Fighting Hawks Soar to 4-1 win over Denver: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

On Friday night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey Team earned a 4-1 win over Denver playing one of their best games of the season to date. Shane Pinto got the scoring underway on a deflection from a point shot in the first period. In the second, Bobby Brink got Denver on the board capitalizing on a rare passive penalty kill from UND. Denver ping-ponged the puck through the lane to Brink and he found the back of the net. Later in the second Brink would leave with an injury after getting his legs taken out on an interesting play where Cole Smith dove through Brink’s legs to get the puck, no penalty came from this action.

Following the Brink marker, Matt Kiersted wired home a superb wrist shot on the power play from the slot to provide the game winning goal. Collin Adams and Jacob Bernard Docker would add insurance markers to provide the final score for the evening.

In net, Peter Thome again had another quality night for the Fighting Hawks. He allowed no goals at even strength, and on the night stopped 26 of the 27 shots on net that he faced. His counterpart, Devin Cooley, did not have the best evening as he only saved 19 of the 23 shots on net he faced.

Now what? 

First off, the officiating on Friday was at best inconsistent. Multiple penalties on both sides were not called. One of the most odd non calls was not issuing even a minor penalty to Cole Smith for diving into the legs of Bobby Brink and injuring him. I understand it was a heat of the moment play and things get missed, but Smith dives into Brink’s legs while going for the puck and gets no call. Did UND have a few calls go against them? Sure they did, but to me, the non call on Brink shaped the course of the game as UND kept one of its most important defensive players in Smith for the whole game while Denver lost one of its best offensive threats in Brink .

Secondly, credit to UND for focusing on efficient shot distribution, something we have harped on all year. Of UND’s 32 shot attempts, 23 found their way on net, and Denver blocked seven of them. While the Fighting Hawks always want more offensive zone chances, their ability to be efficient with what they were given is a promising sign for the postseason, where teams play with speed and pace all game, and who wins the shots on net battle does not always equate to who wins the game. Of Denver’s 54 shot attempts, UND blocked 13 of them which means that Denver missed the net 14 times. Part of that is attributed to Thome of course, but another part arguably is the fast start of the Fighting Hawks.

As they took control of puck possession, it looked liked Denver gripped their sticks a bit tighter. The Pioneers are more than fast enough to do well against the Fighting Hawks. They had several breakaways as they almost punished UND’s defense for pinching with goals the other way, but Thome and missing the best looks stopped them.

For the finale, watch how many breakaways Denver actually puts on net. Thome has played plenty well this season on breakaways but has faced a more limited number per game than Adam Scheel, his net minding colleague. How Denver makes Thome change direction could change the direction of the series for the Pioneers.

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UND Volleyball: Retooling with Kayla Williams

(Photo Courtesy of Russell Hons/UND Athletics)

On Tuesday night, UND Volleyball fans got to see their first look at a revamped 2018 squad trying to carry its Big Sky success over to the Summit League.  This retooled squad comes with transfer Kayla Williams. The former University of Connecticut star came to North Dakota for this season and looks to take over one of the key outside hitter roles vacated by UND’s large senior class. She has already produced an immediate impact with 23 kills (16,7) in the Fighting Hawks’ first two matches, and another double digit kill effort to help UND win its first match of the season against Green Bay this morning.

Upon her transfer, VolleyMob noted some key statistics from Williams’ previous season with UCONN:

“This past season, Williams missed eight matches yet still led the Huskies in kills (310, 3.83 per set) and aces (33, 0.41 per set). She also notched 228 digs (2.81 per set) and 33 blocks (0.41 per set).”

On recruiting Williams to UND, Fighting Hawks Head Coach Mark Pryor described the importance of being able to attract talent like Kayla to UND. Williams can play all six rotations and is an outside hitter. Last year, she finished third in the American Athletic Conference in points per set. Having Williams helps UND maintain its competitive nature going into the new season in the conference. Look for the Staten Island, NY native to have an immediate impact on the Fighting Hawks this season.

From Williams’ perspective, she was drawn to UND due to the superb culture that Coach Pryor has built. She was contacted after the start of 2018. Williams came to Grand Forks during the one of the coldest parts of the year to check things out. She came when the temperature was -19 degrees outside. Atmosphere and the team, definitely not the weather first drew her to this campus to play.

Kayla describes her style on the court as ” hard working, persistent, and a little annoying.” That superb tenacity has already payed immediate dividends with her contributions to the score sheet in all three matches this season.

Away from the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, Williams appreciates the design of the campus and its overall home-like feeling it provides.

Look for more from Kayla this season as she has already proven to provide an immediate impact on the court.



Peanut Butter Jelly Time at UND

With Nick Schmaltz departing for the Chicago Blackhawks, UND now has some choices to make regarding its first line composition. Austin Poganski, Brock Boeser,and Tyson Jost are three of the best players UND has and all play a very complimentary game to one another. This would be,like a PB&J sandwich, and award winning combination for UND.

To start,Austin Poganski is a two way forward that plays a very physical game. He is an expert at screening the goalie and providing tip in goals while making it easier for defenseman to fire clean shots on net. Defensively he goes to the tough areas routinely,and wins puck battles to help start the transition back to offense. On power plays, Poganski routinely takes the attention of one or more defenseman in front of the net. He is a good box disruptor,and allows others cleaner shots on goal.

Next, Brock Boeser  is an outstanding goal scorer. His shot is the best in college hockey. Coming into this season,Brock is a prime candidate to win the Hobey Baker Award. The Minnesota native is a game-changing talent that has helped UND win games it had no business winning. The best example is the Frozen Four game against Denver last season. Boeser won the key face off that lead to Nick Schmaltz scoring the rebound goal to vault UND into the National Championship. Brock benefited from having Drake Caggiula on his line last year. Drake is an all around strong forward that provides a physical presence when needed.

Finally, Tyson Jost is a fantastic two way forward. He routinely makes outstanding passes to his linemates and makes his whole forward line better. The Canadian forward was Canada’s best skater throughout the U18 World Championships in Grand Forks, ND. Jost routinely makes Schmaltz-esque passes and sets up all those around him to generate great chances. Unlike Schmaltz, Jost seems to shoot the puck a bit more, and is not shot averse at times.

The combination of Poganski to screen defenders, and Jost to pass the puck to Boeser is an excellent one. NCHC teams cannot key in on any one player. All three can score twenty goals or more a season. The trio could combine for 100 points or more. They all work in harmony with one another, and play well off one another’s strengths. If this line is assembled and plays up to its potential, it could have North Dakota talking about the PB&J line  like they will forever talk about the CBS line.