Opinion: Men’s College Hockey needs more conferences-Here’s Why

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

To put it nicely, to grow the game with consistency, the Men’s College hockey game at the Division One level needs more conferences. While it is true that Atlantic Hockey is entertaining expansion pitches this month, the truth of all of the growth of this sport is simple.

Atlantic Hockey cannot, nor should not be asked to shoulder the sole burden of adding new members to the game.

For this sport to grow, in the long run, we need more schools willing to form conferences with new members.

Why?

Well, as more members come in from different parts of the country, especially in the south and pacific northwest, travel costs for the incumbents in this sport will skyrocket. In addition, fans in this sport often are rivals with schools closest to them, regardless of conference, if they are at the same level.

In addition, take a look at the rebirth of the CCHA under its current iteration. That conference formed in part because its members wanted to consolidate their footprint, and keep costs down to some level. We would argue that Atlantic Hockey has some of that cost containment at its core, and as the league gets more members wanting to join, over time the members of a conference that grows beyond 12 conferences could be served to bring back another conference, College Hockey America.

Why?

Well, that conference with six or seven members could work in concert with Atlantic Hockey to do a couple of things. First, they could create a scheduling alliance to occupy some non conference games every year, and ensure robust competition, giving both members of the new conference more opportunities to boost their pairwise standing than they have now ( eight to ten non conference games in total, compared to a maximum of six non exempt games now).

In addition, bringing back the CHA would drive down costs for members of Atlantic Hockey who may not want to take longer bus trips, or plane trips any more. If we posited that Navy (the Midshipmen have been in talks to join the Division One game for years) would join this conference with the Army and Air Force, that gives us three schools with a rich history. Now, add in Lindenwood, who is planning to join the Division One scene in two years, and we find ourselves at four with a conference already starting with a strong foundation. You could then add in Alabama Huntsville for five, and, should their feasibility study go well, and the school back it, Tennessee State could join to make a six team conference. You could also extend invites to Liberty, who has a win over a Division One program, an ESPN deal, and a beautiful facility already, Long Island as well, given that the Sharks are expanding their Division One footprint rapidly and gaining notoriety for how well they support the growth of opportunities for their student athletes. This would allow other members in Atlantic Hockey more cost control over their own budget, and provide room for that conference, should more teams want to join it, a seventh conference with an automatic bid to guarantee at least two schools Air Force Academy Hockey Head Coach Frank Serratore referred to as ” have nots” to join as well. In addition, the success of the reborn CHA could spark the ideas of forming other new conferences throughout the game.

Take the west coast. If we know that Arizona State would be a part of any Pac-12 conference (we do), we could then look to Las Vegas. UNLV produced the first line center for the three time Atlantic Hockey Regular Season champs (AIC) in Elijah Barriga, and has a big foot print in the area already. That gives us two schools, and an impasse once again. If this Pac 12 worked with the Kraken and Golden Knights to form programs in their areas (UNLV, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State) and work with ones already in their areas (Alaska, and Alaska Anchorage) then you get another strong conference with regional viability pretty fast. Now, if you look at what we have already, there are always opportunities for schools to move around, where it makes sense for both new school and conference alike. The dynamic of forming new conferences like these two would create a framework for members looking to join, and for ones like Augustana who have announced intentions, more options to join a conference best for them, compared to one that will have them. It gives more power and viability to new programs to compete right away, and a lasting infrastructure that will support them, and do the thing we all want to do, grow the game, while hopefully providing administrators with the money and encouragement to do so.

Remember, there are about eight or nine teams of players in the transfer portal right now, and a lot more uncommitted players about to age out of junior hockey with Division One talent, but no home. For a sport that has a myriad of junior hockey lockers, and interest in the game, it is incumbent on those looking to grow the game to continue to search for new ways to do that both inside and outside of the framework they currently have. It cannot be on one conference or school to figure things out, it is on all members of this great game, and on all of us to continue to support schools looking to get into this game that is one of the best parts of sport in North America, not just at the college level.

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Opinion: Expand the NCAA Tournament to 20 teams

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Fans of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey team will remember the old WCHA, the fanbase waxes poetically about it often then moving on to needle the attendance and postseason problems that the members of the current Big 10 Hockey Conference have (these problems have some grounding in truth are sometimes exaggerated). One thing in that Final Five is the chance for a team to win three games in three days to make the NCAA Tournament. If you won your first round series, and had either of the worst two remaining regular season records, you had to play an extra game to advance. Teams that were able to win those three games then got the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, regardless of their regular season success, or lack thereof. No one questioned the win of the five seed on the few times it did happen.

This past, pairwise free (it existed, but was not used as we know it due to a lack of significant interconference play) hockey and subjective selection proceedings have left fans of many eastern hockey teams, and a few western powerhouses like Denver, feeling left out.

Now, none of the teams left out did enough to make the 16 team tournament.

With that argument noted, what we are proposing is this.

In future years, when the next cycle of regionals are awarded, standardize the starting dates, and expand the tournament by four teams.

On Friday, you have opening round games between the four and five seed in each regional with the winner earning the right to face one of the four best teams in the country.

On Saturday, you have the first round staggered across the country (for maximum TV ratings of course) play out and make an already great day even better. Instead of six games (two finals, four first round games) we would have eight games take place on one day, and then play the championships on Sunday.

Why?

Well we have a few reasons.

First, for this game to grow, and get more programs in it, expanding the tournament by four teams makes attaining it slightly more reasonable, without having to dilute the value of the regular season. If the tournament expands, more fans and schools can get involved in the greatest part of this game, its postseason.

Second, after hearing arguments about top seeds getting rested enough or not, we would like to note the value of the top seed playing a team that had played the previous day. The coaching staff gets to watch that team play in person, and that team could very well be tired, and in theory should give the top seed an easier path to the regional final.

Third, it adds value to the full season for everyone. Now, teams play to move up or down in the pairwise (all of this is being written for a normal non pandemic-marred season), but the reality is, the top 12 or 13 teams are usually safe every year, while the last two or three worry about conference tournament champions stealing their spot.

This eliminates some of that concern.

If teams 1-13 are locks, the proposal ensures that teams 14-16 all will make it. It would require five teams outside of the top 20 to win their conference championship to hurt the top 16, and ensure that the bottom eight teams would all have to play in the first game. This provides more meaning to what teams 10-12 are doing as the season ends, and ensures every game has more of an impact. If you are playing to get an opening round bye, that adds stakes to your late season play.

Use 2012-2013 as an example, when Niagara finished at the number 10 spot in the pairwise, and Canisius won their postseason tournament, that meant Atlantic Hockey would earn two bids to the tournament. What it also meant was that a 19 win Western Michigan team would miss the tournament. In this system, the only team that would have missed the tournament is number 20 ranked Brown. Atlantic Hockey would have had three teams representing it, and three more programs would have had the chance to compete for a national championship.

We understand that this change would have to wait until the next round of regionals are awarded, and there needs to be buy-ins from coaches, hosts, athletics departments and more all around the country.

Our argument comes down to this.

If this sport is to add more programs over time, something we all want to see, expanding the tournament by four teams now is a way to encourage more schools to potentially join. In addition, for all of those teams just wishing they could have made the tournament this year, this would have let them in. In the future, it will also allow Atlantic Hockey to get at least two deserving representatives into the tournament without harming another team’s chances. Finally, it ensures that the top seeds in each region get to play an opponent who could be tired. If the game is to grow, its tournament needs to do so as well.

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

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Projecting the future for the 8 UND Men’s Hockey Seniors plus one junior

Photo Credit Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Now comes the least favorite time for every Men’s college hockey team at the Division One level, immediately upon your season ending, some of your players have to make the decision whether or not to go to the next level to play professional hockey. This decision now applies to all of UND’s seniors, as every student-athlete at this level has been afforded an extra year of eligibility for playing in this pandemic-marred season. With that in mind, let’s look at each of UND’s seniors with options of what we think will happen, not what we want to happen. We will list each as signing a pro contract, returning to UND, or entering the transfer portal to play their extra year elsewhere. We are interested to track this and see where we are right, and where we are not. This will be an offseason unlike any other in this sport.

Jordan Kawaguchi-Signing a contract

Like Odeen Tufto of Quinnipiac, he is a play making forward with a penchant for elevating his team. Last night, his goal with an extra attacker is what sent us to overtime. He elevates his play in big games, and has some of the best vision of any forward at this level. Because of that, and his improved defensive ability over the past four years, look for him to head to the National Hockey League. He will play top AHL minutes this year right away for some teams, and for others could easily slot into their bottom six forward group and play on the power play. Kawaguchi’s biggest improvements in our mind is his defensive ability. He has become one of the tougher defensive forwards to play against with this group, and should fit right in with the next level.

Jasper Weatherby-Signing a contract

As the game went on last night, the Sharks’ draft pick got better as the game went on, similar to his college career. A healthy scratch for more than a few games in his rookie season, he worked his way up the lineup playing a defense first game for the Fighting Hawks. He finished last night with 13 shot attempts, two blocks, and 26 faceoff wins on the 38 he took. Weatherby is ready to play NHL hockey now, based on the strong play he showed in his last two years for UND, and his versatility. If the Sharks are unable to sign him, he will find a home in the NHL.

Weatherby is a junior, but has shown that he is ready to play NHL hockey now.

Peter Thome- Transfer Portal*

If Adam Scheel leaves early and signs an NHL deal, Thome would be the incumbent at UND and have every incentive to play a final year as a Fighting Hawk. He has shown his ability to start consistently at this level, and given the strong goaltending pipeline at Columbus, there is no guarantee the Blue Jackets would sign him, and any other team would probably want him to play more. If Scheel comes back, Thome would immediately be the favorite to start at any school that he were to go to should he decide to go elsewhere.

Gabe BastStaying at UND

To see what he could do as the leader of a group likely to lose at least one first round draft pick (Jacob Bernard Docker), and may lose more (Jake Sanderson if he chooses to leave, as of now he is expected to stay) it would give him a chance to get more top two minutes consistently and show his year over year growth, similar to what Weatherby did in the forward group.

Grant MismashSign a contract

Given that he left the game early with an injury, and was unable to finish it, the first thing is making sure he is ok. Whenever that is, the Predators will want him if they need another scorer in their system that can play a two way game. In nearly half the games of a full season, Mismash put together his most complete campaign for the Fighting Hawks, scoring 10 goals in 20 games. He is ready to play at the next level now, and could compete for a spot out of camp with his former and perhaps future teammate, Cole Smith, next fall.

Matt Kiersted-Sign a contract

He turned down many offers last summer, and went and had another superb year as a two way player playing in key minutes for the Fighting hawks this year. NHL teams wanted him last year, he wanted to come back and work to get UND into the tournament, and further than they finished, but he is ready as he was last year. He is a strong distributor of the puck who shuts down the top players he faces pretty routinely. His play reminds us of Tucker Poolman, a defensive defender who can jump into the rush when needed.

Josh Rieger, Jackson Keane- Transfer portal,return, or graduate

Both of these players have been depth stalwarts for this group. They have improved in their times at UND, and are both key reasons why this program is where it is. If UND has some underclassmen leave early, they may come back, but assuming all underclassmen return, and depending on where they see themselves it will come down to what they want. If they want to be a part of the program in similar roles, they will stay, if they think that they can take their extra years and show what they’ve learned elsewhere, they will do that like what Michael Corson did when he left Denver to go play at Niagara. If the two want to work their way up in the minor leagues, or pursue careers outside of hockey, they will graduate. They each have a tough decision ahead of them.

Collin Adams-Sign a contract or return

Adams really can do what he wants from these two choices. We do not expect him to go through the transfer portal as he would play a key role in UND’s group next year if they will have him back, and if he wants to come back. He put up 34 points in 29 games, and has nothing left to prove at the NCAA level. If he does not want to sign with the Islanders, he will be a free agent, and will most likely go where he thinks he can make the jump to the next level.

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MIDWEST REGIONAL FINAL PHOTOS: UMD 3-UND 2

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Check out photos from Kelsey of the five overtime thriller. For more photos click the link below.

Gallery

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Three Thoughts on UMD-UND: More on history from last night

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Those who attended the Midwest Regional Final at Scheels Arena last night ended up leaving early this morning in a 3-2 Minnesota Duluth win that took a grueling 142:13 to conclude. Luke Mylymok blocked a Jasper Weatherby shot, then took the puck the other way and got a shot on UND netminder Adam Scheel that went five hole and in. Beyond the immediate joy and despair on full display when the puck went in the net last night, there is more from this game that deserves further noting.

Perspectives on pauses

Minnesota Duluth ended up playing over two games in Fargo this weekend given their first round match against Michigan being declared a no contest. To everyone’s credit the extra rest the Bulldogs had did not in anyway give them an advantage against UND. While it makes you wonder what would have happened should the Bulldogs played Michigan, the reality is you will not ever find that answer out. North Dakota’s first round opponent, AIC, had 49 days between the end of their regular season and the start of their postseason. Despite winning their tournament they had to battle back through similar slumps that they faced against UND that proved insurmountable. Head Eric Lang wished he could have played more games towards the end of the season, and tried to even schedule Clarkson before their season was canceled.

How does this relate to last night’s (this morning’s?) result?

Simply to note that having a pause, whether it be 49 days with AIC, or one extra day with Minnesota Duluth’s case, is not the advantage some could make it out to be. AIC had to battle back in both of their games just to make it to Fargo. North Dakota nearly won the game several times in overtime, with the most notable coming on Jasper Weatherby shooting the puck on to the top of the net, where it sat. The Fighting Hawks looked as fresh as the Bulldogs all night, and outside of an 80 second stretch in the third where the Bulldogs potted the first two goals of the night, UND played arguably their best all around game all year. They only took three penalties on the night, had 154 shot attempts, and played a complete game against a great team in Minnesota Duluth. Sometimes, especially in this sport, you lose those games, where you are the better team on the shot clock.

On Minnesota Duluth

Credit Head Coach Scott Sandelin and his staff for this season. The Bulldogs do not really rebuild under Sandelin, they seem to plug in players to his system and have all of their details refined down to their finest point. This team is one of the most disciplined at keeping to their system in this sport, and last night and this morning it showed. When the Bulldogs looked to have won on an earlier rush that was offsides on the same side of the ice and near the same spot that Mylymok gained the zone, they did not stop. UND threw wave upon wave of chances towards them and the Bulldogs never stopped doing what they did to get them their first lead. They clogged lanes, took away grade a chances, and blocked shots. They had to change goaltenders in the fourth overtime and Ryan Fanti came in relief of Zach Stejskal and while not tested nearly as much as the starter, still had to make a few tough saves to even set up the overtime winner. Scott Sandelin’s system and his attention to detail in every aspect of his program set this historic game up. To beat North Dakota this year, teams had to play their best and make less mistakes than them. The Bulldogs did that.

On North Dakota

For some perspective on this, let’s look at what Army West Point Head Coach Brian Riley said after his group had their season ended in the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals by Canisius in overtime “if this is the worst thing that happens in our lives… then life’s going to be pretty good.” This quote comes from the leader of a service academy school that will not have the extra year of eligibility as an option for any of their players due to the requirements of the service academies.

For the Fighting Hawks, they were the best team in the country for the majority of the season, as St. Cloud State will tell you, that does not always win championships. They will have an elite roster of players signing professional contracts this offseason, and could have some seniors choose to come back as well. This program continuously will have some of the most talented recruits coming through its doors, and while the standard is always high at North Dakota, last night showed why. The Fighting Hawks have a strong program, fan base, and professional legacy of alums playing hockey at the highest levels around the world. None of that changes with the result of last night. Over the coming months, seeing who is coming back for them will go a long way to determining for what next season’s team will look like, as will any transfer portal additions (by the time this season ends, there easily could be over 200 players in the transfer portal). Adam Scheel played the game of his life last night, and showed his improvement from last season, and along the way this year to get to where he is now.

He is ready to sign a professional contract and work his way to the NHL, as are many of the players on this team. Their choice for their next steps is up to them. With all of that said, when you look at things in perspective, last night was a supreme exhibition of skill from both teams, playing in an event we did not get to have last season, where one team had to win and one had to lose. The final score takes away nothing from the effort of the Fighting Hawks, and their efforts in defeat only show how tough of a path the Bulldogs had to travel to win.

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

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Survive and advance: Minnesota Duluth earns 3-2 quintuple overtime win over North Dakota-Quick recap

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

“There are 15 good teams in this tournament and there’s North Dakota.” AIC Head Coach Eric Lang talked about playing to a script to beat the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota. While his team did not defeat the Fighting Hawks Friday, they played the last two periods against them showing what it took to hang with them on the national stage. Enter the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth, who took the three period script, and added five chapters worth of overtimes to it to author a 3-2 overtime win over the Fighting Hawks.

His team played close to that ideal script for the night tonight, but did so in a tumultuous way. They earned a 3-2 overtime win in five overtimes on a Luke Mylymok shot that went through the five hole of Adam Scheel. The goal came on a rush where he walked down the left side of the ice and just squeaked a puck through the five hole of Scheel to win the game. Along the way Duluth had to change goaltenders in an overtime period, and had a goal disallowed in another. In addition to that, they dealt with a UND team that came mere inches from ending their season at any time along the way. Ryan Fanti got the win with six saves, and Zach Stejskal finished with 57 saves on 59 shots.

Minnesota Duluth played a sensational 58 minutes and 41 seconds of it in regulation, and then the Fighting Hawks quickly erased their hopes of winning in regulation.

At that point, with the net empty and an extra attacker on the ice, Collin Adams banked the puck off freshman goaltender Zach Stejskal and in to give UND some needed hope. 43 seconds later, Jordan Kawaguchi put home a wide open shot off a Shane Pinto rebound that came right to him. He made no mistake, and the game went to overtime. This all happened after an 80 second span earlier in the third where the Bulldogs went ahead 2-0. Jackson Cates made a falling down pass to Hunter Lellig at the blue line, then a few moments later Lellig fired the shot that went off Cates and past Adam Scheel.

The first two periods of this game had all of the intensity of the third, but none of the goal scoring

The first overtime had what looked to be the winner from Jackson Cates, but it was called off for the entry being ruled offsides, it was close, but ultimately the correct call. The second overtime had the Fighting Hawks getting a few more looks but to no avail. In the third overtime, the Fighting Hawks continued to run things, but despite getting a puck on top of the goal, they did not get the winner then. This pattern continued into the fifth overtime as just before Mylmok’s goal sent everyone home. Now the Bulldogs move on to Pittsburgh to face the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.

More from this game will come later today, including some thoughts on this historic evening of men’s college hockey.

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PHOTOS: UND vs. AIC

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Check out some more photos from UND’s 5-1 win last night over AIC, all photos belong to Kelsey Lee of Violet Turtle Photography. For the full gallery click the link below.

Full gallery

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

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What to watch for: Fighting Hawks vs UMD for a trip to the Frozen Four

Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee Violet Turtle Photography

Tonight, the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth take on the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota for a Frozen Four spot. Here are three things to watch for as a guide to how the game might progress.

Update: Tonight’s game will be officiated by an ECAC crew.

Who scores first

Well, as everyone watching the Fighting Hawks saw last night, this team is unbeaten when scoring first, so far. North Dakota plays a relentless forecheck and has goal scorers on all of its lines to compliment it. If the Bulldogs score first, then the Fighting Hawks will have to answer back, and show their resolve as they have all season. If the Fighting Hawks score first, then the system-driven Bulldogs will have to open their game up a bit, while staying responsible in their own end. As AIC Head Coach Eric Lang said “in this tournament there are 15 good teams, then there’s North Dakota.” The reality of this point could very well be the difference in the evening for the Bulldogs. As we said of them back in September of the Bulldogs:

“The Bulldogs under coach Scott Sandelin play a consistent game while rolling four quality lines, and their depth players have proven to be nearly as valuable as the stars. Although Minnesota-Duluth can deliver a reserved brand of hockey before transitioning to its counterattacking style, there are several notable prospects on the roster who are legitimate scoring threats no matter the situation or strength on the ice”

Trips to the box

UND outplayed AIC enough in an eight minute stretch to make the other 52 minutes not as impactful, they got quality goaltending and were superb on their penalty kill all night. With that said, UND gave AIC five power play chances, of which they converted on one. In a four goal game, that is not something that will resonate with people, however, in a game against a depth-heavy team like Minnesota Duluth, the chances that one of those penalties could prove costly to the season of the Fighting Hawks rises. The Bulldogs need to play clean as well, given the strength that both of these teams have on the power play.

Duluth sticking to their system vs. UND getting to theirs

In interviews over the season, Sandelin has noted how his group,at times, while still talented and skilled at playing a similar game to North Dakota, has strayed from what has won them the last two national championships. If the Bulldogs, a strong even strength team, can bottle up the Fighting Hawks in their own end and get to what makes them a challenge to play against then in a one game scenario the margin for error in UND gets even smaller. If the Fighting Hawks can get to their game first, and force UMD to defend all night, then the amount of goals they scored against AIC could be the low mark for goals they put home in a single game in Fargo this year.

Regardless of result, the NCHC will get another team in the Frozen Four, and could have as many as three representing it in Pittsburgh this year. This conference is always tough, and while UND is expected to win, and has all the tools to do so, Scott Sandelin’s group will not make their lives easy. Both teams will represent their conference well to a national audience tonight in what promises to be compelling hockey from Fargo, no matter who wins.

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

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No Moral Victories: AIC program on the rise loses 5-1 to a complete North Dakota team

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Tonight, the American International College (AIC) Yellow Jackets hung with the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota for all but an eight minute stretch in the first period. For Eric Lang’s team, the problem was those eight minutes where UND controlled everything, and scored four goals that proved to be the difference on the evening. Jasper Weatherby scored the first two of those goals . Tobias Fladeby put home a nice goal in the slot on a turnover in the third period to briefly make it a three goal difference before Colin Adams put home the final goal of the night. The Fighting Hawks advance to play the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth who practiced again today after their first round game against Michigan was declared a no contest due to the Wolverines having positive tier one individuals which precluded them from playing their game. The Bulldogs will try to win their second Fargo Regional and make the Frozen Four this season tomorrow.

With that said, here are three things that stood out to us tonight.

There’s 15 good teams and then there’s North Dakota

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Head Coach for AIC, Eric Lang, is always one of the more honest people in this game about where things are. The Fighting Hawks are the most complete team he has seen in the past ten seasons, and tonight they showed it in every aspect. While AIC had their moments after their initial push in the first, none of them went in the net behind Adam Scheel until the game was out of hand late in the third period. The Fighting Hawks took the worst segment of even strength hockey that AIC played all year, and put the puck in the back of their net four times. Not many teams, in any part of this level of the sport would recover from that. That does not mean AIC did not battle, far from it. They fought the entire game. This Fighting Hawks team took the inch AIC gave them in the first period, and got a full mile’s worth of results out of it. When AIC fought back, UND had the superb goaltending of Adam Scheel, and the ability to limit zone time to stifle most long attacks from Lang’s group.

Kucharski shows out

Freshman goaltender Jake Kucharski came in to start the second and try and give his team a chance to get back in the game. AIC had some of their best moments with him fighting in net. His hockey sense is good to see, and he did earn five wins for Lang’s team this year. He Called tonight a “coming out party” for Kucharski, and given the 19 saves he mae against the Fighting Hawks, we would tend to agree. Next season, Lang will have four goaltenders who are all capable of playing on the bright stage of the NCAA Tournament. Who gets the net each night will be up to overall goaltender development and how well they battle for the job over the offseason. Kuchrski showed quick skis tonight, including possesion thte abiity to told th

No Moral Victories

In 2019, the media staff of AIC said to us at this regional ” if we win don’t call it an upset” and we would not have called this win, should the result have been different than the final score an upset. AIC has proven that they belong on the national stage with their consistency of effort, and tonight was another chapter in that truth of how far this program has come, and a harbinger of the good to come from it going forward.

Why?

Well Lang is beyond trying to read big conclusions about his program, out of any one isolated event. With that being said, he did not the delayed affect of being in Covid-19 protocol for 42 days before last week. With that said, Lang did not use that as an excuse, noting instead that every single team had to figure things out each day, and he is right about that. Given all of this, as we noted, Lang is welcoming back with open arms all of his seven person senior class, of which he only expects to lose two to the professional ranks (Brennan Kapcheck and Tobias Fladeby). AIC Hockey has again proven with their response how they can and do compete at the highest level of this game, and their continued success in the national tournament, combined with the history of Atlantic Hockey suggests that this conference , like Lang’s team, is on the way up. Had Lang’s group been able to win a few more games (AIC had 7 weeks worth of games canceled due to others, or them dealing with Covid-19 protocol) they may have drawn a different opponent. He does not think that is an excuse for those eight minutes. In addition, despite the loss Lang is immensely proud with the effort displayed by his group as well, and how they did not pack anything in for the last 40 minutes.

No one with the Yellow Jackets wanted the result of tonight, what they got was a bad eight minutes, a confident 52 minutes, and a hope that Lang’s group can go ever further one day. His consistent goal is to get out of regionals every shingle season. Moral victories and shot totals do not matter when your team has more goals. Lang’s group also had better results than some NCHC teams did against the Fighting Hawks. For UND to win, they need to keep their pressure up, and reprise those eight minutes in the Regional Final.

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2021 NCAA Midwest Men’s Ice Hockey Regional: One thing to watch for each team

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

This article is about what you think it is, we went through each team playing in this regional and will offer up one prediction about something that we think will happen, that is not necessarily indicative of the final score of any game. Each team playing tomorrow, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota Duluth, and American International College (AIC), all has back stories, and a roster capable of each doing different unique things. Let’s get right into it with the hosts of the tournament, the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota.

North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Turnovers or lack thereof determines the winner

This team, as AIC Head Coach Eric Lang noted is deep and can win games in a lot of different fashions. One thing that they have done in the mere instances of playing less than the near perfect team they are is turning the puck over in their own end. When this happens, Adam Scheel has to respond fast, and makes a fair amount of saves to bail his team out. With that said, watching AIC all year, and watching UND, know that Lang will have his group ready. If the Fighting Hawks can avoid turnovers in their own end and consistently gain easy entry into AIC’s zone, they can then cycle and dictate the pace like they want to. If not, then you will see how opportunistic AIC is in their ability to capitalize on mistakes. The Fighting Hawks are the number one overall seed in the country for a reason, they have the best roster with the most top-level talent on it, and have proven their ability to stay together and fight back after their opponent gives them their best. How they limit turnovers in their end, combined with their ability to stick to their own script will go a long way to determining their success in this tournament.

Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs

Get more offensive on defense

This team’s biggest consistent source of strength is in its systems. Head Coach Scott Sandelin always has a room full of gritty players that execute the game plans he puts up for them to utilize. The Bulldogs are playing a fast Michigan team that can force their opponents to speed up their own game to keep them out of sorts. To counter that, the defense corps of this team has to generate some more help in goal production, and players like Matt Cairns and Louie Roehl have to pitch in offensively. They will not ever claim to be a Dylan Samberg or Scott Perunovich, but the if the physical defense corps can generate some help on offense, then all things are possible for these Bulldogs.

Michigan Wolverines

Use your speed

How do you defeat two teams with strong systems? Well, not allow them to use them of course. The Wolverines, lead by Owen Power on defense, and two probable top five picks up front in Matthew Beniers, and Kent Johnson, are the team to watch for every NHL fan of a struggling team. If your team is in the draft lottery, you could end up with any of these players and not be disappointed. For this team in the here and now, they have to figure out how to tap into their high end talent to defeat systems-heavy teams in this regional. All of them, and this team has some of the best skating ability in the tournament, and that speed is its own differentiator.

AIC Yellow Jackets

The depth needs to elevate

This AIC team is deep, they have six lines of forwards, 8-10 defenders that can play on any night, and three goalies with a win.. By saying this, we are talking about scoring. Someone who may have been on the bench last weekend could have a big impact on the game Friday night. For this group to have success against the best team in the country, they have to play a perfect game of hockey, and get help from everyone. If this group can get some assistance from its depth (Eric Otto and Aaron Grounds are two of the depth players that have stood out this year), options for them open up.

Regardless of the results this weekend, as of now, all teams are cleared to compete. Given the unfortune that has befell St. Lawrence and Notre Dame, it is more incumbent upon us to enjoy all of these moments. Life dealing with Covid-19 for everyone has been tough, and this year has been different, but this weekend, we have four regionals ongoing, and a chance for men’s college hockey to hold the spotlight. Best wishes for the health and safety of all.

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.