Pro Fighting Hawk’s Next Steps: Mason Bennett

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Mason Bennett has done darn near everything playing for the Fighting Hawks on the defensive side of the ball. He is a tall defensive end with enough speed to rush off the edge and cover the flat on a routine basis. At 2019 media day, he was asked who he modeled his game after, and  he noted Kansas City Chief, Frank Clark. Both are lanky edge rushers versatile to go where their defense needs them to.

Mason’s agent, Dr. Ray  Haija said of Mason that he, “is a top-flight edge rusher, his game is reminiscent of Bradley Chubb, he possesses great leverage to win the outside battles to the QB.” He has plenty of film from this year alone to consider to the good in that regard. In addition, when Bennett was injured this year, the defense suffered and getting an edge rush was much harder to get consistently. 

One could make the case that he is similar to another Chief, Terrell Suggs. Bennett and Suggs are both crafty enough to not only blow through you, but they are both able to set the edge and keep the run game between the tackles in the box. When UND had the limited modicum of success on defense against NDSU that it did, Mason setting the edge was a part of that. 

As for what’s next for Mason, Haja said that, “beginning the first week of January, Mason will begin training and enter into an intensive 9 to 10 week training program that will work to address his agility, quickness, speed, and strength. Scouts are interested in seeing how the on the field quickness and strength (that has drawn their interest in Mason) will translate into quantitative testing numbers at his pro day.”

Haja’s firm also represents Canadian Football League players, a league that if the NFL does not come calling, Mason will find himself in as a top-10 prospect. On either side of the border Mason Bennett will have a chance to be a pro Fighting Hawk on the football field. 

As to what lead Haja to work to signing Bennett, Haja said ” Mason is a bona fide the NFL prospect, there is significant interest among scouts, and what has drew us to Mason beyond his on-the-field talents is that he is a high character individual who possesses tremendous maturity and takes a professional approach to his football career. We have no doubt he will take that same professionalism into his pro day preparations and his NFL pursuits.” Every interaction we have had with Mason has backed up Haja’s thoughts of his character. Combined with his on the field acumen and calm respectful demeanor off it, one would think one of 32 NFL teams would like to see how Mason could improve their edge rush game.

In a league that seems to be heading to dual threat quarterbacks, having a rusher who can set the edge and take away the outside lane is more valuable than any stat line could indicate. Suffice it to say, Mason Bennett is an absolute NFL Draft pick in the late rounds, that, depending on how the preseason shakes out could prove a lot of teams wrong for passing on him multiple times.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics, and under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

 

UND Men’s Hockey: Nobody Cares Work Harder

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee- Violet Turtle Photography)

The first half of the men’s college hockey season is in the books. At the break we see the Fighting Hawks perched atop of all national polls, and the Pairwise. UND has faced many tests this season, and while it is scoring goals in bunches and playing its same sound defense, this team has not done anything yet in the bigger picture.

Ok, since you read the headline, let me explain where it comes from. Nobody cares work harder is the unofficial saying of the best team in the National Football League to this point, the Baltimore Ravens. Like UND, the Ravens lost a few winnable games early in their season before going on a run. After a tough game against the Chiefs, the Ravens ended up not winning against Cleveland and have so far proceeded to not lose a single game since then, running through a gauntlet of top-tier NFL sides so far. After a two game series in Mankato, the Fighting Hawks did not win two winnable games in situations they had a chance to do so in. Since those outcomes, both teams have not loss.

Why am I writing about the Ravens in a UND Men’s Hockey article? Well, other than being a Baltimore native, I strongly believe that Nobody Cares Work Harder should be the mantra of this Fighting Hawks team the rest of the year, as it is for the Ravens.

This is a team lead by upperclassmen who have experienced not success, like their forerunners in Rhett Gardner and Christian Wolanin among others, but failure. Sure the past two teams have played good defense, but neither could find the back of the net with enough consistency to make the tournament. In Grand Forks, when you do not even participate in the postseason, your in season accomplishments get overlooked, and people lose faith in the program, right or wrong.

No one on the current roster was there when this team won its last tournament game, National Championship Number Eight in April of 2016.

Why does that matter?

Well, for all of the great work put in by this team in the first half to get where it is, keep in mind that they still have a long way to go just to get to the win or go home scenario the NCAA Tournament presents lead by players who have not won a game in the National Tournament.

Like the Ravens, if this team loses in the national playoffs in any part given how good this first half was and the amount of time it expects to spend at home, it will be only remembered for what could have been.

This team is impressive, seeing players like Jasper Weatherby become one of the best centers in the country in only his second year of college puck is impressive. On the back end, seeing a player like Andrew Peski earn ice time in key situations and play well has been encouraging. Adam Scheel, barring some moments against Miami of Ohio and St. Cloud State, has played, for the most part, well behind a defense that is limiting the quality chances he has to face.

This only scratches the surface of what this team has done, and what it can still do is limitless.

Think UND making the second round of the NCAA’s is a guarantee? Well, as Atlantic Hockey has shown (UND’s likely opponent will probably come from Atlantic Hockey) the NCHC in the past two years (St. Cloud State) there are no guarantees in a one and done, and if they get the first goal, well anything is possible.

Again, this is not an article designed to upset anyone, UND is a great team, but we need to see them put together a full body of work and follow it up in the NCAA Tournament for this season to have resonance. I do not think UND now by being given a number one ranking in the polls has any special target on them, they are not the back-to-back champions, Minnesota Duluth is. Any team with Hunter Shepard in net is tough to beat at any time, let alone in the postseason.

Even though UND should be heavily favored to beat the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville, one has to think that the Chargers will look to wrest away some points from the Fighting Hawks on the road. That program has a history of producing goalies that can steal games despite less than ideal scoring in front of them (Cam Talbot and Carmine Guerrero come to my mind first).

The Fighting Hawks have a lot more hard work to do in order to accomplish the only goal that will bring them the validation that anyone in Grand Forks wants above all else, National Championship number nine. The players in the room know that, and through public comments the sense that this team is beliving in the No

Can they get their ninth title in program history?

Sure they can.

Will they?

Ask me again in April, because predicting long-run college hockey outcomes given the postseason is at best a coin flip especially before the new year comes.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics, and under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.

 

Tucker Poolman: From A Dream to Reality

Tucker Poolman is an East Grand Forks native. Growing up in Grand Forks, he noted that he enjoyed playing with his brothers and friends, playing hockey, or hanging out. Tucker attended many University of North Dakota (UND) men’s hockey games, and that is when the dream started!

Tucker is your average college student. He likes watching movies and is currently watching the HBO series, Game of Thrones. He said that it is pretty good so far. He doesn’t have “any superstitions that are too crazy or strange hobbies,”as Tucker put it.  Due to his sentimental attachment to his home state, Minnesota, he enjoys supporting the Vikings and Twins. Being from a city like Grand Forks/East Grand Forks, where there so much support for all hockey teams from peewee to college, significantly impacted Tucker’s decision to attend UND to play DI hockey. He played for East Grand Forks high school and then went on to play for three years in Juniors. Before deciding to join Mark, who is a strength coach for the men’s hockey team, at UND for the 2013-2014 season.

At age 20, which is the oldest that a United States or Canadian player can be drafted, Tucker was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the 5th round. Colton Poolman, his younger brother or little Poolman as the team calls him, said that while they were watching the draft at home. When Tucker’s name came across the screen, their mother, LeAnne started to cry. Mark, their father, was shouting. Tucker and Colton just looked at each other with stunned faces. In the years following being drafted has not changed Tucker’s ambitions in life, and he keeps grounded with his family.

Gage Ausmus, long-time teammate and friend, describes Tucker as “a massive human being.” Ausmus had nothing but very positive things to say about the junior defenseman. He stated “One of the best things about Tucker is that he has had to work for everything he has gotten, nothing has been given to him.”  He also said that Tucker “is a great role model for kids because he is proof that hard work pays off.” Tucker said with appreciation, “It was just a huge honor, but it doesn’t change much for me. I am still going to go out and do what I did before.” He is a natural leader and doesn’t let things get him overly excited. Little Poolman said, “It’s almost like he doesn’t have a heartbeat out there. Nothing get’s him overly excited on the ice. When I come back to the bench after a bad play and hang my head, He just tells me keep your head up.” These are some of the reasons Tucker was voted to be an assistant captain for the 2016-2017 season.

The Winnipeg Jets were pressuring Tucker to sign an entry level contract this season. Despite this he wanted to stay at UND to play with Colton and to finish his degree in business economics, which he expects to complete in three years. Colton and Tucker have never been able to play on the same team together even though they are only two and a half years apart. “Little Poolman”, as the team calls Colton, said that being on the team is such an honor to be able to finally play with Tucker in organized hockey. Tucker spoke with pride “You know it’s a little different, it’s not something I was used to. We just try and keep it professional”  when referring to working with his father and brother on the same team.

Outside of having a strong relationship with his family and friends, Tucker has a unique hockey career. After graduating from East Grand Forks, he went to play for the Wichita Falls Wildcats in the NAHL for the 2011-2012 season. Throughout 59 games (out of 60) of this season, he scored seven goals and made 22 assists. For 2012-2013, he started playing for the Omaha Lancers. He stayed for throughout the 2013-2014 season. During the second season, he was named USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year, and he also served as team captain. During that season with the Lancers, the defenseman set a franchise record with 25 goals with 26 assists in 58 games, which is exciting. Coming to UND has not changed Tucker’s ability to put points on the board. In 83 games, he has had 14 goals and 31 assists.  Already this season, he has one goal and three assists in three games.

During the off-season, Tucker attended the Winnipeg Jets development camp, which is a four-day long training event were they work with their professional coaching staff and players. After returning, he gave the enlightening remark on how he could improve his performance, “It helps a lot, lots of good players there obviously, but you know just seeing how an NHL team does things and you can learn from all the players and coaches.”

This season, with only seven returning upper classmen keeping the motivation up, is going to be an adjustment. Tucker said, “It’s just the nature of college hockey. Every year, it is a new group of guys, and you have to find each other’s strengths and weaknesses.” This is going to make a returning appearance at the NCAA DI men’s national championship more difficult. That UND won last season, UND won the national championship in Tampa, Florida. This ended a 16-year drought, this was also the 8th national title banner to be raised in the Ralph Engelstad Arena. When asked about keeping the focus said nonchalantly, “you try to put it behind you and keep working towards new goals and hopefully try and win again!” Tucker said that coming back from the win was an amazing experience and that the team is looking forward to making another long playoff run this year.dsc_1154

Carson Wentz- Look Ahead

Carson Wentz, a Bismarck native and a North Dakota State University graduate was picked second overall to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2016 NFL draft. If you’re from North Dakota, then you need no introduction to Wentz. For those less familiar, he led NDSU to two out of the five consecutive FCS championships than NDSU currently holds. In his senior year he started in seven games and has a completion rate of 62.5% for 1,651 yards.  He also has 17 touchdowns with only four interceptions, along with six touchdowns for himself. Wentz was named to the College Sports Information Directors Association All-American squad for two consecutive years.

From an analytical standpoint, Wentz’s greatest strength comes from how he deals under pressure in the pocket. He is smart, and he knows when to run the ball and when to throw it. When he throws, it is high and accurate. His weakness comes from having issues with his footwork in the pocket and from locking on to the receiver that he is intending to pass to, which gives more time for defense to get to that intended player.

Coming from an FCS school, it is surprising to many that he was picked so highly.  During the first weeks of practice, it is starting to become evident that Wentz has a lot of growing to do before he will be ready to make his debut onto the NHL field. Head Coach Doug Pederson noticed that he has a wobble to the ball at times, but NDSU has seen this from him before, and a little wobble has never stopped Wentz in the past. Carson told reports this week that timing and accuracy are more important than how pretty the ball looks at the end of the day, as all rookies need to have time to get used to playing on a different level of playing. I am not saying that Wentz could not start this year and perform well if it was needed, but I do think that he needs some more time to mature.

 

 

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2016/profiles/carson-wentz?id=2555259

Wentz vs Goff:Who is Going First?

The Los Angeles Rams made a big trade this year to get to the number one pick, not that I can blame them, The Titans’ walked away with Los Angeles’ next top four picks (first, two second and a third) plus the Rams’ first and third round picks in 2017. They need to pick up a franchise quarterback and with options Carson Wentz (North Dakota State University) and Jared Goff (California), both are a shoe in for first round picks. The Rams have been lacking in the quarterback spot since Marc Bulger left town. This team is trying to compete in the NFC West with teams that have QB’s like Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer.

Carson Wentz is a good fit,because he is a very athletic and knows how to make plays in and out of the pocket. He also came from playing in a program that runs a very similar offence to what they already run. Wentz has a lot to prove coming from an FCS school. Many are questioning if Wentz can hold up under professional spotlight. One big question is how his wrist is going to hold up. Wentz was out starting in October for a broken wrist that needed surgery and only returned in January. Although he had a remarkable performance during the FBS championship game, was that just pure luck and does he have the ability to stop staring down his targets allowing defenses to read his passes?  Since the Rams did not pick up a free agent QB,Wentz has to step in right away and compete.This is a lot to handle as  starter in his rookie year.

Overall, I think that the Rams will take Wentz, he fits better into what the offense is already doing and they need a quarterback that they can develop into a franchise leader in a quarterback-laden NFC West.

Philadelphia Eagles (From the Cleveland Browns)

Jared Goff has been playing as starting QB for California since he was a true freshman and has been in scouts’ eyes since than. The Golden Bear signal-caller has the experienced the pressure that competing at a Pac 12 school provides. Goff has the ability to pick apart defenses and spends a good amount of time in the pocket allowing the receivers time to free up. He does come with some concerns, a big one is his frame at 6’4” and only 215 pounds, the question is if he can stand up to being hit by the large defensive players on a pro level. Goff also has a bad habit of not planting his feet when he throws.

The Eagles will pick Goff because they are looking to turn around a poor performing franchise . They also have a QB that has a few more years to play that would give Goff sometime to bulk up and to learn more.

Seattle Seahawks Schedule

Football season is right around the corner, that means one thing for me Seattle Seahawks!! It is second to none for me!! So, let’s talk a little about what our schedule means, the Seahawks have four preseason games. Starting the season in Kansas City on august 13th, which is the only 1:30 preseason game, followed by Vikings, Aug 18th, Cowboys, Aug 25, both these games being at home. We end the preseason at Oakland on September 1st.

This season, the Seahawks have 8 away games.Thankfully only two of these are in a row.

9-18: LA Rams

10-02: NY Jets

10-23: Arizona Cardinals

10-30: New Orleans Saints

11-13: New England Patriots

11-27: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12-11: Green Bay Packers

01-01: San Francisco 49ers

With 8 home games

9-11:Miami Dolphins

9-25: San Francisco 49ers

10-16: Atlanta Falcons

11-9: Buffalo Bills

11-20: Philadelphia Eagles

12-4: Carolina Panthers

12-15: LA Rams

12-24: Arizona Cardinals