Deep Depth Lead by Leet Spurs UND Women to 68-57 Win Over Omaha

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Coming into tonight’s key Summit League matchup, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks were 2-1 in the league and had a unique challenge. They had to figure out how to get a lot of scoring without Lexi Klabo, Summit League scoring leader. In addition, they had to content with a 2-3 zone from Omaha designed to force them to convert on more outside shots.

Both of these quandaries were solved by the team gelling throughout including a 17 point second quarter where the team outscored the Mavericks by six (17-11). As the game wore on Fighting Hawks fans got a glimpse of how deep this team is through multiple players. Julia Fleecs, making her first start had a superb night from the field ending with 14 points to pace the Fighting Hawks on offense. Her leadership combined with the depth of the Fighting Hawks lead the way.

The player that provided the most help in strengthening the depth of the team and that stood out most tonight was Melissa Leet. She was able to neutralize Mavericks’ forward Elena Pilakouta throughout the evening and provided some timely wing shooting to stretch the defense. She finished with nine points on the evening. Leet noted the help of her team in getting her to this point. For example, her work  with Faith Dooley in practice was one of the encouragements for her developing an improved outside game. Dooley’s post presence has provided an opportunity for Leet to work on other parts of her game.

As Head Coach Travis Brewster noted, if Leet can continue this contribution  it would be a big boost to the team. Having Klabo and Dooley with Leet able to spell either one would preserve everyone a bit more and give UND another player who can shoot the wing shot a bit more consistently.

UND’s ability to maintain a strong post game and shoot the outside ball, in the rhythm of the offense are the key to this team’s success moving forward. The delicate balance of this will determine how far this team will go. If players like Leet can add into what starters like Alaina Jarnot (3-4 from beyond the three point line, 13 points on the evening) did, then this team has no limit.

UND faces a test players noted was similar to Denver on Sunday in Western Illinois. The Leathernecks are a high-tempo three point shooting squad. UND gave up 13 threes on 22 attempts against Denver. For Sunday to go a bit differently, look for UND to contain the tempo and limit quality threes for the Leathernecks. How UND responds to the pushed pace will determine how Sunday will go.

Fast Start Propels UND to 4-1 Friday Night Win over Denver Plus Thoughts on Series Finale

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, North Dakota had started to find a formula to play well in the NCHC, get a fast start and then follow that with stout defense. They got all of that with a 4-1 victory over the Denver Pioneers in front of 10,949 loud fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday night.

Gavin Hain provided the fast start. On a Mark Senden contested faceoff win, Hain took the puck from his left wing spot, and walked in on Denver netminder Devin Cooley. with limited space, Hain was able to pull the puck to his backhand and open up just enough space to go glove side on the Denver netminder. 7:46 in to the first period, UND had their first lead of the night.

5:10 later, Hain’s line would strike again. This time, Senden would benefit from the play of his other wing, Cole Smith. Taking on multiple Pioneers, Smith fed an area pass to Senden in front of the net. Instantly he was able to convert the one-timer to make it a 2-0 Fighting Hawks lead.

That first period start, combined with UND goalie Adam Scheel making all seven saves in the second period on some better looks for the Pioneers gave UND a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. That effort, combined with a perfect penalty kill for the Fighting Hawks helped them to their lead.

A few minutes into the third, the Fighting Hawks would add to their lead. Nick Jones did yeoman-like work behind the net and created time and space to wire a superb pass to Matt Kiersted. The sophomore defender wired the 13th shot of the night past Cooley to provide UND a 3-0 lead. That margin would not remain all night as 9:29 into the third, Colin Staub fired in a Ryan Barrow feed from close in to make it a 3-1 game and give Denver their first goal of the weekend.

Finally, after a missed Brett Stapley penalty shot for Denver with 2:02 left, Colton Poolman would then provide the final margin with an empty net marker. Adam Scheel got the only assist on this goal. He finished the evening saving 21 of the 22 shots he faced.

Two Thoughts for the Series Finale 

Finish Strong 

UND needs to do a better job maintaining their pressure. In the third period, Denver outshot UND 9-2 with a goalie in net for the Pioneers. While UND did score on one of those shots, the pressure they build throughout the game needs to be consistent in the third period. If it wanes like that against more skilled teams like Denver, starting Saturday night, then the Fighting Hawks will risk losing hard-earned leads throughout the season.

Maintain Shot Quality 

UND needs to continue their pressure in the offensive zone. The Fighting Hawks were a lot more selective with their chances and it showed in their efficiency. They finished with three goals against Cooley on 14 shots. While they need to play a consistent game with 5-12 shots or more per period, they also did improve in the quality of their chances.

 

 

Now What? Three Thoughts on 6-2 UND Loss to Western Michigan

Well, that happened. Last night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota played arguably its worst game of the season as they lost a 6-2 NCHC conference matchup to the Western Michigan Broncos. The Fighting Hawks did get two more goals on this night than in the series opener Friday, however, Western Michigan scored six goals in between them to provide the final margin. After the game, the mood was obviously somber among the Fighting Hawks. Thankfully, UND has a home thanksgiving weekend non-conference series to prepare for this weekend against Alaska Anchorage. The Fighting Hawks will no doubt review every error from Saturday, and every close bounce from Friday as they look to change their fortunes against the Seawolves. Here are some thoughts on the weekend and what’s next for UND.

With Wade Allison Western Michigan Can Surprise Some People 

Western Michigan got its star winger back for the Saturday night affair, Wade Allison, and he made an impact right away. The Flyers’ prospect contributed a goal and an assist in the effort. He did skate limited minutes as the game went on and the margin was widened. However, on the power play, his shot for a goal was pitch perfect, and showed that with more time he can be even better. If the Broncos are able to keep him healthy and rested, they will sneak up on more teams like what they did to North Dakota on Saturday.

Platoon Possibilities in Net

Both of UND’s main goalies, Adam Scheel and Peter Thome, have had ups and downs this season. Scheel was the man in net for the five game win streak that accounted for all of UND’s wins so far this season. Thome had a good game Friday and a nice freshman season earning playing time as the main backup. If not for a fluky double deflection on Friday, Thome could have had a much better result. That said, I mentioned the Lakers solution to goaltending as an idea, at least for a little bit. Fighting Hawks’ Head Coach Brad Berry typically likes to find a starter and stick with them which normally makes sense. This year, to start, things have been a bit different. Both goalies have had highs and lows to their game, and both play a similar style. It could be a change of pace if each goalie knew that they had one game to prepare for each week, as UND has not utilized a pure platoon system in at least the past few years. This system can help the coaches play to the strengths of each goalie, and help both further develop their games faster. Goalies need ice time to develop. Seeing what each could do with an equal share of starts through the holiday break would be a change of pace that UND could use.

Improve the Power Play

The Fighting Hawks look their best on the power play when they get pucks and bodies to the net as fast and simply as  Jasper Weatherby’s goal on Saturday illustrated. He banged home a rebound on a Gabe Bast point shot to score the lone tally until the last minute of the third period in the finale. This power play stood out to me as a model for the rest of the season. If UND can simplify its game, and get more people to the front of the net, good things can and will happen. Weatherby’s size and ability to redirect pucks are superb, and despite his role as a center, it may be worth having him on the wing on a power play unit and clogging the goalie’s vision on future chances.

Once Nick Jones returns from his injury, having Weatherby play a wing position and playing on Rhett Gardner or Jones’ wing would immediately provide deeper depth to a power play that generates chances, but could stand to generate a few more high quality chances.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

Bank on It: Nick Jones Sends UND Back to the Frozen Faceoff with OT Game Winner

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

Grand Forks, ND

53 seconds into overtime, the bank was open for the University of North Dakota. Forward Nick Jones picked up the overtime winner for the Fighting Hawks off of Omaha goalie Evan Weninger. Jones tied the game for UND in the third period on a redirect past a screened Weninger on the power play.The junior forward took a rebound from a Jordan Kawaguchi shot, and used the positioning of Weninger to his advantage.In addition, that goal provided Kawaguchi with his first collegiate assist. His two tallies provided the difference for a UND side that needed a spark after giving up another two goal lead. The Jones tally sent 10351 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena home happy.

This sweep in the NCHC First Round keeps UND’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament alive. They still have more work to do. The only thing this win guarantees the Fighting Hawks is two more games next weekend. It also showed that UND can come back from deficits, and that its experience in numerous overtime games helped equip them for tough situations like tonight.

After a long review it was determined that Matt Kiersted opened the scoring 10:13 into the game as he just squeaked the puck over the goal line before Weninger pulled the puck out of the net.

A few minutes later Bowen took a feed from Trevor Olson and walked in on breakaway. He went forehand-backhand to put the puck past Weninger 14:05 into the first.

The Mavericks answered right back as  Teemu Pulkkinen redirected a powerful Lucas Buchta wrist shot past Cam Johnson 15:28 into the first. UNO got its first goal in its last six periods. on that tally.

Pulkkinen would strike again in the second period, and tie things up for the Mavericks. UNO fought back from the first period and played UND even throughout the second frame and into the third period. In the third stanza, Jake Randolph gave UNO the lead 5:41 into the final regulation frame.

Nick Jones would score the first of his two goals on a redirect past Weninger. Jones’ net front presence made it impossible for Weninger to see the puck. The score would remained tied for the final 9:46 of regulation time.

UND will await the results of the Miami-St. Cloud, and Colorado College-Denver game threes tomorrow. These results determine UND’s opponent on Friday in St. Paul.  The Fighting Hawks still have to win at least one if not both games depending on their opponents next weekend. In addition, UND cannot cough up another two goal lead, this habit has cost them games and almost hurt them tonight.

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

What a Difference a Day Makes: UND Earns 5-1 Victory Over Colorado College

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)

In front of  11,860 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks played in a must-win game over Colorado College. They did not disappoint their fans tonight. They earned a 5-1 victory thanks to strong special teams play resulting in two power play goals, and timely goaltending from Peter Thome.

In a completely different first period than last night, UND controlled the pace of play throughout. Although they did not score, they had Colorado College on their heels. This pace was consistent throughout the rest of the game.

Finally, for UND things looked up in the second period, the Fighting Hawks earned some five-on-three time on the power play. They did not convert on the two man advantage, as Joel Janatuinen  buried a rebound on a Shane Gersich sharp-angle shot to give UND the 1-0 lead 9:23 into the 2nd .

A few minutes later, Christian Wolanin fired a perfect shot on the power play off Colorado College goalie Alex Leclerc. It never got to him, it went off of the shin pad of Austin Poganski and over to Shane Gersich. The Capitals draft pick made no mistake, and deposited the rebound into a wide open net to give UND its first two goal lead on the weekend.

The third period featured a superb start for the Fighting Hawks. A mere 57 seconds into the final frame, Austin Poganski took a feed from Johnny Simonson and raced in and fired a superb shot past Leclerc short side to give UND its first five-on-five goal of the evening.

Colorado College would answer back, as with 13:24 left in the game, Nick Halloran took a feed from Troy Conzo and fired a perfectly placed shot past Peter Thome to bring the Tigers within two goals.

A few minutes later, UND restored their 3 goal lead as Grant Mismash created time and space in the offensive zone. The Predators’ prospect fired a shot that went off Leclerc, off of Jordan Kawaguchi, and to Janatuinen, who did not miss the open net. The Finnish forward was credited with his second goal of the evening.

Grant Mismash was not done.

A few minutes after he started the play that lead to the second Janatuinen tally, he created his own goal. He took a feed from Trevor Olson , walked in and went top shelf on Leclerc 11:43 into the third to make it a 5-1 game.  That would be the final margin of victory for UND.

UND heads on the road next weekend to Omaha to take on the University of Nebraska Omaha. If UND can mimic some of what it did tonight through playing through the middle of the ice, generating high percentage chances, and using a strong forecheck to limit Omaha’s top line, then the result could possibly be similar to tonight. The Fighting Hawks did not clinch anything tonight, but showed that they can compete when they play their brand of  hockey.