Fighting Hawks Soar to 4-1 win over Denver: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

On Friday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey Team earned a 4-1 win over Denver playing one of their best games of the season to date. Shane Pinto got the scoring underway on a deflection from a point shot in the first period. In the second, Bobby Brink got Denver on the board capitalizing on a rare passive penalty kill from UND. Denver ping-ponged the puck through the lane to Brink and he found the back of the net. Later in the second Brink would leave with an injury after getting his legs taken out on an interesting play where Cole Smith dove through Brink’s legs to get the puck, no penalty came from this action.

Following the Brink marker, Matt Kiersted wired home a superb wrist shot on the power play from the slot to provide the game winning goal. Collin Adams and Jacob Bernard Docker would add insurance markers to provide the final score for the evening.

In net, Peter Thome again had another quality night for the Fighting Hawks. He allowed no goals at even strength, and on the night stopped 26 of the 27 shots on net that he faced. His counterpart, Devin Cooley, did not have the best evening as he only saved 19 of the 23 shots on net he faced.

Now what? 

First off, the officiating on Friday was at best inconsistent. Multiple penalties on both sides were not called. One of the most odd non calls was not issuing even a minor penalty to Cole Smith for diving into the legs of Bobby Brink and injuring him. I understand it was a heat of the moment play and things get missed, but Smith dives into Brink’s legs while going for the puck and gets no call. Did UND have a few calls go against them? Sure they did, but to me, the non call on Brink shaped the course of the game as UND kept one of its most important defensive players in Smith for the whole game while Denver lost one of its best offensive threats in Brink .

Secondly, credit to UND for focusing on efficient shot distribution, something we have harped on all year. Of UND’s 32 shot attempts, 23 found their way on net, and Denver blocked seven of them. While the Fighting Hawks always want more offensive zone chances, their ability to be efficient with what they were given is a promising sign for the postseason, where teams play with speed and pace all game, and who wins the shots on net battle does not always equate to who wins the game. Of Denver’s 54 shot attempts, UND blocked 13 of them which means that Denver missed the net 14 times. Part of that is attributed to Thome of course, but another part arguably is the fast start of the Fighting Hawks.

As they took control of puck possession, it looked liked Denver gripped their sticks a bit tighter. The Pioneers are more than fast enough to do well against the Fighting Hawks. They had several breakaways as they almost punished UND’s defense for pinching with goals the other way, but Thome and missing the best looks stopped them.

For the finale, watch how many breakaways Denver actually puts on net. Thome has played plenty well this season on breakaways but has faced a more limited number per game than Adam Scheel, his net minding colleague. How Denver makes Thome change direction could change the direction of the series for the Pioneers.

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Just Win: UND Football

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Remember the 2018’s UND Football  Team’s final result on the field? They lost a winnable game to Northern Arizona on the road. Had they secured that victory they most likely would have been in the 2018 iteration of the FCS Playoffs.

Well, this year’s team featuring both multiple program-defining wins over ranked teams, and head scratching losses like a drubbing on the road at the hands of the Bengals of Idaho State, has a chance to make the playoffs. Their ill fated loss to the Wildcats of Weber State, the number three ranked team in the country, one could argue, did not change what needs to happen the next two weeks, nor the impact of this team’s perception in the big picture.

This team plays its final two games at home at the Alerus Center against two sub .500 Big Sky teams in Northern Colorado and Southern Utah. If there was ever a cases of a team looking to play spoiler these next two weeks will provide two teams looking to do just that. They could put Fighting Hawks fans on the other side of the equation from Head Coach Bubba Schweigert’s first year where his side spoiled the playoff hopes of Northern Arizona to end his first season as head coach of UND Football.

This article is simply to point out a few things I have seen this week on social media. First off, could UND be ranked higher? Well yes, and given its resume one could argue for that as several Fighting Hawks fans and media members have done. If I had a vote in the FCS Stats Poll which is compiled by media members around the country, well I could see ranking the team anywhere from 20-30 (if you include those receiving votes). To me 26 in the media poll is not as big of a slight as some have argued as this team, for all of its success this year, has not won more than two games in a row once this season. That streak included winning on the road barely against a Cal Poly team that for all of the good they have done this year, will not be in the FCS playoffs and currently is 2-7.

Are all the wins over ranked teams impressive?

You bet they are.

Are those wins alone enough to get this team into the playoffs?

No they are not.

If this team does not win its last two games, they will not make the playoffs and by that point the media poll will not matter.

If this team wins one game, and finishes 6-5 they will not make the playoffs again despite finishing with two winnable games and having a win against the number three ranked team in the country just elude their grasp. Then the questions about why this team did not schedule 12 games in a year where that was possible will consume part of another long winter of regret in Grand Forks.

All of this is to say the following. Should this team as built assuming it gets back its defensive line stars in Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner and gets healthy for these last two games make the playoffs, well yes. Will the media under ranking UND for a few weeks matter? No it will not. Attacking media members who watch a lot of FCS ball weekly for not having UND ranked higher, after a loss, in a poll meant to be a snapshot of the moment to see who the best 25 teams in the country are is at best myopic.

I do think that you could argue the team be a bit higher and that’s fair. This piece of my opinion is designed to remind Fighting Hawks fans of the reality of the day. If UND does not win its last two games we will have the following things to be upset about at the end of the day.

Again, a great mostly injury free Fighting Hawks side with great wins came up just short of the playoffs despite having a chance to play an extra non conference game in a 12 game season and finishing its season against two teams whom they should win against.

That is it, that is the list right there. Head Coach Bubba Schweigert and his players are focusing on winning two more games at home. If they do, Sam Herder of Hero Sports thinks they will be in the FCS playoffs based on how things stand at the moment. Regardless of where they get in the big dance if they do make it, then that will be the time for this team to prove people wrong. They need to punch two more sections of their ticket to earn entrance to the 24 team FCS playoffs.

From there, everything is possible for this team, and then they can then work to prove those in the media who have undervalued their wins due to not winning more than two games in a row all year. They have to make the tournament first, all else to this team is secondary.

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.

Surveying UND-Sam Houston: Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

This weekend, the Fighting Hawks take on the Bearkats of Sam Houston State. Here are some thoughts on this one based on what we know UND needs to build on and where Sam Houston could both challenge them and face challenges.

Sure up the edge rush

Sam Houston loves to throw the ball. Expect the Bearkats to throw 35 or more times this Saturday during the Potato Bowl. One thing that will go a long way to determining how things go is UND’s edge rush. Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner have been impressive in both the Drake and NDSU games so far and will have to lead the way for the Fighting Hawks on defense as is to be expected.

In addition, when I say edge rush I also mean perimeter tackling. Last weekend against NDSU, multiple times UND had a Bison trapped for a short 2-3 yard gain or a loss and missed a tackle on the second level. Those gains quickly morphed into momentum killing plays that lead to or themselves produced touchdowns. The Bearkats are just as fast as, if not faster on the edge than the Bison ( who are far better clearing lanes in the box and running over a lot of teams they play (see their opener against Butler for some examples)).

If UND can limit the missed tackles and confuse whomever the Bearkats have under center whether Ty Brock or Eric Schmid, then they can improve their odds. The defense of Eric Schmidt is one of confusion, and delayed blitzes and stunts. For this defense to work you have to be alright with whomever is not blitzing being able to consistently tackle. That is the biggest area of improvement to look for this weekend for the Fighting Hawks.

Who are these ‘Kats?

Sam Houston has not played an FCS opponent yet this season. They have hung in against  FBS New Mexico losing 39-31, and soundly defeated NAIA Oklahoma Panhandle State University 77-0. We do not know a lot about how these ‘Kats will look against an FCS side yet because we have not seen it, so I am wary to judge Sam Houston to severely to the good or bad based on their limited resume. That said, I know what these ‘Kats are good at and it is speed and tempo.

When UND played the ‘Kats in Texas and had to challenge the Sam Houston State offense last season, and did not succeed the tempo of the game reminded me of a fast break in basketball. When Sam Houston State rolls, no matter the personnel, under the offense of Head Coach K.C Keeler it can feel like being over matched on a fast break against the Michael Jordan lead Chicago Bulls.

Look for the ‘Kats to push the tempo and run a lot of plays quickly. If Sam Houston State can limit substitutions by Schmidt’s defense than up the middle could become really open really fast. UND’s depth up the middle has yet to strut their stuff this season, and will be tested on Saturday.

Final Thought

These Fighting Hawks are a good team. Andrew Zimmerman as the starter under center has a great arm and will show it off this weekend. These Fighting Hawks need to connect on a few deep passes to combine with the power spread offense they are now running. If UND can only run check downs and are forced to look underneath they fundamentally do not have the same speed on the edge that the Bearkats do, at least yet. We have seen flashes from Cam McKinney at running back this season and hopefully Izzy Adeoti is able to play soon, but this Fighting Hawks team needs someone of their big group of wideouts to be able to break a game open early over the top of a defense.

To wrap up, UND is dealing with flukes, that is proving which of their past two weeks is not who this team is. For everyone wearing their Kelly Green in the Alerus Center, they all hope that last week in Fargo against the best FCS program as a start of renewing an in-state rivalry was the fluke. If you are a fan of the Bearkats, well you hope that UND’s week one performance against Drake was the fluke.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Is this the 2013 team that blew out Valparaiso before having a season so mired in infamy it lead to the ouster of former head coach Chris Mussman? Of course it is not, this is a team rooted in strong fundamental football concepts instilled by this staff since day one of their reign. Is this a team ready for another crack at the upper-echelon players of the FCS be they Eagle, Duke, or Bison? Well we do not know that yet.

If this team wins Saturday that conversation can continue. If this team loses it realistically needs to run the table or at most lose one more game to stay in the playoff conversation. This team needs a signature triumph and an 8-3 record competing as an independent or a 9-2 record to be considered for the playoffs. Saturday at the Alerus Center is the next chapter and what happens there will help determine these Hawks fate.

 

UND ties Alaska Anchorage 1-1: Quick Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Last night, the University of North Dakota at times looked dominant over the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Fighting Hawks generated plenty of chances throughout the evening.

However, the Seawolves defense, lead by Olivier Mantha was up to the task. The senior goalie made 32 saves on 33 shots faced. The UAA defense blocked 25 shots on the evening.

UND did a lot of things right last night. They used their speed and depth to generate a lot of chances, especially as the game wore on. They kept the Seawolves playing defense most of the evening. They staved off a five-on-three powerplay in overtime. Shane Gersich showed his skill and speed all night, generating chances, and getting his linemates involved.

Yet, UND has to improve some things tonight. Here are a few areas to keep an eye on tonight.

Passing to create lanes

One thing the Fighting Hawks did exceptionally well last week against Manitoba was getting a lot of quality chances. Yes, UND had some quality chances last night they should have converted. However, part of the reason why UAA blocked so many shots is because UND did not utilize the full Olympic sheet of ice at times.

The Fighting Hawks’ only goal came on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play where Trevor Olson found Christian Wolanin who quickly got the puck to a wide open Johnny Simonson. This team scored all but one of its goals last weekend on transitions and quick plays.

If the Fighting Hawks have a few less shots, but can utilize their ability to create time and space, then they could make life harder for Mantha.

Get One or More Special Teams Goals

The Fighting Hawks have to get one goal on special teams. Last night, they once again generated chances and had good zone time. If the Fighting Hawks can catch the Seawolves in transition that may open up their defense a bit.

Control the Dot Once More 

UND went 35-18 in the faceoff dot last night. That started a lot of their possesions, and lead to generating the amount of chances they did. If that continues look for UND to get a lot more chances tonight.

If UND can limit chances, and improve on its speed game from last night, then tonight could produce a lot different outcome for the Fighting Hawks.

 

 

 

Pride, Passion, Belief,and a Strong Offensive Outing Gives UND a 2-0 Win over Western Illinois University

On Sunday August 20, 2017, UND flew past the Leathernecks of Western Illinois University to stake themselves to their first ever 2-0 start in the Division one era.

The Fighting Hawks raced out to a quick 3-0 first half lead thanks to strong offensive play. Katie Moller got the scoring underway with the first of her two markers on the day. Next, Olivia Geiwitz made it 2-0 with strong play inside the box. Finally, Erin Svensson had the nicest goal of the day to make it 3-0 to close the half. The defender’s shot was a high arching shot that beat everyone and everything to squeak in the top right corner. She would contribute an assist on Moller’s second tally.

In net, Olivia Swenson picked up the win for the Fighting Hawks with an eight-save shutout. Ines Palmiero made four saves on eight shots in 73:42 of play. Goalie Jennifer Currie finished the game with a scoreless relief effort.

Coach Logan noted that UND played with a lot of pride, passion and belief. The Hawks look to take those emotions to Brookings, South Dakota , and Auburn next weekend to continue this strong string of early season play. Look for UND’s speed down the wings, strong goaltending from multiple goalies, and ability to cross to make a difference for them this weekend.

 

Tucker Poolman: From A Dream to Reality

Tucker Poolman is an East Grand Forks native. Growing up in Grand Forks, he noted that he enjoyed playing with his brothers and friends, playing hockey, or hanging out. Tucker attended many University of North Dakota (UND) men’s hockey games, and that is when the dream started!

Tucker is your average college student. He likes watching movies and is currently watching the HBO series, Game of Thrones. He said that it is pretty good so far. He doesn’t have “any superstitions that are too crazy or strange hobbies,”as Tucker put it.  Due to his sentimental attachment to his home state, Minnesota, he enjoys supporting the Vikings and Twins. Being from a city like Grand Forks/East Grand Forks, where there so much support for all hockey teams from peewee to college, significantly impacted Tucker’s decision to attend UND to play DI hockey. He played for East Grand Forks high school and then went on to play for three years in Juniors. Before deciding to join Mark, who is a strength coach for the men’s hockey team, at UND for the 2013-2014 season.

At age 20, which is the oldest that a United States or Canadian player can be drafted, Tucker was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the 5th round. Colton Poolman, his younger brother or little Poolman as the team calls him, said that while they were watching the draft at home. When Tucker’s name came across the screen, their mother, LeAnne started to cry. Mark, their father, was shouting. Tucker and Colton just looked at each other with stunned faces. In the years following being drafted has not changed Tucker’s ambitions in life, and he keeps grounded with his family.

Gage Ausmus, long-time teammate and friend, describes Tucker as “a massive human being.” Ausmus had nothing but very positive things to say about the junior defenseman. He stated “One of the best things about Tucker is that he has had to work for everything he has gotten, nothing has been given to him.”  He also said that Tucker “is a great role model for kids because he is proof that hard work pays off.” Tucker said with appreciation, “It was just a huge honor, but it doesn’t change much for me. I am still going to go out and do what I did before.” He is a natural leader and doesn’t let things get him overly excited. Little Poolman said, “It’s almost like he doesn’t have a heartbeat out there. Nothing get’s him overly excited on the ice. When I come back to the bench after a bad play and hang my head, He just tells me keep your head up.” These are some of the reasons Tucker was voted to be an assistant captain for the 2016-2017 season.

The Winnipeg Jets were pressuring Tucker to sign an entry level contract this season. Despite this he wanted to stay at UND to play with Colton and to finish his degree in business economics, which he expects to complete in three years. Colton and Tucker have never been able to play on the same team together even though they are only two and a half years apart. “Little Poolman”, as the team calls Colton, said that being on the team is such an honor to be able to finally play with Tucker in organized hockey. Tucker spoke with pride “You know it’s a little different, it’s not something I was used to. We just try and keep it professional”  when referring to working with his father and brother on the same team.

Outside of having a strong relationship with his family and friends, Tucker has a unique hockey career. After graduating from East Grand Forks, he went to play for the Wichita Falls Wildcats in the NAHL for the 2011-2012 season. Throughout 59 games (out of 60) of this season, he scored seven goals and made 22 assists. For 2012-2013, he started playing for the Omaha Lancers. He stayed for throughout the 2013-2014 season. During the second season, he was named USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year, and he also served as team captain. During that season with the Lancers, the defenseman set a franchise record with 25 goals with 26 assists in 58 games, which is exciting. Coming to UND has not changed Tucker’s ability to put points on the board. In 83 games, he has had 14 goals and 31 assists.  Already this season, he has one goal and three assists in three games.

During the off-season, Tucker attended the Winnipeg Jets development camp, which is a four-day long training event were they work with their professional coaching staff and players. After returning, he gave the enlightening remark on how he could improve his performance, “It helps a lot, lots of good players there obviously, but you know just seeing how an NHL team does things and you can learn from all the players and coaches.”

This season, with only seven returning upper classmen keeping the motivation up, is going to be an adjustment. Tucker said, “It’s just the nature of college hockey. Every year, it is a new group of guys, and you have to find each other’s strengths and weaknesses.” This is going to make a returning appearance at the NCAA DI men’s national championship more difficult. That UND won last season, UND won the national championship in Tampa, Florida. This ended a 16-year drought, this was also the 8th national title banner to be raised in the Ralph Engelstad Arena. When asked about keeping the focus said nonchalantly, “you try to put it behind you and keep working towards new goals and hopefully try and win again!” Tucker said that coming back from the win was an amazing experience and that the team is looking forward to making another long playoff run this year.dsc_1154

UND-USD: Game recap

The home opener for University of North Dakota football against University South Dakota was on Saturday, 9/17.  The first quarter of the game was quite intense, USD scored first with a field goal at 8:47 and UND responded eight minutes later, when Junior Cole Reyes makes an interception and runs it 33 yards for a touchdown. The second quarter was all about USD, with UND’s Travis Toivonen (Fr) completing a 11 yard pass from Keaton Studsrud (Jr) for a touch down at 9:23. USD get one field goal and three touchdowns ending the half leading UND 27-14.

At the start of the 3rd, USD comes out strong and scores another touchdown. UND ends the 3rd with Reid Taubenheim (Jr) kicking a 32-yard field goal, 34-17. The 4th was all about UND with Studsrud having a touchdown pass to John Santiago (So) , while Deion Harris (Jr) picks off and runs it in for a 33-yard touchdown return. Taubenheim also completed another field goal. Ending regulation with a tied game 34-34.

USD won the coin toss and went on the defensive, which was followed by a quick touchdown from Santiago with a 25 yard run. USD answered with a touchdown to tie the game again at 41-41. UND then forced a field goal making the score 44-41. This is when everyone’s heart stopped, the ten minutes that followed was an emotional roller coaster for both teams. UND had two touchdowns called back for being just inches short of the goal line. Finally, on the 3rd attempt, Studsrud made a 1 yard run to make the winning goal. Bring UND record to 1-2.

Sadly, many of the student body left at the end of the 2rd quarter, missing out on the amazing end of the game. My pick for MVP, would be John Santiago. A sophomore, had two touch downs, one rushing and one receiving. Santiago ran for 142 yards with an average gain of 6.4 yards a carry. Runner up, I would say is Reid Taubenheim, completing five field goals and in doing so kept us in the game.

I just want to say thank you to the staff at the Alerus Center for helping me find my way round and making sure I had everything I needed!!

UND Fighting Hawks Logo Thoughts

Let’s clear some things up first. I am a UND graduate writing this article. I do think that this whole nickname process with the committees, votes, and re-votes and all that went into it showed that this community cares about UND a lot. No one argued for or against the Fighting Hawks name and logo out of malice, we all care about the University of North Dakota first. This process lead to a series of votes picking a name a lot of people seemed to not like. I get that, no nickname to some can replace Fighting Sioux. To others, the name was considered to be offensive. The reason we are even looking at this logo and the Fighting Hawks name was a result of that group of others including the NCAA. If UND was still named the Fighting Sioux then UND would be playing under sanctions in the NCAA and not allowed to host events like the 2015 and 2017 West Regionals in Fargo. The 2015 version cast the entire state of North Dakota in a wonderful light and showcased top level college hockey. I have no doubts that this next regional will do the same thing.

All of that being said, the logo unveiled, to me is good. Is it the best logo? No. Is it horrible, no. I like the logo because it shows the bird pushing forward into the future. In addition, the eye is right about on where Grand Forks is in the state of North Dakota. It shows that this University values itself as the flagship school. Those are my main reasons for liking it purely on aesthetics. As we move forward, the Hawk will be the sole logo without the ND background. I am ok with this. We have spent a long time playing under just the ND. While the interlocking ND is great, it does not benefit our other teams in terms of distinct identity. The fact that our football team is going to wear this logo this year on their helmets shows that the coaches support this logo and want to get behind it.

Could the logo be better? Sure. Could it be worse? You bet. No matter how good or bad the hawk logo was some fans will not support it. That is understandable. Over time more and more fans will look at this logo and realize that, like me, they are UND fans first. I came to North Dakota in 2012,one year after the Fighting Sioux Jerseys were used for the last time. I have never known this school to compete with a distinct and unique logo more than script lettering on jerseys. Once the hawk head remains UND will have it.

Regardless of the logo, I agree with the way our football team is handling the logo and name change. They have embraced it head on, and will be the first UND team to wear something with the logo on it. Coach Schweigert’s passionate speech at the press conference was outstanding to watch. He wants to lead UND Football forward to the playoffs and eventually an FCS championship. Whatever logo UND competes under does not change that. We are all University of North Dakota fans. The Fighting Sioux name will always have a proud place at UND. Since November, the Fighting Hawks name is slowly getting to that level.

Will the same acceptance for this name and logo happen overnight? Of course not. How long will it take? Given how long the process took to get to this point, I would say at least 20-30 years. In the meantime, more students will come to campus, and more people will buy Fighting Hawks gear and show support for their school. Grand Forks is a special place full of wonderful people who contribute to a world class university and great people who support it. That has never changed and will not change because of a logo disagreement. I am proud to be a UND graduate and will support this school no matter the name choice. Could the process have been expedited? Sure. Should it have been? Probably not.

This process allowed nearly every constituent to have a say in the name. We had rounds of voting to choose the name. UND worked with a company in SME with years of experience building brands for sport properties around the nation. Let’s give the logo at least as long as we gave the process from the final North Dakota referendum to get here to see how it does. If the logo does not sell enough or needs to be changed, it will be.

UND changed the Fighting Sioux logo multiple times and fans still supported the school. In summation, all of this process showed me how passionate we all are about North Dakota and its athletics. Agree or disagree with the logo, let’s give it time and remember, we are UND fans before we are fans of any nickname.