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.

Things you may not know about Karl Goehring: The View from Syracuse

Alexandra Ackerman has had many years experience covering the Syracuse Crunch, and over the AHL affiliate’s lifespan one particular goaltender seems to have captured the hearts and minds of Crunch fans, and recently had the chance to return to Syracuse and coach with the Crunch in a paid role where he could . Fighting Hawks fans know this goalie and coach quite well, as he has now come back to Grand Forks as a paid assistant coach. His name of course, is Karl Goehring. I had a chance to get an insight into all that Karl is bringing back to Grand Forks with him from lead Syracuse Crunch writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning SB Nation site, and assitant editor, Ackerman herself. Check out my questions and her thoughts on all things Karl Goehring.

1.What is your favorite memory of Karl’s time in Syracuse?

“Although I’ve been following Karl since 2004, his return in 2007 was the catalyst for a lot of memorable moments that season. At the time, I was still relatively new to the heartbreak that the AHL creates, so the joy I felt with the news that he had been signed to a PTO was pretty strong. I knew the sport more at that point than I did in 2004, so I think I was able to better appreciate the talent he had and the work ethic he was bringing.

At the end of that season, the Crunch went on a run of 15 games in a row, and it all started with a shootout loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the beginning of March. It might be weird to remember Karl for a loss he took, but the point the team earned that night was largely in part to Karl’s shootout prowess, and it is still remembered as the magical start to that run that took the team to the second round of the playoffs. The Crunch had struggled that season, and no one had any real expectations of winning that game. Getting just that point out of that contest seemed to create a turning point for the Crunch, and I think it was also the night that reminded the fans of Karl’s talent, and showed everyone what he was still very much capable of.Karl went on to win Goaltender of the Month for March 2008.”

2. What is his lasting impact from his coaching role with the Crunch?

“Karl truly showed how important the role of a goalie coach is in the minor leagues (and, I’d argue, on most hockey teams). During his two years with the Crunch under the Lightning, he saw the team through quite a bit of goalie drama. He worked with whatever the organization handed him, and helped keep the Crunch’s crease shored up the entire time.

In 2017-18, Karl worked with seven goalies, all in various stages of their careers. Veterans Michael Leighton, Louis Domingue, Eddie Pasquale, and Peter Budaj all passed through Syracuse, sharing the net with youngsters Connor Ingram (a Lightning prospect [since traded to Nashville after this interview]), Olivier Mantha, and Nick Riopel. Whether Karl was helping to keep the vets sharp or assisting the young guys with the pro transition, he was the steadying hand the organization needed him to be.

This past season, Syracuse had a fair bit of goaltending drama. Ingram had an apparent falling out with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, and the rift set off a small goaltending carousel. Veteran Eddie Pasquale was looked to for the bulk of the work, while backups Martin Ouellette and Atte Tolvanen were expected to be sharp whenever Pasquale needed a break. Balancing everything that was going on, while keeping his goalies focused on the game and not on the drama, had to be challenging. Having a dedicated coach helping them was essential.  ”

3.To fans worried that a goalie coach may not be a good fit for the assistant coach role what would you say to them?

“Karl has always been an extremely hard worker. Most are probably aware of the doubts he had to fight during his playing career because of his height. He’s faced adversity almost his entire career, and he’s used those experiences to learn and become a well-rounded person and coach.

Although he’s mainly been a goaltending coach due his playing position, I know UND wouldn’t have been able to find anyone who will work harder at making sure he’s accessible to all players he needs to work with. It also isn’t such a bad thing to have an assistant coach know so much about goaltending, especially at the college level, where money for an actual goaltending coach can be tough to come by (as you all know).

Finally, Karl has gathered so many various experiences during his own playing and coaching career, and he’s worked with athletes at nearly every stage of their hockey careers. He knows how to speak to them, and knows what they need to hear. Assistant coaches have to be good at interpersonal relationships, and from everything I’ve heard, Karl excels in that area. He knows how to take his own experiences and translate them for young athletes.”

4.Karl’s role is not completely defined here, that said what are some things organizationally that the Crunch improved on since he came there that would reassure any nervous UND fans?

“Although I am not really privy to the inner workings of the team, Karl’s time with the Crunch has been sprinkled with quotes from players and from Syracuse head coach Ben Groulx about how much Karl’s video work has improved the team. Players credited Karl’s scouting with knowing how to score on other goalies and knowing the weaknesses in the defense of opposing teams. Karl worked with all of the guys on the Crunch to make sure they understood their positives and their areas of concern. Karl has studied this game for so long, and has clearly worked to understand more than just goalten/ding.”

5.With Karl returning to UND do you see Tampa perhaps looking at more UND players in the future?

“I’d hope so. The Lightning don’t seem afraid to look far and wide for talent, and I don’t foresee that ending anytime soon!”

6.If UND fans would like a player in the Bolts’ system to track as a pupil of Karl’s whom would you recommend and why?

“Connor Ingram is probably the closest to a pupil we can get, although given the rift I previously stated, I am not actually sure how much longer Ingram will be in the organization.” [These words have proven true as previously stated Ingram has been traded to Nashville since this interview was conducted]

 

7.Could you see Karl as a head coach at some level soon?

“I absolutely think he has the drive and the hockey IQ. I am not sure if he has the temperament (and that isn’t a bad thing at all, or a knock on the “traditional” hockey head coach). Karl is just definitely not your traditional grumpy head coach, that’s for sure.”

8.What traits does Goehring have that make you think he will excel in this new role?

“His tenacity is incredible. Karl does not give up when he wants something, and he has the work ethic to back it all up. He loves the sport, and he understands how important fans are to teams.

Also, I feel the need to add that the Lightning organization does not mess around when it comes to prospect development. Yes, Karl was 100% in the right place at the right time to be able to impress Steve Yzerman enough to get himself considered for the job in Syracuse, but if the Lightning had any inkling at all that Karl was not a good fit for that job, he would not have gotten it. Having the confidence of that kind of an organization in you is a very big deal.

I also don’t think that the Lightning would have let Karl go had he not gotten an opportunity like this. Clearly the organization respected his wishes enough to let him go and interview for something like this, knowing that they would lose him if he secured the position. I think that level of respect says a lot.”

9. Add anything else to this about Karl you’d like.

“I’ve been lucky enough to see Karl come back to Syracuse three times since he first left in 2005 – once as a player and twice as an assistant coach. That’s rare in this league (rare in any league, really). Every time he returned, he came back better than ever, something else that’s pretty rare in this world. I know he’ll be happy back with UND, and I wish him nothing but the best. He’s truly one of a kind!”

Special Teams Stats Prove Deceptive as St. Cloud State Takes Opener 3-1

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography

When a team goes 3/3 on the penalty kill (not including empty net goals) and owns five on five play for at least around half of the game things typically go well right? Well for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks things went poorly tonight as they gave up three unanswered goals (the third goal was an empty net marker from Blake Lizotte as UND was trying to bounce back and tie things on the penalty kill late in the third period) to lose the series opener to the number one team in the nation, the St. Cloud State Huskies 3-1.

Micah Miller and Patrick Newell took away a 1-0 lead provided by Nick Jones on an interesting angle shot from below the goal line 11:21 into the first period and gave St. Cloud the lead it would not relinquish. Both St. Cloud goals came mere seconds after UND killed off penalties. Miller’s goal came 18 seconds after UND killed a Matt Kiersted penalty in the second period. He took a feed from Nolan Walker, walked into the UND zone in transition and rifled one past UND netminder Adam Scheel on his left side just above his pad.

In the third period, 17 seconds after the Fighting Hawks killed off a Jasper Weatherby penalty, the puck was fired down towards the UND end. It looked as if a UND defender was close enough to play the puck, and Scheel reached out to play it as well negating any chance of an icing call. Colton Poolman tried to play the puck behind the net but made a very rare mistake and turned the puck over to Nolan Walker. He then found one of the best goal scorers on the Huskies, Newell, in the slot and he did not miss the game-winning goal.

UND was out shot in the second and third periods combined 41-22. The Huskies utilized their strong transition game throughout the second and third period. If not for a very close goal review on a potential Nick Perbix goal, the margin could have better reflected the shots on goal disparity. UND took issue with a potential penalty on Jimmy Schuldt as a hip check on further review looked to result in knee-on-knee contact on Grant Mismash who required help to leave the ice. He will definitely not play in the finale. UND needs to improve in consistency. The result is different as the Huskies outplayed the Fighting Hawks in the final two frames, but the path was the same for UND. The Fighting Hawks started the game well, got chances and limited grade-a chances for the other team. Then the opponent got into their game and this time said opponent was not Omaha or Canisius but St. Cloud State.

These are not the same Huskies that lost to Air Force in the NCAA tournament last March. This is a team with all of the speed and skill of last year’s squad combined with a consistent commitment to team defense to further highlight their skills. For UND to salvage a split they need to play a perfect 60 minutes all the while knowing any mistake they make has a marginally decent chance of ending up in the back of their own net. Saturday night at the Ralph will be a fun one.

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.