Peter Thome wins goaltending duel for UND 1-0: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into Friday night’s skirmish with the Tigers of Colorado College, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey team had some things to adress. For the past few weekends, its starts especially on Fridays, have been squalor based affairs that have had them chasing games. Luckily the team has usually found ways out of the holes it dug itself in, and it did not have to do so tonight.

On this wonderful night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks got just enough good bounces to earn a 1-0 victory. In the third period, Shane Pinto fired home a puck that pin balled to him into the yawning cage to provide the final margin for the evening  10:23 into the third period. What stood out most about that power play was the fact that UND finally got a good bounce to go their way. They had to fight against freshman netminder Matt Vernon all night. He made several great saves and made things tough for the Fighting Hawks. In addition, credit the Tigers for defending the blue paint relatively well. UND did not get many easy looks on yawning nets off second chances. That is where a lot of their goals have come from in this resurgent season for the Fighting Hawks.

In net for UND was Peter Thome. The junior netminder’s play from the start of the second half has arguably kept UND at the top of the country. His ability to play angles without over pursuing anything and make several key saves against the Tigers gave UND more time to find the go ahead goal. The biggest improvement Thome has made to his game is his further utilization of his size (six feet, four inches) to not need to over pursue angles as he did on occasion in his first two seasons as a Fighting Hawk. He made a few lateral saves on this night that his counterpart, Adam Scheel, has had to work on getting better at as well.

What to watch for in the series finale 

For the Fighting Hawks, I would strongly consider using Jasper Weatherby to take every draw for all lines he is not on when he has any energy of any sort. He lead the way in the faceoff dot for UND last night winning 14 of the 15 draws he took. The San Jose Sharks prospect has developed his game and utilized his faceoff prowess and ability to get to the net front to help his team this year. If the season ended today I would strongly consider him in the running for any sort of most improved award the team would hand out.

Also, Peter Thome should get the start tonight. If turning in a 25 save shutout in a 1-0 game is not enough to earn another look in net, I do not know what is. While we still support a platoon of Peter Thome and Adam Scheel in net down the stretch, giving Thome the net the game before UND heads to its bye week would allow Scheel to get a little more rest and then give coaches two weeks to figure a rotation for the two superb netminders UND has down the stretch.

Finally, if you want Colorado College to have a better fate than their loss last night, look at transition opportunities as a way to solve those problems. It seemed as if on the few they had in the series opener, they did not do enough to get Thome moving and open up any angles. UND is a team with an offensive-minded defense group that likes to get up in the play and take shots on net. When those shots go high and wide, the Tigers have to bury a couple of those looks to have a chance in the finale. Most teams will not win the battle of offensive zone time against the Fighting Hawks;however, multiple teams in the second half, from Alabama Huntsville to Minnesota Duluth, have shown their ability to score multiple goals in transition against this team. The Fighting Hawks do not have many ways they can be beaten or even competed tough against, but scoring on transition looks is probably at the top of that list.

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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.

 

 

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

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Thoughts for Tonight 

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

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

 

 

 

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

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee from Violent Turtle Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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