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.

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Superb Six

(Photo Credit:Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Coming into today the University of North Dakota Women’s Soccer Team had a lot of things going for them. The team defense has been consistently strong once again. This young team with only three seniors is showing that it is developing chemistry quickly. The depth of this team has shown through as multiple freshman and multiple attackers had lead the way in each game.

There was one thing that needed to be improved on and was a consistent theme of every chat with UND Head Coach Chris Logan. This team needed to be better in putting home chances found in the run of play. Scoring a goal this way means not relying on set pieces especially corners. Three of UND’s four goals scored on the season coming into today had been on corner kicks. While it is nice that this team is able to score from set pieces, it is always better, like in any sport, to have diverse ways to score to keep your opponent on their heels.

Today, UND changed the routine as this team put home six goals in the run of play against a Chicago State side that, early on, stymied them with an offside trap defense that worked a few times as the Fighting Hawks were finding their footing. Mara Yapello lead the way for the Fighting Hawks with two goals to open up the scoring ledger for the Fighting Hawks. Yapello now leads the team with three scores on the season. All of that simply set the stage for what was to come in a four goal second half packed with perfection from the Fighting Hawks.

The first two goals from UND in the second came from sophomore Cassie Giddings who has proven very effective as a super sub off the bench for this team. She finished the day with a superb strike into the far corner for her goal and she would later set up Hannah McAra for her first of the season. Later on, Bailey McNitt unleashed an unstoppable ball that came from her left foot on the edge of the box and went across the goal into the top left corner.

Logan was excited to see McNitt tack on some goal scoring to her technical prowess, and this one did not disappoint. She put home arguably the most beautiful goal of the season for these Fighting Hawks to this point. Ashley Ebeling completed the scoring with a header on a superb Emma Bangert cross 77:39 into the matchup.

In goal, Catherine Klein had a deceptively quiet day for the Fighting Hawks. While she only had to make four saves on the day and was perfect doing so, she made some tough saves during the first half and spurred offense for UND immediately in one case. Even though she was not tested frequently, the quality of chances she had to stop today were arguably a bit better.

Going forward, these Fighting Hawks will face a different challenge on Sunday against Hawaii. The Hawaii side they will be facing, according to Logan, plays quite strong up the middle and through balls to the talented group of forwards that UND has will be tougher to come by. Look for these Fighting Hawks to focus on utilizing the speed of their wingers, chief among them players like Mimi Eiden.

Despite putting nothing on frame today, she was able to utilize her speed consistently to force Chicago State defenders to make tough decisions. Sunday afternoon at Bronson Field will provide another marker of where this team stands before Summit League play begins.

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.

NDSU Soccer Utilizes Possession Game to Defeat UND 2-1: A Recap

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

On Sunday in East Grand Forks, North Dakota faced their long time rival NDSU. This time it meant a  lot more. This was the first Division One conference match between the two as Summit League rivals. This game was a contrast between two disparate styles of soccer. NDSU plays a possession game and generates quick chances on counters. UND plays a speed game and looks to run by their opponents. We saw both of those styles on display today.

In the end, NDSU and their style won the day. UND struck first in the second, after a scoreless first half. Katie Moller took a feed from Olivia Knox and deposited one in the back of the net. That was Moller’s tenth tally this season. That goal came 51:11 into the match. Roughly 24 minutes later NDSU was pressuring and forced UND netminder to come off her line to play the ball. She could not get to it and Holly Enderle found Hanna Norman for the equalizer.

The game would not remain tied for long as Malley O’Brien was able to  convert a feed from Holly Enderle to provide the final margin. UND had more chances in the second but was only able to convert once. Olivia Swenson finished the day with five saves, and NDSU netminder Monica Polgar finished with four.

Now UND has to get ready for a tough Summit League road trip against Omaha and Denver. UND has experience playing against teams that like to hold possession in Portland and NDSU. The next challenge will be utilizing their superb depth of speed to play the game on their terms. The result was not what they wanted today, but they picked up some things they can learn from. Look for UND to try to take today’s lessons forward as they head out on the road next weekend.

That Was Close: How UND Won Five Set Thriller Against Oral Roberts

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

On a cold Friday night in Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks nearly had their first loss at home at a loud Betty Engelstad Sioux Center this season in front of the 932 loud and invested fans that came to watch them take on the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts. Those fans were worried as heading into set four, the Fighting Hawks were facing a 2-1 deficit and coming off of their  UND was able to come back and take the final two sets to win a 3-2 five set thriller.

Lydia Rutten was the most efficient attacker with over 20 swings for UND. She finished with 12 kills on 24 swings with a mere three attack errors to finish hitting at a .375 clip on the evening. On defense, libero Taliyah Flores led the way with 30 digs. Four Fighting Hawks had double digit digs. Setter Roosa Rautio finished with a double-double with 57 assists and 10 digs. Finally, Kayla Williams also chipped in a double-double with 13 digs and 15 kills.

In the first set, UND was able to soar past the Golden Eagles early on. The Fighting Hawks forced both Oral Roberts timeouts with ten point leads in the first set. The Golden Eagles fought back with a 7-2 run to bring it to 20-15 UND, but the Fighting Hawks were able to take five of the final seven points to take the first set 25-17. In the opening stanza the Fighting Hawks hit .314 with a mere four attack errors.

In the second set, Oral Roberts took advantage of 14 total Fighting Hawks errors including 10 attack errors to take a wild second set that saw UND have eight set-point chances to go up 2-0. Oral Roberts forced more mistakes in the second set and kept themselves in a lot of long rallies with superb back line play from libero Tori Roe who finished the second set with 15 digs.

Following that, in set three, the Golden Eagles took the third set putting away 16 kills on 42 swings. They used their offense and took advantage of six attack errors by UND to go up two sets. In the fourth set, UND was able to force ten attack errors and put away 12 kills to take the fourth set 25-18.  In the deciding set, UND made quick work of Oral Roberts, winning it 15-8. The Fighting Hawks capitalized on their most efficient set of the night. They hit at a .471 clip and only committed one attack error in route to finishing strong against the Golden Eagles.

Next up for the Fighting Hawks is South Dakota State. SDSU was swept by NDSU in Fargo last night. The third UND match since Wednesday night starts Saturday afternoon right back at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center at 4 PM.

UND Comes Up Short Against Idaho State 25-19: Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Yesterday for the combined Potato Bowl and Homecoming game, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks looked good in the first quarter. The offense went a perfect five-for-five on third downs. The defense combined with a roaring crowd kept the Bengals of Idaho State out of the end zone. Two drives resulted in touchdowns, and the defense held the Bengals to two field goals. That was the best quarter of the game for UND. From then on, the game completely changed as UND was only able to convert one third down on their last ten attempts. Here are some thoughts regarding yesterday.

The Good 

Noah Wanzek had another nice game for UND. The Fighting Hawks went to him five times for 109 yards including a nice touchdown in the second quarter. He is building a nice campaign for UND this season and it is good to see him getting these quality looks. In addition, the three UND running backs all had some contribution with John Santiago leading the way on the ground with 111 rushing yards and a touchdown. Brady Oliveira ran over multiple Bengals on his way to an 87 yard ground game.

On defense, especially early, UND was able to get home and generated three sacks on the day. UND’s defensive line and ability to get home without blitzing has and will continue to help them as the year goes forward.

What to Improve This Week

Regarding things to build on, the Fighting Hawks have to work on defending the intermediate pass. When Idaho State head coach Rob Phenicie noted the big day they expected their slot wideout, Michael Dean, to have before the game that made me wonder what teams are seeing in the short and intermediate passing game to give future opponents that impression. He finished the day as the leading wide receiver for either side with nine catches for 130 yards. Dean had the one long play up top for 49 yards, beyond that most of his and the rest of the Bengals’ passing game utilized intermediate plays to challenge the Fighting Hawks.

UND played superb defense in three quarters against arguably one of  the best passing teams in the country, Sam Houston State, on the road last week. What was a point of improvement from that game was either missed tackles in short and intermediate routes that turned into bigger gains, like the game winner to Mitch Guller yesterday. Absent missed tackles, opponents are taking advantage of UND by setting up systems to get the ball out quick to minimize pressure, and utilizing their fastest lateral wide receivers to run a sort of west-coast type offense to beat them.

Absent the intermediate game turning into big plays, UND had a bad game against the run yesterday. It is rare to see such a stout run defense like UND give up 273 yards on the ground to anyone at this level. Idaho State averaged 5.9 yards a carry utilizing quick run-pass-option plays. Ty Flanagan and James Madison were able to find gaps up the middle for a team forced to defend the perimeter routes and limit big plays up top. For the most part, UND defended the deep ball well, but the intermediate and underneath plays often were what did them in from the second quarter onward.

Finally, give credit to Idaho State Quarterback Tanner Guller. He did not give up on more than one play that should have been sacks for UND. He is tough to bring down, and turned multiple negative plays into short gainers for the Bengals.

What Now for UND?

Now UND has to get ready for Northern Colorado next weekend. The Fighting Hawks travel to take on a Bears team that is 0-4 to start the season. Looking a bit more into their record, they had a close call against upstart McNeese State to open things up, losing 17-14.

Regardless of the opponent, UND has a formula that they have shown can keep them competitive with anyone. This team still has a stout run defense and front line that will keep them in every game. They have a quarterback in Nate Ketteringham that can make any throw presented to him. Finally, they have a superb backfield which can run through or past any team that sets up superb play-action opportunities throughout every game.

If UND can contain teams that like to spread the ball around and force teams to either run through them or throw over them then the rest of the year could look more like the first quarter yesterday, not the last three.

 

UND Football: Three Thoughts After Hawks Soar Past the Bearkats

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Yesterday, UND was able to head down to Huntsville, Texas and knock off a top five opponent in the Bearkats of Sam Houston State. A lot of good things happened for UND in this one, and some things happened that they will want to adress before playing another team in Idaho State at home that runs a similar quick-strike offense to the Bearkats. This 24-23 win puts the Fighting Hawks in the playoff discussion, but they need to follow up their arguably biggest non-conference non-FBS win in the Bubba Schweigert era with a continued emphasis on improvement and development for the win to have an even bigger relevance come playoff time.

The Good 

Starting quarterback, Nate Ketteringham can make most throws in this pro-style offense. During the game-winning drive alone he made a superb, high-lofting throw to Izzy Adeoti to put UND in position for the touchdown to Noah Wanzek. The 48 yard pass was perfectly lofted in between two Sam Houston State defenders. Adeoti timed his route perfectly and made a superb catch between two defenders, helping get UND into position for the go ahead fade in the end zone to Wanzek a few plays later.

Tank Harris lived up to his nickname yesterday. He was in the middle of a lot of strong play for the Fighting Hawks up front. His high motor is fun to watch on a weekly basis. His compete level, combined with the amount of reps he will get against Idaho State will make for an interesting facet to next week. UND being able to generate pressure with its defensive line alone, lead by Tank, helps the secondary get more options to cover another fast team in Idaho State.

One more positive area for UND out of yesterday, the running backs. We all know UND has a strong running game that relies on John Santiago, James Johannesson, and Brady Oliveira. What was nice to see yesterday in particular was the balance and the rush per carry average, everyone in this rotation averaged at least 4.1 yards per carry, over a first down per three carries. The diamond formation this team has employed combined with its lateral quickness with players like Adeoti have provided a needed wrinkle to utilize all three rushers in more ways this year.

Things to Build Upon

Penalties, while UND did a lot of things right yesterday, penalties and cleaning up some things are always a thing this staff wants to build upon. If UND can limit their penalties to less than one per quarter I think absent playing penalty free that this staff would like those numbers.

On defense, UND’s secondary had a superb day yesterday in the fourth quarter and first half. One thing I would like to see the team build on is defending the quick pass and lateral plays in general. They had multiple missed tackles yesterday on short passes that lead to big Bearkat gains. Also, these short passes are not a Bearkats only feature. Mississippi Valley State generated all of its offense through quick passes against the Fighting Hawks. Washington had 437 yards through the air on 45 attempts. That being said, the secondary has gotten better each week defending against big plays. Now locking down some more underneath routes and limiting gains are the next step for this continuously developing defensive backfield.

Regarding the Bengals

Idaho State played FBS foe California tough. The Bears knocked off the Bengals 45-23. That being said, the Bengals were able to put up 319 total yards of offense in a balanced attack. Idaho State’s quick strike offense will be another issue for the Fighting Hawks. The Bengals run some of the same setups that Sam Houston does.That being said, UND now has a lot of experience facing spread-type offenses that like to push the tempo. On a friendly field for homecoming six days from today, the experience UND has gained in their first three tests will benefit them against Idaho State. When the crowd is on the Fighting Hawks’ side, it just comes down to defense. If UND can turn a few first down potential passes into small gains and force third-and-long scenarios, then with a boisterous Alerus Center crowd, good things can happen for the Fighting Hawks.

UND is definitely “in” the playoff conversation now. That being said, how long they stay “in” the conversation is dependent on what they can do the rest of the way. That all starts this upcoming weekend as the Fighting Hawks defend the Alerus Center for the first time in three weeks on Saturday against Idaho State.

 

 

 

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.”

 

Mackay’s Magic Lifts UMD to Regional Final in 3-2 OT Thriller

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to the University of Minnesota State Mankato and won on a thrilling Parker Mackay game winner in overtime to set up a regional final tomorrow against Air Force.The Mackay goal came 2:28 into the overtime period.

The 3-2 comeback was keyed by three unanswered goals from the Bulldogs. Karson Kuhlman energized the team with a breakaway goal 6:38 into the second period.

Minnesota Wild prospect Nick Swaney sent the game into overtime with a power play tally 15:52 into the third period. He took a superb cross-ice feed from Jared Thomas and buried the puck into a wide open net.

During the overtime period, Minnesota Duluth had to survive an overturned goal for goaltender interference, and a Mankato player shooting a puck past UMD goalie Hunter Shepard, and off of a Maverick who was sitting on the goal line.

This furious UMD comeback was needed after Zeb Knutson and Ian Scheid opened the scoring for the Mavericks. Duluth used nearly the whole game to undo the deficit Mankato created in  a mere 06:37. UMD’s team defense eventually wore Mankato down and helped open up some chances as the game wore on.

Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin talked about the effort of senior captain Karson Kuhlman to keep his side in the game. Shortly before his first goal he nearly scored on another breakaway and seemed to give UMD a boost when they needed it the most.

For tomorrow against Air Force, UMD will be the decidedly faster team unlike tonight. It cannnot veer from its principles that helped it to comeback tonight. It needs to limit Air Force chances, and use its own speed to get multiple looks on net. Simple shots with multiple rebounds will be how UMD needs to attack Air Force’s superb defensive systems and goaltending lead by Billy Christopoulos. If UMD can activate its mobile defense corps and force Air Force to extend their forechecking a bit, it will open up more breakaway and quick chances and limit Air Force’s ability to generate deflections and tip in goals. A trip to the Frozen Four is on the line tomorrow, which ever team can best execute its game plan has the best chance of advancing.

Tournament Time: NCAA Tournament Predictions-West Region

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

This year, North Dakota just missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a decade. The Fighting Hawks came up just short in overtime against St. Cloud in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and did not get enough help on Saturday to earn a tournament bid. That being said, we have some superb hockey coming up all around the country over the next few weeks.

Below are some predictions for the West Region, where we will be providing coverage of all three games.

West Region- Sioux Falls, SD

  • 1 St. Cloud State vs 4. Air Force
    • UND fans know what to expect out of this team, they can score in bunches from anywhere on the ice. Their team speed is something to behold. Canadians’ super prospect Ryan Poehling is one of the most skilled players in this tournament. Slovak netminder David Hrenak has been a superb find, backstopping the Huskies to this tournament run. Air Force will need to play a perfect game to have a chance in this one.
    • Prediction
      • St. Cloud takes this one 4-1 to open up the first round out west.
  • 2. Minnesota St. Mankato vs. 3. Minnesota Duluth
    • High scoring defense, strong goaltending, and physical play from both teams. These are things to look for in this one. To me, this game is a complete coin flip. Look for the team with more postseason experience to draw on it to advance to the regional final.
    • Prediction
      • UMD wins this one 2-1 in a close game, where the offensive defenseman from both teams set the course for this one.
  • Final
    • St. Cloud State vs UMD
      • Both teams can move on to St. Paul in this one. I do see two key differences in this one. St. Cloud State is faster on paper than Minnesota Duluth. The team speed St. Cloud has to me will be the difference early on.Can the speed of the Poehlings, and superb play of Jimmy Schuldt on the back end vault St. Cloud to an insurmountable lead? I do not think so. If UMD can use its superior physicality to neutralize the speed of St. Cloud, and wear out the Huskies, then the result could be completely different. This game is a coin flip given all of this. In the end, look for the physical nature of UMD to carry them to St. Paul. Duluth will win this one, 3-2 in overtime. Riley Tufte will score the game winner.