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.

An idea for UND Athletics road trips to bring the community together

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

One of the first things I learned about Grand Forks when I came to UND is how passionate this fanbase is about its athletics at-large. One of the other things I learned pretty fast is how expensive it is to be a college hockey fan, and a fan of a lot of teams when they travel on the road, single game streams for some sports alone can range from 7-10 dollars, and more and more the only option available is to purchase a month long stream that can cost around 30 dollars to follow college hockey.  For that, you also have to make sure you remember to cancel the auto renew to see your team play on the road or hope Midco Sports picks up your game on the road as they have done when UND played Duluth and Omaha in hockey last season.

What’s a busy fan of UND Athletics who doesn’t want to pay for athletics streams to do?

Well this is where the Athletic Department and Learfield Sports could step in and save the day. One thing that could sell as a sponsored right fairly fast is designating an official watch spot for all UND Athletics road matches. Not only for men’s hockey, but for football, volleyball, soccer, men and women’s basketball, softball, and any other sport that is being live streamed in any fashion. While the games for some of these sports are free, i think that there is an element of revenue out there to be had for the athletics department and Learfield who helps them sell sponsorships for their media entities.

Imagine for a minute, for the big road match up UND Football has today against Weber State, a bevy of fans gathered at a local place, perhaps Buffalo Wild Wings. While they may stream the game already I believe an element of community is not being as engaged as they could be. Imagine having I Heart Media (the official radio rights holders to UND Athletics)  on hand with one of their wonderful radio personalities on site with giveaways and specials on food and drinks during the game. During pregame for football today, you could have I Heart on site and have one of their hosts getting messages of encouragement for UND Football and all sports. If a fan’s message is selected for the pregame or use in further ads, they could win a gift card from the sponsor, say Buffalo Wild Wings or whomever gets the deal.

Then, the UND Home of Economy Radio Network could spice up their ads promoting further UND Athletics broadcasts with organic content from fans most passionate about the team. You could even work with alums for Men’s Hockey and other sports in town to provide another reason to attend. If a program graduate (say Ryan Duncan for Men’s Hockey) wants to guest host you could have them help amp up fans,and maybe sign autographs.

Does this require more work to figure out? Of course it does. Is it an opportunity for UND and Learfield to improve fan engagement and sell a big rights deal to a local restaurant to further engage passionate Fighting Hawks fans and provide an outlet for those looking for that sense of community that only things like sport can bring even on an away game? Yes it does. I am sure outlets around town already stream games to some extent, and some surely will even without “sponsoring” official watch parties.

What they cannot bring to the party that Learfield and I Heart Media can is further incentive driving fans to one spot, the engagement possibilities leveraging media rights holder I Heart Radio, and potential to increase revenue and engagement for UND Athletics, Learfield Sports, and local businesses looking to provide giveaway items to the most engaged fans in town. Bringing together fans all around Grand Forks is something UND Athletics does on a weekly basis, why not leverage that community on away games for any sport to help the Athletics Department bring in more revenue to hit its goals.

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.

UND Athletics Unsung Heroes:Men’s Hockey and Soccer

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Here at Seamore Sports, we take pride in looking beyond the box score and covering unsung heroes for their contributions on the field, rink, or anywhere else Fighting Hawks and collegiate student athletes play.

It is in that spirit that we look to start a weekly feature on unsung heroes for the Fighting Hawks. Every week we will talk about one unsung hero for a men’s and women’s team so you will read about two student athletes’ on-field exploits not readily apparent by a mere viewing of the box score or recaps published after the game.

First, let’s discuss UND Soccer. The Fighting Hawks have won ten games for the first time since moving to Division One, and finish out their regular season this week against the Bison of North Dakota State on the road under the lights in Fargo at 6 PM on Thursday. The female unsung hero of the past week is redshirt freshman defender Hannah Olson. If you want to see why this team has been able to play forward so much and put more pressure on opposing teams’ back lines, looking to UND’s defense as a major strength is one reason this team is doing so well. So many times this season, and against Omaha this past week, UND Head Coach Chris Logan when asked has noted her play as superb on the back line. So many teams in the Summit League have superb goal scorers, and baring the game against Denver where Logan noted that he was moving players forward for the last 45 minutes, this team has given up no more than two goals at home. That is a hard feat in the Summit League, and tough to complete against an Omaha side playing for its postseason life on Sunday.

Olson has been at the forefront of UND’s defense all year. She consistently make superb reads on attacking players and is quite skilled, as she showed Sunday, in angling attacks out to the side to allow her back line to reset and push things forward.She has often been the answer to the “who had the best game in the field not based on the box score” question and their variations this year. Olson is a major key to this Fighting Hawks’ defense and does not get talked about as much as their superb attacking group. Without Olson’s superb play on the back line against Omaha, one has to think that the Mavericks could have gone up 2-0 in the first half with more chances. That one goal difference made a world of difference in the second half as it allowed the Fighting Hawks to keep playing their game.

Olson’s superb ability to read the angles and get the ball forward when asked has gone without a lot of if any mention from those not playing for the team. She is the Female Unsung Hero for UND Athletics this past week and one of the key reasons why this is the best team in the Division One Era the Fighting Hawks have had based on record. Hannah Olson is the Female Unsung Hero of the Week for the Fighting Haw

weatherby 2

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

As to Men’s Hockey, let’s talk some more about Jasper Weatherby and what he did for his team in the past weekend. The Sharks’ prospect did not put up a goal, but he did run the faceoff dot for this team both nights. In addition, he is continuing to own the net front for the Fighting Hawks and is a consistent presence for this team. Head Coach Brad Berry compared his prowess in the dot to recently to recently departed Rhett Gardner. Weatherby adding this element to his game has been a massive part of why UND has started so well.

When the Fighting Hawks play well in all of their zones, it comes to how they start, winning the faceoff and Weatherby’s development in the dot, combined with his net front presence were important parts of the sweep over Bemidji State. Even when he has a zero point night, his presence screening the goalie and strong work in the dot are essential to the continued success of this team. Weatherby is the Male Unsung Hero of the Week for the Fighting Hawks.

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.

 

UND Sweeps Bemidji State- What to look for next

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight at a sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks needed to get off to a good start in their series finale against an always tight-checking Bemidji State Beavers side eager for a split. They did just that as 36 seconds in, Jordan Kawaguchi made Beavers’ netminder Henry Johnson pay for playing the puck behind his own net. He created a turnover and fired the puck to Grant Mismash who buried it in the wide open net. This goal set the tone for the period and evening at large. 16:56 into the first period, Cole Smith used a wrap around to end up bouncing a puck to Mark Senden who found the back of the net in tight shooting to an empty net as Johnson over played the first shot.

That would remain the margin through the first period and most of the second as the Fighting Hawks controlled the pace of things through the game. Jonny Tychonick added an insurance marker in the second as Mismash would add a primary assist to his ledger. He found Tychonick activating into the rush and wired across a superb pass. Jonny potted his first career goal on that rush and slammed into the boards in celebration. As UND Head Coach Brad Berry noted, it was good to see him finally get rewarded for the offensive prowess he brings to the UND blue line. Colton Poolman added an empty net marker late in the third period to restore a three goal lead after Aaron Miller found the back of the net for the Beavers 18 seconds earlier.

Now, the Fighting Hawks have one week to get ready for a one game date with the Huskies of Michagan Tech at the Ralph. How they continue the last five periods of play from this weekend will determine the result.

Beyond the scoring, UND goalie Adam Scheel played well tonight, especially as the game progressed and made more tough saves throughout the waves Bemidji State was trying to throw at the Fighting Hawks. He finished with 19 saves on the night and had a big role in keeping things calm as UND grew its lead.

In addition, Brad Berry praised Jasper Weatherby for the consistency in his game. He has begun to fill the very important role vacated by Rhett Gardner. Weatherby is now the center the staff looks to when they need a big draw won in the defensive zone to stymie a potential chance. Adding his skill at the dot is a big addition to the team this year. While he did not score for the Fighting Hawks he again spent a lot of the night parked in front of the Bemidji State net and tipped some pucks wide and just missed a few others.

In addition,  the staff mixed up the lines a little bit tonight. They rewarded Josh Rieger with time as the seventh defenseman and slotted in Casey Johnson up front. Both players played their roles, and we could see them more this year. The lineup changes were made in part due to how last night’s game finished and the coaches wanting to get different players some game action.

Next week will provide another test against the Huskies of Michigan Tech. Tonight, against a decent Bemidji State team that makes life tough for their opponents when able to defend we saw the blueprint to win for this team executed to perfection. Score early, and make responsible plays throughout to add insurance as needed. When this team can make other teams open up their game to try and score just to catch up, good things will happen.

This team has too much skill to try and play grind heavy games as a first resort if not needed, if they can get one quick and defend that allows them to roll all of their skaters and not need to worry about shortening the bench. It may not seem like much now, but spreading out minutes for as long as possible will help later on in the year. Developing depth to add with skill is not a bad idea, and hopefully this team can do so as we progress in this still early on season.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories you will not see elsewhere about UND Hockey and other college hockey teams, please click this link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story we right as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

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 Earn 5-0 Season Opening win Over Canisius: Two Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, in front of over 11,000 brave souls who braved the terrible conditions of a fall blizzard, the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota Men’s Hockey team earned a season opening win over the Golden Griffins of Canisius 5-0.

Shane Pinto opened up the scoring for UND in the first period, he was joined later on by Dixon Bowen who potted two markers on the evening along with Gabe Bast and Grant Mismash. This deluge of scoring included three third period goals to ice the game and that provided the final 5-0 margin

Bowen benefited from the strong play of Jasper Weatherby who keyed his line. Again Weatherby’s faceoff performance (13-4) proved important on the evening. He and Pinto drove the success up front by combining to win 27 of UND’s 37 faceoff wins.

Over time look for Weatherby’s line to see more ice time as the coaches see his ability to continue sucess in the faceoff dot, a welcome supplement to the strong physical game that he plays.

Adam Scheel finished the evening in net for the Fighting Hawks with an 11 save shutout, and outside of a nice barrage from Canisius in the first few minutes of the third period, did not face a lot of chances on the evening.

Beyond the Box Score 

For UND: Don’t Overreact 

This team played a solid third period that saw their three goals put the game out of reach for Canisius. The Fighting Hawks tonight were the better team and all of the normal metrics from shot attempts, to goals and possession time bore that fact out. With that being said, we saw something similar to the formula other teams used to beat this Fighting Hawks side last year.

When Canisius was at their best, they were almost allowing low percentage shots and cleaning up in front of the net as needed. They got some key saves from Matt Ladd and his replacement, Jacob Barczewski who both used their lateral quickness to stymie a lot of backdoor looks where it seemed that UND was telegraphing where they would shoot.

Canisius Head Coach Trevor Large did not commit to which goalie we would see in net tomorrow, but the Griffins goalies, despite the top line score showed that when the defense cleaned up the loose change in front of the net, that for the most part they could hang with this stacked Fighting Hawks side.

Why am I not screaming praises of this Fighting Hawks team? Well simply put, I believe seeing more from this team is needed. I am not sure what to expect out of this team. When you earn a five minute major and get the other team’s captain ejected you need to convert on that power play throughout the season.

Despite nearly four minutes of zone time UND did not do so.  In addition, while I was impressed with the consistent all out pressure of this team, regardless of the result Saturday, their next opponent in the Mavericks of Minnesota State Mankato will present an entirely different test.

This win for UND is cathartic after the sweep they endured last January where a lot of those following this team saw as the low point for the 2018-2019 side. It was like that because UND could not convert rebounds. The Fighting Hawks did that tonight against a high effort Canisius side and took the drama out of the game early in the third period. What happens tomorrow, and further on in the season will prove much more to the long-term success or failure than 60 minutes against a team that had not even played an exhibition against another team before this one. Now that Large and his staff have game tape to dissect, what changes will they make and how will UND Head Coach Brad Berry react?

For Canisius: Short and Sweet 

If you are reading this and a Canisius fan, thank you for reading this far first off. I was impressed with the ability of this team deprived of one of the best offensive players in the country last year and called “instant offense” to hang around against a superb UND side. The Griffins showed that they can hang in for two periods and execute a game plan to keep the game at least close against a team replete with NHL-caliber talent.

Large noted after the game that the one reason why Canisius had some success later on in this one in finding better chances was the passing game. When the Golden Griffins kept their passes a little shorter, they did not give UND as much of a chance to limit their ability to get to higher percentage areas. The Griffins effort on defense reminded me a bit of the effort shown by AIC against St. Cloud State last March in Fargo. The difference between the two was offense. Last March, AIC did what Large wants his team to do tomorrow which include keeping the passes short and focusing on quality over going for stretch passes like Canisius did tonight. Doing that while limiting penalties and focusing on your effort and ability to block shots could keep this game closer than the highly partisan crowd at the Ralph Engelstad Arena would like.

 

Why Not You? Thoughts from Day Two of MJHL Player ID Camp at the Ralph

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-MJHL)

Today, Kelsey and I were on hand to cover the second day of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Player Identification camp at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. She was able to provide photos for this event for the league today and we were both able to see some superb hockey take place.

Most if not all teams from the league were represented. Commissioner Kim Davis and Kevin Saurette, director of Hockey Operations, were on hand for the second annual event at the Ralph. Below are some quick thoughts on the day and the MJHL in general.

  • First, if able, go watch these teams play in season and their postseasons. The dedication players in this league show is second to none, and year after year more college and NHL players are being developed in the MJHL. Cole Smith, and Jackson Keane, two UND forwards, were on hand to share their experiences in junior hockey to the perspective players at this invite-only camp. These teams are run and supported by small towns all across Manitoba and all have passionate followings of these players as they progress with the team, and beyond as they go to the next level of their hockey and academic pursuits.
  • For those who do not know, Tucker Poolman has another brother besides Colton. Mason Poolman is quite good and showcased his speed today. He is still a few years away from college hockey and was out skating players today multiple years his senior. He plays a quick game and can generate a lot of good looks in the offensive zone. He centered a line with Mitchell Idalski, son of former UND Women’s Hockey Head Coach, Brian Idalski. Their line was the best forward line in either game we were able to cover today (the first two). Idalski put home a nice rebound on a shift where Poolman served as the catalyst. As for Poolman, before he moves on to junior hockey and beyond, if able, go watch him play for the East Grand Forks Green Wave next season.
  • This camp was very organized and well put together. To the credit of the Ralph, they do a superb job maximizing efficiency of their building year-round for all things sport and entertainment related. This camp is a superb example of that. As it is in only its second iteration this season, it will continue to grow under the leadership of General Manager Jody Hodgson.
  • On ice in game one, Logan Johnson stood out the most and was arguably one of the top defenders in the first two games. He consistently was activating into the play and was able to use that offensive ability to create time and space. With that space, Johnson wired home one of the truest shots of the day for one of the cleanest goals of the day. He played this past season for the North Star Christian Academy Knights, helping his team capture a NAPHL championship and leading them to a 41-10-6 record on the season.
  • Finally, this camp has shown another example of the MJHL utilizing its growing footprint to reach out to more talented players. Plenty of players today had superb showings for the legion of scouts and team personnel in attendance. The Ralph provided a superb backdrop for some quality hockey and information dissemination relating to all things Junior-A hockey and beyond. Kudos to the MJHL, the Ralph, and all involved in providing these players a sensational setting to showcase their skills this weekend. The camp wraps tomorrow with two more games.

Poise and Powerful Start Propels UND to 4-1 win over Minnesota Duluth

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee- Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND– Coming into this Friday night fracas against the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth, the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota needed a fast start. They got it as 44 seconds in Mark Senden tapped home a superb feed from Jordan Kawaguchi. He would take home first star honors on the evening as he finished with a goal and an assist on a Hayden Shaw shorthanded marker later on to ice the game. Casey Johnson contributed the game winner 13:22 into the first, and Cole Smith added an empty net marker 18:30 into the third to provide the final 4-1 margin.

On this night, the poise and powerful start of UND guided them to a much needed victory to prop up the Fighting Hawks faint postseason chances. With the win, they move back into the final home ice spot over Denver (Pioneers have one extra game to play so they have a game in hand) and moved up two spots in the pairwise to number 19.

Throughout this game two things were apparent. First, this UND team is consistently stringing together superb starts. Last weekend against Western Michigan, even in a loss on a Saturday night, the Fighting Hawks also scored a goal within the first minute of festivities commencing. Another thing was easily apparent. This was the most complete all-around game UND played. The offense not only got them a quick lead, but was able to answer UMD’s only marker of the evening coming 1:25 into the first on a superb, slowed down, and skillful shot from Nick Swaney. Throughout the night UND limited the majority of Duluth’s chances to outside the slot and beyond the dots. A series of low percentage shot attempts made things easier for the Fighting Hawks.

However, the Bulldogs still were able to get a few good looks each period. After the first, Peter Thome was able to come back from injury and fill in for Adam Scheel to play a flawless last two periods. In addition, Thome noted the biggest piece of his development since his last start in November was his improving poise. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect did not look out of place for the last 50 minutes of the game as he found his groove throughout. Thanks to timely defense and Thome’s improving positioning, UND held a team trailing for two goals for the majority of it to the same amount of shots on net and shot attempts as them. He has an opportunity to earn back his starting job with his play over the next few weeks.

Maybe the recipe for this team is not predicated on quantity of shots on net or blocked shots, but quality. While UND finished the night with 13 blocks, a mere four more than UMD, a few of those were on grade-a chances and kept the lead at two before the empty-net goal. Saturday provides another opportunity to show that this team can string together multiple wins against a top-10 side.

It has not done so as of yet in a long while, now is the best and last chance for this team to do so, as the last two teams it plays, Colorado College, and Nebraska-Omaha are both below them in the standings. Consistency will determine this team’s fate, and we get another look into their efforts to achieve it Saturday night at 7:07 PM.

Special Teams Stats Prove Deceptive as St. Cloud State Takes Opener 3-1

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography

When a team goes 3/3 on the penalty kill (not including empty net goals) and owns five on five play for at least around half of the game things typically go well right? Well for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks things went poorly tonight as they gave up three unanswered goals (the third goal was an empty net marker from Blake Lizotte as UND was trying to bounce back and tie things on the penalty kill late in the third period) to lose the series opener to the number one team in the nation, the St. Cloud State Huskies 3-1.

Micah Miller and Patrick Newell took away a 1-0 lead provided by Nick Jones on an interesting angle shot from below the goal line 11:21 into the first period and gave St. Cloud the lead it would not relinquish. Both St. Cloud goals came mere seconds after UND killed off penalties. Miller’s goal came 18 seconds after UND killed a Matt Kiersted penalty in the second period. He took a feed from Nolan Walker, walked into the UND zone in transition and rifled one past UND netminder Adam Scheel on his left side just above his pad.

In the third period, 17 seconds after the Fighting Hawks killed off a Jasper Weatherby penalty, the puck was fired down towards the UND end. It looked as if a UND defender was close enough to play the puck, and Scheel reached out to play it as well negating any chance of an icing call. Colton Poolman tried to play the puck behind the net but made a very rare mistake and turned the puck over to Nolan Walker. He then found one of the best goal scorers on the Huskies, Newell, in the slot and he did not miss the game-winning goal.

UND was out shot in the second and third periods combined 41-22. The Huskies utilized their strong transition game throughout the second and third period. If not for a very close goal review on a potential Nick Perbix goal, the margin could have better reflected the shots on goal disparity. UND took issue with a potential penalty on Jimmy Schuldt as a hip check on further review looked to result in knee-on-knee contact on Grant Mismash who required help to leave the ice. He will definitely not play in the finale. UND needs to improve in consistency. The result is different as the Huskies outplayed the Fighting Hawks in the final two frames, but the path was the same for UND. The Fighting Hawks started the game well, got chances and limited grade-a chances for the other team. Then the opponent got into their game and this time said opponent was not Omaha or Canisius but St. Cloud State.

These are not the same Huskies that lost to Air Force in the NCAA tournament last March. This is a team with all of the speed and skill of last year’s squad combined with a consistent commitment to team defense to further highlight their skills. For UND to salvage a split they need to play a perfect 60 minutes all the while knowing any mistake they make has a marginally decent chance of ending up in the back of their own net. Saturday night at the Ralph will be a fun one.

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.