“Every Single Program Matters”: Mike Snee on College Hockey Inc’s Mission

(Photo Credit-College Hockey Inc.)

Mike Snee is the Executive Director of College Hockey Inc. This is an organization integral to helping grow the game, and in placing new teams across America to showcase a game loved by many in areas where there is not a hockey presence that there is now. His organization helps move the process forward to find new teams at interested schools with the capacity to fund them, and works to market the game to perspective players before they commit to a path to play hockey beyond their youth team.

Those presentations around America are a big part of the daily mission to grow the game for all, and Snee’s team has had to adapt to the pandemic-marred world we are all living in. As a result, his organization now has the capacity to present to any group in the world about a game with unrivaled passion and fan support across the country. If more Americans are choosing to play the game, that means these presentations are working, and 33 percent of players on NHL roster have now played college hockey. In addition to that, Snee strongly believes that because of the increase in interest towards Division One Men’s College Hockey, more worldwide interest has dovetailed with that. For instance, last season, 116 Europeans played college hokckey, a vast increase from the time Snee stepped in to run the organization.

As a leader of College Hockey Inc, Snee cares about all Division One Men’s Ice Hockey programs. As such, he took his time focusing on developing a plan to call new schools after the Pegulas pouted a lot of their money into making their Penn State program viable and competitive in the Big Ten Conference. In terms of how he structures to call teams to maximum affect, he has devised his pretty simple way of doing it. First, the team needs money, and a lot of it.It also needs Money is not the only concern for teams have the hay too adress. They need school, alumni support, an ice rink or two, and some fans willing to come. He noted that the success of his group has given them two different templates of creation to pursue going forward.

College Hockey Inc. has two roles. First, its job is to market the game to Americans better than it had done before its formation. On that note, this organization has done a good job in promoting the exploits of its American-brown alumnae at the NHL level and beyond. Throughout this interview that having more players like Cale Makar come to college helps them all around the world as they look to raise the profile of this great game.

“Every single program matters.”

Snee said this specifically when talking about Alabama Huntsville’s future. He credits the tremendous steps the Advisory Board has taken to help UAH Hockey move back into the game, and is now working moving to a new conference. As to their sweep this past weekend, he noted that sweeps like this help build the very lore that the Chargers are doing things right. He called that, as Head Coach Lance West did, a “program win.”

In addition, he notes a theme we have been seeing with other’s perception of the value of the UAH program. That is, this program is indispensable to the sport in order to grow it in its least capitalized market, the southeast.

Despite having a large role in expanding the game, through connecting folks who want to give money with schools willing to have Division One Men’s Ice Hockey, Snee credits the programs in this sport for everyone’s success. Although he does have a point in general on the day-to-day of running and promoting stores, we think the role of College Hockey Inc. is much more. They have their own process and list of calls ro make towards new schools after the pandemic abates. Given that his staff is so small, they spend a lot of time making presentations, and finding new ways to stay up-to-date on things around this great game. We had discussions about other areas of possible expansion as well. Snee and his small group are passionate advocates for every school in this great game, and their efforts show.

How the game continues to grow will not solely be on Snee and his group created with funds from the NHL and USA Hockey. It will grow or not by the efforts all of us take to promote it on our own communities and how we value the sport within its context. That is, if we see hockey at the college level as itself a perpetual interest generator in playing this great game, more people can be encouraged to help fund future teams. Perhaps one day, in a not too distant future, Purdue and Indiana could be doing battle on the ice for the Old Oaken Bucket Cup given to the winner of that series every year , should they make the jump to Division One. If Snee has his way, that example could become reality one day.

As Snee said, “every single program matters.” His group fights to help all of its members, and work to bring in new ones on a daily basis. College Hockey Inc. does their best to live up to that four word saying, and it shows.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

UND Men’s Hockey: Three minor concerns after Colorado College Sweep

The Fighting Hawks of North Dakota are a bit faster than they were last year with players like Riese Gaber coming in right away and scoring goals in bunches. They are a little bigger, with Jasper Weatherby playing the role of shutdown center, and strong in net with Peter Thome and Adam Scheel backing things up quite well for the most part.

With all of that said, the Tigers of Colorado College added to the opus of how to skate with UND, before UND’s next series, it is a good time to look at some nagging areas of concern this team has to have. Yes, they are one of the best in the country, but every team has some flaws to it, and these are flaws not to bar UND from the NCAA Tournament which they will surely make, but flaws that will prevent them from winning many games in it. These are all things we have been watching for and will continue to note.

The undisciplined penalties

This team has one of the best penalty kills in the country, yet relies on it far too much to win games. Routinely some of the penalties this team takes are not due to positioning, or preventing scoring chances, but often meager stick infractions in their offensive zone or the neutral zone. This penalty kill will not keep up its pace all year, and as Ben Copeland showed last night, eventually power plays will convert against you. For this team to win in the NCAA Tournament, a feet not done since 2016, it has to eliminate at least half of the penalties it is taking

The home run passes

UND has talented defenders, some of the best in this game. Every pair has an Ottwa Senators prospect on it, and every pair from time to time tries to make home-run passes through the neutral zone for breakways, and they often become turnovers the other way. Teams will not beat UND grinding them in their own zone, it rarely happens any more and that is a testament to the strong recruiting of its leader, Brad Berry. Teams often have sucess against UND because they have gotten good at being opportunistic, and diagonal home run passes through the neutral zone that set up easy turnovers and a rush the other way will not bring home anything other than disapointment.

Goalie usage

We have always appreciated both Peter Thome and Adam Scheel’s games. To win this season, both of them have to play some games, and we are concerned that Scheel will be overused. If teams with lesser tandems can deploy their goalies more evenly, this one can as well. It is not the tradition of UND to use this, but given the quickly rescheduled games, and the potential for three or four games in some weeks, using the tandem you have will prevent the postseason starter from getting too tired.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Attention NCHC: Beware of Omaha

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Every year for the past three, we have covered the Mavericks of Omaha when they play the Fighting Hawks. Each time in those spans they have put together efforts centered on speed and transition, while needing some timely goaltending. The margins have gotten consistently closer, and the Mavericks have put on tape a road map to beat one of the top teams in the country.

This year is no different, in the need to heed the Mavericks of the NCHC.

As we wrote back in September in our NCHC preview for Steve Kournianos Draft Analyst on these Mavericks:

“The Mavericks display a free-flowing, up-tempo style that is at its best when it forces the opponent to defend on turnovers. Although they were hit hard with several key graduations on defense, the goaltending of starter Isaiah Saville (VGK 5th/2019) will play a critical role in whether or not Omaha can finish above .500 for the first time since 2016. Additionally, coach Mike Gabinet will ice two critical transfers in former North Dakota puck-moving defenseman Jonny Tychonick (OTT 2nd/2018) and ex-Michigan winger Jack Randl (2000). They will join a trio of top-scoring wingers in Tyler Weiss (COL 4th/2018)Taylor Ward (1998), and Kevin Conley (1997). Therefore, scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem considering the notable transfers and returning firepower up front. It should be the Mavericks’ ability to limit the chances against, however, and minimizing the amount of energy Saville has to expend that could swing Omaha into one of its best finishes in recent team history.”

All of this still rings true, and now Omaha has everyone on notice with their strong play in the NCHC Pod. Boasting a 6-3-1 record, these Mavericks seem to be living up to the promise that their previous two iterations had, but never fully capitalized on. The past month showed how we underestimated how far this team has come. We picked the Mavericks fifth in the referenced article, and feel comfortable moving them into the top four at minimum.

During the Pod, this team was shown to play the same style that Mike Gabinet has been using over the past few years. That is, they attack fast, downhill, and care not for staying in their opponent’s end for too long unless they are celebrating a really good goal. Last year, it was jarring to see this team come to Ralph Engelstad Arena and knock off the Fighting Hawks playing this way. This year, that January night proved not to be a one-off, but a positive harbinger of the future for these Mavericks. Saville has gotten better since that game in January, through his improved rebound control and ability to play odd-man rushes, as an example. There are many more as Ward and Conley have each seemed to progress closer to an NHL look following the end of their time in Omaha. They both are catalysts for the speed game Gabinet likes all five skaters to play consistently.

If the Fighting Hawks play a buttoned up system game that relies on cycles and wearing down opponents, Omaha is their polar opposite. The Mavericks gain the zone, and get shots on net, whilst always looking to make the simple pass and carry the puck through the neutral zone instead of dumping the puck in deep. They have a goalie that allows them to play this way in Saville, and when he is on his game, very few in the country can put home anything against him.

How this team plays UND this weekend and beyond in the second half will show how much these Mavericks have grown. How they can play the Fighting Hawks on back-to-back nights and what they do to agitate their system will once again serve as a model for other teams, and come tournament time will probably be used by coaches of other teams to pre-scout ways to beat them, or at least make their lives a bit more difficult on the ice.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament: Past Should Not Be Prologue

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Recently, National Collegiate Hockey Conference Commissioner (NCHC) Josh Fenton gave Grand Forks Herald sportswriter Brad Schlossman some thoughts on how to select a 16 team field in this pandemic-truncated season we are playing through.

In that interview Fenton lays out reasoning for why historical data going back to the formation of the Big 10 and NCHC should be used to provide an allocation of at large teams for each conference this year. Even after limiting the number of teams the ECAC teams gets to one , that at most would give two other conferences one extra bid.

As Fenton says

“We’ve got historical data going back seven years now, if you want to go back to when the NCHC and Big Ten first started, where we have an understanding, on average, how many institutions from each conference have been in the NCAA tournament, That’s data that could be used. I fully understand and respect that this year is not the same as last year, a team this year is not the same as a team last year. But when you’re presented with a circumstance of potentially just using an eye test of a committee that I think is watching hockey, but I don’t know is watching hockey across the country to the level to be able to say this team is better than that team.”

We disagree with this reasoning strongly

The eye test as a metric is used in some measure by every other Division One Committee in some way, outside of Hockey and it seems to work. It worked in selecting a four team College Football Playoff Field this year when most of the teams involved played no non conference games at all. Every conference in this game is a little different, but the ability to play good defense and get timely scoring enough to be at or near the top of your league are easy to spot traits. Every team has a record and stats by the end of the year that show who they are in a comparable way. We compare quantitative data on teams all the time even when they have no common opponents, finding enough quantitative data to prime the eye test should not be a hard task to do at all.

While Fenton makes some good points throughout this interview and provides some reasoning for historical data, Fenton does not explicitly state that past postseason performance should be used. If it did, then one would wonder how many more bids Atlantic Hockey could justify given Air Force and AIC’s wins over St. Cloud State in two consecutive tournaments. In addition, allotments raise another concern. Let’s say that given the lack of a meaningful pairwise due to limited non-conference games we have a situation where Lake Superior State finishes third in the WCHA. Using the allotment formula, they could be left out, even if, like previous years, a gulf opens between the upper echelon of the WCHA and everyone else. Fenton does acknowledge this reality but seems set on using historical data. Given that he runs the conference who has won every national Championship since 2016, it makes sense, yet harms the broader audience of college hockey.

No Magic Formula

No one is going to be completely happy with how the at-large spots are given out this year, given the lack of non conference play. With that being said, there are other things to do that would be more fair to all teams still playing this year. The very eye test Fenton dismisses is how teams are compared all the time in selection for other sports, even when there is no non conference play to look at. You could use tournament performance as a seeding guide to break ties, or to justify a team’s inclusion in the field, but not conference-wide prior season’s data. It is fundamentally not fair or balance to this sport to punish AIC for the fact that Atlantic Hockey plays non equitable non conference games in normal years, where Atlantic Hockey has a lower win rate in a year where you do not have enough data for it to matter. Also, this sport has a first year program this year in Long Island that has no historical data and competes as an independent. Where do the Sharks fit in this picture? We do not know, and suspect no one on the committee does.

To fix the problems of lacking common opponents and other common data, we would suggest changing some of the metrics or find common data to use that equates to success. If an average of all national polls is the best replicate for the pairwise this year, then they should matter and weeks spent in them should be a positive. Using that data seems a more quantifiable and justifiable way of ranking than helping or harming teams, especially teams in Atlantic Hockey or the WCHA for the loses of teams before them.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell

The Fighting Hawks Win the Pod: What’s Next?

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Over the past three weeks, the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota have done quite well for themselves in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod, valuting into first place as we head into the second of half of an always competitive conference. These past few weeks have shown a lot about this team, with the good far outweighing the things that need working on to ensure a long postseason run, should one be played. Let’s look at the good and areas to improve on in the second half here.

The Good

This team has two capable goaltenders that can stymie the opposition. While Adam Scheel stole the show in the Pod, getting the majority of the reps, Fighting Hawks fans saw what happened last year. Peter Thome took Scheel’s job down the stretch, and given the weeks of having three games in three days this year, we think that Thome’s time in net is only just beginning. His “worst” game in the Pod was the loss to the Huskies of St. Cloud State, where the team in front of him did not do much. Both can start at any time, and for now Scheel is the number one. With that said, Thome has played well enough over his time at UND to get some reps in the second half, and should see it.

The depth of this team is even better than a year ago. Missing two defenders to the World Juniors Tournament, in Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven, we have seen Ethan Frisch elevate his game into a Tucker Poolman-esque two way star that can contribute offensively. If Frisch can maintain this level of play this season, the NHL may be on his radar for some development camp invites soon, and perhaps a contract. He is smooth-skating, and seems less out of position than some of UND’s more offensively gifted defenders.

With that said, this team has a lot of good to it this year, and we will close with the most intriguing forward on this team. Riese Gaber has been the most electric player for the Fighting Hawks in this pod. He is in a three way tie for first in goals scored nationally, and yet, 31 teams passed on drafting him over 400 times when you include the drafts he has been eligible for selection in. Gaber is wearing Tyson Jost’s number that he wore as a Fighting Hawk, and has a better release than Jost ever had or will have. For a team built around puck possession and grinding a team down, Gaber off the rush is an extra arrow in their quiver that last year’s NCHC Champions did not possess. His shot alters how teams can attack the Fighting Hawks, and how conservative they have to be in defending the top line of UND. Last year, this group lost games where it turned pucks over and gave up a lot of fast break looks. That has happened this year, and will happen in the future, but Gaber on this roster has kept the team in more of those games and helped them win some more in the second half.

What to watch for

With all that good said, these improvements need to happen. This team seems to be turning the puck over a bit more in its own end, which have given teams a lot of grade-a looks. Those turnovers have a cascading effect as they lead into another area of improvement for this team, taking less penalties. The Fighting Hawks average 11.96 penalty minutes per game played, second behind St. Cloud State for most penalty minutes per game. That is another number that needs to come down a bit. While five minute majors and misconducts do affect that, this team can afford to take neither of those in this conference. Eventually, something of this team will regress a little bit as film and scouting over a more series-driven second half, and if the team keeps giving up six power plays per game or so, the penalty kill seems a logical pick.

With all of this said, if not for Boston College’s pedigree and Minnesota’s results, this team would be ranked number one in the nation after a grueling three week stretch of games. There is still work to do for this group, but this team does so from a good vantage point.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

UND Hockey: The good, and what to watch in the NCHC Pod next

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey team has played to a 3-1 record in the NCHC Pod in Omaha, designed to replicate the secure environment of the NHL bubbles while allowing student-athletes to work on academics as needed and able. So far, once entering the bubble, no team has had games canceled, although the schedule was adjusted to allow Colorado College more time to get to Omaha after their progam dealt with some positive COVID-19 cases recently.

Today, the Fighting Hawks battled the Denver Pioneers for the second time in the bubble and came up short. Carter Savoie put home his fifth marker of the season in just four games as he took a feed from Cole Guttman and beat UND netminder Adam Scheel clean on the glove side. The Fighting Hawks came back from a two goal deficit thanks to goals from Jordan Kawaguchi on the power play, and a rebound banged home by Collin Adams.

This game was similar in intensity to UND’s overtime winner against the Pioneers a few nights ago. In that game Kawaguchi found the back of the net in close during the extra frame. The Fighting Hawks also beat an upstart Miami of Ohio squad to open things up, and toyed with a depeleted Western Michigan side on Sunday without one of the best goalies in the conference, Brandon Bussi.

The great

The game today against the Pioneers combined with the other three shows us a reccuring theme of this team, they are annoying to play against and incredibly persistent. The Fiighting Hawks under Head Coach Brad Berry have been best when banging in rebounds and agitating for space in front of the net. Some goals will be of the more skilled variety, like freshman wunderkind defender Jake Sanderson’s snipe on the power play against the Pioneers in the UND win. On that play though, look at the front of the net. Jasper Weatherby screened Magnus Chrona and made that snipe easier to pull off. This team relies on net front presence and rebounds to win games. Also, on its back end, Sanderson and Tyler Kleven, both high end Senators prospects, look to have all the tools needed to suceed as Fighting Hawks before making their ways north with fellow Senators’ prospect Shane Pinto and Jacob Bernard-Docker to play with program alum Christian Wolanin. Both have shown speed, skill, and physicality in their three games in the pod. Unfortunayely for the Fighting Hawks, they are without them for the duration of the pod as both are trying to make the World Juniors Squad for Team USA.

In addition, this team has two goaltenders ready to play in the AHL now and earn NHL time soon after in Peter Thome and Adam Scheel. Both have their strengths and areas to improve. Scheel’s stick work and ability to not over expose himself on plays are key traits for anyone to have, and we think he will earn a pro deal when he leaves campus. Thome, a Blue Jackets’ prospect, has sterling rebound control and has improved at limiting exposure, he also gets side to side a bit faster than Scheel, but again both can play pro hockey now, and any difference between goalies with a small sample size would be not wise to over analyze.

Do not forget the returners to this team either. Jasper Weatherby is a first-line center at this level playing on the third line with second line power play time. On any other program’s roster outside of the top five schools in the country, Weatherby is one of the most talked about players. Here, the Sharks’ prospect swims under the radar as he continues his quiet physical game disrupting goalies’ vision and playing key minutes.

This team has had so many good things in its first four games, that we went with things that stood out to us. Leave some thoughts if you want to in the comments here, or on our twitter page. Follow us at SeamoreSports.

Things to keep an eye on

Again, we are four games into this season, and the Fighting Hawks have three wins to their name. Anything said herein are simply some things we have noticed that we will watch going forward that could merit concern if they become trends.

First off, in the loss today, two of Denver’s three goals came off power plays, and not even power plays resulting from denying goals, but from an after the whistle slash by Gabe Bast, and a five minute major for checking from behind from Brendan Budy. The Fighting Hawks project as one of the best teams in the country at full and even strength, giving players like Carter Savoie time and space on the power play can mitigate this team’s biggest strength without much effort.

Second, without Sanderson and Kleven, Josh Rieger and Cooper More will have to step into some big moments early. Rieger has experience at this level, but will eat up a lot more ice time, and More is a freshman still learning the next level. Both have looked good, and both will need to help fill the gap left by Sanderson and Kleven. With that said, the Fighting Hawks are one of the deepest teams in the country at every position and Rieger and Moore, like Weatherby would probably have bigger roles elsewhere right now, so we expect them to be more than capable of holding up their end.

This team next takes the ice Thursday evening against the last team to win a National Championship, the always tough to play Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth. We will learn a lot about how this team deals with adversity coming off its first loss of the season, and what to expect going forward in the next few games of the Pod. This team has a lot of talent and potential, and yet still has a lot to prove moving forward.

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

Unanswered Questions: UND Men’s Hockey

We write this piece on the eve of the Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey Team making their debut in the NCHC Pod tomorrow afternoon against the RedHawks of Miami of Ohio. This piece is not about that.

This piece is not about Jasper Weatherby, or Jacob Bernard-Docker, both two incredibly talented student athletes, and both of whom are allies, as we wrote about in Jasper’s case, a bit ago. Both student-athletes plan to kneel tomorrow before the Fighting Hawks open their season, in support of the many black lives that have been lost far too soon at the hands of law enforcement, including George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, among far too many others. We hope this is the beginning of true, authentic, student-athlete lead protests on this campus to draw attention to a number of issues most fans of this team have a literal privilege of not having to confront on a day to day basis.

It is about the lack of response from the athletic department following the removal from the team of former student athlete Mitchell Miller for his horrific crimes and racism displayed towards Isaiah Meyer-Corothers, an African American classmate of his in an Ohio high school. While being incredibly reactionary as an institution, President Andrew Armacost, to his credit, stepped up and did the right thing in absence of leadership from the staff of the team by removing Miller from the team. Being a student-athlete anywhere, and especially at the Division One level is an earned privilege, and taking part in crimes involving saying racist slurs to, and physically bullying a classmate of yours on multiple occasions with developmental disabilities should rightly bar one from ever having that privilege.

Other than the dismissal from the team, which was done at Armacost’s behest, what has the Athletic Department done to take real, verifiable, and public steps to ensure this never happens again, and that no student athlete with anything close to the level of Miller’s crimes is even recruited? They have done nothing in the public eye to engender any bit of conference from anyone in that regard and as we sit here on December 1, 2020, we felt it needed to bring our questions into the public eye for two reasons.

First, UND has responded to a case brought forward by one of its own student athletes. After Jaxson Turner rightly noted his displeasure at using now former student athletes who participated in a racist video in a promotion Athletic Director Bill Chaves said “I support the decision that was made today with UND volleyball. I have listened and will continue to listen to our student-athletes, faculty, staff and community as a whole and I am dedicated to working together to foster a safe, welcoming space for everyone. We value a diverse and inclusive environment and will strive to continually improve in this area through persistent work on the culture of our department.” That said, the two players only left after Turner brought this up. This raises further concerns for the transparency or lack thereof in this department about racist things that happen

To us, based on that statement uttered this summer, and through all of the activism the department is taking in other areas like encouraging its student athletes to vote, and do a lot of other great things in the community, doing things to actively combat racism both on the ice and off it would be a good start. Answering these questions should be the bare minimum for this Athletic Department as it fails to fully seperate its men’s hockey team of the present and future from its past association with a nickname ruled hostile and offensive by the NCAA, and one that took them nearly a decade to change. While that descision to change was not entirely in this department’s hands, their continued willingness to not be proactive about using the Fighting Hawks image in their home rink most certainly is. Other coaches in other sports have shown a strong willingness to move forward and have embraced the change with great gusto. Men’s Hockey as a program has not. The multiple regionals the Fighting Hawks have hosted have had a Fighting Hawk closer to the ice than the home rink of the Fighting Hawks, Ralph Engelstad Arena. This lack of willingness to adress an issue head on and let it fester is not endemic to the nickname.

Below are the questions we sent that never got a response from Head Coach Brad Berry, and as we have been told the department will have no further comment on this issue, feel needed to bring public using our forum. Also, do not hesitate to ask version of these questions of every single team Miller played on after these crimes started, and every league which he was in. The lack of transparency regarding what anyone in the hockey world knew about Miller and when they knew it has been to us, at a minimum quite appalling.

Here are those questions meant for Coach Berry, keep in mind these were sent right after his dismissal, thus the ” past week” phrasing.

1. When did you first learn of Miller’s racist bullying towards Isaiah in the course of recruiting Miller?

2. Did you learn of this before offering him a scholarship?

3. What changed in the past week to dismiss him from the team?

4. Did any professional teams ask you for input on Mitchell during the draft process and if so did you provide any?

5. What fundamental changes will the program put in place to prevent recruiting/having players come to campus who commit these atrocities?

6. Why did it take a story after Miller was drafted to begin this process that lead us to his dismissal from the team?

We write all of this because we see the good going on in this Athletic Department. We see their advocacy with Brenda Tracy every year to help work to end sexual assault in all forms. The student athletes across all sports are routinely near the top of the nation in hours of service. So many people in this department and on this team are doing great work, and we believe that a unified statement from its coaches of their recruiting principles, and documented cases where future Mitchell Millers are turned away, along with transparency in discipline and a clear policy on working to end racism on this campus while punishing documented cases amongst its student-athletes, administrators, contractors, and anyone who works with the athletic department in any form or fashion, while also re-emphasizing its zero tolerance policy for racism amongst fans is a start, but just that. Going forward, we want to continue to see this Athletic Department take steps to right wrongs of its past, especially in the highlighted area of its most popular program, Men’s Hockey.

Making and Being a part of change:Jasper Weatherby

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

NOTE: This interview was conducted before further information about UND Freshman Mitchell Miller and his abhorrent repeated bullying of his African-American classmate in his high school, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers. This bullying included repeated acts of physical violence towards him we chose not to repeat, along with Miller routinely using the N-word and more racial slurs towards him. Miller and his classmate performed 25 hours of community service and wrote a court mandated apology to Isaiah. At the time of writing this article, Miller is still a candidate to represent the United States at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton this winter. We will have more about this story to come, but felt it necessary to note the horrid actions of Miller, and the lack of any form of apparent long term restitution to Isaiah and his family on his part, and the utter lack of transparency given by US Hockey, his HoneyBaked team, the NHL, multiple USHL organizations, the league itself, the Arizona Coyotes, and the University of North Dakota to be more transparent with any discipline Miller has been given. In UND’s statement, not once is Isaiah’s name mentioned. Hopefully that changes soon.

We will write more about this in the days ahead.

With that said here is our piece talking with senior leader Jasper Weatherby on concrete changes and views he wanted to talk to us about.

The piece written by the Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Schlossman on the background of San Jose Sharks’ Draft pick and one of the leaders of the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey team, Jasper Weatherby seemed to focus on his family background, which is quite important and helped guide some of these questions we asked him. We plan on interviewing administrators, coaches, and others in positions of power in the game of men’s college hockey and beyond to find out the long lasting changes brought about by the never ending quest that events this summer, including the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, have brought to bear. That is, people of color, especially black people, being killed or having worse interactions with law enforcement for comparably similar issues.

We wanted to ask Jasper these questions because he is in a unique spot as one of the leaders of this team, on this campus, in this state to use his platform to make and inspire change. While we know anyone can use their platform to say how big of an ally they are, too often those same people turn around and make misguided and xenophobic remarks a few days later, and holding people with privaledge and power accountable in this game, and in other avenues, we think, is a better way to provide more transperancy and give all people, especialy Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BiPOC) a better guide of where people stand on doing what we belive to be the right thing.

That is standing up to ensure that we as a country can get a little closer to living up to the ideals that all people are created equal, some of what Jasper touches on in this goes to that end. If you want more of a background on the NCHC Diversity committee Jasper mentions, go read the wonderful work composed by Jashvina Shah on this new committee, and buy the book she is cowriting with Evan Moore that aims to bring light to the inherent inequalities in all levels of hockey, toxicity in hockey culture, and much more about where we go from here.

Jasper is in a leadership role for the Fighting Hawks on these important issues as he notes:

“I’m a member of the SAID (Student Athlete Inclusion and Diversity) group here on campus. I’m also the NCHC player rep for the College Hockey Social Justice Committee. Which is a group put together by college hockey, with members from every league, men and woman’s, across college hockey. We are working on our goals of making not only hockey but our society’s more diverse and inclusive. I’ve also been pushing UND hockey to be 100% behind social justice with the goal to make BlPoC feel at home on this campus.”

In addition, as Jasper notes he is working with student athletes across the department, including leaders like Jaxson Turner on the football team to bring about change. ” I have reached out to some of my friends on the football team here at UND. The biggest message was to encourage all teams, coaches, team managers, players, etc to post about topics relating to social justice on social media. They said It’s time UND joined the fight. I 100% agree with that and have brought that up with the UND athletics department.”

Next, Jasper notes his support for going on record and encouraging UND Men’s Hockey fans to stop uttering phrases that are derogatory like “Sioux Forever.”

“The goal is for every BlPoC to feel safe here in the U.S. and to also have language that makes them feel like they’re not being put down. For me this is not my call, we need to listen to the Sioux tribes/Sioux people. If they are uncomfortable with the word and feel it brings them down than absolutely. I know we have tremendous respect for the entire Sioux and Indian tribes as well as all Indian people.”

In an immediate concern, Jasper noted his support for using the Ralph as a polling place, since this interview was done the Fighting Hawks have gotten a schedule and know a bit more about their season. That being said, his answer here should provide guidance going forward for this athletic department.

” I have brought this up to the athletic department. Unfortunately, I know we are in the middle of trying to figure out where our season will be played, so the timing is not perfect. But in the future, I would love the Ralph to open up as a polling place. So many disadvantaged Americans can’t vote because of limited access to voting. And if the ralph could help this out it would be an amazing accomplishment for the rink. “

Jasper then went on to note support for student-athletes choosing to peaceful protest with actions like kneeling. Keep this answer in mind as the season starts for all UND Sports. What stands out here is his direct rebuttal of the red-herring argument of “disrespect” detractors of peaceful protest often like to use.

” I will absolutely support them [student-athletes] and I believe the coaching staff will support them as well. I’ve encouraged the University of North Dakota Athletics Department to send out a message saying we are behind any student athlete who chooses to partake in a peaceful protest, whether this be kneeling for the anthem, a raised fist, etc. If it’s peaceful, the University should stand behind those athletes. With that being said I think a lot of people think it’s disrespectful to the troops. It is absolutely not. We have so much respect for the troops. What people are kneeling for is what the troops have been fighting for. Freedoms to express yourself, freedom to choose your religion, freedom to walk with a hoodie on or any other freedoms that so many minorities are not free to do. That’s why people are peacefully protesting.”

Weatherby then went on to discuss specific actions he would like to see all on or around the team should be taking to make the Ralph a fundamentally more inclusive place than it currently is for those who are BiPOC.

” Encourage all teams, coaches, team managers, players, etc. to post about topics relating to social justice on social media.

Encourage more people of color to attend hockey games. We need to make sure we do everything we can to make BIPoC feel safe at our events. A minority student reached out to me and said the one thing that really made her feel included on this campus was attending hockey games with everyone else. She said it was a time where she felt like everyone rallied together and it didn’t matter who you were as long as you were cheering for North Dakota. This is powerful, this is something we should be taking advantage of at every opportunity. This is something I have brought up with the Athletic Department.

Another thing: If UND teams play in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, coaches are encouraged to take their players and staff to visit the place George Floyd was murdered. This will be a great opportunity for UND to show its students what is happening around the world. Encourage student athletes to share experience on social media.
Encourage teammates to wear patches on their uniforms. Patches or phrases on uniforms might not go very far in terms of eradicating racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ policies, etc., but they may raise awareness and show fans that student-athletes are fighting for a better world. Even a moment of silence might be helpful.”

Jasper then went on to discuss changes in his own life that he has made and why the Black Lives Matter movement means so much to him.

“I’ve been constantly educating myself, as I said I’ve been working with several groups locally and on a national scale. It’s also very important for us to listen to those people who have been experiencing those hardships for so long and listen to what they think would help.

“It’s important to me because I have a black brother, I’ve seen how he has been racially profiled, and I will continue to fight for his rights until we are seen AND treated as equals in this country.”

After noting the strong support he has from his family and the coaching staff, he ended with noting that, from this point in our history, that, “I think we listen, we educate ourselves and those around us. The only true change is too look inside and see how each of us can help to create change in a positive way.”

Fighting Hawks limit grade a looks en route to 3-1 win over Western Michigan: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into their final regular season series at home, this Fighting Hawks team had some questions to answer. Chief among those was how it would respond after only taking one point in a series for just the second time of the season.  As we saw tonight, St. Cloud State is roaring back into the top half of the league and is earning the respect they demanded after winning against the Fighting Hawks on Saturday.

Back to the Fighting Hawks, this Men’s Hockey team actually had to win a game while getting hemmed in their own end for a large portion of the deciding period in the third. To their credit, they bent but did not break. Adam Scheel made a triumphant return to the net saving 26 of the 27 shots he faced and earning third star in the process. Judd Caulfield potted his third marker against Western Michigan, and fourth of the season to open the UND scoring ledger 9:52 into the second. After that, Matt Kiersted wired home a scintillating seeing-eye point shot past Western Michigan goalie Brandon Bussi to provide the game winning goal.

For the Broncos, Dawson DiPietro slammed home a rebound to the far side of Scheel to provide the only blemish on his otherwise spotless night 4:35 into the third period. To close the evening, Westin Michaud tipped home a nice looking Gabe Bast point shot to provide the insurance marker against Ben Blacker, who replaced Bussi after he left due to injury caused by a disallowed UND goal. Collin Adams made just enough contact with Bussi in the crease to merit the goal being waved off on video review. It was, to put it nicely, a call not liked by the home fans. Later on in the game, Ronnie Attard walloped the head of Shane Pinto with 1:16 left in the affair and was sent to the dressing room a bit early. That was the lowlight of a fracas-filled third period, to say the least.

What does this mean for Saturday

North Dakota

This game had all of the hallmarks of a first round NCAA Tournament game. The playoff intensity vibe really turned up in the third period after DiPietro made it a one goal game. To UND’s credit, the Fighting Hawks hung tough playing without Cole Smith and having to juggle lines around again. When 66 percent of your defensive specialist line (Cole Smith and Gavin Hain) both are out, others have to step up, and Casey Johnson played one his most complete games of his UND career seeing some of the most ice he has since coming to UND. We could see Smith back in Saturday as he was recovering from a minor practice injury and informed the coaches he needed the night of rest to get back to his normal self. Credit to the coaches for not pushing Smith through his injury to play extra.

If Smith is still out tomorrow, one potential option for this team should be moving Jasper Weatherby to his own line to center things. Western Michigan played UND almost even in the faceoff dot, losing one more draw than they won (30-31). Weatherby with Pinto and Michaud down the stretch of a game when benches are shortened to fit the needs of the team is one thing and a good deployment of his skills. Weatherby only won two of the six draws he took, and one of them lead to the Kiersted tally.

In net, Adam Scheel played his best game of the year in terms of the quality of shots faced throughout the game and being able to hold a team in the game against a desperate opponent. His defense limited shot quality in the third, where Western Michigan got 15 shots on net to UND’s seven. There were a few points throughout this one where Scheel needed to be sharp to hang on for the win and he did. This team has two brilliant goalies who can win against any type of team they face, and will most likely use both Scheel and Peter Thome throughout the rest of the season and should UND win its first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament, we could see the other goalie play the next night. Since we have started covering this team, Scheel and Thome are the best tandem we have seen in net, and credit to this coaching staff for using both of them when needed.

Western Michigan 

Other than the third period, the Broncos did not do enough to make Scheel work much throughout the night. The Fighting Hawks kept the majority of the first 40 minutes’worth of shot attempts to the outside for the Broncos and it shows on the shot chart. If you are a fan of the Broncos, you want to bottle up the good effort from the third, remove the dirty hits that Attard brought on Pinto which ended any hope of a comeback, and try to get to the middle of the ice a bit more. This team has to play with a little more speed to have a chance against UND. The Fighting Hawks are so good at playing a compact zone defense that in order to earn goals, you almost have to not worry about zone time. Teams that play through the neutral zone and avoid the pinching UND defenders are the only ones that have beaten or come close to beating this team this year.

Whatever the result, the finale on Saturday night should be a fun one at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

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

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

Fighting Hawks earn sweep with 3-1 win over Denver: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, the Fighting Hawks cemented a series sweep over Denver with a 3-1 hard-earned victory. Matt Kiersted, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby (empty net) all notched markers to help the Fighting Hawks get closer to the next goal, winning the NCHC Penrose Cup.

How did it happen? Well Peter Thome was arguably the best player on defense fo the Fighting Hawks. He managed to make 25 saves on 26 shots tonight. To add to that, UND Head Coach Brad Berry said that he did it ” in style”. The Pioneers through streches of the second and third period played peskier hockey and turned UND over. Multiple times they had multiple looks in close on Thome, but to his credit he handled the challenge well. His counterpart, Magnus Chrona played really well making his first start at the Ralph. He finished the night with 21 saves on 23 shots in a game fans may see again in St. Paul at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, or perhaps at the Frozen Four in Detroit this April. This game not only had the feel of playoff hockey, but a top-end, herculean battle worthy of the national spotlight,

Now What?

For Denver, well, if you are Head Coach David Carle, you show your team the video of the weekend in two parts. First, you show them all the good things they did to get looks. Last night Denver had more shot attempts and different types of looks for Thome to see. Tonight, were more close-in rebounds, but tough shots never the less. In part two of the film, you question what you need to do better as a team in the rest of the regular season and postseason to bury more of those looks. Denver had plenty of chances to earn a win tonight, even while missing one of the best rookies in the country, Bobby Brink, on a play last night where Cole Smith clipped him and avoided any sort of penalty somehow. Denver being able to put together arguably a better game without Brink in the lineup bodes well for the Pioneers,

Why?

Well Denver is a younger team this year akin to the last two UND has fielded. The difference here is overall team speed. The Pioneers are much faster than the last two UND iterations. The difference between the groups is the ability of speed to make up for a wide array of mistakes. Turning play over quickly on defense and transitioning is a hallmark of Denver Hockey, and this team is no different in that sense. Doing it with more depth players involved bodes well for the national tournament as speed and transition often sets the tone for goaltending and everything else. Ask AIC how much speed mattered to them earning the win over St. Cloud last spring, they will probably spend hours discussing it.

For UND, this weekend showed a lot of things good and bad. A lot more good was shown, but we will talk about both here in some measure. First, to the good, again Jasper Weatherby and Shane Pinto were solid up the middle for the Fighting Hawks. each won a large majority of their draws (11-5, 10-2) and set the tone for the forwards all night. Weatherby’s ability to play defense and utilize his frame has grown in his time at UND, and tonight he rewarded himself for his work with the empty net goal to seal things.

Peter Thome played well, again. His ability to track pucks through traffic, and pick up that complete skill in one offseason has been a sight to behold. He does not overreact to goals any more, and the one allowed tonight came on a shot off the boards going right to Brett Edwards who fired a goal to the middle part of the right side of the net before Thome could react. In close Thome seemed to get better with each multi-save sequence, and as we have been saying here all year, has been worthy of more looks and he has run with them. We would like to see some more of Adam Scheel as the year winds down but when the postseason starts, until proven otherwise it is Thome’s net to defend, every night his watch begins anew now (for those who do not know, Thome has the Night King on his mask and is a huge Game of Thrones fan).

What should UND work on off this weekend before facing a resurgent St. Cloud on the road next weekend? Well i do not think many crews will let as many things grow as the one run by Voss and Wieler did this past weekend. On both sides, a lot of uncalled penalties were left to slide, and other officials we be tougher on the physical game UND plays, seeing the team adapt to different officiating styles will be something to watch, especially in the NCAA Tournament as you never have an official from the NCHC officiating a UND or any other NCHC game.

All in all UND had a good weekend, Denver had some good moments to build on and has some things to fix, like finding the net more, and a great weekend of college hockey took place. Now for the Fighting Hawks, St. Cloud State awaits, take them lightly at your own peril fans.

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

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.