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

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Three Thoughts 

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

Hawks Soar Into the Second Half With 5-2 Exhibition Win: A Recap Plus Three Thoughts

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography

In front of 10,113 fans at the Ralph Englestad Arena the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the USA Hockey National Development Program’s Under 18 Team 5-2 thanks to a balanced effort featuring ten skaters adding to the score sheet.

UND would not wait long to get into the scoring spirit as 2:23 into the first period, Colton Poolman wired a shot from the blue line that Cole Smith was able to tip past Under 18 Team goalie Drew DeRidder.

A few minutes later, Austin Poganski created a turnover in the neutral zone and rushed past everyone. 10:26 into the opening frame, he used his much-revered forehand backhand move to put the Fighting Hawks ahead by two.

The Fighting Hawks were not done with contributing to the score sheet in the first. 15:39 into the opening frame,  Grant Mismash found Matt Kiersted who wired one over the right shoulder of DeRidder to push the UND lead to three.

The Under 18 Team would answer back as Ryan Savage put one past Fighting Hawks goalie Cam Johnson at the 17:21 mark. The Savage goal made it a 3-1 UND lead after the opening stanza of hockey.

61 seconds into the second frame, Jordan Kawaguchi took a feed from Colin Adams and buried a bar down shot past DeRidder on his high blocker side. The power play tally came a mere 19 seconds into the chance for UND who capitalized on a K’Andre Miller hooking penalty. At the 9:31 mark, potential 2018 NHL Draft top 10 pick Oliver Wahlstrom took a feed from Jack Hughes and converted his first tally of the evening on a strong backhand in the low slot against Cam Johnson.

Shane Gersich rounded out the scoring with an empty net marker 18:25 into the third period.

Quick Thoughts

  1. Peter Thome looked strong in relief of Cam Johnson. He saved all 12 shots that made it on net in the 17:16 he played to start the third period. Goalie Ryan Anderson played the remainder of the period and did not face any shots on net. Cam Johnson is definitively the starter for the Fighting Hawks , but it was good to see Thome get some work against a quality side and pitch a shutout in limited action.
  2.  Olivier Wahlstrom had a strong game tonight. While he finished minus one on the score sheet, his goal from Jack Hughes was a thing to behold. He used his skill and natural ability to fire a strong backhand past Cam Johnson. The Harvard commit lived up to his top ten billing tonight. NHL teams that do not make the playoffs should strongly consider Wahlstrom for his natural goal scoring ability, and speed in all three zones.
  3. The UND power play converted one of its four chances. They did this with a quick faceoff win and efficient passing to generate the goal by Jordan Kawaguchi. If the Fighting Hawks can work to convert one or two special-teams chances per game, then they will be even tougher to play against come March.


Energy Line Powers Fighting Hawks to a Sweep with 4-1 Victory over Western Michigan

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,742 fans at the Ralph Englestad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks used four unanswered goals from Nick Jones, Cole Smith,Hayden Shaw,and Grant Mismash to propel this team to its first home NCHC sweep of the season.

With UND dealing with significant injuries throughout its lineup, the job that the line of Johnny Simonson, Josh Rieger, and Cole Smith did tonight turned out to produce the game winning goal and tie a record a mere seven seconds into the third period.

Simonson won the faceoff, then Josh Rieger, playing his fourth game ever at forward , made a pass to Cole Smith who drove the net hard and fired the game-winning goal past Western Michigan netminder Ben Blacker.

The record for fastest goal to start a third period is now shared between UND legend Ben Cherski, and Cole Smith.

Early on, in the first ten minutes of the game, UND controlled the pace and generated multiple chances. UND held Western Michigan without a shot on goal for the first 8:28 of the game. Western Michigan would rebound and end up putting eight shots on net for the remainder of the period. The Fighting Hawks finished the first frame with five shots on goal. Both teams had similar stats after the first with a penalty each, 13 shot attempts, and three blocked shots per side.

The game opened up a bit in the second period as Austin Rueschhoff took a feed from Brett Van Os, walked into the slot, and used some slick deking to help him find the back of the net 8:33 into the second period.He fired the puck passed the glove side shoulder of Cam Johnson, UND netminder. The goal provided Western Michigan with their first lead of the series.

That lead would not last the entire period. Although Western Michigan kept UND’s offense at bay for most of the second frame, until Shane Gersich rushed into the zone late into the period. He found Grant Mismash who fired a strong shot on Ben Blacker. The rebound went to Nick Jones who found the back of the net 19:37 into the second period. Jones’ sixth goal of the season tied things at one heading into the second intermission.

The third period not only saw the Smith goal, it featured crucial insurance markers from Hayden Shaw and Grant Mismash. Shaw’s tally came on the power play as he fired a puck off of a Bronco skater’s skate and past Blacker 11:59 into the third.

Mismash’s fifth tally of the season provided the final margin of the evening 14:26 into the third frame. Shane Gersich and Nick Jones contributed to this tally, and helped ensure UND got its first home NCHC sweep of the year.

Next week, the Fighting Hawks travel to St. Cloud for a crucial series to wrap up the first half.





All Around Effort Propels UND to 4-3 Win over Western Michigan

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,156 fans at the Ralph Englestad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks used a strong, three goal opening period and sound defense throughout to defeat the Western Michigan Broncos 4-3 on Friday night. Austin Poganski lead the way with two first period goals. In his return to the UND net, goalie Cam Johnson made 18 saves. His Western Michigan counterpart, Ben Blacker, made 25.

Both teams played to their styles early on in this one. They limited chances and showcased their physical natures. That physicality came back to harm Western Michigan, as Austin Poganski took advantage of a power play chance 4:54 into the first period to stake the Fighting Hawks to an early 1-0 lead.

A few minutes later, that same physical nature came back to harm the Fighting Hawks as Western Michigan capitalized on their first power play chance. Dawson DiPietro took a feed from Corey Schuneman and buried one past UND netminder Cam Johnson to tie things up 9:54 into the first frame. Bronco goalie Ben Blacker contributed a secondary assist on the play.

Yet again, special teams marked the first frame as UND capitalized on a five-on-three chance. 14:15 into the first, Jordan Kawaguchi took a feed from Christian Wolanin, and made the extra pass to a wide open Austin Poganski who made it 2-1.

A few minutes later, 15:37 into the first period, Ludvig Hoff joined the goal-scoring party in the first as he  redirected a Colton Poolman point shot to help the Hawks fly to a 3-1 lead late in the first period. On that play, Jordan Kawaguchi notched his second point of the night, contributing a secondary assist.

Western Michigan fought back as 18:19 into the first. Brett Van Os got one past Cam  Johnson to make things a 3-2 contest after one period.

The second frame was a bit slower paced than the first, UND generated more chances, and maintained its strong play on defense to limit Western Michgian’s opportunities.

The Fighting Hawks regained their two goal lead, as Colin Adams  found the back of the net 10:24 into the 2nd. The New York Islanders prospect  walked into the slot, and fired one past goalie Ben Blacker.

UND controlled the pace of play more in the second with twelve shots on net. Western Michigan could only muster five.

Western Michigan hung around throughout the third period and used a power play tally from Wade Allison to make it a 4-3 UND lead 16:23 into the final frame.  The Broncos would not score again on the evening.

Shortly after that UND looked to make it a two goal game but the goal was overturned due to goaltender inference. Colton Poolman pushed a Bronco defender into Ben Blacker who was unable to recover to make the save.

The Fighting Hawks had to stave off numerous Bronco attempts to score in the last two minutes. They did this all shorthanded including surviving a six-on-three power play as Western Michigan pulled Blacker for the extra attacker.

The same two teams play tonight at the Ralph at 7:07 PM.








Gersich’s Rebound Goal Guides UND To a 2-2 Tie

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

On Saturday night in front of  11,289 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota looked for a bounce back effort from its defeat on Friday night.

Shane Gersich fired home a Rhett Gardner rebound off of a nice Colton Poolman feed to tie the game up 16:42 into the third period. That would provide the final margin for the night as neither team could score in overtime.

UND had more jump in its game throughout the evening and seemed to match Union’s physical style. The team noted that Union’s physical play helped prepare them for next weekend’s series against Western Michigan.

In the first period the pace of the game was much more even than Friday’s opening frame. Both teams alternated chances and played things fairly evenly for the majority of the opening stanza.

Later on in the first, defenseman Colton Poolman took a pass from Ludvig Hoff  and walked in to the slot, performing some fancy stick work in the process. At the 14:01 mark of the first frame, he fired a nice wrist shot past Union netminder Jake Kupsky going top shelf to stake UND to its first lead of the weekend series.

In the second period, both teams could not find the back of the net in the second. Union had ten shots on goal in the second period and largely controlled the pace of play during the second frame. The Fighting Hawks mustered five shots on net during the second frame. Both goalies had to make some key saves during the second frame, and UND goalie Peter Thome passed all ten of his tests, while Jake Kupsky passed all five of his during the second. UND looked to finish the game out with a win.

However, in the third period, Brett Supinski took advantage of a neutral zone turnover and fired one past Thome to tie the game at one 1:56 into the third frame. A mere 22 seconds later Ryan Scarfo put another puck past Thome to give Union their first lead of the night.

The Fighting Hawks would utilize their timeout and generated more chances after it. The pace of the game was more to UND’s liking after the timeout.

Those chances lead to the Gersich goal which pushed the game into the scoreless overtime.

UND takes on a similarly physical Western Michigan in NCHC play at the Ralph next weekend.


Union Uses Two Goal First Period to Soar Past UND 4-1 Plus a Look Ahead to Tonight’s Finale

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,087 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came up short last night against the Union College Dutchmen by a 4-1 margin.

Last year,  Union College Head Coach Rick Bennett was upset at the lack of physical play his Dutchmen showed against UND. The Fighting Hawks controlled the pace of that game and won 3-1. On Friday, the roles were reversed, as Union came out gave the Fighting Hawks a completely different game.

The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks fielded a different lineup heading into game one of its two game series against the Union Dutchmen. Josh Rieger moved from defense to play forward on the fourth line as Joel Janatuinen did not play.

In the first period, Union controlled the first ten minutes of play. The Dutchmen were able to control the early part of the game and set the pace.  Tonight, that was not the case. 10:03 into the first period, Ryan Walker fired a strong shot past UND netminder Peter Thome and through traffic into the back of the net.

The Dutchmen continued their strong play as a few minutes later, at the 14:16 mark of the first period, Peter Thome wandered out to play the puck. Sebastian Vidmar used some help from Luc Brown and Brett Supinski to stake Union to a 2-0 lead after the first period.

The Fighting Hawks would build some momentum off a late power play to make the shots on net a bit closer. UND generated a few more chances as the period concluded to end the shots on net battle down only one (9-8 Union) after the first.


The second period featured the most consistent play for UND. The Fighting Hawks generated multiple chances and shored up their own end but could not bury anything.

Christian Wolanin would get UND on the board 3:27 into the third period but 52 seconds later, Vas Kolias capitalized on a UND turnover and scored a breakaway. Brendan Taylor would ice the game for the Dutchmen with an empty net marker.

Thoughts for Tonight 

UND has to do a better job screening the goalie. Josh Rieger did a good job when his line was on the ice, and provided the screen on the initial shot that lead to Wolanin’s tally. I did not see UND get a lot of net-front presence during the game which made Jake Kupsky’s task easier.

The Fighting Hawks need to improve their starts, as the coach Brad Berry noted after last night’s game. In the first period, UND had a mere eight shots on net, and none of them were from high chance areas. Look for the Fighting Hawks to make some adjustments tonight to mitigate Union’s ability to clog the middle lanes, and open up some chances for their shooters. If UND can limit Union’s chances and utilize its speed like it did in the second period, then the result could be a different one for the Fighting Hawks tonight.




Rieger Report: A Look at Defenseman Josh Rieger, and His Development So Far

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

Hardworking, good puck sense, physical, two-way defenseman. These are all words that describe freshman defender Josh Rieger. He is a six-foot tall defender from Regina, Saskatchewan. He plays a strong two-way game and has had to learn how to play college hockey this year.

When talking with him, he noted the adjustment he has had to make at the NCAA level so far.

One thing that has become more interesting to me is how Josh has kept improving his game despite limited minutes so far. Every chance he gets he always works on improving his game at the facilities of the Ralph Engelstad Arena. He chose to come to UND partly because of the outstanding setup afforded to its players here.

On coming to Grand Forks, he truly believes that the environment here was the best for him. Even on days when he does not play he still can utilize the wonderful facilities in the Ralph Engelstad Arena to improve his game.

Josh said that coming to UND was “a pretty easy choice”.

He mentioned a lot of reasons for coming to UND. In addition to noting the facility quality here, Rieger noted the one overarching theme. “I want to win a championship”. Rieger wants to win, and strongly believes that the University of North Dakota is the best place to do that.

Since coming to UND, Rieger has noted some instances of being able to work on his game regardless of whether he makes the game night lineup. The Ralph Engelstad arena has a shooting room, and other off-ice options for players to work on their craft regardless of whether he is playing that night.

Off the ice, Josh seemed fairly focused on his game. He has not spent much time away from the rink, and seems to be focused on getting his accountancy degree.

Josh is a focused player who is dedicated to his craft. Despite only playing in two games this season, Josh does not let his lack of ice time get to him. He values the day-to-day grind and preparation for each game. The Saskatchewan native noted that “you can’t take any time off” when preparing for games. He also values the constant grind and improvement. He said, “every day you’ve gotta get better”.

Rieger noted the differences between his junior hockey league, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League “SJHL”, and the NCHC, UND’s current conference. He noted that the players in college hockey are a lot stronger and the wide difference in the skill level between the two levels of hockey.

One thing Josh mentioned was how Assistant Coach, Dane Jackson, has used his knowledge to help the two-way defender learn the mental side of the game. Jackson has years of professional hockey experience and uses that to mentor Josh, and the Fighting Hawks Penalty Kill units.

On Rieger, Jackson has high hopes for his future. He thinks of Josh as a strong, two-way defenseman that will contribute on the scoresheet in all situations. “

He was part of the recruiting team that brought Rieger to campus. The staff thought he was the best defender in the SJHL last year. Jackson identified his “hockey sense” as one of the biggest things that they saw in him. The coaches also like how Rieger handles himself with the puck.

Jackson also noted that since coming to campus, Rieger has “done a good job in a support role so far”. The former NHL rear guard appreciates how Josh handles himself in practice and in the gym.

As to Josh’s future, his hockey intelligence will help him. Jackson thinks that with time, Rieger can be a constant in the UND lineup. According to Jackson, Rieger is a “pretty good puck mover”.

Off the ice, the staff likes the “quiet confidence” that Rieger carries himself with. In addition, they appreciate the work he puts in daily to make himself better.

While Rieger is fighting for ice time this year, he has already shown some improvement. He has a strong background from his time in the SJHL, and his maturity will help him develop into the strong two-way defender Jackson thinks he can be. The Canadian defender will not be fighting for ice time for much longer if he continues the path of steady development and hard work he has set himself on.

Josh wants to play UND Hockey, and if he continues his steady development path, look for his name to soon become a fixture in the Fighting Hawks Lineup.