Small Rink Big Time Hockey – UND vs. Union

On December 31, 2016 I had the chance to see the Fighting Hawks take on Union College at Achilles Center in Schenectady, NY. North Dakota won the game 3-1 over Union. This post will allude to the game but focus on the home rink Union plays in, and some fun observations.

  • This is the smallest rink I have seen in some time. It seats a little over 2,000 fans and is set up in a very intimate fashion. You are right on top of the action the entire game, and can even stand right behind either goal. The standing room view for UND warm ups was superb.
  • This rink does not have replay boards. When you visit this rink, as every hockey fan should, you need to be watching the play at all times. Many fans missed UND scoring the first goal of the game just eleven seconds after the opening faceoff.
  • Union fans are some of the most knowledgeable and nicest people I have met. Every group of fans either provided fun chirping or was genuinely happy to see UND fans in the area. Cam Johnson even laughed at some nice heckling  by a group of fans. Union holds a special place in my heart for vanquishing the Gophers in the 2014 Championship. I think many Union fans feel the same way about UND for ending Quinnipiac’s run last spring.
  • Union fans also asked a lot of questions about me and fellow UND fans seeing their rink and UND play. The UND contingent was loud and vocal but was very respectful. Union genuinely enjoyed having UND there and I did not see a single negative fan despite the result. Every hockey fan needs to see a game at the Achilles Center in their lives. It is on of the mot intimate and unique hockey viewing experiences I have had.

Reasons to Love Hockey:Reboot

Sorry Guys, Life happens and I haven’t been able to be post as quickly as I normally would.

Today there are less than 100 days left till the puck drops at the Shark tank against the LA kings. This post is not really a reason more just a review of what has happened in the last two weeks.

We had some crazy trades and an amazing first day of free agency.   The San Jose Sharks have signed four players so far and on the first day. David Schlemko is one of the two high profile players that SJ picked up. I would have to say the Schlemko is going to be a good addition to the team. I am interested to see how this plays out. He has a tendancy to either be really good or really bad, either way, he will be a good replacement for Roman Polak. Which I personally feel was a major liability for the Sharks on defense this past season. Mikkel Boedker, I am not so sure how I feel about him, it honestly will depend on what line they end up placing him on. I think he might play well with a player like Donskoi and Hertl, but only time will tell. The two re-signs are Aaron Dell(G) and Micheal Haley (C). I am looking forward to see what Haley does this season. I think it was smart to bring him back.

Now Dell, I have been watching this player for six years and I have a good feeling about this upcoming season from him. I am was ecstatic when I saw that SJ resigned him, like literally jumped up and down (sorry downstairs neighbors), I think he will be a great backup option to Jones. They have very similar playing styles and I believe Dell has earned his shot to play on NHL ice. I know a lot of you are thinking about how untested he is on a professional rink, but you will never know how well any player can handle the pressure of the “big” time, with over 6,500 minutes of playing time between the ECHL,CHL and AHL, It is in my honest thoughts that he can handle it and I am really looking forward to seeing were it all heads for him.

110 Reasons to Love Hockey: 107-The Players

Reason #107:

Today’s reason to love hockey is favorite players. During the course of the short time, we have been running this blog, I have had the honor to interview my favorite past University of North Dakota player, Aaron Dell. He played for UND when I was going to school at the university the first time in 2010. The reason he is one of my favorite players is because of how much work he has put in since college.Dell has succeeded and earned a contract in the NHL based on his hard work and outstanding play in the AHL. I am looking forward to seeing what is going to happens when free agency opens up on the first of July.

One of my current UND players, I would have to say is Austin Poganski. I remember my first game last season back at the Ralph Englestad Arena. It was such an exciting game that ended with a penalty shot. Everything was electric, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

We want to hear who your favorite players and why. Let us know in the comments!

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.

Aaron Dell interview

Today I got to talk with former UND goalie, Aaron Dell. This last season, Dell played on the San Jose Barracuda playing in 40 games with a save percentage of .922 in the regular season. Dell came to the University of North Dakota in 2009-2010, after spending two seasons with the Calgary Canucks.

1)Describe the feelings you had when you won the CHL Championship?

That’s a tough one, a feeling that you can’t really describe, you but in all the work and then you get the reward for it, it is an amazing feeling.

2) When did you start to play hockey and how/why did you fall into goaltending?

I started as a forward, I think the originally reason I wanted to be a goalie was because the equipment looked cool, I played a little bit and just really enjoyed it

 

3) After not getting picked in the NHL draft, what made you decide to keep trying to play professionally?

I found that goalie is a position that takes more maturing, and so I knew that I just had to keep working at it.

 

5) What advice would you give to a student or athlete that is struggling in making their dreams come true?

The best advice that I got was to just stick with it. There are going to be good times and bad times and you just have to keep grinding it out.

 

6) Your thoughts on UND winning the national championship?

I think it is awesome, it’s been a long time coming

Did you get to watch any of the games?

No, but I did get to watch the game last year when they lost in the Frozen Four

7) What was your favorite on ice moment during your time at UND?

Winning the Final Five championship in double overtime against Denver

What about off the ice?

Playing golf at the Ray Richards course.

 

 

 

 

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=25790

http://www.sportslogos.net/logos/view/56414052016/San_Jose_Barracuda_/2016/Wordmark_Logo

 

 

Season Review/Look Ahead-Rhett Gardner

This past season,forward Rhett Gardner came to UND as an unknown for many UND fans. By the end of the season,everyone knew who he is. He is a strong relentless forward that loves to screen goalies in front of the net and win key puck battles in the corners. Gardner’s physical game helped shut down the CCM line in the NCAA Tournament against Michigan. The forward is even draft eligible this season. If picked he will be picked in the sixth or seventh round. The forward showed something special towards year’s end and dramatically improved his all around game.The Canadian forward scored 18 points last season in 41 games.

Next season, look for Gardner’s ice time to increase and for his point totals to rise. Gardner has a propensity to take penalties with 52 penalty minutes in 41 games played. If Rhett can take less than one penalty minute per game he can dramatically improve his standing with the NHL. We expect him to be drafted in the seventh round this year by a team willing to take a chance on a strong forward with a good net front presence. If Gardner can improve his discipline just a bit, regardless of which team if any selects him, he will be in a strong position to play in the NHL in the next five years.

Grade-8/10

If Rhett had an identical season to this one minus the 52 penalty minutes this grade would be a nine. We think that if he takes less penalties he will better provide another strong Austin Poganski-like net front presence that will see him generate a lot more goals from around the blue paint.

Stats:http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=119371

Season Review/Look Ahead-Chris Wilkie

Throughout the year, Fighting Hawks forward Chris Wilkie steadily improved. Wilkie is a fast forward with a decent shot and outstanding sense of where to be on the ice. The Omaha,NE native had a nine point season in 32 games. While the Florida Panthers’ sixth pick has a great shot,he often did not find himself able to fire many shots on net as he finished the year with a mere 45 shots on goal. One reason for this is Wilkie’s height at 5′ 11″. He routinely lost puck battles in the corners this year to more physical players. While UND alums like Rocco Grimaldi have proven that height does not always matter, they did so with a consistently high motor,and through adding strength each year. Wilkie still has plenty of time improve his strength and overall motor to help win more puck battles.

Grade:7/10

Look for Wilkie to improve dramatically this year, as he will receive more power play time, and have another full summer at UND under his belt.The Panthers prospect improved dramatically from his second to third year in the USHL scoring an additional 19 points (55 point season).Look for the same to happen this season. Wilkie will score at least 19 more points than last year.

As Wilkie develops, his high skill and outstanding shot will be seen as his ice time increases. Wilkie has a ceiling of a top six forward who can put the puck in the net after blazing by defenders with his outstanding speed.If  the Panthers pick can have a 40-50 point season this year the Panthers should come knocking.If Wilkie does not reach 40 points look for him to spend at least one more season with the Fighting Hawks. Florida has a ton of outstanding wingers in its system and one day Wilkie will join that group.He still has some work to do. At his best, Wilkie could one day play a style of game similar to future Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis.

Stats: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=120644

http://collegehockeystats.net/1516/teamstats/ndkm

 

Season Review/Look Ahead-Trevor Olson

UND Forward Trevor Olson experienced an increase in playing time this year. Often in and out of the lineup as a freshman, Olson found his way as a gritty bottom six forward with a knack for getting to the net and setting up strong screens in front of opposing goalies. The Duluth,MN forward contributes in different ways beyond the stat sheet. Olson is a constant force on UND’s penalty kill unit, and is always relied on for the physical presence he brings to the ice.

Olson had a decent year in 2015-2016. He played in 36 games.The former Sioux City Musketeer had four assists with 20 penalty minutes,While he took less than one penalty minute per game and improved on the rate of PIM’s per game, Olson needs to improve his discipline and control his checks a bit more.For example, Olson took a five minute major with a game misconduct right after UND cut into St. Cloud State’s lead in a Saturday night game back in November. The Huskies used that major to ice the game and split the series.

During the second half of the season, Olson’s discipline improved,and we hope that trend continues this year. If Olson can avoid five minute majors and keep his total penalty minutes under 20, that would be an improvement.

While Olson did not generate a lot of offensive statistics this year,we have every reason to believe he will based on his past play in other leagues.In high school and USHL play, Olson produces more points with experience.We think this trend will continue. Look for Olson’s special teams time to increase as he aims to get some power play time next year with the second unit.

Grade:7/10

If Olson reduces his penalty minutes and continues to provide the presence he does, UND will dramatically benefit from having another strong veteran forward with some grit. Olson is a good player that we think can be great this season.

Olson’s Stats: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=121998

 

Look Back/Ahead-Shane Gersich

Forward Shane Gersich just finished his freshman season at UND. The Fighting Hawk is a high energy winger that will score a lot of goals when left in space, and uses his high motor to get to the puck to set his line mates up throughout the season. Gersich did get muscled off the puck a few times during the season and sat a few games when UND needed more physicality in its forward ranks or for injury.

The Capitals prospect played 37 games during the season and scored 11 points (9 G,2A) most of Gersich’s goals were high motor ones where he used his speed and skill to set himself up to contribute.

As the season went on Gersich’s scoring per game decreased, and he was getting muscled off the puck more and more. By season’s end however, Gersich had improved his game and set himself up to be in he right place at the right time to score the first goal of the National Championship vs. Quinnipiac.

Gersich has more room to grow as he will increase his strength in the off-season. Increased strength will help him maintain the cycle and keep plays alive longer. He has two more years to sign a pro deal with the Capitals exclusively before he can opt for the free agency route. If he comes back for his senior season he can be a free agent,and sign with an NHL club.

Grade:7/10

Gersich will improve his physical skills with time which will cause his goal totals to increase and allow  him to compete as an every day top six forward. We expect Gersich to play at least one more season with the Fighting Hawks. Gersich seems to do better the second year at wherever he ends up,as evidenced by his strong play with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in the year following his draft selection. Gersich had a 17 point improvement in his second full year in the USHL with the Lancers. Look for him to have at least a ten point improvement with the Fighting Hawks this season.

Reference Page:http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=168706

Poolman Flies..Back to the Nest

Yesterday, Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald announced that defenseman Tucker Poolman would be returning to the UND Fighting Hawks for his junior season. The Winnipeg Jets draft pick has developed exceptionally well for UND becoming a two way player that can do everything from kill penalties to fire a wicked slapshot from the point. Poolman has even played forward when called upon for UND. During UND’s run to the Frozen Four in Boston Poolman would routinely hound the best team’s players as a forward while killing penalties. Poolman has a strong hockey sense and knows where he needs to be.

Since Poolman will be four years removed from his draft year he could chose to become a free agent next year in August. I think that Jets fans should not worry. I feel as though Poolman is coming back to play with his brother, Colton, for one year. After that I fully expect him to sign with the Jets and not test free agency. Poolman has to be aware of the contract situations of  the Jets’ defensemen. Paul Postma will be a UFA and the Jets will have three RFA’s headlined by Jacob Trouba that will get raises or be released. Having the entry level deal replace Postma’s will end up saving the Jets money if Poolman plays for the AHL side in 2017. Poolman will have a chance to start out a Jet next season, if not he will see a lot of time with the Moose in 2017.

Note:All  contract info is from the general fanager website