Peter Thome wins goaltending duel for UND 1-0: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into Friday night’s skirmish with the Tigers of Colorado College, the Fighting Hawks’ Men’s Hockey team had some things to adress. For the past few weekends, its starts especially on Fridays, have been squalor based affairs that have had them chasing games. Luckily the team has usually found ways out of the holes it dug itself in, and it did not have to do so tonight.

On this wonderful night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks got just enough good bounces to earn a 1-0 victory. In the third period, Shane Pinto fired home a puck that pin balled to him into the yawning cage to provide the final margin for the evening  10:23 into the third period. What stood out most about that power play was the fact that UND finally got a good bounce to go their way. They had to fight against freshman netminder Matt Vernon all night. He made several great saves and made things tough for the Fighting Hawks. In addition, credit the Tigers for defending the blue paint relatively well. UND did not get many easy looks on yawning nets off second chances. That is where a lot of their goals have come from in this resurgent season for the Fighting Hawks.

In net for UND was Peter Thome. The junior netminder’s play from the start of the second half has arguably kept UND at the top of the country. His ability to play angles without over pursuing anything and make several key saves against the Tigers gave UND more time to find the go ahead goal. The biggest improvement Thome has made to his game is his further utilization of his size (six feet, four inches) to not need to over pursue angles as he did on occasion in his first two seasons as a Fighting Hawk. He made a few lateral saves on this night that his counterpart, Adam Scheel, has had to work on getting better at as well.

What to watch for in the series finale 

For the Fighting Hawks, I would strongly consider using Jasper Weatherby to take every draw for all lines he is not on when he has any energy of any sort. He lead the way in the faceoff dot for UND last night winning 14 of the 15 draws he took. The San Jose Sharks prospect has developed his game and utilized his faceoff prowess and ability to get to the net front to help his team this year. If the season ended today I would strongly consider him in the running for any sort of most improved award the team would hand out.

Also, Peter Thome should get the start tonight. If turning in a 25 save shutout in a 1-0 game is not enough to earn another look in net, I do not know what is. While we still support a platoon of Peter Thome and Adam Scheel in net down the stretch, giving Thome the net the game before UND heads to its bye week would allow Scheel to get a little more rest and then give coaches two weeks to figure a rotation for the two superb netminders UND has down the stretch.

Finally, if you want Colorado College to have a better fate than their loss last night, look at transition opportunities as a way to solve those problems. It seemed as if on the few they had in the series opener, they did not do enough to get Thome moving and open up any angles. UND is a team with an offensive-minded defense group that likes to get up in the play and take shots on net. When those shots go high and wide, the Tigers have to bury a couple of those looks to have a chance in the finale. Most teams will not win the battle of offensive zone time against the Fighting Hawks;however, multiple teams in the second half, from Alabama Huntsville to Minnesota Duluth, have shown their ability to score multiple goals in transition against this team. The Fighting Hawks do not have many ways they can be beaten or even competed tough against, but scoring on transition looks is probably at the top of that list.

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Sensational Smith: Cole Smith’s 3 Point Night Saves a UND Split with 4-3 Win:Recap and Two Thoughts

(Photo Credit Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into tonight, UND needed some more defense, at the end of the second period when Marc Michaelis potted a shorthanded breakaway with .4 seconds left, it looked like we could see a repeat of last Saturday where UND would not be able to hang on to a lead. Cole Smith changed all of that in the third period. “Smitty” was able to capitalize on a misplay from Minnesota State netminder Dryden McKay in the third period and put the puck into a wide open net 11:35 into the third. That marker was the final goal in a series where a goal was scored against a goalie in five out of six periods.. In front of 11,438 fans tonight at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, UND used some superb play from Cole Smith with his first three point night (2G, 1A) to ensure the win. Adam Scheel got his first win for the Fighting Hawks in net as the rookie netminder made 20 saves on 23 shots.

Early on, the script was the same for UND as an early goal on some sublime passing on the power play gave them their first lead of the night. Nick Jones took a feed from Jordan Kawaguchi on the faceoff, found Gabe Bast who hooked up with Grant Mismash. The Predators’ prospect made no mistake on a one-timer from the point to give UND a 1-0 lead early on. 38 seconds later, Cole Smith was able to find the back of the net at even strength to make it a 2-0 UND game.

The Mavericks would answer back, aided by some UND penalties as Julian Napravnik and Max Coatta each scored on the power play to end the second period. In the second period, Gabe Bast was able to find a rebound from Mark Senden and send UND to a 3-2 lead that would last until the Michaelis goal at the end of the second. The Fighting Hawks were able to hold on after the Smith Goal in the third and tightened up defensively to ensure the win.

The Offense Returns

This weekend was the best offensive output for UND all season. Now how can the Fighting Hawks replicate that? I thought Grant Mismash on the point looked superb on the power play and he showcased the true goal-scoring prowess UND knows he has in him this weekend. UND got help up and down the lineup as Matt Kiersted had a superb effort this weekend putting up three points in two games (1G, 2A). Having him compliment Jacob Bernard-Docker on the back end is a bonus for UND. All of this available depth and improvement from sophomores like Mismash and Kiersted will go a long way to determining where UND finishes this year.

Goaltending 

Yes, neither goalie had their best weekend. Adam Scheel looked strong on Saturday night and made a lot of grade-a saves to keep UND ahead. Peter Thome did not have the best Friday night before getting pulled for Scheel. That being said, I think UND has two strong goalies who both play tall and calm styles which should help the Fighting Hawks. So what does this mean for the rest of the season? I think for the time being, a platoon is the best choice at least through the midpoint. Both goalies have shown the high points in their game, and both will show them this season. I think a platoon will limit whomever takes the net full time going into the second half and allow them to be a bit more rested for the stretch run.