Fighting Hawks Use Prodigious Patience to Sweep Wisconsin in Overtime

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

In front of a packed and loud loud Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota looked to be on their way to a tie as they were 0-8 on their power play chances. The Fighting Hawks were doing a lot of cross-seam passes and making multiple attempts to set up perfect chances. Luckily, they were able to buck that trend. In overtime, with one second left on a five-on-three power play, Jacob Bernard-Docker scored his second goal of his college career and on the weekend. The Senators’ prospect took a feed from Colton Poolman 21 seconds into the overtime frame. He was able to head fake a Wisconsin defender and force him to commit to a shot block one split second to soon. Bernard-Docker used his patience and then went on to bury a perfect wrist shot by Daniel Lebedeff and secure the 3-2 win and series sweep. On the evening, Lebedeff saved 32 shots for the Badgers compared to 21 for UND netminder Adam Scheel. He picked up his second win of the weekend for the Fighting Hawks and did so all in a game that featured a combined 30 penalty minutes, 11 power plays, and multiple stoppages to review potential major penalties.

The first big point in the game came a few minutes into the first. 2:29 into the first period, Wyatt Kalynuk took a cross checking penalty that could have turned into a major penalty. After review, it did not. A few seconds after UND’s second power play chance in the first five minutes went for naught, Wisconsin made them pay. Will Johnson took a feed from Seamus Malone and fired a deflected shot past Adam Scheel and into the back of the net for the first Badgers goal of the series. That would remain the score after the first period as UND was unable to capitalize on any of its four power plays. In eight minutes of power play time, the Fighting Hawks generated six shots on net. In the rest of the first frame at even strength they generated three shots on Badgers netminder Daniel Lebedeff.

In the second period, things changed a bit as the penalty sheet did not fill up as fast with only four penalties called in the second period, halving the total of the first period. Grant Mismash turned over a Wisconsin skater and walked right in to tie things up all by himself. He had a nice evening finishing plus one with the goal. In addition, his vision and patience, like Bernard-Docker, are fun to watch. Both are prime candidates to play for their respective national teams in the World Junior Championship this winter.

In the third, things opened up for both teams early on. 3:19 into the third, Tarek Baker potted his third marker of the season for the Badgers as he redirected a K’Andre Miller shot past Scheel. Wisconsin looked to secure the split after this. Nick Jones and Gabe Bast had other ideas. 30 seconds after the Baker marker, Jones received a perfect seam pass from Bast at the opposing blue line. Nick Jones went on to go five-hole past Lebedeff on the mini-breakaway and tie things up once again.On that play, both Bast and Jones praised each other for their efforts. Jones noted that those two had connected multiple times in similar fashion in their year as junior hockey teammates playing for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League. That would be the margin until the overtime winner from Bernard-Docker. The Fighting Hawks head to Oxford, Ohio next weekend to open up their National Collegiate Hockey Conference Season against Miami of Ohio.Look for UND to vary their special teams approach to improve on their 1-9 power play showing.

While 1-9 on the power play is what no one wanted, they did learn something about themselves tonight. UND will play better, especially on special teams when they try to keep the puck on their stick a split second longer. By opening up lanes like Bernard-Docker did on both of his goals, they give themselves more time and space to get a better shot. This may mean lower total shot attempts, but the overall shooting percentage could go up. Despite all of their efforts tonight, Wisconsin did block 25 of UND’s 72 total shot attempts on the evening. Lowering that number as the year goes on will produce dividends quickly.After their road trip, the Fighting Hawks return home in two weeks to take on the Western Michigan Broncos.

Sensational Smith: Cole Smith’s 3 Point Night Saves a UND Split with 4-3 Win:Recap and Two Thoughts

(Photo Credit Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into tonight, UND needed some more defense, at the end of the second period when Marc Michaelis potted a shorthanded breakaway with .4 seconds left, it looked like we could see a repeat of last Saturday where UND would not be able to hang on to a lead. Cole Smith changed all of that in the third period. “Smitty” was able to capitalize on a misplay from Minnesota State netminder Dryden McKay in the third period and put the puck into a wide open net 11:35 into the third. That marker was the final goal in a series where a goal was scored against a goalie in five out of six periods.. In front of 11,438 fans tonight at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, UND used some superb play from Cole Smith with his first three point night (2G, 1A) to ensure the win. Adam Scheel got his first win for the Fighting Hawks in net as the rookie netminder made 20 saves on 23 shots.

Early on, the script was the same for UND as an early goal on some sublime passing on the power play gave them their first lead of the night. Nick Jones took a feed from Jordan Kawaguchi on the faceoff, found Gabe Bast who hooked up with Grant Mismash. The Predators’ prospect made no mistake on a one-timer from the point to give UND a 1-0 lead early on. 38 seconds later, Cole Smith was able to find the back of the net at even strength to make it a 2-0 UND game.

The Mavericks would answer back, aided by some UND penalties as Julian Napravnik and Max Coatta each scored on the power play to end the second period. In the second period, Gabe Bast was able to find a rebound from Mark Senden and send UND to a 3-2 lead that would last until the Michaelis goal at the end of the second. The Fighting Hawks were able to hold on after the Smith Goal in the third and tightened up defensively to ensure the win.

The Offense Returns

This weekend was the best offensive output for UND all season. Now how can the Fighting Hawks replicate that? I thought Grant Mismash on the point looked superb on the power play and he showcased the true goal-scoring prowess UND knows he has in him this weekend. UND got help up and down the lineup as Matt Kiersted had a superb effort this weekend putting up three points in two games (1G, 2A). Having him compliment Jacob Bernard-Docker on the back end is a bonus for UND. All of this available depth and improvement from sophomores like Mismash and Kiersted will go a long way to determining where UND finishes this year.

Goaltending 

Yes, neither goalie had their best weekend. Adam Scheel looked strong on Saturday night and made a lot of grade-a saves to keep UND ahead. Peter Thome did not have the best Friday night before getting pulled for Scheel. That being said, I think UND has two strong goalies who both play tall and calm styles which should help the Fighting Hawks. So what does this mean for the rest of the season? I think for the time being, a platoon is the best choice at least through the midpoint. Both goalies have shown the high points in their game, and both will show them this season. I think a platoon will limit whomever takes the net full time going into the second half and allow them to be a bit more rested for the stretch run.

 

Questions with UND Goaltending Coach Matt Hrynkiw

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Since graduating, Matt Hrynkiw has found his way back to UND Hockey as a volunteer goaltending coach. He mentors three goalies this season in sophomore Peter Thome, freshman Adam Scheel, and senior Ryan Anderson. Below are some questions on Hrynkiw’s background and thoughts on his goalies, and more.

1)What inspired you to take the goalie coach job when Karl went to Syracuse?

Honestly, I felt extremely fortunate to even be considered as a successor for Karl.  Karl Goehring is a brilliant hockey mind and had the total respect and admiration of every goalie that he worked with. When Brad approached me about the opportunity it was a no brainier. I jumped on it right away. Can’t say enough about how much a value the role and the chance to be a continuing part of this incredible program at UND.

2) Tell us a little bit about each of the goalies in the room ? What do they bring to the team on and off the ice?

 

Ryan Anderson is great goalie but an even more incredible guy. He brings the best he has each day and strives to improve while being the best possible teammate. We really value Bob for what he brings with leadership and integrity while also keeping the mood light around the guys when appropriate . As a person, he is quiet and humble but the team and coaching staff hold him in an extremely high regard.

Peter Thome is an extremely focused guy who takes a lot of pride in his craft. He likes to compete and is always looking to improve. He welcomes a challenge and pushes himself extremely hard. He’s an interesting character and welcomes heckling as he is known to give it right back to the source.

Adam Scheel is a tireless worker who also has some very impressive natural ability. He has great instincts and fundamentals which make him tough to beat. Off the ice he seems to always have a grin on his face. He never stirs up too much controversy but always has an interesting opinion if you can get him talking.

3) What inspired you to become a goalie?
Upon getting into hockey, I was on a team that lacked defensive depth so i found i had the greatest impact on the game by playing goal. It also didn’t hurt that my dad and grandfather were both  goaltenders and were encouraging me in that direction.
4)How important to NCAA goalkeeping at-large would approval of a third paid assistant coach be?
It’s obviously very difficult to speculate, but I will say I believe the NCAA already consistently produces some extremely strong goaltending prospects.
5)What is the biggest improvement in Peter Thome’s game from year one?
Peter has worked hard at this flexibility as well as his foot work in demanding situations. I feel he has made significant strides in both.
6)How has UND helped you in your career?
UND has helped me academically and professionally. I was fairly driven person prior to arriving but my time at UND molded me into a professional. Its amazing how much you can learn in 4 years and i am extremely grateful to be associated with the hockey team and the greater community of Grand Forks.
7)What should prospective athletes in any sport know about UND that they may not?
Prospective student athletes should know that this university values great people and I would encourage any prospective athlete to come here and meet the coaches, staff, advisors, and fellow athletes. Its something that’s hard to quantify but I feel you can get a pretty solid feel of the character and values of a people upon face to face meeting.
8)What inspired the staff to look at Adam Scheel?
Adam Scheel has a very good foundation and has excelled at every level. His character and work ethic complement his skills and made it so a number of college teams were rightfully interested in him.
9)What are your professional goals in hockey?
At this point my goal is to keep UND as an elite goaltender producing program in college hockey. Bringing this program another national title also is our greatest focus as a team and staff as well.

 

UND Soars to 3-2 OT Exhibition Win Over Manitoba:Recap and Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 11,634 fans at a sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, North Dakota came off a season with some disappointment. UND had a lot of chances to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament last season but were unable to do so. Tonight we got our first glimpse at the first squad tasked with the goal of bringing UND back to the NCAA tournament in this decade.

UND has a lot to build on this season. While they did not make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 seasons last year they did develop a freshman class that showed promise and looks to take the next step this season.  The Fighting Hawks came away with a 3-2 win in overtime. Rhett Gardner was able to convert on the power play to give UND the final margin. Manitoba Goalie Byron Sprigs got the loss and first star honors for the game with 52 saves on 55 shots.

Grant Mismash took the first step forward in the opening frame converting a superb on a superb pass from Colin Adams. Mismash opened the echibition scoring ledger for UND 17:53 into the first period. The Fighting Hawks peppered Manitoba in the first frame with 18. This theme of consistent peppering of Manitoba went on through the rest of the evening. In the second UND put 14 shots on net and in the final frame they put ___ shots on goal. The Fighting Hawks finished with 30 shot attempts in the first compared to a mere 6 for the Bisons of Manitoba.

In the second period, the Fighting Hawks kept pace and did a lot of work to generate numerous chances. They only converted once as Dixon Bowen buried a strong feed from freshman and Flyers prospect, Gavin Hain 3:10 into the first period. Peter Thome split time with Adam Scheel in the second. Thome finished the night with a mere three saves on three Bisons shots. UND kept up the pressure throughout the evening. Scheel did not see any shots fired in his direction during 19:56 of work.

In the third, Thomas Lenchyshyn made it a 2-1 game on a rebound with under 6 minutes left in the game. UND did still generate more chances but did not convert them. A few minutes later, on the next shot, Jonah Wasylak capitalized on a clean feed to set up a mini breakaway in to fire one past Ryan Anderson, who had taken over with about 8 min mins left in the third period. All of this was pretext for overtime where Rhett Gardner sealed the win. Now UND has six days before their home-and-home to open up against Bemidji State. Ryan Anderson was credited with the win for UND tonight.

Three Thoughts

102-18 

Despite the final score being close, this game was one-sided in terms of possession. Multiple Fighting Hawks had superb looks throughout the night. UND finished with 102 shot attempts and played offense most of the night. Forward Nick Jones noted the value of playing a game like this as an exhibition game. UND obviously wanted to convert more chances, but now they can see some things that worked on film and replicate them. That, combined with every skater that dressed besides Josh Rieger and Colin Adams getting a shot on net provide some good things going forward.

Weatherby on the Power Play

Sharks prospect Jasper Weatherby has big shoes to fill. He is wearing number 14, the same number as departed captain Austin Poganski. Like Poganski, Weatherby provides a big, physical, and strong net front presence as needed. On the power play tonight he did that repeatedly, earning an assist on the Gardner goal. Look for Weatherby to have plenty of more time on the power play in his net-front presence. He was hard to miss out there tonight as he was  the biggest skater on the ice

The Vision of JBD 

Like Weatherby, Jacob Bernard Docker has big shoes to fill taking over the number 24 for Christian Wolanin. Like his fellow Senators’ prospect, Bernard-Docker displays superb puck sense and skill in setting up plays. His vision is superb, quite impressive to observe and is already an asset for this 2018-2019 team. Look for more from him as the year goes on.

 

 

Deep Depth: How Minnesota Duluth Won Its Second National Championship

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

 

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs won their second national championship on Saturday night with a 2-1 win over Notre Dame. They won with goals from Captain Karson Kuhlman, and Jared Thomas. UMD also got timely goaltending as Hunter Shepard made 19 saves on the evening. Of his 19 saves, three of them were on solid grade-A chances for Notre Dame.

He outlasted 2018 Mike Richter Award (best goalie in college hockey) Winner, Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris. He made 33 saves but was solved early by UMD.

Initially,  Notre Dame did a better job at getting sticks into lanes and making Duluth earn its chances, however it was not enough to stop them from replicating their streak of scoring first in their last three games of this tournament.

Duluth captain Karson Kuhlman capitalized on a Notre Dame turnover. He started the play with the turnover that Jade Miller was able to return to him. Kuhlman then raced in and fired a strike from just outside the right faceoff dot that went off Notre Dame defender Tory Dello and past the glove of Cale Morris to give UMD the first lead of the night 9:06 into the first period.

Notre Dame played Duluth tough the entire first period, but could not convert on any of their chances. They had a few solid chances, but could not solve Shepard.

The lack of scoring for Notre Dame benefited UMD early on as Jared Thomas netted his second goal of the weekend 18:39 into the first. Thomas won a puck battle in the Notre Dame zone, found Kuhlman and returned the puck back to Thomas. He then walked to the side of Morris and banked a shot in off of him.

Notre Dame did get one goal 7:40 into the second on a power play as Cam Morrison found Andrew Oglevie on a nice setup. He then wired a wrist shot through the five-hole of Shepard.

For as much as Notre Dame pressured Duluth the rest of the night, the final margin was set at that point. UMD did a superb job of limiting second and third chances, and did just enough to earn the win. Duluth even prevented Notre Dame from getting a shot on net with the extra attacker for the last part of the game.

QUOTES

UMD’s Karson Kuhlman on the depth of his team, and the play made by Jade Miller to set him up for his goal.

“Obviously those guys have been playing great all year. That’s one thing that we knew
coming into the season that we’d have was real good depth up front. Obviously any single night lines one through four could score and all six [defenseman] can put the puck in the net. And Shep [Hunter Shepard could probably score if he came out, too.”

“But it was a good play. I think Jader got a stick on a puck and I was able to turn in transition quick and sneak one by his glove.”

Jared Thomas on the unsung heroes of UMD

” I think we have a bunch of unsung heroes on our team. There’s a guy sitting down there [ Blake Young] .He’s came such a long way since his freshman year. We had so many guys like that on our team, playing third,fourth line. And we’re never afraid when they were on the ice. We knew that they were going to do their job.And we trusted everyone in our locker room, whether the guys were playing or even the guys that weren’t in the lineup. If we needed them we knew that they’d be ready to step right in. And I think that goes unnoticed sometimes, those depth guys. So I’m so happy for our group and especially for those guys that don’t get a lot of recognition.”

 

Bank on It: Nick Jones Sends UND Back to the Frozen Faceoff with OT Game Winner

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND

53 seconds into overtime, the bank was open for the University of North Dakota. Forward Nick Jones picked up the overtime winner for the Fighting Hawks off of Omaha goalie Evan Weninger. Jones tied the game for UND in the third period on a redirect past a screened Weninger on the power play.The junior forward took a rebound from a Jordan Kawaguchi shot, and used the positioning of Weninger to his advantage.In addition, that goal provided Kawaguchi with his first collegiate assist. His two tallies provided the difference for a UND side that needed a spark after giving up another two goal lead. The Jones tally sent 10351 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena home happy.

This sweep in the NCHC First Round keeps UND’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament alive. They still have more work to do. The only thing this win guarantees the Fighting Hawks is two more games next weekend. It also showed that UND can come back from deficits, and that its experience in numerous overtime games helped equip them for tough situations like tonight.

After a long review it was determined that Matt Kiersted opened the scoring 10:13 into the game as he just squeaked the puck over the goal line before Weninger pulled the puck out of the net.

A few minutes later Bowen took a feed from Trevor Olson and walked in on breakaway. He went forehand-backhand to put the puck past Weninger 14:05 into the first.

The Mavericks answered right back as  Teemu Pulkkinen redirected a powerful Lucas Buchta wrist shot past Cam Johnson 15:28 into the first. UNO got its first goal in its last six periods. on that tally.

Pulkkinen would strike again in the second period, and tie things up for the Mavericks. UNO fought back from the first period and played UND even throughout the second frame and into the third period. In the third stanza, Jake Randolph gave UNO the lead 5:41 into the final regulation frame.

Nick Jones would score the first of his two goals on a redirect past Weninger. Jones’ net front presence made it impossible for Weninger to see the puck. The score would remained tied for the final 9:46 of regulation time.

UND will await the results of the Miami-St. Cloud, and Colorado College-Denver game threes tomorrow. These results determine UND’s opponent on Friday in St. Paul.  The Fighting Hawks still have to win at least one if not both games depending on their opponents next weekend. In addition, UND cannot cough up another two goal lead, this habit has cost them games and almost hurt them tonight.

 

 

UND Hangs on for Home Ice in 2-2 Tie: Gardner Saves Senior Night With Three-on-Three OT Winner

(All Photos used in this recap are courtesy of Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 12, 093 screaming fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota did just enough to secure another postseason series in front of their fans. They earned a 2-2 tie against St. Cloud State guaranteeing them a home date with Nebraska Omaha next weekend. They also built a little momentum winning the three-on-three overtime with a superb shot from forward Rhett Gardner 04:14 into the three-on-three frame.

UND was lead offensively by junior defenseman Christian Wolanin. He had primary assists on all three goals and keyed the offensive attack for UND. Wolanin also tied Austin Poganski for the blocked shot lead last night with three.

On senior night, freshman Grant Mismash took a Wolanin  point shot and fired it past St. Cloud goalie David Hrenak from the slot to give the Fighting Hawks a 1-0 lead 5 minutes into the game. UND would generate a lot of chances in the first but could not add any insurance to their initial 1-0 lead.

_UND1038-1 (1)

14:39 into the 2nd period Rhett Gardner got the puck on his stick off a perfect cross-ice feed from Wolanin. The Dallas Stars’ prospect had enough time to get the perfect corner picked and he did not miss.

_UND1423-1

The third period was not kind to UND. Canadians super prospect Ryan Poehling scored another superb goal on a re-direct from a Robby Jackson shot on the power play 02:42 into the final frame. A few minutes later, 09:42 into the third, Grand Forks native Jacob Benson sent the fans in his hometown in to a panic for the final few minutes of the game. He went top shelf on Cam Johnson just after another power play had ended.

UND called timeout, and head coach Brad Berry reminded his team that “hey, we’re fine.”  Berry was able to calm the ensuing storm from St. Cloud and helped steer his team into the first overtime frame where it generated two shots on net. Neither of them found the back of the net, and UND guaranteed home ice at the end of the first overtime based on Omaha and Colorado College’s regulation losses.

Next week, UND can hopefully learn its lessons from this series to play against Omaha. The Mavericks bring the best power play in the conference, lead by the best player on the power play, senior forward David Pope, to the Ralph. UND gave up five power plays last night, and one goal shorthanded. UNO converts just over 25 percent of their power plays, so staying out of the penalty box next weekend will be crucial for the Fighting Hawks.

 

(Game Highlights, Video Courtesy of UND Insider)

 

 

 

 

 

What a Difference a Day Makes: UND Earns 5-1 Victory Over Colorado College

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of  11,860 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks played in a must-win game over Colorado College. They did not disappoint their fans tonight. They earned a 5-1 victory thanks to strong special teams play resulting in two power play goals, and timely goaltending from Peter Thome.

In a completely different first period than last night, UND controlled the pace of play throughout. Although they did not score, they had Colorado College on their heels. This pace was consistent throughout the rest of the game.

Finally, for UND things looked up in the second period, the Fighting Hawks earned some five-on-three time on the power play. They did not convert on the two man advantage, as Joel Janatuinen  buried a rebound on a Shane Gersich sharp-angle shot to give UND the 1-0 lead 9:23 into the 2nd .

A few minutes later, Christian Wolanin fired a perfect shot on the power play off Colorado College goalie Alex Leclerc. It never got to him, it went off of the shin pad of Austin Poganski and over to Shane Gersich. The Capitals draft pick made no mistake, and deposited the rebound into a wide open net to give UND its first two goal lead on the weekend.

The third period featured a superb start for the Fighting Hawks. A mere 57 seconds into the final frame, Austin Poganski took a feed from Johnny Simonson and raced in and fired a superb shot past Leclerc short side to give UND its first five-on-five goal of the evening.

Colorado College would answer back, as with 13:24 left in the game, Nick Halloran took a feed from Troy Conzo and fired a perfectly placed shot past Peter Thome to bring the Tigers within two goals.

A few minutes later, UND restored their 3 goal lead as Grant Mismash created time and space in the offensive zone. The Predators’ prospect fired a shot that went off Leclerc, off of Jordan Kawaguchi, and to Janatuinen, who did not miss the open net. The Finnish forward was credited with his second goal of the evening.

Grant Mismash was not done.

A few minutes after he started the play that lead to the second Janatuinen tally, he created his own goal. He took a feed from Trevor Olson , walked in and went top shelf on Leclerc 11:43 into the third to make it a 5-1 game.  That would be the final margin of victory for UND.

UND heads on the road next weekend to Omaha to take on the University of Nebraska Omaha. If UND can mimic some of what it did tonight through playing through the middle of the ice, generating high percentage chances, and using a strong forecheck to limit Omaha’s top line, then the result could possibly be similar to tonight. The Fighting Hawks did not clinch anything tonight, but showed that they can compete when they play their brand of  hockey.

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.