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.”

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Better Game, Same Result: UND Settles For Second Three-on-Three OT Loss in Two Nights

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 12,002 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Denver Pioneer Logan O’Connor created a turnover, and started a break away in the second three-on-three overtime session at the Ralph in two evenings. Just like last night, the result was the same. Denver defender Ian Mitchell took a feed from O’Connor on the ensuing two-on-one breakaway and found the back of the net 01:19 into the extra overtime to give the Pioneers four points on two ties for the weekend.  While UND ended the weekend with  two ties, it finished tied for eleventh in the pairwise with Minnesota.

In the first period, Kohen Olischefski took a feed from Ryan Barrow, went to the goal line and fired one into the opening short side against Cam Johnson. The puck just went through the small opening to give the Pioneers another lead. In the first, Denver controlled possession through large swaths of play. The Fighting Hawks did not get a shot on net for the first 13:52 of the game. They ended the first frame with only 13 shot attempts to Denver’s 21. The Pioneers had eight high percentage scoring  from the low slot area. UND only generated one.

In the second period, UND picked up the pace. They got more pucks on net and forced Denver to defend more in the first half of the period then they did in the entire first period.

A few minutes into the second, Liam Finlay interfered with Cam Johnson in the blue paint. This gave the Fighting Hawks their first chance on special teams all night.

They did not waste their opportunity.

About halfway through the power play 09:26 into the second stanza, Christian Wolanin took a feed from  Shane Gersich and fired a perfect shot past a completely screened Denver netminder Tanner Jaillet. The Ottawa Senators’ prospect’s eight tally of the year equalized things. The score would remain the same through the end of the second and third period. While UND out shot Denver 16-11 in the last two regulation periods, they could not solve Tanner Jaillet the rest of the way.

 

Thoughts Heading into the Bye 

  • The NCHC is capable of getting six or seven teams into the tournament. This conference has every team but Colorado College and Miami in the top 13 of the pairwise heading into February.  Accounting for the Atlantic Hockey Tournament winner, and Hockey East Tournament winner, the top 14 teams would make the tournament in the pairwise right now.
  • UND looked much better on special  teams this weekend, they only allowed one power play goal on the weekend. Their penalty kill was much more aggressive and forced Denver to make quicker decisions with the puck while limiting time and space for their skilled forwards to generate high percentage shots.
  • If UND can use this weekend where it was missing its top two centers, Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones, along with top four defender Gabe Bast, to help develop players like Josh Rieger and Matt Kiersted, both of whom played well in their replacements then this weekend could help UND down the road. In addition, defenseman Casey Johnson slotted in at forward and helped UND in spots in the game. The Fighting Hawks’ ability to develop their depth players during this long season of injuries will prove crucial in the long run.

J.P Lamoureux Interview

Last fall, I talked about the important thoughts J.P Lamoureux had regarding small goalies and the key bits of advice he had for them. Below is the rest of the question-and answer session with him.

1. What has been your favorite off-ice moment playing since you started your pro career?

” [My] favorite off ice moments, are getting married in 2012 to my wife Kellie, and the birth of my kids in Austria, son Henri in 2014 & daughter Leah in 2017″

2. What are your plans when you are finished playing hockey?

“Right now I am positioning myself to get into coaching when I retire. I started JPL Goaltending 5 years ago to establish myself in the coaching world.”

3. How much do you follow the current UND team now?

“I follow the current UND team daily. My weekend routine is to wake up before I go to pregame skate and watch the highlights with my son on UND Sports. I also worked with some of the UND goalies when I’m back in the summer so I follow their progress closely!”

4. What did you do to celebrate UND’s National Championship in 2016?

“I was lucky enough to be in Tampa for 2016 NC [National Championship}. I flew home from Austria with my family after our season and my wife and I jumped on the charter right when we got back. That was special team to watch and I knew it would be a rare opportunity to watch the team live. Like most of the fans their the whole weekend was awesome! Everything from the resort to the pregame party at Fergs it was a blast and to share the weekend with my wife was special.”

5. What are some things that UND fans might like about the European game?

“UND fans might like the wide open game we play. Our league in Austria is high scoring. With the big ice you see less chip and chase and more teams try attack off the rush.”

6. During your UND time, who were some of your teammates with the biggest personality?

Matt Greene my freshman year was a larger then life personality. Was the life of the party and an absolute warrior on the ice. Osh, was lively guy in the locker room and on the ice, [also} Andrew Kozek was  [another] funny guy in our group. And not because he tried, he always got himself into funny predicaments.

7. Who has been your favorite coach to play for at any level?

[Former UND Head Coach and Current Philadelphia Flyers Head Coach Dave Hakstol}  Hak, was a guy I loved to play for. He was honest & fair bit had a really good read on when players were ready for more opportunity. My coach in Vienna reminds me of Hak’s approach. Serge Aubin had long playing career and he has been great to play for.

8. What do you most miss about UND and  Grand Forks?

“I miss Red Pepper the most. It’s usually my first stop when I get back from over seas for the summer.”

9. What are some interesting things in Austria that you like to do or see in your off time?

“I loved living in Villach, my 1st team in Austria. Looking out my window and seeing that everyday just puts you at ease. I live in Vienna now, and it’s an incredible city filled with history and beautiful architecture.”

10. What are some hockey-related goals you want to accomplish before retiring?

[A] couple of goals yet to accomplish is reaching 500 games played which at my current pace is reachable in the next couple seasons. And of course winning another championship. I was fortunate to win my fist pro championship last season.

11. How many more years do you want to keep playing hockey?

“I would like to keep playing as long I can. But it has to make sense for family as well and if I’m making a good living playing and family is happy then it makes sense to keep going. Physically I feel like I got a lot left on the tank.”

12. What are you most thankful for learning from UND?

” [I am] most thankful for the relationships I made playing for my favorite team. UND really teaches guys to pro s on and off the ice. And to be apart of the tradition that continues to be passed down by the current players is really special.”

13. What was the inspiration to form JPL Goaltending?

“JPL was inspired for two reasons: 1. To establish something that I can do after playing and 2. I wanted to create an environment in GF with the REA {Ralph Engelstad Arena]  for local kids to have pro quality goalie training & information. I’ve been lucky enough to play all over the world and meet some of the most influential people in goaltending and I want to share that knowledge with young goalies who want to get to the next level.”

14.Tell me about the championship run you and Vienna went on last year in the EBEL and something you are proud of about that group.

 “Last years championship run was special, it was the closest feeling with the guys that i got then when I played for UND. We set league records in the regular season for wins and set a playoff record going 12-0. It was 3 rounds of a 7 game series. It was surprising because the league was much tighter then a perfect playoff record would indicate. I lost in a game 7 finals my 1 st year pro and that was the last opportunity I had in a finals. So 8 years is long time to battle between finals so when we were there last year I wanted to leave no doubt.

UNO Power Play Grounds Fighting Hawks: A Recap Plus 3 Thoughts for Tonight

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 10,133 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks dropped their second half opener to the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks 4-1. The Mavericks utilized two power play goals, timely goaltending from Evan Weninger, and team speed to generate countless high percentage looks to take this game. Fredrik Olofsson, Luke Nogard, David Pope, and Zach Jordan contributed tallys for the Mavericks. Shane Gersich provided the only UND goal 17:23 into the first period on a penalty shot. Weninger made 34 saves for the Mavericks, while his counterpart Cam Johnson only made 17 saves for UND.

In the first period, UND played with five defenseman for over half of the frame due to a Christian Wolanin ten minute misconduct. The junior defenseman also took a holding minor on the play. The Mavericks did not convert on their first power play chance but took advantage of UND playing without their defensive leader later on.

10:44 into the game, Zack Jordan beautifully screened Cam Johnson and Fredrik Olaffson took a pass from Tristan Keck on a Matt Kiersted turnover and rifled one past Johnson to give the Mavericks an early lead 1-0 lead.

17:23 into the first period, just after the Fighting Hawks stifled the Mavericks power play for the second time in the first frame, forward Shane Gersich walked in on a breakaway and was hauled down by a Mavericks defender. He converted his penalty shot chance thanks to a slow build up and picking the perfect time to wrist one through the five hole of  Weninger to tie things up heading into the first intermission.

In the second frame, Omaha withstood an early barrage of UND chances, The Fighting Hawks matched their eight shots on net from the first early in the second. Despite that, and several chances on their power play UND could not convert.  UND out shot UNO 20-7 in the second. Despite that, a mere eight UND shot attempts of their 30 in the frame came from inside and below the faceoff dots in the low slot.

8:20 into the second period, Luke Nogard put home a puck through the five hole Cam Johnson on a Zach Jordan shot. The power play tally gave the Mavericks their second lead of the evening.  Capitals prospect and Mavericks forward Steven Spinner contributed a secondary assist. He generated some time in the corner on the power play, saw the opening to feed Jordan, and did not misfire the pass.

Less than four minutes later, David Pope took a superb feed from Ryan Jones and  rifled  one past Johnson from just outside the right faceoff circle to give UNO a two goal lead 12:17 into the second

Finally, in the third period, Zach Jordan capitalized on an offensive zone turnover, walked in and went top shelf glove side on Johnson to provide the final  4-1 margin 09:44 into the final frame.

Both teams are back at it for the series finale tonight at 7:07 PM at the Ralph.

 

Three Thoughts 

  • UND needs to improve on generating higher quality chances. The Mavericks did an outstanding job at blocking shots and limiting second-chance opportunities. On Saturday, UND has to work on making quicker passes along the boards and make more in-cutting plays instead of going for dump-and-chase or shoot in type plays when entering the offensive zone. The Fighting Hawks have an outstanding ability to forecheck but need to use their own speed to get the puck into the offensive zone more. The UNO defense did an outstanding job limiting opportunities to retrieve the puck on chip-and-chase plays from UND all night.
  • The Fighting Hawks have been at their best when they can generate more goalie screens. They did not do enough of that against the Mavericks. Look for some of UND’s line changes tonight to be geared towards generating more net front presence.
  • Give credit to UNO. They won 31 of 67 draws against one of the best faceoff teams in the nation. While UND won the faceoff battle, that stat was largely influenced by Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones (15/8, and 10/8) having good nights at the dot. The rest of the UND forwards to take a draw finished no better than 50 percent on the evening.

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.