Energy Line Powers Fighting Hawks to a Sweep with 4-1 Victory over Western Michigan

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,742 fans at the Ralph Englestad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks used four unanswered goals from Nick Jones, Cole Smith,Hayden Shaw,and Grant Mismash to propel this team to its first home NCHC sweep of the season.

With UND dealing with significant injuries throughout its lineup, the job that the line of Johnny Simonson, Josh Rieger, and Cole Smith did tonight turned out to produce the game winning goal and tie a record a mere seven seconds into the third period.

Simonson won the faceoff, then Josh Rieger, playing his fourth game ever at forward , made a pass to Cole Smith who drove the net hard and fired the game-winning goal past Western Michigan netminder Ben Blacker.

The record for fastest goal to start a third period is now shared between UND legend Ben Cherski, and Cole Smith.

Early on, in the first ten minutes of the game, UND controlled the pace and generated multiple chances. UND held Western Michigan without a shot on goal for the first 8:28 of the game. Western Michigan would rebound and end up putting eight shots on net for the remainder of the period. The Fighting Hawks finished the first frame with five shots on goal. Both teams had similar stats after the first with a penalty each, 13 shot attempts, and three blocked shots per side.

The game opened up a bit in the second period as Austin Rueschhoff took a feed from Brett Van Os, walked into the slot, and used some slick deking to help him find the back of the net 8:33 into the second period.He fired the puck passed the glove side shoulder of Cam Johnson, UND netminder. The goal provided Western Michigan with their first lead of the series.

That lead would not last the entire period. Although Western Michigan kept UND’s offense at bay for most of the second frame, until Shane Gersich rushed into the zone late into the period. He found Grant Mismash who fired a strong shot on Ben Blacker. The rebound went to Nick Jones who found the back of the net 19:37 into the second period. Jones’ sixth goal of the season tied things at one heading into the second intermission.

The third period not only saw the Smith goal, it featured crucial insurance markers from Hayden Shaw and Grant Mismash. Shaw’s tally came on the power play as he fired a puck off of a Bronco skater’s skate and past Blacker 11:59 into the third.

Mismash’s fifth tally of the season provided the final margin of the evening 14:26 into the third frame. Shane Gersich and Nick Jones contributed to this tally, and helped ensure UND got its first home NCHC sweep of the year.

Next week, the Fighting Hawks travel to St. Cloud for a crucial series to wrap up the first half.

 

 

 

 

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Union Uses Two Goal First Period to Soar Past UND 4-1 Plus a Look Ahead to Tonight’s Finale

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,087 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came up short last night against the Union College Dutchmen by a 4-1 margin.

Last year,  Union College Head Coach Rick Bennett was upset at the lack of physical play his Dutchmen showed against UND. The Fighting Hawks controlled the pace of that game and won 3-1. On Friday, the roles were reversed, as Union came out gave the Fighting Hawks a completely different game.

The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks fielded a different lineup heading into game one of its two game series against the Union Dutchmen. Josh Rieger moved from defense to play forward on the fourth line as Joel Janatuinen did not play.

In the first period, Union controlled the first ten minutes of play. The Dutchmen were able to control the early part of the game and set the pace.  Tonight, that was not the case. 10:03 into the first period, Ryan Walker fired a strong shot past UND netminder Peter Thome and through traffic into the back of the net.

The Dutchmen continued their strong play as a few minutes later, at the 14:16 mark of the first period, Peter Thome wandered out to play the puck. Sebastian Vidmar used some help from Luc Brown and Brett Supinski to stake Union to a 2-0 lead after the first period.

The Fighting Hawks would build some momentum off a late power play to make the shots on net a bit closer. UND generated a few more chances as the period concluded to end the shots on net battle down only one (9-8 Union) after the first.

 

The second period featured the most consistent play for UND. The Fighting Hawks generated multiple chances and shored up their own end but could not bury anything.

Christian Wolanin would get UND on the board 3:27 into the third period but 52 seconds later, Vas Kolias capitalized on a UND turnover and scored a breakaway. Brendan Taylor would ice the game for the Dutchmen with an empty net marker.

Thoughts for Tonight 

UND has to do a better job screening the goalie. Josh Rieger did a good job when his line was on the ice, and provided the screen on the initial shot that lead to Wolanin’s tally. I did not see UND get a lot of net-front presence during the game which made Jake Kupsky’s task easier.

The Fighting Hawks need to improve their starts, as the coach Brad Berry noted after last night’s game. In the first period, UND had a mere eight shots on net, and none of them were from high chance areas. Look for the Fighting Hawks to make some adjustments tonight to mitigate Union’s ability to clog the middle lanes, and open up some chances for their shooters. If UND can limit Union’s chances and utilize its speed like it did in the second period, then the result could be a different one for the Fighting Hawks tonight.

 

 

 

Rieger Report: A Look at Defenseman Josh Rieger, and His Development So Far

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

Hardworking, good puck sense, physical, two-way defenseman. These are all words that describe freshman defender Josh Rieger. He is a six-foot tall defender from Regina, Saskatchewan. He plays a strong two-way game and has had to learn how to play college hockey this year.

When talking with him, he noted the adjustment he has had to make at the NCAA level so far.

One thing that has become more interesting to me is how Josh has kept improving his game despite limited minutes so far. Every chance he gets he always works on improving his game at the facilities of the Ralph Engelstad Arena. He chose to come to UND partly because of the outstanding setup afforded to its players here.

On coming to Grand Forks, he truly believes that the environment here was the best for him. Even on days when he does not play he still can utilize the wonderful facilities in the Ralph Engelstad Arena to improve his game.

Josh said that coming to UND was “a pretty easy choice”.

He mentioned a lot of reasons for coming to UND. In addition to noting the facility quality here, Rieger noted the one overarching theme. “I want to win a championship”. Rieger wants to win, and strongly believes that the University of North Dakota is the best place to do that.

Since coming to UND, Rieger has noted some instances of being able to work on his game regardless of whether he makes the game night lineup. The Ralph Engelstad arena has a shooting room, and other off-ice options for players to work on their craft regardless of whether he is playing that night.

Off the ice, Josh seemed fairly focused on his game. He has not spent much time away from the rink, and seems to be focused on getting his accountancy degree.

Josh is a focused player who is dedicated to his craft. Despite only playing in two games this season, Josh does not let his lack of ice time get to him. He values the day-to-day grind and preparation for each game. The Saskatchewan native noted that “you can’t take any time off” when preparing for games. He also values the constant grind and improvement. He said, “every day you’ve gotta get better”.

Rieger noted the differences between his junior hockey league, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League “SJHL”, and the NCHC, UND’s current conference. He noted that the players in college hockey are a lot stronger and the wide difference in the skill level between the two levels of hockey.

One thing Josh mentioned was how Assistant Coach, Dane Jackson, has used his knowledge to help the two-way defender learn the mental side of the game. Jackson has years of professional hockey experience and uses that to mentor Josh, and the Fighting Hawks Penalty Kill units.

On Rieger, Jackson has high hopes for his future. He thinks of Josh as a strong, two-way defenseman that will contribute on the scoresheet in all situations. “

He was part of the recruiting team that brought Rieger to campus. The staff thought he was the best defender in the SJHL last year. Jackson identified his “hockey sense” as one of the biggest things that they saw in him. The coaches also like how Rieger handles himself with the puck.

Jackson also noted that since coming to campus, Rieger has “done a good job in a support role so far”. The former NHL rear guard appreciates how Josh handles himself in practice and in the gym.

As to Josh’s future, his hockey intelligence will help him. Jackson thinks that with time, Rieger can be a constant in the UND lineup. According to Jackson, Rieger is a “pretty good puck mover”.

Off the ice, the staff likes the “quiet confidence” that Rieger carries himself with. In addition, they appreciate the work he puts in daily to make himself better.

While Rieger is fighting for ice time this year, he has already shown some improvement. He has a strong background from his time in the SJHL, and his maturity will help him develop into the strong two-way defender Jackson thinks he can be. The Canadian defender will not be fighting for ice time for much longer if he continues the path of steady development and hard work he has set himself on.

Josh wants to play UND Hockey, and if he continues his steady development path, look for his name to soon become a fixture in the Fighting Hawks Lineup.

Thrice as Nice: UND Uses a Three Goal Second Period to Help Down Miami (OH) 4-1 Plus 2 Thoughts

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,389 loud fans at the Ralph Englestad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks were able to spring past the University of Miami of Ohio Red Hawks thanks to a three goal second period. The Fighting Hawks used strong forward play, lead by former Ohio State Buckeye Nick Jones to neutralize the speedy style the RedHawks played.  He took a pass from Colton Poolman 4:03 into the second period and buried it past Miami goaltender Ryan Larkin. This would key the three goal second period the Fighting Hawks used to earn the victory on Friday Night. UND is now 7-2-2 while Miami is 4-5-0.

Throughout the first period, the Fighting Hawks were playing catch up hockey. While the period ended with no score, it also ended with the Red Hawks winning the shot attempt battle by a resounding 21-8. Peter Thome looked strong in the first period. He even played well a couple of long bounces that looked similar to the one Jeff Frazee was unable to stop many years ago against Robbie Bina.

2nd period

Later on after Jones’s first goal, on the power play, Shane Gersich rushed down the ice  and executed a wraparound a bit later to set up Rhett Gardner to bury the eventual game-winning goal .  This goal came 16:17 into the second stanza.

Then just a little bit later, 18:07 into the second frame, Nick Jones took a feed from Jordan Kawaguchi and buried his second tally of the night to give the Fighting Hawks a three goal lead after the second.

3rd period 

In the third period, the RedHawks were finally able to complete the tough task of solving Thome as Panthers’ prospect, Karch Bachman fired one past him 07:26 into the third period to make it a two goal affair once again.

However, a mere four minutes later, Grant Mismash added an insurance marker to re-stake UND to a three goal lead. He potted his second point of the game on a net-front battle to provide the final margin of victory for the evening.

Peter Thome played a strong game throughout the evening for the Fighting Hawks. Coach Brad Betty noted how sharp Thome was, especially in the first period when the team in front of him was not producing much.

Be Consistent

If the team can repeat its performance from period two, it will have a lot of success this season. If the Fighting Hawks play like a first period team, then the success will not come as quickly. UND’s biggest opponent from success could end up being itself.

Thome Time

Peter Thome exudes a quiet confidence while playing goal for the Fighting Hawks. He never looks out of any play and always finds a way to stay calm. Utilize Saturday night as a chance to get him more experience, but do not let up. If Thome sees less than 30 shots, the chances increase for a UND sweep.

 

 

 

 

 

Three For One: How UND Defeated Minnesota 4-0 to Earn a Split

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

On Saturday night, in front of 11,890 boisterous fans, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (4-1-1) defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-3-0, 1-1-0) 4-0. Their victory was keyed by three goals on a Jack Glover checking from behind major. This set up the Fighting Hawks to separate themselves from the Gophers for the remainder of the contest.

With the Gophers down a defenseman, and shorthanded for five full minutes, UND took advantage of its chances. The three markers provided insurance after the Fighting Hawks had a one goal lead.

 

04:59 into the first period Nick Jones buried his first goal as a Fighting Hawk on a perfect setup from linemate Grant Mismash. The Predators prospect took a feed from defenseman Hayden Shaw, streaked down to the goal line, and fired an exquisite no look back hand pass to a wide open Jones who did the rest.

19:19 into the opening frame,  the Fighting Hawks would score their first of three goals on Jack Glover’s five minute major. Christian Wolanin took a feed from Gabe Bast and rifled it past Gophers’ goalie Eric Schierhorn to give UND a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. Give forward Rhett Gardner credit on that goal for providing a beautiful screen to set that chance up.

The Fighting Hawks continued their strong special teams play as Colton Poolman joined the goal scoring fun. The sophomore defenseman scored  2:12 into the period. He took a drop pass from Ludvig Hoff and sent a rocket past three Gopher defenders and Schierhorn into the back of the net.

Wolanin capped off the scoring 3:43 into the middle frame. He took a pass from Colin Adams and fired it past Schierhorn to secure the final margin of victory for the Fighting Hawks.

Notes 

Forward Grant Mismash had an especially strong first period and was my vote for second star of the evening. He had two assists, finished plus one, and blocked a shot. The two-way forward played a strong 200 foot game for the Fighting Hawks tonight, and is developing into the player Nashville drafted him to be.

Junior defender Hayden Shaw notched two secondary assists tonight, as he did a superb job setting up the play throughout the evening for the Fighting Hawks.

Last night, North Dakota dominated possession and chances, yet could not win. Tonight, the tables were turned as Minnesota finished with 47 shot attempts to UND’s 39.

My Thoughts

I think that the Fighting Hawks cannot only be judged by their shot totals, or even shot attempts. Some of the past few games that the Fighting Hawks have not won, going back to last season against Boston have a few common themes. Strong goaltender, not finishing chances, and too many blocked shots.

Tonight the Fighting Hawks took care of the last two, and Schierhorn had to deal with a lot of traffic on Saturday. Look for UND to utilize that even more moving forward. The Fighting Hawks almost have to be judged without shot attempts. One the one hand, this stat shows possession, on the other hand said possession does not  always indicate who actually wins as evidenced by UND’s season opener against Alaska Anchorage. .

The Fighting Hawks go on the road next week to open to take on Colorado College in their NCHC conference-opening series. If UND plays a simple game and opens up lanes like it did tonight, good things can happen.

 

 

UND ties Alaska Anchorage 1-1: Quick Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Last night, the University of North Dakota at times looked dominant over the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Fighting Hawks generated plenty of chances throughout the evening.

However, the Seawolves defense, lead by Olivier Mantha was up to the task. The senior goalie made 32 saves on 33 shots faced. The UAA defense blocked 25 shots on the evening.

UND did a lot of things right last night. They used their speed and depth to generate a lot of chances, especially as the game wore on. They kept the Seawolves playing defense most of the evening. They staved off a five-on-three powerplay in overtime. Shane Gersich showed his skill and speed all night, generating chances, and getting his linemates involved.

Yet, UND has to improve some things tonight. Here are a few areas to keep an eye on tonight.

Passing to create lanes

One thing the Fighting Hawks did exceptionally well last week against Manitoba was getting a lot of quality chances. Yes, UND had some quality chances last night they should have converted. However, part of the reason why UAA blocked so many shots is because UND did not utilize the full Olympic sheet of ice at times.

The Fighting Hawks’ only goal came on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play where Trevor Olson found Christian Wolanin who quickly got the puck to a wide open Johnny Simonson. This team scored all but one of its goals last weekend on transitions and quick plays.

If the Fighting Hawks have a few less shots, but can utilize their ability to create time and space, then they could make life harder for Mantha.

Get One or More Special Teams Goals

The Fighting Hawks have to get one goal on special teams. Last night, they once again generated chances and had good zone time. If the Fighting Hawks can catch the Seawolves in transition that may open up their defense a bit.

Control the Dot Once More 

UND went 35-18 in the faceoff dot last night. That started a lot of their possesions, and lead to generating the amount of chances they did. If that continues look for UND to get a lot more chances tonight.

If UND can limit chances, and improve on its speed game from last night, then tonight could produce a lot different outcome for the Fighting Hawks.

 

 

 

UND Heads North: Previewing the Alaska Anchorage Series

Photo Credit: (Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Fresh off a 6-2 exhibition win over Manitoba, UND heads north this weekend to take on an Alaska Anchorage side that finished last in the WCHA last season. The Seawolves won seven total games in 34 contests last season.

This season, the Seawolves look to improve on their record lead in net by senior goaltender Olivier Mantha. He finished last season with a 2.82 goals against average and .913 save percentage.

The Seawolves play a physical style of hockey that will force UND to utilize the wider sheet of Olympic ice to make more skilled plays.

Giving fast players like Shane Gersich and Ludvig Hoff more ice to skate on will benefit the Fighting Hawks.

To have a chance against the Fighting Hawks, Head Coach Matt Thomas noted the importance of taking away time and space from the Fighting Hawks. The Seawolves’ returning leading scorer and captain, Matt Anholt, had 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) in 34 games. Alaska Anchorage has done better when it plays physical and limits scoring chances.

For the Fighting Hawks to have success against the Seawolves this weekend here are few things to look for.

Utilize your Speed Game 

North Dakota is a faster team than the Seawolves. Because of this, it will  be able to generate chances if they can maintain puck possession. As the game wears on, like during the Manitoba game, the Fighting Hawks will show their speed. Look for players like Ludvig Hoff to build on their exhibition performance against Manitoba.

Build on the Blue Line 

One of the things Head Coach Brad Berry thought needed improvement was play in UND’s own defensive zone. Manitoba had some long cycles in the first period, and one of those cycles contributed to the Bisons second goal on a deflection.

Start Fast 

The Seawolves will be incredibly motivated. They have experience playing the top teams in the country to start a season. The Fighting Hawks have to come out fast, and force the Seawolves to score multiple times just to keep pace.

Now that the games count, UND has to not give the Seawolves any chance to stick around with their motivated crowd cheering them on.

Prediction 

UND will face some challenges this weekend from the Seawolves but should come out on top with a sweep.

Score Prediction: UND 4-2 UND 5-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UND Flies Past Manitoba 6-2:A Recap and Three Thoughts

Photo Credit: (Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Tonight, in front of 10,682 fans anxious to see their first UND Men’s Hockey game in 190 days, UND stormed past the Manitoba Bisons 6-2. All six of UND’s rookies contributed in the win as the Fighting Hawks rolled all four of its lines in a balanced attack.

In the first period, UND was a bit on its heels for a little bit as Remi Laurencelle of Manitoba caused a turnover in the neutral zone, and converted a breakaway to give the Bisons the early lead 4:37 into the first period.

The Bisons’ lead lasted for less than two minutes (1:54) as Ludvig Hoff converted on an Austin Poganski pass to tie things up.

Later on in the period at the 16:17 mark, Grant Mismash tapped in a Colin Adams pass to give UND a lead which it would not relinquish.

During the second period, Christian Wolanin converted a superb cross-ice pass from Colin Adams to give the Hawks a two goal lead.

Later on, after a Bisons goal by Calvin Spencer, Hoff potted his second tally of the evening. Jordan Kawaguchi and Johnny Simonson would add two of their own markers to round out the scoring for the evening.

Cam Johnson stopped ten of twelve shots in two periods. Freshman goalie Peter Thome made his debut in the third period, and saved all five shots he faced.

Three Thoughts

Depth Depth Depth 

That word was repeated a lot at media day this week. What that meant in a game was shown tonight. Every line had positives in the game. Every line had someone contribute something to the cause.

Another example of the Fighting Hawks’ depth is backup goalie Peter Thome. He had a strong outing. The first year goalie had a tall order coming in late in the game, and had to stop a couple of grade A chances for the Bisons. He is a positionally sound goalie who showed how hard he works. The former Waterloo Blackhawk looked very calm stopping the limited chances he had.

The Returners 

Christian Wolanin, Shane Gersich, and Ludvig Hoff all had strong games. Wolanin showed his cannon of a point shot, and did an excellent job distributing to help his teammates. The Ottawa Senators prospect also showed that he is adept at finding the net to increase scoring from the back end.

Shane Gersich had an outstanding game, he played with speed in all three zones and nearly recreated his spin-o-rama goal from last season.

Ludvig Hoff was most impressive, he had two goals, played with speed, and won more than 50 percent of his faceoffs. He was all over the ice and benefited from having Gersich on his line.

Special Teams

The Fighting Hawks did an excellent job on the powerplay. While they did not score a goal, they generated a lot of zone time, and were able to move the puck effectively . The seven shots they took were all high-quality shots. This puck movement is a good sign for the rest of the season, as multiple players got some time on the powerplay. The penalty kill was also strong, and did a good job of limiting the Bisons to two shots on goal. Those two shots both happened on the second Bison power play.

Next weekend , the Fighting Hawks fly north to take on Alaska Anchorage in a two game series.

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For the Weekend Ahead

A quick preview of UND Sports This Weekend as a lot of things are happening.

  1. Volleyball (17-2) looks to continue its strong play in the Big Sky against Idaho, and Eastern Washington.
  2. Football(1-3) looks to rebound from two big defeats against South Dakota and Montana State on the road against UC Davis. Look for John Santiago and Brady Oliviera’s success to be indicative of how the game will unfold. If UND controls the ground game, and time of possession good things can happen.
  3. Look for UND Hockey to play a large lineup in its exhibition game against Manitoba. The biggest theme from media day this weekend was depth, depth, depth, and some more depth. UND has zero first round picks on its roster but a lot of upperclassman leadership and depth.

We will be at all of these games this weekend. Look for something from the exhibition AHL matchup between the Iowa Wild and the Manitoba Moose this weekend as well.