UND Men’s Hockey’s conflicting views on major penalties: Some thoughts

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Today, the NCHC suspended University of North Dakota Forward Grant Mismash for strolling through the creae of Denver’s Magnus Chrona and shocking him with an elbow. Chrona took the elbow to his chest and fell, smacking his head against the ice, and leaving the game after. Mismash was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for charging him.

Was that deserved? Many people outside of the program may think so, but UND Men’s Hockey Head Coach Brad Berry begs to differ, saying ” we know every five-minute major goes through a review process… I got a call today that said he was suspended for the extra game. Our league does an outstanding job as far as officiating and the review process. They deemed it a one-game suspension. I guess I would say we here have a difference of opinion, but at the end of the day, the league makes the call and we deal with it and move forward. It is what it is”

Compare that Brad Berry bit of passive aggressive thought to what he said when Jimmy Schuldt of St. Cloud State nearly two years ago injured Grant Mismash through a knee on knee contact that official Todd Anderson thought, at the time, was a clean hit. Arguably both should have been reviewed, but Schuldt’s hit was not. Berry said, “i’m very, very, disappointed, …And again, I’m not going to get in any trouble here by making a comment, but that was a knee-on-knee that should have been reviewed. We have a protocol in place and it wasn’t reviewed and I’m very disappointed in that. It’s not the result of the game that I’m alluding to. It’s one of those things where you know where anything is 50/50 like that at that time in the game has got to get reviewed, and we have that in our protocol.”

Categorically speaking, the suspension Grant Mismash received today arguably was fair. You do not causally saunter through the blue paint and elbow a goaltender. That is a no in this sport at any level, and Mismash is paying for that. Magnus Chrona did not at all dive, and he looked concussed on the play and could miss time for a Pioneers team. The puck was no where near Chrona when the contact happened, and there was no reason for Mismash to skate in the blue paint, that close to him, during that instance in the game. We remember covering that night against St. Cloud State when Mismash got injured that collision. As noted, fans and Berry were incensed, and rightly so given the player they lost for the rest of the year. Chrona is at least at that level of importance for the Pioneers, if not more given his role as the starting netminder. The overhead view is pretty clear and shows the space Mismash had to try and adjust before going into Chrona.

What Grant Mismash did to him was the functional equivalent of a defensive lineman getting to Kurt Cousins and sacking him three seconds after he throws the football downfield. There is no functional reason for that, or for what Grant did. He is a good player in his own right and playing for an NHL contract with the Nashville Predators. That play certainly did not help his case, which was building in the positive direction given his scoring touch this season, but the stark disparity in Berry’s tone between today, and nearly two years ago is reflective of how some Fighting Hawks fans see this disparity. To Berry and them, we would concede that the Schuldt hit on Mismash was worthy of a review, which it should have had. With that said, we do not play sports in any condition that is theoretical, and UND fans were right to demand a review that they did not get two years ago.

Where we draw the line is the disparity. Advocating for transparency, and for your player to pay attention to where he is on the ice would have been the straight up way to adress the suspension today, if Mismash skates through he paint and doesn’t elbow Chrona, maybe Magnus moves up on him a bit like most goalies to give their defense a little more room, but no elbows to the chest plate occur, or potential concussions on that instance. You could even make the argument that given what he served in the game, and when the penalty happened, no suspension was warranted, but you understood the penalty. Berry was right to be incensed at the NCHC for their lack of transparency on the choice to not review the Schuldt hit on Mismash on the ice that evening, and is not correct in his response to Mismash’s suspension. Knee-on-knee contact and goaltender interference via charging through the blue paint with a puck no where near it both have no place in this sport.

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 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.

8-1: What this win means for the Fighting Hawks and What Now?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Well that was quite a different game from last night’s 1-0 defensive showcase. The Fighting Hawks took the sweep and the win with an 8-1 drubbing of the Colorado College Tigers. The action started fast and furious for UND as Cole Smith managed to put home a power play marker early on racing in and scoring the pictured goal against Matt Vernon who had a night he would like to forget. He allowed six goals on the evening and his backup, John Flakne allowed the other two. After the Smith marker, Collin Adams raced in less than two minutes late and fired home the game winner.

On the night, Andrew Peski (three assists), Jordan Kawaguchi (Two goals and one assist), Jasper Weatherby (One goal and one assist, Grant Mismash (One goal and one assist) and Collin Adams (One goal and one assist), all chipped in multi point nights to key a diverse scoring attack from the Fighting Hawks. On defense, Thome played well in net despite going long periods without seeing a single shot. Goalies have to manage their game to stay involved even when the puck is not finding them. Peter Thome did that quite well, only allowing a goal on a deflection from his own teammate, Harrison Blaisdell, who played fast all weekend and had, quietly a pretty good series in a depth role.

Now what?

Well, this was arguably the best performance we have seen from UND all year. Given their ability to bounce back and put away a team that hung with them for the entire game last night, that was a strong sign going forward. It showed that if this team faces a challenging opponent in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, that it has the ability to make adjustments and make the next night go a bit smoother. In addition, the start of the Fighting Hawks tonight was their best in the second half, and the benchmark for what they need to do going forward. This team finished a game well without Gavin Hain and Gabe Bast, both players who left with injuries. Both are being evaluated to determine the extent of their injuries further. Up front, this weekend is the benchmark for Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey going forward.

In net, arguably was just as important. Peter Thome has progressed so much as a goalie in three years here it is a bit impressive to look back and think how he was viewed by folks here when Cam Johnson was the number one, then when Adam Scheel came in after that. An encouraging thing for the Fighting Hawks is that because of Thome’s play, Head Coach Brad Berry may give some consideration to a kind of rotation system for Scheel and Thome, he mentioned after the game that he sees that both goalies are capable. While Berry knows that to be true, it is rare to see him discuss both goalies after one let in one goal on 40 shots this weekend, and the other had gotten pulled two times in the past two Friday games before this weekend. Thome and Scheel now have a body of work that posits for playing each of them down the stretch. Both deserve some starts down the stretch and both bring different strengths to the game. They are complimentary netminders who work to get better daily. The biggest area Thome has improved is arguably the mental part of his game. Assistant Coach Karl Goehring has worked with him on and off the ice and kept him ready to play during a trying first half for him. Now Thome has shown he is ready. UND has two starting goalies on its most complete team it has had since the National Championship side, and arguably both goalies (Thome and Scheel) will have chances to earn a spot in the NHL one day. Goehring won a national championship as part of a platoon system, and maybe Thome and Scheel would benefit from being a part of the same down the stretch.

Thome Post Game 

Check out Thome’s thoughts on a lot of things relating to the weekend and more in the video below.

 

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.

6-3: How Nebraska Omaha Upset UND and what to watch for Saturday Night

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Throughout this Friday night fracas at the Ralph Engelstad Arena between UND and the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha, one thing was clear really early. The bad start this team had against Alabama Huntsville before finding its game was not a one-off. The Mavericks, while not getting enough consistent pressure in the offensive zone to sustain long zone time, scored their goals on quick transition plays and made Adam Scheel’s life tough.Getting scored on first and letting teams hang around, for the first time in conference play, has finally grounded hopes of going undefeated in conference play. In addition,  Scheel was pulled after allowing four goals on the evening. His replacement, Peter Thome played well on limited shots faced.

Towards the end of the game, UND had a chance to tie things up with under three minutes left to play and an offensive zone faceoff. Teemu Pulkineen took the draw for Omaha and won it against Shane Pinto. Then Martin Sundburg found the puck and put it into the empty cage to secure the victory for Omaha. For UND, they lost only their second game of the season with a few things to fix going into the finale on Saturday night. Omaha on the other hand had a lot of things go right, but were able to use their speed to put UND on their heels all night. Their ability to play a speed game finally translated into a win for UND’s opponent on the road this year.

What to watch from Omaha 

Head Coach Mike Gabinet had his team well prepared for the opener. He was generally happy with the effort and consistency of the team along with the strong work of Saville in net (26 saves on 29 shots). He kept Omaha in the game when the team faltered on clearing looks and were hemmed in their own end.  Saville played a very sound game and his ability to stay level and not over pursue a lot of looks made his life easier in a game where he was tested.

What to look for from the Mavericks comes down to how much zone time they can get. Omaha played fast through every zone but offense. The way to beat this North Dakota team is using your speed to take them out of their element. Through scoring first, boxing out in front of their net, and working  to get quality shots on net they can make UND’s life even more tough if they can carry their transition speed and the mentality needed to get the quick looks to hold the puck a bit and make Saville’s life a little easier.

What to look for from UND 

Peter Thome needs to start a  regular game this season, perhaps even the series finale against Omaha. I am not saying Adam Scheel is unfit to start, he is a great goalie most nights with tonight being a rare exception. If this staff wants to feel better about its two goalies, then the only way to help them is to play them both regularly. I am interested to see how Adam Scheel responds in net the next time out.

In addition, for UND fans , this game had to feel like a flashback Friday to the last two seasons for a night. The team is arguably the best or one of the best in the nation at puck possession. That has translated into a lot of rebounds in front of the net and tougher chances for the goalie to stop. Omaha did a wonderful job of clearing the net and keeping UND’s chances far enough away that they were lower percentage looks.

Tonight, look at Scheel and how he responds on defense along with how well this team can establish a net front presence. Those two things will arguably play the biggest role in determining the outcome of the series finale Saturday at the Ralph.

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 hang on in 5-4 thriller to earn sweep: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into this weekend, Jasper Weatherby had a lot to show for his efforts this season. Routinely, the sophomore Sharks’ prospect is the first choice to take faceoffs in key moments and he has continuted to get better with his net front presence to the point where his screens have helped contribute to multiple goals this season. He had not tallied a goal to match his efforts. This weekend,with one on each night his goals total has started to get a little closer to matching the hard work he has put in for a Fighting Hawks side that has found its replacement for Rhett Gardner in big moments to take faceoffs.

The Fighting Hawks earned a sweep of the Miami Red Hawks with a 5-4 thrilling win on Saturday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, in large part thanks to Weatherby’s efforts, combined with the consistent play of Colin Adams who put up two goals on four shots.

His game has continued to grow as well as he finished the night 11-3 on faceoffs, complimented by Weatherby’s 9-5 mark. Again, the faceoff dot is a recurring strength for this team, as the Fighting Hawks finished 40-23 on the evening.

That consistency setup a strong first two periods which featured all of UND’s scoring as Adams, Weatherby, Westin Michaud, and Jordan Kawaguchi would all find the twine for UND on this wacky night replete with offense from both sides.

All of UND’s goals to some degree involved getting Miami goalie Ryan Larkin to have to move off his spot laterally, he typically was not fast enough for the skilled shooting of the Fighting Hawks combined with their superb playmaking showcased throughout the evening. The goal that best personified that was on the power play for the Fighting Hawks, as Westin Michaud made a wonderful backhand pass to Weatherby in space. In mere milliseconds the puck was off his stick and in the top opposite corner of the net, far away from Larkin. Weatherby burying a few more like that, combined with Adams’ ability to help out in the faceoff dot and develop his scoring touch gives UND even more options going forward, which they will need to take on Denver next weekend.

The defense, and now what?

While the goal scoring was quite nice for UND, they did show some vulnerabilities on defense. Goaltender Adam Scheel made some key saves as he does, but at points looked positively human. Miami at times took the game to the Fighting Hawks and made Scheel move laterally, and like Larkin, it seemed as if Scheel had some trouble doing so with any frequency, as the Red Hawks often had sucess burying turnovers, especially on the rush, and through the five hole. While Scheel does not often have nights like this, how this team responds to the issues laid bare at home tonight will go a long way to determining its fate. Keep an eye on the Denver series and look how the Pioneers attack Scheel. They play a speed game and like to score goals off the rush with goalies being forced to move around.

Like the Mankato series, and to some degree tonight, UND could find themselves chasing games if they stay a little too loose in their own end defensively as teams will be more willing to open up their systems a bit more against a Fighting Hawks team that defensively seems more vulnerable on the rush compared to being beaten on a long shift. What happens against Denver remains to be seen, but this team showed that it can score sometimes at will, a welcome upgrade from the morass of great effort but little results this team found itself in last season for vast swaths of it.

In the postseason, being able to win games in multiple ways can often extend your season, we now see that UND can win high-flying games. They have until Friday night at Magness Arena to sure up some things to limit the need to play in more of them, but know that they can play this style if needed.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, 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.

Eight Unanswered: How UND Earned a Series Sweep over Canisius and Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

In front of a nearly sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena crowd, the Fighting Hawks played Canisius similarly to start the match like they did last night, and in their ignominious series sweep at the hands of the Golden Griffins last January. Griffins Head Coach Trevor Large noted that his team needed to be better at shortening their passes and simplifying their game.

Ausin Alger got that message for the visitors as he took a feed from David Melaragani and walked in a mere 4:05 into the first period and stunned the crowd. He went bar down on UND netminder Adam Scheel to give the Griffins their first lead of the weekend.

That lead would last into the second period. Once again the Fighting Hawks were presented with a chance to score a bushel of goals before their opening salvo as Canisisus again spent most of the evening down a skater. J.D Pogue earned the honor with a kneeing major penalty and a game misconduct 12 minutes into the first period. While no goals were scored, the penalty kill tired out the Griffins and it would bear dividends later on in the evening. UND was able to build off of the major penalty and used the extra skater it had with Canisius being down a man to their advantage later on in this one.

In the second, 1:03 after a Shane Pinto penalty shot was stopped by Jacob Barczewski, 7:24 in to the frame, Mark Senden took a feed from Jordan Kawaguchi and wired it home on the weak side to start the scoring bonanza that followed. Colin Adams and Gabe Bast would pitch in markers to end the second period and put the lead at two.

The third period is where the deluge of goals came as Cole Smith twice added to the tally along with, Harison Blaisdell, Andrew Peski, and Westin Michaud all pitched in markers to secure the 8-1 win. Jordan Kawaguchi lead the assists on the evening with three and earned second star honors on the evening. Again, Jasper Weatherby had another good night in the faceoff circle (11-4) along with Shane Pinto (11-7).

With key players like Rhett Gardner moving on, we have begun to see the staff rely on Weatherby and Pinto so far to win faceoffs in key moments. For instance, Head Coach Brad Berry singled out Pinto for winning a faceoff on his off side in UND’s end at a key point in the game. UND’s faceoff numbers are good for those two, but Berry noted a need for it to be by committee and those two were the only skaters to win double digit draws.

While Scheel finished with 11 saves on the evening, his biggest challenge was staying engaged during the countless times UND seemed to take up residence in the Canisius defensive zone. He looked pretty good but does not have enough of a body of work to judge yet, like the rest of this team.

Now What? 

Their next test against Minnesota State Mankato, one of the best teams in the nation, will tell us a lot more about the potential for this team the rest of the year. If this team can put together a complete game, like it did tonight, and force the Mavericks to play perfect hockey to beat them, things could go well on the road. If UND gets away from rebound goals, cross crease goals, and tries too much to score off the rush, then we will be in a repeat of the last season.

A test against a top ten team in the nation next weekend on the road is a good measuring stick for this team, and will provide them plenty of film before they return home in two weeks to take on the always defensively sound Bemidji State Beavers.

Fighting Hawks Fight Past UNO 2-1: Recap and Now What?

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, the setup for the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota could not have been more simple. Win two games against the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha this weekend and hope for some help from Miami (OH) against Western Michigan this weekend. One of those things happened as UND earned a 2-1 hard-fought victory over the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha.

On Friday night, not only did Western Michigan ensure UND’s home ice streak for the first round of the playoffs would end.Now the Fighting Hawks will be on the road next week for the first round of the conference tournament for the first time since 2002. The Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha almost battled past UND and featured another stellar performance by netminder extraordinaire, Evan Weninger.  He made 38 saves on 40 shots faced on the night and could have taken home star honors for his play. As for scoring on the night, Gabe Bast started the scoring soiree with a sublime wrap around to pot one past Weninger 3:45 into the first.

Following the Bast salvo, things would remain quiet until Zach Jordan buried a five-on-three marker on a cross ice feed against Peter Thome. UND Head Coach Brad Berry noted that Thome would have liked to have made that play laterally, but he did not have much of a chance. Jordan hides a howitzer of his quite well and uses it to his advantage. All though he is not on the level, ask how many goalies are able to stop an Alex Ovechkin cannon from that spot, the answer of course is very few, even on their best day. Then finally in a third period that saw Rhett Gardner benched for taking two terrible penalties, Nick Jones came back to the lineup and tipped home a Colton Poolman shot on a draw Jones himself won. If centers could get two assists on their same play, the goal would read Jones from Poolman and Jones.

Now What

UND needs to play more disciplined. The Fighting Hawks were,arguably, one non call on Jacob Bernard-Docker as he did knee Tristan Keck with the puck having left the area, away from losing their best defender and having to play with five defenders. The Fighting Hawks need to get better at two things for their home finale. First, maintain better discipline and make UNO drive 200 feet to get a good chance on you. Their only goal came on a power play that occurred because of two fast penalties that did not need to be taken.

As for the Mavericks, protect Evan Weninger because he is a treasure to be better guarded than he has been this season. He made 38 saves but was under consistent duress all night and made plenty of grade-a stops to burnish his impressive career mix tape. Same two teams wrap up their regular season Saturday from the Ralph at 7:07 PM, how this one starts and how many penalties UND takes will determine who wins.

The Comeback: UND Survives Colorado College Comeback to Take 4-3 OT Victory

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Last night in front of 11,094 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota, once again, finished a game more than doubling its opponent, the Colorado College Tigers, in shots on net. Once again, they were playing from behind in the third period. The Tigers scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead and were using superb play from their netminder, Alex Leclerc, to keep themselves ahead. That all changed 14:!4 into the third period as Jordan Kawaguchi tipped home a Nick Jones shot to tie the game and send it into overtime. In the extra frame Ludvig Hoff tipped home a game winner 4:15 into the extra frame.

Unlike previous games this year where the opposing team was able to hold onto leads despite being out shot by the Fighting Hawks, this one was different. The Fighting Hawks played a solid game from the beginning and took a 2-0 lead before the Tigers got on the board. Nick Jones waited out Leclerc 10:11 into the first and went short side top shelf to make it 1-0 on the power play. Andrew Peski then wired a puck home through multiple defenders to give UND a 2-0 lead. Over the second and third frames, Westin Michaud, Erik Middendorf, and UND transfer Chris Wilkie gave the Tiger a 3-2 lead. The Wilkie goal came on a five minute major and game misconduct given to Gabe Bast. He went high and directly hit Alex Berardinelli in the head to give the Tigers a five minute power play. Bast could face supplemental discipline for that hit.

While Wilkie did score 26 seconds into that power play, UND was able to limit the harm to one goal. The feeling among UND was one of relief but not happiness. Given how the non-conference season finished, and their out of conference record against non-ranked teams, UND needs to win a fair amount of games to secure a spot in the tournament regardless of the postseason.

On to Saturday

The good to bring forward for UND? Consistency, as the Fighting Hawks scored a goal a period for the entire game and did not let up all night despite having a two goal lead at one point. The team was able to get multiple goals off deflections, as the team is looking for other ways to convert on chances.

What should UND work on for the finale? While the Fighting Hawks were able to make a big difference with tips and deflections, throughout the game they almost tried to find a perfect opportunity in the slot that got blocked. This team has a strong defense that is good at getting pucks on net to get tipped. If the team keeps waiting for perfect chances, none will arise. All of this being said, the Fighting Hawks played a good game, and still have one more hill to climb to earn a sweep against the Tigers.

 

Now What? Three Thoughts on 6-2 UND Loss to Western Michigan

Well, that happened. Last night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota played arguably its worst game of the season as they lost a 6-2 NCHC conference matchup to the Western Michigan Broncos. The Fighting Hawks did get two more goals on this night than in the series opener Friday, however, Western Michigan scored six goals in between them to provide the final margin. After the game, the mood was obviously somber among the Fighting Hawks. Thankfully, UND has a home thanksgiving weekend non-conference series to prepare for this weekend against Alaska Anchorage. The Fighting Hawks will no doubt review every error from Saturday, and every close bounce from Friday as they look to change their fortunes against the Seawolves. Here are some thoughts on the weekend and what’s next for UND.

With Wade Allison Western Michigan Can Surprise Some People 

Western Michigan got its star winger back for the Saturday night affair, Wade Allison, and he made an impact right away. The Flyers’ prospect contributed a goal and an assist in the effort. He did skate limited minutes as the game went on and the margin was widened. However, on the power play, his shot for a goal was pitch perfect, and showed that with more time he can be even better. If the Broncos are able to keep him healthy and rested, they will sneak up on more teams like what they did to North Dakota on Saturday.

Platoon Possibilities in Net

Both of UND’s main goalies, Adam Scheel and Peter Thome, have had ups and downs this season. Scheel was the man in net for the five game win streak that accounted for all of UND’s wins so far this season. Thome had a good game Friday and a nice freshman season earning playing time as the main backup. If not for a fluky double deflection on Friday, Thome could have had a much better result. That said, I mentioned the Lakers solution to goaltending as an idea, at least for a little bit. Fighting Hawks’ Head Coach Brad Berry typically likes to find a starter and stick with them which normally makes sense. This year, to start, things have been a bit different. Both goalies have had highs and lows to their game, and both play a similar style. It could be a change of pace if each goalie knew that they had one game to prepare for each week, as UND has not utilized a pure platoon system in at least the past few years. This system can help the coaches play to the strengths of each goalie, and help both further develop their games faster. Goalies need ice time to develop. Seeing what each could do with an equal share of starts through the holiday break would be a change of pace that UND could use.

Improve the Power Play

The Fighting Hawks look their best on the power play when they get pucks and bodies to the net as fast and simply as  Jasper Weatherby’s goal on Saturday illustrated. He banged home a rebound on a Gabe Bast point shot to score the lone tally until the last minute of the third period in the finale. This power play stood out to me as a model for the rest of the season. If UND can simplify its game, and get more people to the front of the net, good things can and will happen. Weatherby’s size and ability to redirect pucks are superb, and despite his role as a center, it may be worth having him on the wing on a power play unit and clogging the goalie’s vision on future chances.

Once Nick Jones returns from his injury, having Weatherby play a wing position and playing on Rhett Gardner or Jones’ wing would immediately provide deeper depth to a power play that generates chances, but could stand to generate a few more high quality chances.