Deep Depth Lead by Leet Spurs UND Women to 68-57 Win Over Omaha

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Coming into tonight’s key Summit League matchup, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks were 2-1 in the league and had a unique challenge. They had to figure out how to get a lot of scoring without Lexi Klabo, Summit League scoring leader. In addition, they had to content with a 2-3 zone from Omaha designed to force them to convert on more outside shots.

Both of these quandaries were solved by the team gelling throughout including a 17 point second quarter where the team outscored the Mavericks by six (17-11). As the game wore on Fighting Hawks fans got a glimpse of how deep this team is through multiple players. Julia Fleecs, making her first start had a superb night from the field ending with 14 points to pace the Fighting Hawks on offense. Her leadership combined with the depth of the Fighting Hawks lead the way.

The player that provided the most help in strengthening the depth of the team and that stood out most tonight was Melissa Leet. She was able to neutralize Mavericks’ forward Elena Pilakouta throughout the evening and provided some timely wing shooting to stretch the defense. She finished with nine points on the evening. Leet noted the help of her team in getting her to this point. For example, her work  with Faith Dooley in practice was one of the encouragements for her developing an improved outside game. Dooley’s post presence has provided an opportunity for Leet to work on other parts of her game.

As Head Coach Travis Brewster noted, if Leet can continue this contribution  it would be a big boost to the team. Having Klabo and Dooley with Leet able to spell either one would preserve everyone a bit more and give UND another player who can shoot the wing shot a bit more consistently.

UND’s ability to maintain a strong post game and shoot the outside ball, in the rhythm of the offense are the key to this team’s success moving forward. The delicate balance of this will determine how far this team will go. If players like Leet can add into what starters like Alaina Jarnot (3-4 from beyond the three point line, 13 points on the evening) did, then this team has no limit.

UND faces a test players noted was similar to Denver on Sunday in Western Illinois. The Leathernecks are a high-tempo three point shooting squad. UND gave up 13 threes on 22 attempts against Denver. For Sunday to go a bit differently, look for UND to contain the tempo and limit quality threes for the Leathernecks. How UND responds to the pushed pace will determine how Sunday will go.

UND Hockey Alum Interview: Chris VandeVelde

(Photo Credit:Red Bull Salzburg)

Chris VandeVelde is in the middle of a long career in professional hockey. He played four years at the University of North Dakota before moving on to the pro ranks. The Moorehead,MN native has played 278 games in the NHL and 236 in the AHL.

Recently he made the move abroad to take his talents to Europe. After spending the 2017-2018 campaign with Lukko of the SM-Liiga in Finland, he then moved on to the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL), the top hockey league of Austria with Red Bull Salzburg.

There he found a familiar face in Ryan Duncan. The two played together for three years at UND. While Duncan has spent most of his career with Salzburg, VandeVelde has come to the European game after a career in the North American game where he often was a top depth center for whatever team he played for and a reliable penalty killer. Duncan also talked with me as well. Look for more from him in the next few days.

Both players are currently participating not only in the EBEL but in the Champions Hockey League. This tournament involves the top leagues in Europe (minus the KHL) and Salzburg is in the semifinals against their fellow Red Bull Side, Munich.

After the first game yesterday, the teams are tied at 0 (the CHL uses aggregate goals to determine winners in its pre-final elimination rounds over a two game series). They play the return game of the semis one week from today. The winner goes on to the Grand Final to play for the championship. If the pattern is the same as the first game, the second half of the semifinal game be broadcast in America on NHL Network at 1:20 PM Central Time.

Below are my questions to VandeVelde and his responses.

1. What has it been like playing with Ryan again this season?

“It’s been great and a lot of fun. He helped make the transition to Austria very smooth for my family and me. We haven’t got the chance to play together, since we are both centers, but it’s always fun watching him play.”

2. As a team, what do you guys need to build on to fly past Vienna in EBEL play who are lead by J.P Lamoreux in net, another UND alum.

“First off, it was great to see JP and to say hi to his family. To catch Vienna we are going to have to start stringing some wins together like we did earlier in the season. Just play more confident and limit mistakes.”

3. What does the upcoming semi against Munich mean in the CHL?

“I didn’t know much about the CHL before I came here, but it is a big deal and teams take a lot of pride in trying to win it all. With the two Red Bull teams making the semi finals it just makes it that more special and competitive.”

4. How has your side utilized the CHL to build your game for EBEL play?

“I think as a team we have realized how good we can be if we play well. We feel like we can beat anyone if we play our game.”

5. How would you describe the rivalry between Salzburg and Munich?

“I don’t know much about the rivalry. I have heard it’s pretty intense, which will make the CHL semifinal even more fun.”

6. What is one thing about Ryan Duncan fans do not know?

“Ryan is one of the healthiest eaters I have ever met. Except on his weekly cheat day. He has a lot of discipline and is very professional.”

7. What is your best Ryan Duncan off ice story from your time at UND?

” UND was a lot of fun and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I remember I played a lot of halo on Xbox with some guys. I suppose we also did some partying. We also had a beer pong league.”

8. What has your NHL experience brought to the club?

“Most of all I would have to say leadership. Maybe some of the younger guys have watched some of the smaller things I have done on the ice. Which they can learn from and develop.”

9. Why should UND fans tune into the CHL semis and finals?

“It is a great rivalry and it’s really good hockey. I think it’s a lot of fun to watch compared to some other leagues. Also to support Ryan and me.”

10. What has been your favorite CHL city to visit and why?

“We haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time away from the rink in any of the CHL cities we have played in. I would have to pick Bern, Switzerland though. Just a really nice city.”

“What is the biggest area of your game Dave Hakstol helped you develop.”

11. “Hak has continued to help me throughout my career. In college he really helped me with my confidence coming in as a freshman and with some of the early struggles that came with that. He gave me plenty of opportunities. In Philadelphia he continued to push me to become a better player and to grow my game. He is one of the best coaches, if not the best, I have ever played for.”

 

 

Consistent Effort Propels UND Into Second Half with 6-2 Exhibition Win:Quick Recap and Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, UND needed to build on a few things. First, the Fighting Hawks needed to find a way to have their consistent hard work of the first half show up more on the scoreboard. Tonight it did as they finished with six goals on shots against a strong USA National Development Team U18 side stacked with top talent primed to take the NHL by storm. Next, the Fighting Hawks needed to maintain their discipline as they have had games where they have put themselves at a large disadvantage with conceding power plays. They did well there as they conceded the same amount of power plays as they earned. of time. Finally, they needed to get consistency up and down their lineup as they look to build a solid side for the upcoming second half.

Tonight all of those goals were accomplished with a 6-2 exhibition win. Six different Fighting Hawks scored tonight as the team got the second half of their season rolling. The team had more than ten shots on net each period during the game. All three goalies played, and the only two goals conceded where on skill plays made by the Under-18 team.

Quality and Quantity

The Fighting Hawks were able to get multiple good looks throughout the game. Head Coach Brad Berry was happy about how his team played and their ability to generate a constant volume of shots throughout the evening. This consistency tonight against a team of multiple first and second round quality talents is the benchmark for sucess. How this team replicates it will go a long way to determining where their season ends.

Good Goaltending 

Adam Scheel and Peter Thome are both capable netminders able to help this team. Scheel’s play against top opponents and consistency have earned him the starting role for now. It was great to see Thome make plenty of grade-a saves in a tough third period where the NTDP had multiple tough chances.

Now What? 

The Fighting Hawks travel on the road to Buffalo to face Atlantic Hockey foe Canisius next weekend. This is the regular-season opener of their second half. What UND needs to do is the same thing it did last night. The Fighting Hawks need consistent play from all 18 skaters and capable goaltending. If they produce high-quality shots, limit chances, and get decent goaltending, they can compete with most anyone with a lineup one player short of being completely healthy. This team does not have a Brock Boeser anymore that can take over games. What it has instead is a lot of quality players that, working in conjunction, can rely on each other to play well.

32 Sensational Larsson Saves Sink UND to Split with 2-1 Overtime Loss Against Denver

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, UND knew what it needed to secure a sweep over the Denver Pioneers. They did not achieve their goal of a sweep in front of a nearly sold out crowd of 11,545 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.  Denver used a strong first period and superb goaltending from Red Wings prospect Filip Larsson to take the series finale and secure a split. He finished saving 32 shots on the evening including multiple grade a chances for UND. In overtime he provided the spark for the Pioneers as he helped stop two shots. After the last chance for UND, Slava Demin for the Pioneers was able to find the stick of Jarid Lukosevicius in over time to tip it home for the winner.

The Fighting Hawks got more pucks on net more consistently, but could not find the winner, and were 21.2 seconds away from earning at least four out of six points against the Pioneers. Now the team has a chance to recoup and hopefully see the return of most of its injured players for the start second half of the regular season.

In the first period, Jaakko Heikkinen took a feed from Colin Staub who drew two defenders below the goal line out of position. Heikkinen found the perfect spot against UND netminder Adam Scheel to give Denver their first lead of the weekend a mere 70 seconds into the contest. That goal would be the only one from either side until late in the third period as Larsson held off UND in a strong second period. The Fighting Hawks got 16 shots on net in the second but could not find the back of the net. Shot wise, that was the best period for UND all weekend but they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

In the third period, 17:25 in, Jacob Bernard-Docker found the back of the net for the only UND goal of the evening. He took a feed from Colton Poolman and fired one off a Denver defender and in to send the game to overtime.

Two Thoughts

For Now, Start Scheel 

This weekend, against the quality of opponent and on the big stage showed that Adam Scheel deserves a full weekend in net for the Fighting Hawks. Both him and Peter Thome have had highs and lows this season, yet Scheel has done his best work against the top teams on UND’s schedule so far. This is not to say either goalie should be handed the job exclusively, but Scheel’s game last night was impressive despite the final result. Games where goalies go long stretches without much work can be just as hard mentally as ones where they are peppered consistently.

GMC Line Should Stay In Business

This weekend, with UND shorthanded due to injuries, they showed, power of their team depth. The most impressive line of the weekend was the Gavin Hain-Mark Senden- Cole Smith forward group (the GMC Line). All of those players have seen increased minutes due to injuries up front for the Fighting Hawks. They all play a tough and physical game that feeds well off one another and are all responsible players in their own end. Their responsible play allowed Bernard-Docker to feel better about stepping into the rush to create the game-tying goal in the third period. Look for more opportunities for the GMC group to showcase their skills as the second half starts.

 

Fast Start Propels UND to 4-1 Friday Night Win over Denver Plus Thoughts on Series Finale

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, North Dakota had started to find a formula to play well in the NCHC, get a fast start and then follow that with stout defense. They got all of that with a 4-1 victory over the Denver Pioneers in front of 10,949 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday night.

Gavin Hain provided the fast start. On a Mark Senden contested faceoff win, Hain took the puck from his left wing spot, and walked in on Denver netminder Devin Cooley. with limited space, Hain was able to pull the puck to his backhand and open up just enough space to go glove side on the Denver netminder. 7:46 in to the first period, UND had their first lead of the night.

5:10 later, Hain’s line would strike again. This time, Senden would benefit from the play of his other wing, Cole Smith. Taking on multiple Pioneers, Smith fed an area pass to Senden in front of the net. Instantly he was able to convert the one-timer to make it a 2-0 Fighting Hawks lead.

That first period start, combined with UND goalie Adam Scheel making all seven saves in the second period on some better looks for the Pioneers gave UND a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. That effort, combined with a perfect penalty kill for the Fighting Hawks helped them to their lead.

A few minutes into the third, the Fighting Hawks would add to their lead. Nick Jones did yeoman-like work behind the net and created time and space to wire a superb pass to Matt Kiersted. The sophomore defender wired the 13th shot of the night past Cooley to provide UND a 3-0 lead. That margin would not remain all night as 9:29 into the third, Colin Staub fired in a Ryan Barrow feed from close in to make it a 3-1 game and give Denver their first goal of the weekend.

Finally, after a missed Brett Stapley penalty shot for Denver with 2:02 left, Colton Poolman would then provide the final margin with an empty net marker. Adam Scheel got the only assist on this goal. He finished the evening saving 21 of the 22 shots he faced.

Two Thoughts for the Series Finale 

Finish Strong 

UND needs to do a better job maintaining their pressure. In the third period, Denver outshot UND 9-2 with a goalie in net for the Pioneers. While UND did score on one of those shots, the pressure they build throughout the game needs to be consistent in the third period. If it wanes like that against more skilled teams like Denver, starting Saturday night, then the Fighting Hawks will risk losing hard-earned leads throughout the season.

Maintain Shot Quality 

UND needs to continue their pressure in the offensive zone. The Fighting Hawks were a lot more selective with their chances and it showed in their efficiency. They finished with three goals against Cooley on 14 shots. While they need to play a consistent game with 5-12 shots or more per period, they also did improve in the quality of their chances.

 

 

Fantastic Finale: Three Goal Third Sends UND to Series Sweep with 4-3 Saturday Night Victory Against Alaska Anchorage

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into the series finale against Alaska Anchorage,  UND gained some experience dealing with being down multiple goals late in games. Often times, things did not go their way, like last Saturday against Western Michigan. The Fighting Hawks did learn some lessons in that one that they carried through to the series finale . Thanks to a three goal third period in front of 11,086 fans, they salvaged a series sweep against the Seawolves. with a 4-3 victory. Matt Kiersted opened up the scoring ledger in the third with a superb shot on a power play to bring UND within one goal. He took an expert feed from Jordan Kawaguchi who effortlessly weaved his way through multiple Seawolves to the middle of the ice to find the open Kiersted who deposited the first third period marker into the back of the net 8:05 into the final frame.

43 seconds later, UND tied things up on the power play as Rhett Gardner perfectly tipped home a Jacob Bernard-Docker point shot on the power play to tie things up. All of this happened within a few seconds of the penalty being assessed. Gardner added an even strength tally to provide the final margin of victory 41 seconds later.

Finally, UND held on in the third despite the Seawolves hitting the post with an extra attacker with a little over one minute remaining.

What enabled the Fighting Hawks to comeback in this one? Simplifying their game and activating their defense corps. The best example of this came on the two power play tallies. After winning faceoffs, UND made a change. Instead of their winger heading to the net they utilized the center a bit more in front of the net to force the issue. It paid off. On both tallies, UND benefited from an improved net front presence that dramatically improved the quality of each shot. They made Kristian Stead have to not only make grade-a saves consistently which he did throughout the first two periods, but have to do all of this unable to see the puck.

Stead kept the Seawolves in it and required the Fighting Hawks to adjust their game to have a chance. He finished with 32 saves on 36 shots on net and an assist on the first Seawolves goal on the evening.

Heading into UND’s next series against Minnesota Duluth, the Fighting Hawks still have some work to do. They have not played a full 60 minute game in some time this season, and everyone i agrees that is the next biggest step to take. The Bulldogs are defending national champions for a reason. They not only have the physical element in their game, but they also have high-skilled Riley Tufte and company who can bury the puck at will. How UND is able to start each game will determine their outcome. The Bulldogs have been consistently one of the best teams in the NCHC for many reasons, but the biggest one is their ability to recruit physical players like Tufte who possess a high skill ceiling to their game.

Bottom Seven Top UND 5-2 Friday Night Win Against Alaska Anchorage

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,155 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks needed a spark, and they needed one early.Like in previous games, they experienced adversity between fluky bounces and missed shots .In the first period, the narrative aroud the Fighting Hawks changed quite a bit. UND  came out strong and focused on playing an unselfish game. They consistently worked on getting pucks out of their own end and staying in the Seawolves’ end throughout the stanza. This paid off as multiple things went UND’s way. Joel Janatuinen was hauled down on a mini-breakaway after a superb feed from Gabe Bast sprung him for a great chance. This earned Janatuinen a penalty shot. He walked in 4:29 into the period against Seawolves’ netminder Kris Carlson and went low glove on him. The puck got past Carlson but hit the left post and went out.

We have seen opposing teams take advantage of missed chances from the Fighting Hawks this season. However, immediately after the penalty shot attempt, UND had other plans. Extra skater, Ludvig Hoff banged home a rebound on a Cole Smith shot from close in to give UND its first lead since its last win against Miami of Ohio on the road two weeks ago on Friday November 9.  Then in the second period, Grant Mismash wired home a nice power play marker seven seconds in from the high slot. Next, Jackson Keane deked out Carlson and waited him out to earn his first NCAA goal. After a slightly odd Seawolves goal from Nicolas Erb-Ekholm, Rhett Gardner chipped in another power play marker with a perfect tip from a Mismash shot pass. Nils Rygaard then added one more for the Seawolves firing one through the wickets of Hayden Shaw and past UND netminder Peter Thome. Casey Johnson provided the final margin of the night for UND 12:13 into the third period.

On the evening, we learned some things about UND. The Fighting Hawks finished with 39 shots on the evening. This team does a lot better when it simplifies its game, this was one of the issues last Saturday against Western Michigan. Tonight, UND was able to chip pucks out and minimize unneeded puck handling to limit odd turnovers. We also learned that both UND goalies could play any night. After the game, head coach Brad Berry noted the possibility of platooning both goalies, Thome and Adam Scheel, based on the body of work each submit.

It does not sound like a platoon based on days of the week, more a next man up earn the net type of platoon. Thome played a fine game making 20 saves, and did well considering how far apart the Seawolves’ early chances came.

UND knows how to win, they just need to replicate this formula Saturday night at the Ralph.

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.

 

 

 

Double Deflection Does in Fighting Hawks in 2-0 Loss to Western Michigan: Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, both teams had some injury issues, and tonight North Dakota came out on the short end of things on the ice losing 2-0. The Fighting Hawks out shot the Broncos 32-19 but lost the game 2-0. Western Michigan goalie Trevor Gorsuch spun a 32 save shutout in the win. Peter Thome made 17 saves on 18 shots for UND.

The lone goal of the affair came on a double deflection in the third period 12:24 in as Josh Passolt deflected a Hugh McGing pass off the skate of Hayden Shaw and past Thome. Colt Conrad added an empty net marker a few minutes later to provide the final 2-0 margin for the Broncos. Of the 62 shot attempts for the Fighting Hawks, only 32 found their way to Gorsuch.

Despite having three power plays in the first, UND generated only eight shots on net during them combined. None of them found the back of the net. Western Michigan utilized an aggressive penalty kill and took away the time and space of the Fighting Hawks, especially on the points on special teams to limit good power play looks. UND actually lead the night in blocked shots with 18 (18-13) but Western Michigan’s aggressive defense limited quality looks and increased misses for the Fighting Hawks on the evening.

Read on to find out how UND can build on the opener to get a few more in the back of the net Saturday night.

Simplify

Whenever UND comes up short this seems to be a theme for the Fighting Hawks. UND needs to simplify its approach on special teams to generate more chances from high-quality scoring areas. As Western Michigan utilizes an aggressive penalty kill and system to limit quality chances, UND needs to find a way to capitalize on that system. One idea is generating a few more head-fakes and juke moves to open lanes. Think back to the Jacob Bernard-Docker overtime winner against Wisconsin. That patience and poise allowed him to make a nice move to open a lane and provide the final margin that night. That same ability to wait out an opponent did not manifest itself for UND as much on  Friday night at the Ralph.

Add Quality

If the Fighting Hawks finish the series finale with less shots reaching the net, but more goals, no one will be disappointing. The top line number of 32 shots on net was nice, but a lot of those chances as the game wore on were outside chances. It would be equivalent to a basketball team taking a lot of extra shots from beyond the three-point line but not connecting. If UND is able to find more chances down low utilizing the skills it has to mitigate the physical style of hockey the Broncos play, the result in the finale could be a bit different.

Patience

One of the things that impressed me when UND went on its  five game win streak was its patience. If shots did not open up right away, the Fighting Hawks made the extra pass and did not force the issue unnecessarily. That ability to be patient is one of the hallmarks of this team when it is rolling. So now, we patiently wait for game two of the series and see what the Fighting Hawks have in store on a Saturday night in Grand Forks.

 

 

 

Pick Six Propels UND Back Into Playoff Picture: Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Russell Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Yesterday, in front of a loud group of Alerus Center fans, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks were able to propel themselves back into the playoff picture with a 17-10 win over the Portland State University Vikings. This was a defensive game that featured multiple interceptions, including a game-breaking one from Lenny Nelson IV that sealed the victory for the Fighting Hawks. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jaxson Turner was able to deflect a pass up for Nelson who took it and scampered 58 yards to the end zone for UND. The Fighting Hawks later tacked on a Brady Leach 19 yard field goal to provide the final margin of victory. Here are some thoughts on the win and what to look for next week.

Front Seven Wins Games

Throughout the season, we have seen this theme emerge again and again. Yesterday was no exception to this rule. The Fighting Hawks had five sacks yesterday, and could have had quite a few more. Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander was able to avoid pressures multiple times and capitalize on edges that collapsed in to find openings and escape for positive rushes multiple times.  That said, UND did a superb job generating pressure and forcing him to react quickly. Mason Bennett had 1.5 sacks yesterday to move within three sacks of the single season record shared by incumbent defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt and Wes Atkinson. How well UND can get off the ball next weekend and force the issue will go a long way to determining their fate this year.

Playoff Possibilities Pop Up 

Coming into yesterday, the Fighting Hawks’ playoff chances took a bit of a hit with their loss last weekend to Idaho. That said, they were able to do their part on the field and took advantage of a wacky day all around the FCS, especially in the Missouri Valley Conference that saw two teams (Western Illinois, and Northern Iowa) fall out of playoff contention with their fifth loses. That said, the Fighting Hawks need to win next week, and assume nothing. A few years ago a strong UND team with an FBS win was unable to get into the field despite a 7-4 record. All this team can do is finish strong against Northern Arizona and wait for their fate to be announced.

Shorthanded Offense 

Yesterday, UND was limited with what it could do in its passing game as multiple wide receivers (Izzy Adeoti, Garett Maag, and Travis Toivonen) did not play due to injuries. Their leading wide receiver yesterday, Noah Wanzek, only had 57 yards on five catches. Look for UND to utilize all of its running backs next week as they look to use them to be able to open up the passing game a bit more. How often UND throws will be largely contingent on what personnel they have. Should yesterday’s lineup play again, look for another classic run-heavy day to open up the passing game. Yesterday’s play calling combined with previous weeks has taken into account what UND has to work with.

All of these thoughts being taken into account, UND cannot focus on the national picture until they finish up next weekend. A loss to Northern Arizona will end the season of the Fighting Hawks. Winning next week keeps them in strong contention for a playoff spot. How this all shakes out will depend on what the front seven can do, how the offense can adapt, and what happens around the country next week. UND can control only the first two things, and not rely on the final fact to determine their playoff fate. Next week the Fighting Hawks’ season is on the line once again. Hopefully the regular season finale in Flagstaff can turnout fantastic for the Fighting Hawks.