Fighting Hawks earn sweep with 3-1 win over Denver: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, the Fighting Hawks cemented a series sweep over Denver with a 3-1 hard-earned victory. Matt Kiersted, Collin Adams, and Jasper Weatherby (empty net) all notched markers to help the Fighting Hawks get closer to the next goal, winning the NCHC Penrose Cup.

How did it happen? Well Peter Thome was arguably the best player on defense fo the Fighting Hawks. He managed to make 25 saves on 26 shots tonight. To add to that, UND Head Coach Brad Berry said that he did it ” in style”. The Pioneers through streches of the second and third period played peskier hockey and turned UND over. Multiple times they had multiple looks in close on Thome, but to his credit he handled the challenge well. His counterpart, Magnus Chrona played really well making his first start at the Ralph. He finished the night with 21 saves on 23 shots in a game fans may see again in St. Paul at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, or perhaps at the Frozen Four in Detroit this April. This game not only had the feel of playoff hockey, but a top-end, herculean battle worthy of the national spotlight,

Now What?

For Denver, well, if you are Head Coach David Carle, you show your team the video of the weekend in two parts. First, you show them all the good things they did to get looks. Last night Denver had more shot attempts and different types of looks for Thome to see. Tonight, were more close-in rebounds, but tough shots never the less. In part two of the film, you question what you need to do better as a team in the rest of the regular season and postseason to bury more of those looks. Denver had plenty of chances to earn a win tonight, even while missing one of the best rookies in the country, Bobby Brink, on a play last night where Cole Smith clipped him and avoided any sort of penalty somehow. Denver being able to put together arguably a better game without Brink in the lineup bodes well for the Pioneers,

Why?

Well Denver is a younger team this year akin to the last two UND has fielded. The difference here is overall team speed. The Pioneers are much faster than the last two UND iterations. The difference between the groups is the ability of speed to make up for a wide array of mistakes. Turning play over quickly on defense and transitioning is a hallmark of Denver Hockey, and this team is no different in that sense. Doing it with more depth players involved bodes well for the national tournament as speed and transition often sets the tone for goaltending and everything else. Ask AIC how much speed mattered to them earning the win over St. Cloud last spring, they will probably spend hours discussing it.

For UND, this weekend showed a lot of things good and bad. A lot more good was shown, but we will talk about both here in some measure. First, to the good, again Jasper Weatherby and Shane Pinto were solid up the middle for the Fighting Hawks. each won a large majority of their draws (11-5, 10-2) and set the tone for the forwards all night. Weatherby’s ability to play defense and utilize his frame has grown in his time at UND, and tonight he rewarded himself for his work with the empty net goal to seal things.

Peter Thome played well, again. His ability to track pucks through traffic, and pick up that complete skill in one offseason has been a sight to behold. He does not overreact to goals any more, and the one allowed tonight came on a shot off the boards going right to Brett Edwards who fired a goal to the middle part of the right side of the net before Thome could react. In close Thome seemed to get better with each multi-save sequence, and as we have been saying here all year, has been worthy of more looks and he has run with them. We would like to see some more of Adam Scheel as the year winds down but when the postseason starts, until proven otherwise it is Thome’s net to defend, every night his watch begins anew now (for those who do not know, Thome has the Night King on his mask and is a huge Game of Thrones fan).

What should UND work on off this weekend before facing a resurgent St. Cloud on the road next weekend? Well i do not think many crews will let as many things grow as the one run by Voss and Wieler did this past weekend. On both sides, a lot of uncalled penalties were left to slide, and other officials we be tougher on the physical game UND plays, seeing the team adapt to different officiating styles will be something to watch, especially in the NCAA Tournament as you never have an official from the NCHC officiating a UND or any other NCHC game.

All in all UND had a good weekend, Denver had some good moments to build on and has some things to fix, like finding the net more, and a great weekend of college hockey took place. Now for the Fighting Hawks, St. Cloud State awaits, take them lightly at your own peril fans.

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.

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.

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 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.

Bring the Chargers to the Winter Classic: A few reasons why

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Next year, the Minnesota Wild will host the 2021 Winter Classic at Target Field as part of a celebration of the game in Minnesota. As part of this celebration one would have to think given the history of Minnesota College Hockey, a Minnesota team would also get to play outdoors as part of this wonderful event. This event, to any program that could participate, would be the largest exposure in terms of viewers and reach that their school would get all year. Hopefully both Men and Women’s schools get a chance to play.

Now, as you see in the title, I would strongly ask the decision makers at large to consider an opponent for a Minnesota team to play for this outdoor game. The University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers should be part of this experience. Head Coach Mike Corbett has built a program at the Division One Level largely on his own fundraising efforts. He not only coaches a team in a market that is a newer one for the game we all love, but he fundraisers for them. He runs so much of the Chargers program and they get so little exposure even among legacy media outlets that the Chargers have a story the national audience would love. A team on the brink of being cut being saved by Corbett and his fundraising, and one fighting daily to bring college hockey to the southeastern most locale in the country is a story made for a Netflix series, and the Winter Classic as well.

Why do I say this? Well Corbett talked to us after the Saturday finale where his team held tough against the Fighting Hawks in a second 5-2 loss, and mentioned exposure. His program barely makes television at all despite representing a school that churns out engineers for NASA, and other quality companies in the area. The amount of free media coverage the school and town would get could not be adequately measured.

Imagine for a minute, the amount of Huntsville fans that could be created from tuning in for a few minutes to watch this game. Now you may be saying why them? This program has to find out what to do in the 2021-2022 season and beyond as they are one of the programs not looked on with favor from the departing members of the WCHA. This team needs a chance to showcase its school, its town and its market on a national stage. Playing a Minnesota school on the national stage is one easy way to show the commitment of the NHL and all its partners to growing hockey nationwide.

Corbett tried to schedule one-off games against Penn State and UND in Nashville at the home of the Predators around the Hockey Hall of Fame Game next year, and was unable to find success in doing so.This matters here, because it shows his dedication towards finding his program more exposure, and the Winter Classic is a great place to meet that goal.

Therefore if the Chargers want to play a destination game, the Winter Classic could be an option if those in power would allow them to participate. To me, the Winter Classic should be a platform to grow the game for all, having a Women’s Hockey Tournament and having the Chargers play perhaps a WCHA game against say the Mavericks of Minnesota State-Mankato, or Bemidji State would be a good way to promote all who want to play the game.

If the Winter Classic folks wanted to, they could schedule multiple outdoor games at Target Field over two days or even on the first, given the right time for the ice to improve. This event would be a great way to promote college hockey to new fans across the country, and Americans love a story of underdogs working to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. To me, the Chargers are that team for this moment.

These are some thoughts after seeing the Chargers play, seeing how dedicated Corbett is to making his team better, and growing the game at large is arguably the best way to expand the amount of schools offering the game. His team would relish the opportunity, Huntsville would get national television coverage, and the game of hockey would reach people it likely never has before.

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 Uses Strong Second to hang on against Alabama Huntsville: Now What?

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Last night at a nearly sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey team hung on through a close checking first period against the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville and were able to get their second half of the season started right with a 5-2 win.

Do not let the score fool you, this game was a lot closer than the final totals indicated. While the Fighting Hawks out shot the Chargers 36-15, they also were not able to solve the Chargers’ netminder, Mark Sinclair, early enough to put the game in a more comfortable position. The Fighting Hawks also had to play from behind early as Christian Rajic fired home a shot 18 seconds in to put UND in a position it has not been in a lot, trailing early.

The Fighting Hawks responded with two goals from Grant Mismash and Jordan Kawaguchi, and an empty net tally from Cole Smith for the final margin. Read on for some thoughts for each team on how to be a bit better tonight.

If you want UND to do better, read this section

The second period should be the benchmark for this team. The Fighting Hawks were a lot better at moving pucks around and not  letting the Chargers plug shooting lanes as much. For a comparison, in the first period, the visitors blocked eight shot attempts, in the second they only blocked two. That alone forced Sinclair to see more shots and in part because of how Huntsville defends, opened up more chances.

As Grant Mismash noted, since the Chargers were playing a man-to-man coverage when he shook loose from his defender and had open space. Therefore, he had a decently easy net front drive for one of his markers. If this team can work on getting more isolation-like looks, they should be able to drive the net more and make Sinclair’s life harder than it was last night.

In addition, Head Coach Brad Berry noted a rare needed improvement for the Fighting Hawks, they need to win more faceoffs. A team that routinely wins the large majority of its draws only won 33 of 60 total on the night. Players were getting kicked out and the Chargers’ ability to have their wingers come and help made a big difference.

UND should have enough to win on Saturday, but keep reading to see what the Chargers can do to make things more interesting than on Friday.

If you want the Chargers to do better, or know what UND needs to watch for, read this section. 

Well, when the Chargers get chances they have to convert more of them. They had a few breakaways that did not even result in a shot on net. In addition, when UND holds them in for a long period of time, they have to make the simple play and get the puck to the neutral zone. Their inability to do this directly lead to a goal on a long shift where Sinclair had his head down for a minute after. A Charger had a chance to clear it but did not put enough zip on the pass and it stayed in the zone. UND being the good team it is was able to bury the puck .

I will say this for the Chargers, this is a team not afraid of anyone, and they hung with the number one team in the country pretty much all night. They have some things to clean up, but woe unto teams taking them lightly because they have won one game, If the Chargers clean up their defensive zone a bit and tighten their box to force some more blocks who knows what we could see. Easier said than done of course, but this team played with no fear in front of the biggest crowd it will see all season. If Sinclair stands on his head as he did multiple times last night, UND will have to earn their win.

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 Sweeps Bemidji State- What to look for next

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight at a sold out Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks needed to get off to a good start in their series finale against an always tight-checking Bemidji State Beavers side eager for a split. They did just that as 36 seconds in, Jordan Kawaguchi made Beavers’ netminder Henry Johnson pay for playing the puck behind his own net. He created a turnover and fired the puck to Grant Mismash who buried it in the wide open net. This goal set the tone for the period and evening at large. 16:56 into the first period, Cole Smith used a wrap around to end up bouncing a puck to Mark Senden who found the back of the net in tight shooting to an empty net as Johnson over played the first shot.

That would remain the margin through the first period and most of the second as the Fighting Hawks controlled the pace of things through the game. Jonny Tychonick added an insurance marker in the second as Mismash would add a primary assist to his ledger. He found Tychonick activating into the rush and wired across a superb pass. Jonny potted his first career goal on that rush and slammed into the boards in celebration. As UND Head Coach Brad Berry noted, it was good to see him finally get rewarded for the offensive prowess he brings to the UND blue line. Colton Poolman added an empty net marker late in the third period to restore a three goal lead after Aaron Miller found the back of the net for the Beavers 18 seconds earlier.

Now, the Fighting Hawks have one week to get ready for a one game date with the Huskies of Michagan Tech at the Ralph. How they continue the last five periods of play from this weekend will determine the result.

Beyond the scoring, UND goalie Adam Scheel played well tonight, especially as the game progressed and made more tough saves throughout the waves Bemidji State was trying to throw at the Fighting Hawks. He finished with 19 saves on the night and had a big role in keeping things calm as UND grew its lead.

In addition, Brad Berry praised Jasper Weatherby for the consistency in his game. He has begun to fill the very important role vacated by Rhett Gardner. Weatherby is now the center the staff looks to when they need a big draw won in the defensive zone to stymie a potential chance. Adding his skill at the dot is a big addition to the team this year. While he did not score for the Fighting Hawks he again spent a lot of the night parked in front of the Bemidji State net and tipped some pucks wide and just missed a few others.

In addition,  the staff mixed up the lines a little bit tonight. They rewarded Josh Rieger with time as the seventh defenseman and slotted in Casey Johnson up front. Both players played their roles, and we could see them more this year. The lineup changes were made in part due to how last night’s game finished and the coaches wanting to get different players some game action.

Next week will provide another test against the Huskies of Michigan Tech. Tonight, against a decent Bemidji State team that makes life tough for their opponents when able to defend we saw the blueprint to win for this team executed to perfection. Score early, and make responsible plays throughout to add insurance as needed. When this team can make other teams open up their game to try and score just to catch up, good things will happen.

This team has too much skill to try and play grind heavy games as a first resort if not needed, if they can get one quick and defend that allows them to roll all of their skaters and not need to worry about shortening the bench. It may not seem like much now, but spreading out minutes for as long as possible will help later on in the year. Developing depth to add with skill is not a bad idea, and hopefully this team can do so as we progress in this still early on season.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories you will not see elsewhere about UND Hockey and other college hockey teams, please click this link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story we right as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

UND Football: Regarding playoffs, ask again later

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The Fighting Hawks dispatched their third ranked side this afternoon as they vanquished the number nine ranked Bobcats of Montana State 16-12 thanks to a recovered blocked punt for a touchdown and a defense that held them in the game, limiting the Bobcats big plays and keeping the team in the game.

Now UND heads into a bye week for the second time this season with a chance to rest up, especially on defense where injuries have forced underclassmen to step into bigger roles a bit faster than initially thought.

What does all of this mean for where UND should be ranked? Well one could argue for ranking the Fighting Hawks in the low 20’s based on their win this weekend and without looking at the rest of the FCS I could certainly see that. It is a subject that will be debated fiercely by pundits and fans, especially those who interact with Brian McLaughlin and Sam Herder of Hero Sports who have two of the votes in the FCS Stats Poll publish their ballot and in at least Brian’s case why he votes the way he does as well.

Sam discusses his picks and votes extensively with Brian on their weekly podcast hosted through Hero Sports, give it a listen sometimes, these are two of the most plugged in folks in the FCS you will meet. They follow every team in the country at this level to the best of their ability and this sport is better because of them.

To re-purpose a phrase from Brian he likes to use when describing things in the FCS landscape, on this UND team we need to see more data. That is yes, the win today is great and this Fighting Hawks side has shown resiliency throughout the year when dealing with adversity. Can we overlook the Idaho State loss and potentially the Eastern Washington losses on the road?  Maybe we can if UND plays well enough to allow it.

If this team goes 7-4 in total and loses one of its last two home games that look winnable against Northern Colorado or Southern Utah, do they make the playoffs over say a 7-5 win team with an FBS win and a better strength of schedule. I do not know. I honestly don’t know what to make of this team other than they merit perhaps a low rank in the applicable polls and a spot on the good side of the bubble, for now. The polls, especially the FCS Stats Poll are merely a snapshot of a wide open landscape of football full of wonderful people who cover the game to the best of their ability.

If a MEAC team like the Aggies of North Carolina A&T finishes second and does not make the Celebration Bowl, and finishes with a 9-2 or 8-3 record and UND loses a must win game at home should they be in over the Aggies at that record with a 7-4 finish? I do not know. Southern Illinois could finish 7-5 and have a case to be in over the Fighitng Hawks as they have an FBS win to their credit.

As to the Fighting Hawks, their decision to play 11 games will either be a stroke of genius or seen as myopic if they finish on the wrong side of the bubble if they finish 7-4 and are eclipsed by a 7-5 team with an FBS win or a 9 or 8 win MEAC team like the Aggies? That is the reality of a 12 game maximum schedule season. Schools make their choice and live with the results and consequences, good and bad either way.

What I know for sure is this team needs to have a strong finish and go 8-3 to remove more questioning articles like this being written. If this team wins out it will 100 percent make the playoffs barring some odd circumstances around the FCS. In that case we will be focused on UND’s first or second round opponent depending on their position in the field.

In a few weeks if UND finishes out of the playoffs due to losing any of its must win games at home or being on the bad side of the bubble beating Weber State and losing the other two games then the questions raised by those not voting for or voting for UND lower will be valid.

All of this is to say, do not read too much into the polls this week or next week. UND needs to win three more games to remove as much doubt as possible and cement a playoff spot and potential national seed. This team will not (hopefully) focus on the polls and keep their eyes on Weber State. They face a potential top 10 opponent on the road in their last chance to add a quality win to their resume before playing two must win games to end the season.

To those following this team, focus on the on field results. They guide the polls and what writers will say about UND’s playoff chances. More data is required to determine the fate of the 2019 UND Football team, two weeks from now is the next chance to acquire some based on their result against Weber State.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories you will not see elsewhere about UND Football and other college football teams, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story we write as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

UND Soccer: Why you should be watching

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons- UND Athletics)

Tonight, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Soccer team struck first against a team featuring an All American, Boise State, on an early tally before the Broncos came back to win.

Think about that sentence, why am I including a detail about a loss to a really good Mountain West team on the road?

Well, Chris Logan has built this team up so much to where competing with anyone regardless of conference or talent level is now possible. The Fighting Hawks played a determined game today and now have more things to build on heading into their non conference finale on Sunday against Idaho.

Let’s go back to the Fighting Hawks’ last win. It was a 2-0 defensive affair over Grand Canyon University where the speed of the Fighting Hawks shined in the desert as said speed opened up set pieces and drew a penalty kick to provide the final tally. In that game, one of the best goalies in UND history, Catherine Klein saved a penalty kick 65 minutes in that would have tied things up. She did so despite an interesting choice of fouls to call. Her prowess on the goal line for this team leaves a legacy other goalies will have a lot to do to match in the Summit League for future iterations of this team.

In that game, and the one before it, against Minot State, we saw the speed of this team, a constant all year, shine through. Although not scoring against Grand Canyon, one of the fastest forwards to suit up for UND in their history, Mimi Eiden, tracked back to block shots and make life tough for the Lopes of Grand Canyon while using her speed to push the pace up front. Eiden is one of many stars on a team full of talent. Every time she is on the pitch, be it reporter, fan, or defense, you have to keep an eye on what she does because she is liable to run down half the pitch or more and score any time she gets a good pass. She will cause a problem for the defenses Summit League this year because of her speed and this team’s depth in making the other team adjust to them as a whole.

Speaking of depth, this team has multiple freshman already doing great things. One that has stood out already is Bailey McNitt. She is not only fast like Eiden, but technically Coach Logan and the staff have beamed about her skill and potential. How often can you sub off a star like Eiden and end up getting the winner off that decision?

Well it happened this year. Against the Gaels of St. Mary’s College, McNitt came on for Eiden in double overtime and laced a superb corner into the box that found the back of the net off Meghan Wilson. Every game she is earning the conference of this coaching staff more and more, and like the rest of this talented freshman class look to have an impact in Grand Forks for years to come.

On October 4th and the rest of this season, when this team is home, I humbly ask you, the fans, to come and watch this team. Attendance has been great so far and the atmosphere wonderful at the freshly renovated Bronson Field, but it can always be greater. This team could be on the cusp of their first top four finish this season if their depth and speed can continue to manifest itself in conference play against a talented slew of Summit League sides. When this team is on the road, watch the streams of games when you can, most are either free or really cheap on ESPN Plus (five bucks a month) or some other platform for not much more.

These Fighting Hawks have been in every game they have played. Their only two loses have come on the road to the Citadel, a superb Southern Conference side, and Boise State, a Mountain West side that should challenge for an at-large bid this year.

With all of that being said, this team is worthy of your time and attention. They finish their non-conference slate on the road Sunday at 4 PM against Idaho on the road. Watch the game for free on Pluto TV. Then come out and support arguably the best all around team North Dakota has seen in their time in Division One October 4th against South Dakota at home to open up Summit League play. This team deserves the full attention of a community that already has a lot of supporters, I am asking everyone to join UND’s eventual ascent of the Summit League. They are fun to watch and cover for this site, oh and fans in case you did not know it is free to watch them! Come out to Bronson Field on October 4th to check out this team in action at 3 PM, you will not regret it.

 

What needs to happen: UND-Sam Houston State

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tomorrow, UND and Sam Houston State will battle in a Potato Bowl that could serve as a playoff game for both of these teams. Whomever walks out of the Alerus Center victorious will have a slightly easier path to the FCS playoff bracket, while the loser will be faced with a week of self reflection and have to string together near perfection to achieve the same fate.

For these Fighting Hawks, here is what needs to happen in order to soar on to their next test against national powerhouse Eastern Washington on the road in two weeks.

Breakout with big plays

I want to see the second half offense against Drake that started when Andrew Zimmerman came on in relief. While it is important to have the ball for much longer than a ‘Kats team that runs a prolific spread offense highlighted by two mobile quarterbacks, Eric Schmid and Ty Brock. How do you mitigate the power of running quarterbacks as an offense? Well hold the ball longer and fire up some big plays. While the Bearkats certainly provide more of a test than the Bulldogs did, UND has to be willing to dive deep in the playbook against these ‘Kats to have a chance.

In addition, until UND can find a true over the top game breaker on the edge, these Fighting Hawks will need to be able to keep the ‘Kats off guard with their schemes and use deception and option looks to open up seams for Zimmerman to throw into.

Convert when you get over the 50

Last week, UND had some good drives against NDSU that were snuffed out. Be they interceptions or bad blocks or anything else, this team left chances on the table to dramatically alter the momentum of the game. How do you fix this?

Well, if you make the opponent’s territory you need to get points. Sam Houston State runs their tempo like a fast break and when you let their offense onto the field, it had better be because you just scored, preferably a touchdown. UND has to improve efficiency when they get good drives going. For Saturday to work well for them, watch how many times UND gets points of any sort when they cross into BearKat territory.

Edge Tackling

Schematically, UND played a sound game against the best FCS program, arguably in the history of football at this level. The Bison often ran through missed tackles on the edge to extend drives and force UND to use its untested depth up the middle which made it harder for their players to stay fresh on defense.

For as much as these ‘Kats use the edge of the field on offense, UND must sure up their tackling on the edge to match.

If not, the ‘Kats could walk out with a well earned win. In that vain, if the Fighting Hawks can sure up the edge of their scheme, then getting more reps to get big plays and converting more drives becomes easier. Up the middle, this team with its starters is quite stout regarding tackling and ending plays before they flourish.

On the edge, and down in the depth chart, that is not always the case. If the edge can be fortified then the potent offense of the ‘Kats hopefully will find themselves wandering in the wilderness all day while the Hawks can soar ahead, if not the playoffs slip further out of reach for a team wanting only its second Division One playoff spot in its history and first since 2016.

Prediction: Not a lot to go on in comparable opponents for these teams. This game for both of these sides is the first comparable FCS test either one faces in a battle for the playoffs. If the Alerus Center can maintain its loud start throughout and Andrew Zimmerman’s arm can come to life when needed, and the ‘Kats cannot run their fast-break style offense all game, then maybe UND can eke out a victory, but it will be close and most fans in attendance will be on the edge of their seats all day long.

UND 33 Sam Houston State 30 is my guess in what promises to be a Potato Bowl for the ages.

Superb Six

(Photo Credit:Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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