Opinion: Expand the NCAA Tournament to 20 teams

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Fans of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey team will remember the old WCHA, the fanbase waxes poetically about it often then moving on to needle the attendance and postseason problems that the members of the current Big 10 Hockey Conference have (these problems have some grounding in truth are sometimes exaggerated). One thing in that Final Five is the chance for a team to win three games in three days to make the NCAA Tournament. If you won your first round series, and had either of the worst two remaining regular season records, you had to play an extra game to advance. Teams that were able to win those three games then got the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, regardless of their regular season success, or lack thereof. No one questioned the win of the five seed on the few times it did happen.

This past, pairwise free (it existed, but was not used as we know it due to a lack of significant interconference play) hockey and subjective selection proceedings have left fans of many eastern hockey teams, and a few western powerhouses like Denver, feeling left out.

Now, none of the teams left out did enough to make the 16 team tournament.

With that argument noted, what we are proposing is this.

In future years, when the next cycle of regionals are awarded, standardize the starting dates, and expand the tournament by four teams.

On Friday, you have opening round games between the four and five seed in each regional with the winner earning the right to face one of the four best teams in the country.

On Saturday, you have the first round staggered across the country (for maximum TV ratings of course) play out and make an already great day even better. Instead of six games (two finals, four first round games) we would have eight games take place on one day, and then play the championships on Sunday.

Why?

Well we have a few reasons.

First, for this game to grow, and get more programs in it, expanding the tournament by four teams makes attaining it slightly more reasonable, without having to dilute the value of the regular season. If the tournament expands, more fans and schools can get involved in the greatest part of this game, its postseason.

Second, after hearing arguments about top seeds getting rested enough or not, we would like to note the value of the top seed playing a team that had played the previous day. The coaching staff gets to watch that team play in person, and that team could very well be tired, and in theory should give the top seed an easier path to the regional final.

Third, it adds value to the full season for everyone. Now, teams play to move up or down in the pairwise (all of this is being written for a normal non pandemic-marred season), but the reality is, the top 12 or 13 teams are usually safe every year, while the last two or three worry about conference tournament champions stealing their spot.

This eliminates some of that concern.

If teams 1-13 are locks, the proposal ensures that teams 14-16 all will make it. It would require five teams outside of the top 20 to win their conference championship to hurt the top 16, and ensure that the bottom eight teams would all have to play in the first game. This provides more meaning to what teams 10-12 are doing as the season ends, and ensures every game has more of an impact. If you are playing to get an opening round bye, that adds stakes to your late season play.

Use 2012-2013 as an example, when Niagara finished at the number 10 spot in the pairwise, and Canisius won their postseason tournament, that meant Atlantic Hockey would earn two bids to the tournament. What it also meant was that a 19 win Western Michigan team would miss the tournament. In this system, the only team that would have missed the tournament is number 20 ranked Brown. Atlantic Hockey would have had three teams representing it, and three more programs would have had the chance to compete for a national championship.

We understand that this change would have to wait until the next round of regionals are awarded, and there needs to be buy-ins from coaches, hosts, athletics departments and more all around the country.

Our argument comes down to this.

If this sport is to add more programs over time, something we all want to see, expanding the tournament by four teams now is a way to encourage more schools to potentially join. In addition, for all of those teams just wishing they could have made the tournament this year, this would have let them in. In the future, it will also allow Atlantic Hockey to get at least two deserving representatives into the tournament without harming another team’s chances. Finally, it ensures that the top seeds in each region get to play an opponent who could be tired. If the game is to grow, its tournament needs to do so as well.

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Projecting the future for the 8 UND Men’s Hockey Seniors plus one junior

Photo Credit Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Now comes the least favorite time for every Men’s college hockey team at the Division One level, immediately upon your season ending, some of your players have to make the decision whether or not to go to the next level to play professional hockey. This decision now applies to all of UND’s seniors, as every student-athlete at this level has been afforded an extra year of eligibility for playing in this pandemic-marred season. With that in mind, let’s look at each of UND’s seniors with options of what we think will happen, not what we want to happen. We will list each as signing a pro contract, returning to UND, or entering the transfer portal to play their extra year elsewhere. We are interested to track this and see where we are right, and where we are not. This will be an offseason unlike any other in this sport.

Jordan Kawaguchi-Signing a contract

Like Odeen Tufto of Quinnipiac, he is a play making forward with a penchant for elevating his team. Last night, his goal with an extra attacker is what sent us to overtime. He elevates his play in big games, and has some of the best vision of any forward at this level. Because of that, and his improved defensive ability over the past four years, look for him to head to the National Hockey League. He will play top AHL minutes this year right away for some teams, and for others could easily slot into their bottom six forward group and play on the power play. Kawaguchi’s biggest improvements in our mind is his defensive ability. He has become one of the tougher defensive forwards to play against with this group, and should fit right in with the next level.

Jasper Weatherby-Signing a contract

As the game went on last night, the Sharks’ draft pick got better as the game went on, similar to his college career. A healthy scratch for more than a few games in his rookie season, he worked his way up the lineup playing a defense first game for the Fighting Hawks. He finished last night with 13 shot attempts, two blocks, and 26 faceoff wins on the 38 he took. Weatherby is ready to play NHL hockey now, based on the strong play he showed in his last two years for UND, and his versatility. If the Sharks are unable to sign him, he will find a home in the NHL.

Weatherby is a junior, but has shown that he is ready to play NHL hockey now.

Peter Thome- Transfer Portal*

If Adam Scheel leaves early and signs an NHL deal, Thome would be the incumbent at UND and have every incentive to play a final year as a Fighting Hawk. He has shown his ability to start consistently at this level, and given the strong goaltending pipeline at Columbus, there is no guarantee the Blue Jackets would sign him, and any other team would probably want him to play more. If Scheel comes back, Thome would immediately be the favorite to start at any school that he were to go to should he decide to go elsewhere.

Gabe BastStaying at UND

To see what he could do as the leader of a group likely to lose at least one first round draft pick (Jacob Bernard Docker), and may lose more (Jake Sanderson if he chooses to leave, as of now he is expected to stay) it would give him a chance to get more top two minutes consistently and show his year over year growth, similar to what Weatherby did in the forward group.

Grant MismashSign a contract

Given that he left the game early with an injury, and was unable to finish it, the first thing is making sure he is ok. Whenever that is, the Predators will want him if they need another scorer in their system that can play a two way game. In nearly half the games of a full season, Mismash put together his most complete campaign for the Fighting Hawks, scoring 10 goals in 20 games. He is ready to play at the next level now, and could compete for a spot out of camp with his former and perhaps future teammate, Cole Smith, next fall.

Matt Kiersted-Sign a contract

He turned down many offers last summer, and went and had another superb year as a two way player playing in key minutes for the Fighting hawks this year. NHL teams wanted him last year, he wanted to come back and work to get UND into the tournament, and further than they finished, but he is ready as he was last year. He is a strong distributor of the puck who shuts down the top players he faces pretty routinely. His play reminds us of Tucker Poolman, a defensive defender who can jump into the rush when needed.

Josh Rieger, Jackson Keane- Transfer portal,return, or graduate

Both of these players have been depth stalwarts for this group. They have improved in their times at UND, and are both key reasons why this program is where it is. If UND has some underclassmen leave early, they may come back, but assuming all underclassmen return, and depending on where they see themselves it will come down to what they want. If they want to be a part of the program in similar roles, they will stay, if they think that they can take their extra years and show what they’ve learned elsewhere, they will do that like what Michael Corson did when he left Denver to go play at Niagara. If the two want to work their way up in the minor leagues, or pursue careers outside of hockey, they will graduate. They each have a tough decision ahead of them.

Collin Adams-Sign a contract or return

Adams really can do what he wants from these two choices. We do not expect him to go through the transfer portal as he would play a key role in UND’s group next year if they will have him back, and if he wants to come back. He put up 34 points in 29 games, and has nothing left to prove at the NCAA level. If he does not want to sign with the Islanders, he will be a free agent, and will most likely go where he thinks he can make the jump to the next level.

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MIDWEST REGIONAL FINAL PHOTOS: UMD 3-UND 2

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Check out photos from Kelsey of the five overtime thriller. For more photos click the link below.

Gallery

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Three Thoughts on UMD-UND: More on history from last night

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Those who attended the Midwest Regional Final at Scheels Arena last night ended up leaving early this morning in a 3-2 Minnesota Duluth win that took a grueling 142:13 to conclude. Luke Mylymok blocked a Jasper Weatherby shot, then took the puck the other way and got a shot on UND netminder Adam Scheel that went five hole and in. Beyond the immediate joy and despair on full display when the puck went in the net last night, there is more from this game that deserves further noting.

Perspectives on pauses

Minnesota Duluth ended up playing over two games in Fargo this weekend given their first round match against Michigan being declared a no contest. To everyone’s credit the extra rest the Bulldogs had did not in anyway give them an advantage against UND. While it makes you wonder what would have happened should the Bulldogs played Michigan, the reality is you will not ever find that answer out. North Dakota’s first round opponent, AIC, had 49 days between the end of their regular season and the start of their postseason. Despite winning their tournament they had to battle back through similar slumps that they faced against UND that proved insurmountable. Head Eric Lang wished he could have played more games towards the end of the season, and tried to even schedule Clarkson before their season was canceled.

How does this relate to last night’s (this morning’s?) result?

Simply to note that having a pause, whether it be 49 days with AIC, or one extra day with Minnesota Duluth’s case, is not the advantage some could make it out to be. AIC had to battle back in both of their games just to make it to Fargo. North Dakota nearly won the game several times in overtime, with the most notable coming on Jasper Weatherby shooting the puck on to the top of the net, where it sat. The Fighting Hawks looked as fresh as the Bulldogs all night, and outside of an 80 second stretch in the third where the Bulldogs potted the first two goals of the night, UND played arguably their best all around game all year. They only took three penalties on the night, had 154 shot attempts, and played a complete game against a great team in Minnesota Duluth. Sometimes, especially in this sport, you lose those games, where you are the better team on the shot clock.

On Minnesota Duluth

Credit Head Coach Scott Sandelin and his staff for this season. The Bulldogs do not really rebuild under Sandelin, they seem to plug in players to his system and have all of their details refined down to their finest point. This team is one of the most disciplined at keeping to their system in this sport, and last night and this morning it showed. When the Bulldogs looked to have won on an earlier rush that was offsides on the same side of the ice and near the same spot that Mylymok gained the zone, they did not stop. UND threw wave upon wave of chances towards them and the Bulldogs never stopped doing what they did to get them their first lead. They clogged lanes, took away grade a chances, and blocked shots. They had to change goaltenders in the fourth overtime and Ryan Fanti came in relief of Zach Stejskal and while not tested nearly as much as the starter, still had to make a few tough saves to even set up the overtime winner. Scott Sandelin’s system and his attention to detail in every aspect of his program set this historic game up. To beat North Dakota this year, teams had to play their best and make less mistakes than them. The Bulldogs did that.

On North Dakota

For some perspective on this, let’s look at what Army West Point Head Coach Brian Riley said after his group had their season ended in the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals by Canisius in overtime “if this is the worst thing that happens in our lives… then life’s going to be pretty good.” This quote comes from the leader of a service academy school that will not have the extra year of eligibility as an option for any of their players due to the requirements of the service academies.

For the Fighting Hawks, they were the best team in the country for the majority of the season, as St. Cloud State will tell you, that does not always win championships. They will have an elite roster of players signing professional contracts this offseason, and could have some seniors choose to come back as well. This program continuously will have some of the most talented recruits coming through its doors, and while the standard is always high at North Dakota, last night showed why. The Fighting Hawks have a strong program, fan base, and professional legacy of alums playing hockey at the highest levels around the world. None of that changes with the result of last night. Over the coming months, seeing who is coming back for them will go a long way to determining for what next season’s team will look like, as will any transfer portal additions (by the time this season ends, there easily could be over 200 players in the transfer portal). Adam Scheel played the game of his life last night, and showed his improvement from last season, and along the way this year to get to where he is now.

He is ready to sign a professional contract and work his way to the NHL, as are many of the players on this team. Their choice for their next steps is up to them. With all of that said, when you look at things in perspective, last night was a supreme exhibition of skill from both teams, playing in an event we did not get to have last season, where one team had to win and one had to lose. The final score takes away nothing from the effort of the Fighting Hawks, and their efforts in defeat only show how tough of a path the Bulldogs had to travel to win.

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Survive and advance: Minnesota Duluth earns 3-2 quintuple overtime win over North Dakota-Quick recap

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

“There are 15 good teams in this tournament and there’s North Dakota.” AIC Head Coach Eric Lang talked about playing to a script to beat the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota. While his team did not defeat the Fighting Hawks Friday, they played the last two periods against them showing what it took to hang with them on the national stage. Enter the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth, who took the three period script, and added five chapters worth of overtimes to it to author a 3-2 overtime win over the Fighting Hawks.

His team played close to that ideal script for the night tonight, but did so in a tumultuous way. They earned a 3-2 overtime win in five overtimes on a Luke Mylymok shot that went through the five hole of Adam Scheel. The goal came on a rush where he walked down the left side of the ice and just squeaked a puck through the five hole of Scheel to win the game. Along the way Duluth had to change goaltenders in an overtime period, and had a goal disallowed in another. In addition to that, they dealt with a UND team that came mere inches from ending their season at any time along the way. Ryan Fanti got the win with six saves, and Zach Stejskal finished with 57 saves on 59 shots.

Minnesota Duluth played a sensational 58 minutes and 41 seconds of it in regulation, and then the Fighting Hawks quickly erased their hopes of winning in regulation.

At that point, with the net empty and an extra attacker on the ice, Collin Adams banked the puck off freshman goaltender Zach Stejskal and in to give UND some needed hope. 43 seconds later, Jordan Kawaguchi put home a wide open shot off a Shane Pinto rebound that came right to him. He made no mistake, and the game went to overtime. This all happened after an 80 second span earlier in the third where the Bulldogs went ahead 2-0. Jackson Cates made a falling down pass to Hunter Lellig at the blue line, then a few moments later Lellig fired the shot that went off Cates and past Adam Scheel.

The first two periods of this game had all of the intensity of the third, but none of the goal scoring

The first overtime had what looked to be the winner from Jackson Cates, but it was called off for the entry being ruled offsides, it was close, but ultimately the correct call. The second overtime had the Fighting Hawks getting a few more looks but to no avail. In the third overtime, the Fighting Hawks continued to run things, but despite getting a puck on top of the goal, they did not get the winner then. This pattern continued into the fifth overtime as just before Mylmok’s goal sent everyone home. Now the Bulldogs move on to Pittsburgh to face the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.

More from this game will come later today, including some thoughts on this historic evening of men’s college hockey.

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PHOTOS: UND vs. AIC

Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Check out some more photos from UND’s 5-1 win last night over AIC, all photos belong to Kelsey Lee of Violet Turtle Photography. For the full gallery click the link below.

Full gallery

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

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What to watch for: Fighting Hawks vs UMD for a trip to the Frozen Four

Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee Violet Turtle Photography

Tonight, the Bulldogs of Minnesota Duluth take on the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota for a Frozen Four spot. Here are three things to watch for as a guide to how the game might progress.

Update: Tonight’s game will be officiated by an ECAC crew.

Who scores first

Well, as everyone watching the Fighting Hawks saw last night, this team is unbeaten when scoring first, so far. North Dakota plays a relentless forecheck and has goal scorers on all of its lines to compliment it. If the Bulldogs score first, then the Fighting Hawks will have to answer back, and show their resolve as they have all season. If the Fighting Hawks score first, then the system-driven Bulldogs will have to open their game up a bit, while staying responsible in their own end. As AIC Head Coach Eric Lang said “in this tournament there are 15 good teams, then there’s North Dakota.” The reality of this point could very well be the difference in the evening for the Bulldogs. As we said of them back in September of the Bulldogs:

“The Bulldogs under coach Scott Sandelin play a consistent game while rolling four quality lines, and their depth players have proven to be nearly as valuable as the stars. Although Minnesota-Duluth can deliver a reserved brand of hockey before transitioning to its counterattacking style, there are several notable prospects on the roster who are legitimate scoring threats no matter the situation or strength on the ice”

Trips to the box

UND outplayed AIC enough in an eight minute stretch to make the other 52 minutes not as impactful, they got quality goaltending and were superb on their penalty kill all night. With that said, UND gave AIC five power play chances, of which they converted on one. In a four goal game, that is not something that will resonate with people, however, in a game against a depth-heavy team like Minnesota Duluth, the chances that one of those penalties could prove costly to the season of the Fighting Hawks rises. The Bulldogs need to play clean as well, given the strength that both of these teams have on the power play.

Duluth sticking to their system vs. UND getting to theirs

In interviews over the season, Sandelin has noted how his group,at times, while still talented and skilled at playing a similar game to North Dakota, has strayed from what has won them the last two national championships. If the Bulldogs, a strong even strength team, can bottle up the Fighting Hawks in their own end and get to what makes them a challenge to play against then in a one game scenario the margin for error in UND gets even smaller. If the Fighting Hawks can get to their game first, and force UMD to defend all night, then the amount of goals they scored against AIC could be the low mark for goals they put home in a single game in Fargo this year.

Regardless of result, the NCHC will get another team in the Frozen Four, and could have as many as three representing it in Pittsburgh this year. This conference is always tough, and while UND is expected to win, and has all the tools to do so, Scott Sandelin’s group will not make their lives easy. Both teams will represent their conference well to a national audience tonight in what promises to be compelling hockey from Fargo, no matter who wins.

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

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AIC prepares for UND: Head Coach Eric Lang on what to expect, and more

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

The last time AIC was in Fargo to take on the number one seed in the tournament, their coaching staff noted the value of sticking to a script to defeat a St. Cloud State team full of NHL-ready talent. That same idea is heavy on Head Coach Eric Lang’s mind once again as his group is preparing to take on the Fighting Hawks Friday night at 8:30 PM Central Time. The Fighting Hawks were one of the 2-3 teams Lang and his group were preparing for over the last month, his staff looked at a lot of film on them and other possible first round opponents. As Lang said of his staff’s prep and his thoughts on UND’s staff and team as a whole, “the dig was deep. We as a staff have a lot of admiration for how they do things.”

As he said of preparing for the Fighting Hawks now, compared to facing St. Cloud State in 2019, ” different team different time. We certainly understand we will have to weather some storms and by any means necessary make sure we stay in the fight. Similar to St Cloud we will have to make sure the game goes a certain way.”

In addition to understanding the differences in circumstance, Lang is thankful for the built in advantage that the Atlantic Hockey representative gets in the national tournament every year. The Atlantic Hockey Association has one media timeout per period, the national tournament, and most other conferences, including the NCHC, has three.

As Lang said of the difference. “it’s advantageous because it gives you an opportunity to adjust on the fly and not wait in between periods to make any adjustments that may be necessary. It also allows you to get your best guys out there a little more.” His team made use of the advantage last time around, and when UND gets a wave of momentum at some point in the game, as they probably will, Lang will get a de facto timeout that could help him reset things a little easier than what he can do in Atlantic Hockey games.

On the Fighting Hawks team Lang’s group is about to face, he was blunt. He said of the top end talent his team is about to face, compared to what he sees in Atlantic Hockey (Lang also was a fierce advocate of Atlantic Hockey getting two teams into the tournament this year, and has repeatedly mentioned that he thinks Army West Point should have been under consideration) ” Quite honestly we don’t have a team that resembles them in any way shape or form. It’s one of the most impressive teams on film I have seen in the last 10 years. [They have] a brilliant defense corps, hard skill up front, and depth everywhere.”

With that said, Lang also noted the strength of Atlantic Hockey, noting that his team does not have any pressure that given the past few years his conference has carried itself well. He said, “I don’t feel that pressure our conference is 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA’s [which is] quite impressive since we are quite often a 15 or 16 seed.”

Of who we might see, keep in mind that Lang can and often does lineup match based on the strengths of his opponent. To counter the speed of UND, he will have to put together the best group of skaters he has. As Lang elaborated, “we will have to put out our  best skating line up we have. We will have some new faces going in on Friday night.”

To wrap things up, Lang does have eight players who were on the roster the last time AIC played the number one overall seed in Fargo. As he said, “it’s always a good thing when you can lean on some guys, been there done that, our players will not be overwhelmed by the moment.” Finally, Lang said of the 8:30 PM start time, “game time is irrelevant. We are excited to be here what ever time they tell us to show up we will be there.”

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

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Undrafted Free Agents to watch at the 2021 Fargo Regional

Photo Credit: Kelly Shea-AIC Athletics

This week, we will see four teams converge upon Scheels Arena in Fargo North Dakota to faceoff for a trip to the 2021 Frozen Four in Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks. These teams all have top end talent, and people we will see in the NHL one day. Each team has more than one undrafted free agent worth noting, and we will discuss four undrafted free agents to watch that should have an immediate impact in professional hockey. We selected one from each team to discuss, that we will be watching this weekend.

American International College

Tobias Fladeby

The winger from Asker, Norway has nine goals and 17 total points on the season. Along with his goal scoring prowess, he has proven the ability to do it against the two best teams AIC has played. four of his goals have come against Quinnipiac (2), and Army West Point (2). Head Coach Eric Lang and the staff at AIC love his release and ability to get to key areas of the ice and find the back of the net. If he does not return to AIC, he up front, and Brennan Kapcheck on defense are two of the quietly more popular undrafted free agents on the market that have the speed and skill needed to make the NHL. Fladeby’s greatest skill this past weekend was his off puck awareness. That is, he knows where to go on the ice to get himself space. For AIC to shock some more people in Fargo, he needs to make his presence known this weekend.

University of Michigan

Strauss Mann

If the goaltender decides to go pro, the NHL may be ready for him now. As ESPN Color Analyst for the Fargo Regional, Dave Starman said of what Mann’s game involves, saying that he is. “athletic, aggressive depth, good stick down low, most importantly he is always square to the puck.” He praised how big the 6 feet tall Mann plays, and noted that he reminds him in style of Byron Dafoe. Mann is the Big 10’s Goalie of the Year and a deserving Mike Richter Award Nominee, his ability to keep the Wolverines in what promises to be a close game against the reigning back-to-back national champions, Minnesota Duluth. For all of the star power the Wolverines have, from their numerous high-end draft picks to players that will be drafted in the top 10 this summer, Mann has been the key to this group. If the Wolverines can defeat the Bulldogs, and earn a trip to the Frozen Four, Mann will be a big part of that. His style of play, and fundamental skill lends itself well to the next level, and he should have offers to choose from this summer. If we returns to Ann Arbor, he will have two years of eligibility left.

Minnesota Duluth

Louie Roehl

While Roehl is not the offensive defender that fans of the Minnesota Duluth Men’s Hockey team have been lucky to see in Dylan Samberg or Scott Perunovich, he plays the game the right way, and is superb at making life tough for the skilled forwards he sees on a nightly basis in the NCHC. As we said in our NCHC preview of Roehl “A responsible defender with improved skating to compliment his high hockey IQ, this 5-foot-10 senior may not possess Perunovich’s point-producing upside, but he makes up for it with solid play in his own end. Roehl can be counted on to maintain a slot presence and keeps loose pucks out of harm’s way or show poise under pressure when a line change is in order. Roehl is not flashy by any means, but he should be an intriguing long-term option for an NHL club in need of a mature defensive defenseman at the AHL level.” If Roehl can develop and earn his way up in a system needing veteran leadership, he could work his way to an NHL job within a few years. For now, his calmness under pressure, and ability to make the life of scoring forwards he faces quite tough are two things that the Bulldogs will need as they look to advance to the Frozen Four.

North Dakota

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Adam Scheel

For the Fighting Hawks Men’s Hockey team, they are blessed with two goaltenders in Adam Scheel and Peter Thome who are both capable of playing professional hockey. One of them, Adam Scheel, has wrested control of the net all for himself most of the season, and its not hard to see why. The Lakewood, Ohio native has gotten considerably better at maintaining his positioning throughout the game. His biggest improvement is not so much his positioning, but in how he plays the game. That is, he rebounds quickly from goals he allows, and lets the number one team in front of him find a way to get the goal back. Regardless of what he chooses to do, he will most certainly end up at an NHL development camp this summer, and he may earn a contract pretty soon after UND’s season ends. Teams that get athletic goaltenders that know how to manage the ebb and flow of a game, typically like what the see. The Lakewood, Ohio native has all of those traits and more. His ability to manage games is one reason why the Fighting Hawks have a strong enough team to earn their ninth NCAA Division One Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship this season.

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

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

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

Why are we looking back at this game?

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

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

Why did this weekend matter so much for these Mavericks?

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

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

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