Loveland Regional: Undrafted Free Agents to watch

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Out in beautiful Loveland, Colorado the West Regional of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament will take place tomorrow. Four superb teams are taking part. We will work to highlight one undrafted free agent (UDFA) from each team here, and what to watch for from them to help their team advance.

Click the highlighted text below to see some undrafted free agents to watch from the other regionals .We will post the Albany regional’s UDFA’s to watch for tomorrow’s games later tonight or tomorrow morning.

UDFA’s to watch: Fargo, Bridgeport

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Jaxon Nelson

On a team of many drafted players, he is one of their more physical forwards, who often plays with physicality and brings a strong defensive presence to Bob Motzko’s lineup. For him to provide scoring off the third line of the Golden Gophers and to bring some physical presence to give this team depth then an already great team has more options, which will be needed against a fast Omaha team. One thing about Nelson is worth noting, he is only a sophomore. He has three more years to develop in Motzko’s system, and given the fact that his point totals increased every year that he played in the USHL, it would not be shocking to see him take on a bigger role next season. In terms of how he plays the game, he reminds us a bit of Jasper Weatherby of the Fighting Hawks, an imposing physical two-way center that knows how to provide offense when needed.

Minnesota State

Dryden McKay

The Mavericks have the best goaltender in the country that plays for them. McKay is a 5’10” tall goaltender that is also arguably the most athletic in the country. In three seasons, he has not had a save percentage lower than .927 in his time as a Maverick, and has started the majority of games since coming to campus. Given how fast the Mavericks can score, sometimes McKay’s work can get overshadowed when they win games by big margins, as they have a few times this season. For any team to beat him this weekend, they have to earn rebound looks. The goaltenders in the WCHA are some of the hardest collectively to beat clean off the rush, and McKay is no exception. His athletic prowess, combined with his hockey sense will help him earn an NHL contract whenever he is ready to go to the next level.

Quinnipiac

Odeen Tufto

The national assists leader has some of the best hands in the game of college hockey, and is one of its better defenders from the forward position. Watching him play, one could think of how Nicklas Backstrom plays the game for the Washington Capitals, and Tufto has similar skills. His on-ice intelligence for setting up his team is near unrivaled at this level. His hands and ability to find space for plays in razor thin areas is impressive. For his Bobcats to advance, he needs to be the best skater on the ice, as well as he does, Quinnipiac will do. After the season is over, he will have his pick of NHL suitors to sign with, and deservedly so.

Omaha

Taylor Ward

From our NCHC preview back in September

“A 6-foot-2 forward with good size and versatility, Ward can play anywhere on the top line while serving as a key cog on Omaha’s offense. He finished with 27 points in each of his first two seasons, although his team-best 16 goals were nearly double from the nine he scored the season prior. Ward is a big-bodied goal scorer with soft hands and a nice touch around the net, where he likes to set up and cause havoc near the top of the crease.”

All of that has proven to be true, as the junior has 20 points in 25 games, and has again played a role around the net for Omaha. His ability to disrupt the eyes of goaltenders will be critical for Omaha as they look to take on Minnesota tomorrow. If Ward can play his role and add some points to that total then this team could show people how good they can be outside of the NCHC.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Omaha Hockey: Efficiency is everything

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

The Mavericks of the Nebraska Omaha Hockey team are one of the more efficient teams in the country when they can shoot the puck. Coming into games this evening, this team is tied for fifth in the country in shooting percentage, coming in at a 12 percent clip on the season. The Mavericks play with a speed to their game, and rely on striking first, and then defending well through their transition. That strategy, combined with the perfect weekend of hockey they faced from the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota proved to be their undoing this past weekend, as they were swept by a combined score of 11-2.

What does this past weekend mean for the Mavericks? Well, the meaning of the past is influenced by the future. That is, this team still has a lot to play for in the last two games of the regular season against the repeat Penrose Cup Champion Fighting Hawks. While they have an impressive 5-4 win against them already on their resume, one win in the last two, combined with a first round win in the NCHC Tournament would cement their place in the NCAA Tournament. If Omaha can make the Fighting Hawks defend against the transition game they play then more options open up for this team. This team is 10-1-0 when they score first, and 3-7-1 when they do not. Starts matter for every team, but this group feeds off the positive or negative of the first goal pretty significantly. Their game is reliant on racing by you, while other teams, like North Dakota, are reliant on wearing you down and then scoring goals in bunches.

The Mavericks are in a position to do a lot this season, in part because of their offense, but also because of their improved depth at the back end of the team, that has shown itself at times all season long. First off, credit to Isaiah Saville for the work he does in net for this team. While he gives up a few too many grade-a rebounds at times, his hockey sense and ability to recover are a good compliment to a team that can find itself giving up as many breakaways as it creates in a game. Certiain goalies play better on certaint types of teams, and Saville’s ability to make save after save on odd-man rushes make him a better goaltender for this group. Other goaltenders who may have a better ability to snuff out first shots also may not be as athletic as Isaiah is.

In front of Saville, this team has a diverse and deep comitee of scorers that make Omaha a threat every game. Of particular interest to us is Brandon Scanlin, sophomore defender. He has 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists) in 20 games, and compliments former Fighting Hawk Jonny Tychonick well. When either of them contributes, things end well for this group. The last win for this team against the Fighting Hawks included both of them on the scoresheet. Scanlin is only a sophomore for Head Coach Mike Gabinet, and has up to three more years in Omaha after this season due to the extra year of eligibility on offer to all 2020-2021 winter sports student-athletes to grow the offensive side of his game.

Up front, the Omaha scoring committee is still lead by three juniors, including Chayse Primeau, Tyler Weiss, and Taylor Ward. All three of this group have shown an ability to score efficiently, a big part of why this group does better when scoring first, as all three have shooting percentages of 15 percent or higher. Senior Kevin Conley clocks in fourth place in scoring, but with a better 17.2 percent shooting percentage.

Why the focus on shooting percentage? Well, Omaha is built to race by you and score, and score again on a counter attack later on in the game. They are doing that very well, and it is for that reason why they are one of the better teams in the country this season. They play a style that in the one-game elimination setting of the NCAA Tournament could prove fruitful depending on who they draw in each round. Efficiency tends to portend well to winning in the postseason over raw possession. Efficiency is why this team can compete with more physical teams like North Dakota. When the Mavericks score first, raw possession when the defense can clear pucks, and Saville makes the saves he needs to, does not mean as much. This is a team that will give any opponent in March a headache, and wants to win on their Senior Night this weekend to give UND Head Coach Brad Berry’s group one heading into the regular season finale.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

As they did last year, Omaha reminded the country of their potential in defeating UND

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Last year in January, the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha came to Ralph Engelstad Arena, and did something no other opponent was able to do last season. They beat UND on the road. They did so with six goals on 13 total shots compared to 26 shots on Omaha goaltender Isaiah Saville resulting in only three goals conceded. They also scored all of those goals at even strength.

Why are we looking back at this game?

Well, the Mavericks won each game in two completely different ways. The Saturday night win this season was due in large part to their play on special teams, converting three of their five total power plays, on route to a 5-4 victory over the Fighting Hawks. Isaiah Saville did more than enough to win making 43 saves in total and far outplayed Adam Scheel on the evening.

Beyond that, this game showed what happens to UND when a team takes advantage of their inefficiencies. That is, multiple times, Omaha struck on sound defense leading to a turnover and a quick chance the other way. The opening goal of the Saturday game scored by Chayse Primeau on a breakaway when Kirby Proctor fired a perfect pass to him as he was behind a UND defense all staring into the offensive zone. These Mavericks are built to capitalize on inefficiencies in any team, and when they are humming, they take the tinniest mistake your team makes and put them on the scoreboard as a goal for them.

Why did this weekend matter so much for these Mavericks?

Well, it was a measuring stick series for them. That is, they played with the Fighting Hawks and were able to exploit all of the small weaknesses in UND’s game on Saturday after a tough Friday night loss. They showed that UND is on their level, and they are on theirs. Regarding the national tournament picture, that is not fully known yet, as we do not know how teams will be selected. What we do know, is that Omaha, as built, is a contender to win the NCHC this year, after Mike Gabinet rebuilt the roster, relying on up-tempo players who can also defend.

Donate: To help us cover more games and more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell

Omaha-UND: Three predictions for the weekend

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Tonight, the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha take on the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota at Baxter Arena, in a game featuring one of the best Omaha teams since Ryan Massa lead them to the Frozen Four in 2015. Below are some thoughts on what will happen this weekend. Keep in mind that both starting goaltenders have the same save percentage heading into this game, yet Adam Scheel plays behind a more defensive defense. That is, UND gives up less shots on net per game, but arguably, the speed of Omaha’s is a bit higher. With that mind, here are three predictions for the weekend.

A split or better for Omaha is likely

Despite all of the adulation UND has been receiving, and rightly so for their play this far, due to the unbalanced schedule, they have not faced Omaha at all to this point. The Omaha group this year has the speed and scoring of St. Cloud, with a bit more physical prowess in front of the net. Because of that, this is the most complete team UND will play prior to the NCAA Tournament, should one happen. It takes a lot to get this Fighting Hawks team out of their rhythm for a full game, but when it happens, it happens fast and pretty uniformly. When Denver ran their Friday night win over UND, they did so by scoring first and forcing more mistakes from a team not used to making them. Omaha’s speed and scoring lead by Taylor Ward, coupled with the play of Isaiah Saville in net will get the Mavericks far this weekend.

Adam Scheel’s save percentage will decrease

The reason why Scheel’s goals against is one of the best at 1.77 goals per game, yet his save percentage is tied with Saville at .928 is because of the shot suppression skills of the team in front of him. UND is one of the most gifted teams in the country at shot suppression. Given that this team has to play Omaha for six of their final eight games, barring a perfect run of play, Scheel’s somewhat gaudy numbers will reflect the reality of where he is nationally. He is a top 20 goalie in the country that is made to look top eight because of the defense in front of him. Scheel’s biggest consistent concern is giving up high-danger rebounds that go in the back of his net. Omaha’s speed makes it harder for Scheel to get away with playing some rebounds how he has, thus the gap in his statistics whenever UND is unable to box out in front of the net.

Isaiah Saville will once again remind the nation how good he is this weekend

To have the numbers Saville has, facing more shots per game than Scheel, by a significant amount, is impressive. His lateral movement is close to NHL-ready now, and if his game can stay calm against the Fighting Hawks this weekend, than Omaha is in a much better position to use the inherent speed advantage they have over the Fighting Hawks to score more. Goalies that have any rebound control and lateral movement do well in most places, and Saville had enough of it to make his Mavericks the last team to beat UND in Grand Forks. Every indication of his resume this year shows he can do it again. When UND does have their game going, Saville’s ability to eliminate grade a looks through his positioning and movement will be the difference for Omaha this weekend.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell

How Omaha can beat the Fighting Hawks: Find the power play

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

The Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha are the fastest team UND will see the rest of the way this season. Team speed in the opposition alone gives UND pause, but there is another thing Omaha has to do with that speed in order to win this weekend.

Draw penalties

While UND has a size and strength advantage on most teams, Omaha included, they are also more undisciplined than the Mavericks. They have made up for it with a sterling penalty kill, getting through 88.24 percent of their short-handed time unscathed. With that said, Omaha is putting home 20.37 percent of their power play chances. This team is fast enough with Kevin Conley and Taylor Ward, amongst others, working to get their teams as many reps as possible.

Why does this matter?

Well, UND’s penalty kill is typically more aggressive when teams like to dither in the offensive zone and pass the puck looking for the perfect opportunity. Colorado College did this frequently, and thieir extra chances to score fell by the wayside. Omaha’s system is one more comprised of simplicity off its own speed, leading to more shots on net, and rebounds. Despite his sterling record, Adam Scheel’s biggest liability is getting over laterally on rebounds to prevent that second or third look from going into the net. Taylor Ward, and others for the Mavericks like to make good defenses defend, and know how to get shots on net quickly. This year, Omaha also can arguably afford to be aggressive, because Isaiah Saville has an identical save percentage to Scheel, and is quite decent stopping breakaway attempts.

The speed of the Mavericks will utimately generate some extra power play time for them, and do not sleep on the Omaha penalty kill as well. It leads the nation, killing 94 percent of its short-handed work without harm to the scoreline.

While Omaha will of course take advantage of some power play looks, the bigger prize to them is arguably getting UND out of his rythym. Despite having the skill and makeup to play two top lines and plug guys in, Head Coach Brad Berry is choosing to spread out his best players and vary the lines as much as possible. If you want all four lines to play equally, killing too many penalties is not good for that mission, because it forces teams to shorten their bench for not ideal reasons. Eventually, that will come back to harm this team, and as we said monday, this Omaha team will make UND pay for more of their penalties, especially the needless ones in the offensive zone.

For all of their talent and skill, the Fighting Hawks are one of the more undisciplined teams in the country based on the amount of penalties they take per game, and where they typically take them. If they keep things simple and race to the net, Omaha can take advantage of that. Last year, the Mavericks shattered the aura of Ralph Engelstad Arena and proved that a team playing the right way can beat the Fighting Hawks on home ice. This year, Omaha looks to use this series to again catapult them to a higher position in the race for a NCAA Tournament selection.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell

Attention NCHC: Omaha is here

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

As we said last month, the Mavericks of Omaha are very much for real, their speed game is finally being complimented with consistent defense to allow the skill of their starting goaltender, Isaiah Saville, to shine through.

We will reintroduce most of the key players on this team with an excerpt from our preview of Omaha

As we wrote back in September in our NCHC preview for Steve Kournianos Draft Analyst on these Mavericks:

“The Mavericks display a free-flowing, up-tempo style that is at its best when it forces the opponent to defend on turnovers. Although they were hit hard with several key graduations on defense, the goaltending of starter Isaiah Saville (VGK 5th/2019) will play a critical role in whether or not Omaha can finish above .500 for the first time since 2016. Additionally, coach Mike Gabinet will ice two critical transfers in former North Dakota puck-moving defenseman Jonny Tychonick (OTT 2nd/2018) and ex-Michigan winger Jack Randl (2000). They will join a trio of top-scoring wingers in Tyler Weiss (COL 4th/2018)Taylor Ward (1998), and Kevin Conley (1997). Therefore, scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem considering the notable transfers and returning firepower up front. It should be the Mavericks’ ability to limit the chances against, however, and minimizing the amount of energy Saville has to expend that could swing Omaha into one of its best finishes in recent team history.”

This team, and the players listed in this preview, are contenders for the Penrose Cup this season, full stop. Over his time this season, Taylor Ward has been one of the more impressive forwards in the country, leading his team with seven goals scored so far. Omaha plays a balanced game as eleven of it skaters are averaging at least a point every other game (.5 points per game or better).

Why does this matter?

Well take the Fighting Hawks, their opponent this weekend. Only eight of its skaters meet that same standard of depth. In addition, between the two teams, we see the better goaltender wearing whatever uniform Omaha will wear each night. Isaiah Saville is one of the more chronically underrated goaltenders in the country, let alone the NCHC. He comes into the weekend with nearly identical statistics to Adam Scheel, the likely starter for UND. The pair both have a .928 save percentage, and based on watching the two of them faceoff over their careers, Saville is the one more ready to move to the next level, now, not Scheel. It is harder to get a read on the impact of a goaltender like Scheel who has constantly played behind one of the best defenses in the country, than it is Saville. While Omaha’s defense has improved, helping with some of Saville’s improvement, it still relies on speed and breakaways more than teams like UND to get goals.

This opens up Saville to face more high-danger looks, an area where he showcases his superb lateral movement to make the play. When you play behind defenses like Scheel is used to being behind, you tend to not get a sense of what your own numbers mean. When you are the goalie on a team that is more up-tempo and can win regardless of a shot clock, well, you learn about your goalie pretty fast. The other area we see a sterling record from on Saville’s success is his rebound control. He typically makes the first save in a sequence and will concede a low quality chance, or none at all more than Scheel, who is prone to higher danger on his rebounds.

Back to the team in front of Saville, they are fast. We note this because this speed at high capacity is often tough to play against for teams like UND who prefer to play teams with one “big” line and shut them down through out working them. While you can outwork Omaha, most in this country, including UND, may have trouble outskating them. The Mavericks live on the edge a lot more than UND, but this year, for them, it is paying off with their strong 9-4-1 start against a conference full of teams that play similar styles to UND.

As we said last month, and will bring home here, noting this was written before the originally scheduled start to the NCHC season for UND was postponed:

“How this team plays UND this weekend and beyond in the second half will show how much these Mavericks have grown. How they can play the Fighting Hawks on back-to-back nights and what they do to agitate their system will once again serve as a model for other teams, and come tournament time will probably be used by coaches of other teams to pre-scout ways to beat them, or at least make their lives a bit more difficult on the ice.”

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell

Attention NCHC: Beware of Omaha

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Every year for the past three, we have covered the Mavericks of Omaha when they play the Fighting Hawks. Each time in those spans they have put together efforts centered on speed and transition, while needing some timely goaltending. The margins have gotten consistently closer, and the Mavericks have put on tape a road map to beat one of the top teams in the country.

This year is no different, in the need to heed the Mavericks of the NCHC.

As we wrote back in September in our NCHC preview for Steve Kournianos Draft Analyst on these Mavericks:

“The Mavericks display a free-flowing, up-tempo style that is at its best when it forces the opponent to defend on turnovers. Although they were hit hard with several key graduations on defense, the goaltending of starter Isaiah Saville (VGK 5th/2019) will play a critical role in whether or not Omaha can finish above .500 for the first time since 2016. Additionally, coach Mike Gabinet will ice two critical transfers in former North Dakota puck-moving defenseman Jonny Tychonick (OTT 2nd/2018) and ex-Michigan winger Jack Randl (2000). They will join a trio of top-scoring wingers in Tyler Weiss (COL 4th/2018)Taylor Ward (1998), and Kevin Conley (1997). Therefore, scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem considering the notable transfers and returning firepower up front. It should be the Mavericks’ ability to limit the chances against, however, and minimizing the amount of energy Saville has to expend that could swing Omaha into one of its best finishes in recent team history.”

All of this still rings true, and now Omaha has everyone on notice with their strong play in the NCHC Pod. Boasting a 6-3-1 record, these Mavericks seem to be living up to the promise that their previous two iterations had, but never fully capitalized on. The past month showed how we underestimated how far this team has come. We picked the Mavericks fifth in the referenced article, and feel comfortable moving them into the top four at minimum.

During the Pod, this team was shown to play the same style that Mike Gabinet has been using over the past few years. That is, they attack fast, downhill, and care not for staying in their opponent’s end for too long unless they are celebrating a really good goal. Last year, it was jarring to see this team come to Ralph Engelstad Arena and knock off the Fighting Hawks playing this way. This year, that January night proved not to be a one-off, but a positive harbinger of the future for these Mavericks. Saville has gotten better since that game in January, through his improved rebound control and ability to play odd-man rushes, as an example. There are many more as Ward and Conley have each seemed to progress closer to an NHL look following the end of their time in Omaha. They both are catalysts for the speed game Gabinet likes all five skaters to play consistently.

If the Fighting Hawks play a buttoned up system game that relies on cycles and wearing down opponents, Omaha is their polar opposite. The Mavericks gain the zone, and get shots on net, whilst always looking to make the simple pass and carry the puck through the neutral zone instead of dumping the puck in deep. They have a goalie that allows them to play this way in Saville, and when he is on his game, very few in the country can put home anything against him.

How this team plays UND this weekend and beyond in the second half will show how much these Mavericks have grown. How they can play the Fighting Hawks on back-to-back nights and what they do to agitate their system will once again serve as a model for other teams, and come tournament time will probably be used by coaches of other teams to pre-scout ways to beat them, or at least make their lives a bit more difficult on the ice.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of 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.

UND Earns 4-1 Saturday Victory over Omaha: What’s Next?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Last night at another sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks earned a 4-1 Saturday victory over the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha. Collin Adams potted the game winner in the first period, and was joined in his scoring efforts by Casey Johnson, Mark Senden, and Shane Pinto. Taylor Ward added a goal for the Mavericks on the loss.

What happened? Well as Mavericks Head Coach Mike Gabinet noted on Friday night, his team needed to do better supporting the puck carrier in the offensive zone and build some cycle time into the game to slow down UND. The Mavericks were very unable to do that last night. Every time they found the zone, they would get an occasional look or two than have to back check against a UND team that often times likes to reside in its opponents’ defensive zone.

UND Assistant Coach Dane Jackson noted the improvement in his defense from Friday. The Fighting Hawks tracked Omaha better and made zone entry a lot more contested, leading to less offensive zone time for the Mavericks and UND’s eventual goals.

The Mavericks had plenty of chances to earn the sweep, but hit three posts on the evening. In addition, they had multiple odd-man looks that went wide of the net and required no action from Adam Scheel, who played well in net making 18 saves on 19 shots faced.

Finally, Shane Pinto did play well on this night for the most part, but did something very unnecessary that could have him on the wrong end of some supplementary discipline from the NCHC. He retaliated for a marginal hit from Joey Abate with arguably one of the least disciplined choices in his arsenal. Pinto came back over to Abate when the play was moving away from that area and violently cross checked him in the back, right between the numbers as well. He rightly earned a game misconduct and a five minute major which UND did survive unscathed; however that is not the point of this part of the recap. If the NCHC wants to showcase itself as the best league in Men’s College Hockey that cares about its players, it needs to strongly consider suspending Pinto for the opener of UND’s Miami of Ohio series next weekend if not more. Has UND had bad things happen to their players and not get called majors or result in suspensions, well yes, the knee on Jacob Bernard-Docker Friday night was pretty bad but was in the run of play and the Maverick who caused that did not do anything but skate through the area. Pinto went back and cross-checked Abate for some odd reason away from the play. Doing things to players away from the play that are injurious in nature deserves a harsh looking at and potential suspension. Pinto is one of the best players on this team and he has been and still is a joy to watch for the Fighting Hawks, this is an issue with the game itself. When players retaliate and its away from the play, there needs to be action taken to discourage it in the future. Ask yourself this, in the NHL if a player on the other team did that to one of your favorite players how would you feel?

Let’s move on to next week now for UND.

For Miami of Ohio what I would like to see from this team 

First off, Adam Scheel played great Saturday, but I will note this until Peter Thome this year gives me reason not to do so. Thome needs to play one night next weekend. He stabilized the team Friday night after Scheel was pulled, and looked calmer in his game on limited work than he did through a lot of last year. While Jackson noted that Scheel has been “money in the bank” for this team, in a sport where losing one game in its tournament ends your season, that statement alone should not justify sitting Thome all year. If Scheel is injured or has a bad game or two ahead, one would think seeing more from Thome would be reassuring to fans of this team. Ask St. Cloud State fans about how good “money in the bank” is from a goalie come Tournament time the past two seasons. Scheel looked better, but Omaha also did not capitalize on some odd man chances and did not event test him on a few of them. Having two goalies that can play and  limiting the workload of your number one (Scheel) occasionally should not be viewed as any sort of bad thing.

With that said, one more thing to watch as the team heads on the road to Oxford to take on Miami of Ohio. That team, much like the Mavericks, plays a transition game and likes to score laterally on the rush. The defense of the Fighting Hawks needs to be able to track the forwards through the neutral zone consistently to ensure smooth sailing on the road. The RedHawks scored most of their goals in their November series here in transition on lateral feeds to get Scheel moving the wrong way.

Here are some thoughts from Jasper Weatherby on the weekend and UND’s next opponent

 

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially 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 we write as a supporter of 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 Hangs on for Home Ice in 2-2 Tie: Gardner Saves Senior Night With Three-on-Three OT Winner

(All Photos used in this recap are courtesy of Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 12, 093 screaming fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota did just enough to secure another postseason series in front of their fans. They earned a 2-2 tie against St. Cloud State guaranteeing them a home date with Nebraska Omaha next weekend. They also built a little momentum winning the three-on-three overtime with a superb shot from forward Rhett Gardner 04:14 into the three-on-three frame.

UND was lead offensively by junior defenseman Christian Wolanin. He had primary assists on all three goals and keyed the offensive attack for UND. Wolanin also tied Austin Poganski for the blocked shot lead last night with three.

On senior night, freshman Grant Mismash took a Wolanin  point shot and fired it past St. Cloud goalie David Hrenak from the slot to give the Fighting Hawks a 1-0 lead 5 minutes into the game. UND would generate a lot of chances in the first but could not add any insurance to their initial 1-0 lead.

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14:39 into the 2nd period Rhett Gardner got the puck on his stick off a perfect cross-ice feed from Wolanin. The Dallas Stars’ prospect had enough time to get the perfect corner picked and he did not miss.

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The third period was not kind to UND. Canadians super prospect Ryan Poehling scored another superb goal on a re-direct from a Robby Jackson shot on the power play 02:42 into the final frame. A few minutes later, 09:42 into the third, Grand Forks native Jacob Benson sent the fans in his hometown in to a panic for the final few minutes of the game. He went top shelf on Cam Johnson just after another power play had ended.

UND called timeout, and head coach Brad Berry reminded his team that “hey, we’re fine.”  Berry was able to calm the ensuing storm from St. Cloud and helped steer his team into the first overtime frame where it generated two shots on net. Neither of them found the back of the net, and UND guaranteed home ice at the end of the first overtime based on Omaha and Colorado College’s regulation losses.

Next week, UND can hopefully learn its lessons from this series to play against Omaha. The Mavericks bring the best power play in the conference, lead by the best player on the power play, senior forward David Pope, to the Ralph. UND gave up five power plays last night, and one goal shorthanded. UNO converts just over 25 percent of their power plays, so staying out of the penalty box next weekend will be crucial for the Fighting Hawks.

 

(Game Highlights, Video Courtesy of UND Insider)

 

 

 

 

 

UNO Power Play Grounds Fighting Hawks: A Recap Plus 3 Thoughts for Tonight

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of 10,133 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks dropped their second half opener to the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks 4-1. The Mavericks utilized two power play goals, timely goaltending from Evan Weninger, and team speed to generate countless high percentage looks to take this game. Fredrik Olofsson, Luke Nogard, David Pope, and Zach Jordan contributed tallys for the Mavericks. Shane Gersich provided the only UND goal 17:23 into the first period on a penalty shot. Weninger made 34 saves for the Mavericks, while his counterpart Cam Johnson only made 17 saves for UND.

In the first period, UND played with five defenseman for over half of the frame due to a Christian Wolanin ten minute misconduct. The junior defenseman also took a holding minor on the play. The Mavericks did not convert on their first power play chance but took advantage of UND playing without their defensive leader later on.

10:44 into the game, Zack Jordan beautifully screened Cam Johnson and Fredrik Olaffson took a pass from Tristan Keck on a Matt Kiersted turnover and rifled one past Johnson to give the Mavericks an early lead 1-0 lead.

17:23 into the first period, just after the Fighting Hawks stifled the Mavericks power play for the second time in the first frame, forward Shane Gersich walked in on a breakaway and was hauled down by a Mavericks defender. He converted his penalty shot chance thanks to a slow build up and picking the perfect time to wrist one through the five hole of  Weninger to tie things up heading into the first intermission.

In the second frame, Omaha withstood an early barrage of UND chances, The Fighting Hawks matched their eight shots on net from the first early in the second. Despite that, and several chances on their power play UND could not convert.  UND out shot UNO 20-7 in the second. Despite that, a mere eight UND shot attempts of their 30 in the frame came from inside and below the faceoff dots in the low slot.

8:20 into the second period, Luke Nogard put home a puck through the five hole Cam Johnson on a Zach Jordan shot. The power play tally gave the Mavericks their second lead of the evening.  Capitals prospect and Mavericks forward Steven Spinner contributed a secondary assist. He generated some time in the corner on the power play, saw the opening to feed Jordan, and did not misfire the pass.

Less than four minutes later, David Pope took a superb feed from Ryan Jones and  rifled  one past Johnson from just outside the right faceoff circle to give UNO a two goal lead 12:17 into the second

Finally, in the third period, Zach Jordan capitalized on an offensive zone turnover, walked in and went top shelf glove side on Johnson to provide the final  4-1 margin 09:44 into the final frame.

Both teams are back at it for the series finale tonight at 7:07 PM at the Ralph.

 

Three Thoughts 

  • UND needs to improve on generating higher quality chances. The Mavericks did an outstanding job at blocking shots and limiting second-chance opportunities. On Saturday, UND has to work on making quicker passes along the boards and make more in-cutting plays instead of going for dump-and-chase or shoot in type plays when entering the offensive zone. The Fighting Hawks have an outstanding ability to forecheck but need to use their own speed to get the puck into the offensive zone more. The UNO defense did an outstanding job limiting opportunities to retrieve the puck on chip-and-chase plays from UND all night.
  • The Fighting Hawks have been at their best when they can generate more goalie screens. They did not do enough of that against the Mavericks. Look for some of UND’s line changes tonight to be geared towards generating more net front presence.
  • Give credit to UNO. They won 31 of 67 draws against one of the best faceoff teams in the nation. While UND won the faceoff battle, that stat was largely influenced by Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones (15/8, and 10/8) having good nights at the dot. The rest of the UND forwards to take a draw finished no better than 50 percent on the evening.