly touted and expectations were high for him coming in. When he arrived at Shattuck he had an underwhelming tryout to say the least. The Coaches ended up naming him to the Prep team (top team at Shattuck) anyway but I’ll never forget what the Coaches said at our first team meeting. They said they had selected some guys for the Prep team based on what they had done in the past and not necessarily what they had done in tryouts so they would have a lot of proving themselves to do during the season. Needless to say I think Jonny more than proved himself. He ended up leading our team in goals that season.”

What on-ice skills did you learn from your linemates?

2. “I learned a lot from both of them on the ice. Their talent is obviously elite but they did so many little things well. Osh was so strong on his skates and his puck skills were off the charts. The puck seemed to stick to his blade. Jonny was so tenacious and determined on the puck. He wouldn’t be denied. I try my best to mimic some of those characteristics but it’s easier said than done.”

What did it mean to see Toews and Oshie win their respective championships?

3. “To witness Jonny and Osh achieve the success they have had at the highest level of hockey has brought me a huge sense of pride. Whether it be their success Internationally or in the NHL, every time they do something special it reiterates to me how lucky I was to play with such world class players and people. And knowing all of the hard work they have put into obtaining those goals makes me appreciate them even more.”

How often do all three of you stay in touch?

4. “Admittedly, the three of us aren’t in contact as much as we used to be or we would like to be but when we do get to talk or spend time together it’s a real pleasure. We had an undeniable chemistry on the ice that is hard to find and that chemistry definitely extended to off the ice as well. We developed a deep bond during those years and even though we might not talk as much anymore that bond still runs deep.”

Looking back on your time at UND, what was your favorite class here?

5. “I was fortunate to have a lot of enjoyable classes with some great professors during my time at UND. If I have to pick one favorite class I would probably say one of my business management courses taught by Professor Kathy Jones. I’m a business management major so I believe Mrs. Jones taught me a few classes. She left a big impact on a lot of her students including me. She was very encouraging and she created a really fun classroom atmosphere.”

Whenever you retire from playing, do you know what you want to do next?

6. “I’m not sure what I want to do after I’m done playing quite yet. Hopefully I’ll stay involved with the game of hockey in some capacity but I’ve got a young growing family so what’s best for them will be my first priority. But hopefully I have a little more time to figure things out before I cross that bridge.”

 

Deep Depth: How Minnesota Duluth Won Its Second National Championship

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

 

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs won their second national championship on Saturday night with a 2-1 win over Notre Dame. They won with goals from Captain Karson Kuhlman, and Jared Thomas. UMD also got timely goaltending as Hunter Shepard made 19 saves on the evening. Of his 19 saves, three of them were on solid grade-A chances for Notre Dame.

He outlasted 2018 Mike Richter Award (best goalie in college hockey) Winner, Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris. He made 33 saves but was solved early by UMD.

Initially,  Notre Dame did a better job at getting sticks into lanes and making Duluth earn its chances, however it was not enough to stop them from replicating their streak of scoring first in their last three games of this tournament.

Duluth captain Karson Kuhlman capitalized on a Notre Dame turnover. He started the play with the turnover that Jade Miller was able to return to him. Kuhlman then raced in and fired a strike from just outside the right faceoff dot that went off Notre Dame defender Tory Dello and past the glove of Cale Morris to give UMD the first lead of the night 9:06 into the first period.

Notre Dame played Duluth tough the entire first period, but could not convert on any of their chances. They had a few solid chances, but could not solve Shepard.

The lack of scoring for Notre Dame benefited UMD early on as Jared Thomas netted his second goal of the weekend 18:39 into the first. Thomas won a puck battle in the Notre Dame zone, found Kuhlman and returned the puck back to Thomas. He then walked to the side of Morris and banked a shot in off of him.

Notre Dame did get one goal 7:40 into the second on a power play as Cam Morrison found Andrew Oglevie on a nice setup. He then wired a wrist shot through the five-hole of Shepard.

For as much as Notre Dame pressured Duluth the rest of the night, the final margin was set at that point. UMD did a superb job of limiting second and third chances, and did just enough to earn the win. Duluth even prevented Notre Dame from getting a shot on net with the extra attacker for the last part of the game.

QUOTES

UMD’s Karson Kuhlman on the depth of his team, and the play made by Jade Miller to set him up for his goal.

“Obviously those guys have been playing great all year. That’s one thing that we knew
coming into the season that we’d have was real good depth up front. Obviously any single night lines one through four could score and all six [defenseman] can put the puck in the net. And Shep [Hunter Shepard could probably score if he came out, too.”

“But it was a good play. I think Jader got a stick on a puck and I was able to turn in transition quick and sneak one by his glove.”

Jared Thomas on the unsung heroes of UMD

” I think we have a bunch of unsung heroes on our team. There’s a guy sitting down there [ Blake Young] .He’s came such a long way since his freshman year. We had so many guys like that on our team, playing third,fourth line. And we’re never afraid when they were on the ice. We knew that they were going to do their job.And we trusted everyone in our locker room, whether the guys were playing or even the guys that weren’t in the lineup. If we needed them we knew that they’d be ready to step right in. And I think that goes unnoticed sometimes, those depth guys. So I’m so happy for our group and especially for those guys that don’t get a lot of recognition.”

 

Mackay’s Magic Lifts UMD to Regional Final in 3-2 OT Thriller

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to the University of Minnesota State Mankato and won on a thrilling Parker Mackay game winner in overtime to set up a regional final tomorrow against Air Force.The Mackay goal came 2:28 into the overtime period.

The 3-2 comeback was keyed by three unanswered goals from the Bulldogs. Karson Kuhlman energized the team with a breakaway goal 6:38 into the second period.

Minnesota Wild prospect Nick Swaney sent the game into overtime with a power play tally 15:52 into the third period. He took a superb cross-ice feed from Jared Thomas and buried the puck into a wide open net.

During the overtime period, Minnesota Duluth had to survive an overturned goal for goaltender interference, and a Mankato player shooting a puck past UMD goalie Hunter Shepard, and off of a Maverick who was sitting on the goal line.

This furious UMD comeback was needed after Zeb Knutson and Ian Scheid opened the scoring for the Mavericks. Duluth used nearly the whole game to undo the deficit Mankato created in  a mere 06:37. UMD’s team defense eventually wore Mankato down and helped open up some chances as the game wore on.

Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin talked about the effort of senior captain Karson Kuhlman to keep his side in the game. Shortly before his first goal he nearly scored on another breakaway and seemed to give UMD a boost when they needed it the most.

For tomorrow against Air Force, UMD will be the decidedly faster team unlike tonight. It cannnot veer from its principles that helped it to comeback tonight. It needs to limit Air Force chances, and use its own speed to get multiple looks on net. Simple shots with multiple rebounds will be how UMD needs to attack Air Force’s superb defensive systems and goaltending lead by Billy Christopoulos. If UMD can activate its mobile defense corps and force Air Force to extend their forechecking a bit, it will open up more breakaway and quick chances and limit Air Force’s ability to generate deflections and tip in goals. A trip to the Frozen Four is on the line tomorrow, which ever team can best execute its game plan has the best chance of advancing.

Never Surrender: How Air Force Upset St. Cloud State 4-1

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

Tyler Ledferd’s two goals and Billy Christopoulous’ 39 save effort against the number one overall seed St. Cloud State Huskies was enough to provide the upset. Air Force used two empty net goals to make the final margin 4-1. Blake Lizotte provided the only tally for St. Cloud on a feed from Patrick Newell 17:09 into the third. Air Force struck for its first empty net goal from Jordan Himley 1:17 after the Lizotte goal. Kyle Haak added the final empty net tally to provide the 4-1 final score.

This was the second time in history that a number 16 overall seed has defeated the number one overall seed.The last time this happened,  RIT defeated Minnesota State Mankato in the 2015 tournament.

Early on, this game was a defensive chess match. Both teams did not generate a lot of shots on the opposing netminder early on. The best early chance came from Evan Giesler early on for the Falcons. Neither team could score in the first period.

2:57 into the second period, Tyler Ledford  swatted a puck out of mid air and past St. Cloud State netminder David Hrenak to open up the scoring. The play would get reviewed for a high stick but ended up counting.  The call was so close, even Ledford was not sure if it would count. Since the call on the ice was a good goal, it was not overturned since the evidence was not conclusive despite the long review time.

A few minutes later, Ledford would strike again. This time he redirected a Matt Koch pass past David Hrenak to make it a 2-0 game 6:29 into the second. From that point on, St. Cloud State generated the majority of its chances. They utilized their team speed to generate different looks from multiple angles.

It would not matter.

The Falcons played a defensively superb third period, and limited second and third chances. They also guarded the front of the net well, and eliminated a lot of the backdoor scoring plays St. Cloud State likes to utilize with its superb speed. The Falcons blocked 29 of the 78 attempted shots from St. Cloud State on the evening. They did just enough to limit the Huskies when it mattered, and capitalized on the rare St. Cloud State mistakes.

For Air Force to have a chance tomorrow, they will have to face a fast team in Minnesota Duluth or Minnesota State Mankato once again and need to replicate the game they played today. If the Falcons can help their dialed in netminder Christopoulos see the puck well, who knows what could happen tomorrow.  Since Air Force scores a lot by comitee, whomever it faces has to utilize its speed early, and generate traffic in front of Christopoulos. If they can do that, then they can score before the Falcons’ netminder settles in. If not, then the winner of game two tonight could be in for the same fate tomorrow as St. Cloud State was tonight.

Tournament Time: NCAA Tournament Predictions-West Region

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

This year, North Dakota just missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade. The Fighting Hawks came up just short in overtime against St. Cloud in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not get enough help on Saturday to earn a tournament bid. That being said, we have some superb hockey coming up all around the country over the next few weeks.

Below are some predictions for the West Region, where we will be providing coverage of all three games.

West Region- Sioux Falls, SD

  • 1 St. Cloud State vs 4. Air Force
    • UND fans know what to expect out of this team, they can score in bunches from anywhere on the ice. Their team speed is something to behold. Canadians’ super prospect Ryan Poehling is one of the most skilled players in this tournament. Slovak netminder David Hrenak has been a superb find, backstopping the Huskies to this tournament run. Air Force will need to play a perfect game to have a chance in this one.
    • Prediction
      • St. Cloud takes this one 4-1 to open up the first round out west.
  • 2. Minnesota St. Mankato vs. 3. Minnesota Duluth
    • High scoring defense, strong goaltending, and physical play from both teams. These are things to look for in this one. To me, this game is a complete coin flip. Look for the team with more postseason experience to draw on it to advance to the regional final.
    • Prediction
      • UMD wins this one 2-1 in a close game, where the offensive defenseman from both teams set the course for this one.
  • Final
    • St. Cloud State vs UMD
      • Both teams can move on to St. Paul in this one. I do see two key differences in this one. St. Cloud State is faster on paper than Minnesota Duluth. The team speed St. Cloud has to me will be the difference early on.Can the speed of the Poehlings, and superb play of Jimmy Schuldt on the back end vault St. Cloud to an insurmountable lead? I do not think so. If UMD can use its superior physicality to neutralize the speed of St. Cloud, and wear out the Huskies, then the result could be completely different. This game is a coin flip given all of this. In the end, look for the physical nature of UMD to carry them to St. Paul. Duluth will win this one, 3-2 in overtime. Riley Tufte will score the game winner.

 

Bank on It: Nick Jones Sends UND Back to the Frozen Faceoff with OT Game Winner

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND

53 seconds into overtime, the bank was open for the University of North Dakota. Forward Nick Jones picked up the overtime winner for the Fighting Hawks off of Omaha goalie Evan Weninger. Jones tied the game for UND in the third period on a redirect past a screened Weninger on the power play.The junior forward took a rebound from a Jordan Kawaguchi shot, and used the positioning of Weninger to his advantage.In addition, that goal provided Kawaguchi with his first collegiate assist. His two tallies provided the difference for a UND side that needed a spark after giving up another two goal lead. The Jones tally sent 10351 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena home happy.

This sweep in the NCHC First Round keeps UND’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament alive. They still have more work to do. The only thing this win guarantees the Fighting Hawks is two more games next weekend. It also showed that UND can come back from deficits, and that its experience in numerous overtime games helped equip them for tough situations like tonight.

After a long review it was determined that Matt Kiersted opened the scoring 10:13 into the game as he just squeaked the puck over the goal line before Weninger pulled the puck out of the net.

A few minutes later Bowen took a feed from Trevor Olson and walked in on breakaway. He went forehand-backhand to put the puck past Weninger 14:05 into the first.

The Mavericks answered right back as  Teemu Pulkkinen redirected a powerful Lucas Buchta wrist shot past Cam Johnson 15:28 into the first. UNO got its first goal in its last six periods. on that tally.

Pulkkinen would strike again in the second period, and tie things up for the Mavericks. UNO fought back from the first period and played UND even throughout the second frame and into the third period. In the third stanza, Jake Randolph gave UNO the lead 5:41 into the final regulation frame.

Nick Jones would score the first of his two goals on a redirect past Weninger. Jones’ net front presence made it impossible for Weninger to see the puck. The score would remained tied for the final 9:46 of regulation time.

UND will await the results of the Miami-St. Cloud, and Colorado College-Denver game threes tomorrow. These results determine UND’s opponent on Friday in St. Paul.  The Fighting Hawks still have to win at least one if not both games depending on their opponents next weekend. In addition, UND cannot cough up another two goal lead, this habit has cost them games and almost hurt them tonight.

 

 

UND Hangs on for Home Ice in 2-2 Tie: Gardner Saves Senior Night With Three-on-Three OT Winner

(All Photos used in this recap are courtesy of Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 12, 093 screaming fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota did just enough to secure another postseason series in front of their fans. They earned a 2-2 tie against St. Cloud State guaranteeing them a home date with Nebraska Omaha next weekend. They also built a little momentum winning the three-on-three overtime with a superb shot from forward Rhett Gardner 04:14 into the three-on-three frame.

UND was lead offensively by junior defenseman Christian Wolanin. He had primary assists on all three goals and keyed the offensive attack for UND. Wolanin also tied Austin Poganski for the blocked shot lead last night with three.

On senior night, freshman Grant Mismash took a Wolanin  point shot and fired it past St. Cloud goalie David Hrenak from the slot to give the Fighting Hawks a 1-0 lead 5 minutes into the game. UND would generate a lot of chances in the first but could not add any insurance to their initial 1-0 lead.

_UND1038-1 (1)

14:39 into the 2nd period Rhett Gardner got the puck on his stick off a perfect cross-ice feed from Wolanin. The Dallas Stars’ prospect had enough time to get the perfect corner picked and he did not miss.

_UND1423-1

The third period was not kind to UND. Canadians super prospect Ryan Poehling scored another superb goal on a re-direct from a Robby Jackson shot on the power play 02:42 into the final frame. A few minutes later, 09:42 into the third, Grand Forks native Jacob Benson sent the fans in his hometown in to a panic for the final few minutes of the game. He went top shelf on Cam Johnson just after another power play had ended.

UND called timeout, and head coach Brad Berry reminded his team that “hey, we’re fine.”  Berry was able to calm the ensuing storm from St. Cloud and helped steer his team into the first overtime frame where it generated two shots on net. Neither of them found the back of the net, and UND guaranteed home ice at the end of the first overtime based on Omaha and Colorado College’s regulation losses.

Next week, UND can hopefully learn its lessons from this series to play against Omaha. The Mavericks bring the best power play in the conference, lead by the best player on the power play, senior forward David Pope, to the Ralph. UND gave up five power plays last night, and one goal shorthanded. UNO converts just over 25 percent of their power plays, so staying out of the penalty box next weekend will be crucial for the Fighting Hawks.

 

(Game Highlights, Video Courtesy of UND Insider)

 

 

 

 

 

What a Difference a Day Makes: UND Earns 5-1 Victory Over Colorado College

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of  11,860 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks played in a must-win game over Colorado College. They did not disappoint their fans tonight. They earned a 5-1 victory thanks to strong special teams play resulting in two power play goals, and timely goaltending from Peter Thome.

In a completely different first period than last night, UND controlled the pace of play throughout. Although they did not score, they had Colorado College on their heels. This pace was consistent throughout the rest of the game.

Finally, for UND things looked up in the second period, the Fighting Hawks earned some five-on-three time on the power play. They did not convert on the two man advantage, as Joel Janatuinen  buried a rebound on a Shane Gersich sharp-angle shot to give UND the 1-0 lead 9:23 into the 2nd .

A few minutes later, Christian Wolanin fired a perfect shot on the power play off Colorado College goalie Alex Leclerc. It never got to him, it went off of the shin pad of Austin Poganski and over to Shane Gersich. The Capitals draft pick made no mistake, and deposited the rebound into a wide open net to give UND its first two goal lead on the weekend.

The third period featured a superb start for the Fighting Hawks. A mere 57 seconds into the final frame, Austin Poganski took a feed from Johnny Simonson and raced in and fired a superb shot past Leclerc short side to give UND its first five-on-five goal of the evening.

Colorado College would answer back, as with 13:24 left in the game, Nick Halloran took a feed from Troy Conzo and fired a perfectly placed shot past Peter Thome to bring the Tigers within two goals.

A few minutes later, UND restored their 3 goal lead as Grant Mismash created time and space in the offensive zone. The Predators’ prospect fired a shot that went off Leclerc, off of Jordan Kawaguchi, and to Janatuinen, who did not miss the open net. The Finnish forward was credited with his second goal of the evening.

Grant Mismash was not done.

A few minutes after he started the play that lead to the second Janatuinen tally, he created his own goal. He took a feed from Trevor Olson , walked in and went top shelf on Leclerc 11:43 into the third to make it a 5-1 game.  That would be the final margin of victory for UND.

UND heads on the road next weekend to Omaha to take on the University of Nebraska Omaha. If UND can mimic some of what it did tonight through playing through the middle of the ice, generating high percentage chances, and using a strong forecheck to limit Omaha’s top line, then the result could possibly be similar to tonight. The Fighting Hawks did not clinch anything tonight, but showed that they can compete when they play their brand of  hockey.

Magnificent Mitens: How Lake Superior State Swept Bemidji State 2-0

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

Last night at the Sanford Center, Lake Superior State faced a strong Bemidji State team lead by senior goaltender Michael Bitzer. The Lakers were coming off a strong 2-0 shutout of the Bemidji State Beavers on Friday night. Last night, they recived a superb 36 save shutout from freshman netminder Mareks Mitens, and a timely go-ahead goal from Max Humitz 1:14 into the second period plus an empty net power play insurance marker from Diego Cuglietta to provide the same result. Mitens finished the night with 36 saves, including stopping many high percentage shots from the low slot and just outside his crease.

 

This game had some themes running throughout it. The Beavers utilized their speed all night and forced the Lakers to play in their own zone the majority of the night. The shot attempts on the evening were 81-29 in favor of Bemidji State. The Lakers were able to counter this with strong defense and superb effort from Mitens. He did not look out of position on any of the saves he made all night. Mitens even anticipated multiple deflections coming from Beavers on the attack and set up well to stop them.

Mitens poke save

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Also, Lake Superior State skaters did a superb job of blocking shots, and clearing rebounds from in front of Mitens. On the night, the Lakers blocked 16 shots as a team. They were lead in that category by Colin Saccoman who finished the night with four blocks and a primary assist on the Max Humitz goal to earn third star honors on the evening. Mitens took home second star honors for the shutout, and Humitz earned first star honors for netting the game winning goal.

Another theme of the evening was the Lakers’ ability to counter Bemidji. Whenever there was a long sequence in the Lakers’ defensive zone, they were able to use some timely speed and smart puck decisions to clear the puck. They generated their best chances, including the Humitz goal in the second on the counter attack.

Also give credit to Lakers’ forward Yuki Miura. In only his third college hockey game, he played outstanding. On the top line, he generated the secondary assist on the Humitz goal. He found Saccoman who set up the Humitz goal.

Another thing that stood out to me was the main review of the game. It happened in the third period. The Beavers looked like they had scored. However, it was waved off  after a prompt review for goaltender interference. Leo Fitzgerald skated across the crease and bumped Mitens which prevented him from playing the puck. Mitens knew it and immediately voiced his concerns on the ice about it. To the officials’ credit, they quickly reviewed the play and got the call right.

Finally, Mitens played just as strong for the Lakers tonight as he did for team Latvia in the 2016 U18 Worlds when we first saw him. It would be smart for Latvia to consider taking Mitens to the IIHF World Championships in Denmark this spring. Mitens has shown he can withstand high shot volumes, and plays quite well regardless of the team in front of him. He kept the Lakers in this one last night, and should merit strong consideration for WCHA Rookie and Goaltender of the week.

We think that Mitens and his goalie colleague Nick Kossoff should share WCHA goaltender of the week honors. Combined they stopped all 64 shots faced on the weekend.

Next week, the Lakers look to vault themselves into a playoff spot with a crucial two game set on the road against Alaska Anchorage.

Below are the highlights from last night including the two Lake Superior State goals and the goaltender interference call which nullified Bemidji’s best chance of the evening.