UND Men’s Hockey: Three minor concerns after Colorado College Sweep

The Fighting Hawks of North Dakota are a bit faster than they were last year with players like Riese Gaber coming in right away and scoring goals in bunches. They are a little bigger, with Jasper Weatherby playing the role of shutdown center, and strong in net with Peter Thome and Adam Scheel backing things up quite well for the most part.

With all of that said, the Tigers of Colorado College added to the opus of how to skate with UND, before UND’s next series, it is a good time to look at some nagging areas of concern this team has to have. Yes, they are one of the best in the country, but every team has some flaws to it, and these are flaws not to bar UND from the NCAA Tournament which they will surely make, but flaws that will prevent them from winning many games in it. These are all things we have been watching for and will continue to note.

The undisciplined penalties

This team has one of the best penalty kills in the country, yet relies on it far too much to win games. Routinely some of the penalties this team takes are not due to positioning, or preventing scoring chances, but often meager stick infractions in their offensive zone or the neutral zone. This penalty kill will not keep up its pace all year, and as Ben Copeland showed last night, eventually power plays will convert against you. For this team to win in the NCAA Tournament, a feet not done since 2016, it has to eliminate at least half of the penalties it is taking

The home run passes

UND has talented defenders, some of the best in this game. Every pair has an Ottwa Senators prospect on it, and every pair from time to time tries to make home-run passes through the neutral zone for breakways, and they often become turnovers the other way. Teams will not beat UND grinding them in their own zone, it rarely happens any more and that is a testament to the strong recruiting of its leader, Brad Berry. Teams often have sucess against UND because they have gotten good at being opportunistic, and diagonal home run passes through the neutral zone that set up easy turnovers and a rush the other way will not bring home anything other than disapointment.

Goalie usage

We have always appreciated both Peter Thome and Adam Scheel’s games. To win this season, both of them have to play some games, and we are concerned that Scheel will be overused. If teams with lesser tandems can deploy their goalies more evenly, this one can as well. It is not the tradition of UND to use this, but given the quickly rescheduled games, and the potential for three or four games in some weeks, using the tandem you have will prevent the postseason starter from getting too tired.

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Never Surrender: How Air Force Upset St. Cloud State 4-1

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee of Violent Turtle Photography)

Tyler Ledferd’s two goals and Billy Christopoulous’ 39 save effort against the number one overall seed St. Cloud State Huskies was enough to provide the upset. Air Force used two empty net goals to make the final margin 4-1. Blake Lizotte provided the only tally for St. Cloud on a feed from Patrick Newell 17:09 into the third. Air Force struck for its first empty net goal from Jordan Himley 1:17 after the Lizotte goal. Kyle Haak added the final empty net tally to provide the 4-1 final score.

This was the second time in history that a number 16 overall seed has defeated the number one overall seed.The last time this happened,  RIT defeated Minnesota State Mankato in the 2015 tournament.

Early on, this game was a defensive chess match. Both teams did not generate a lot of shots on the opposing netminder early on. The best early chance came from Evan Giesler early on for the Falcons. Neither team could score in the first period.

2:57 into the second period, Tyler Ledford  swatted a puck out of mid air and past St. Cloud State netminder David Hrenak to open up the scoring. The play would get reviewed for a high stick but ended up counting.  The call was so close, even Ledford was not sure if it would count. Since the call on the ice was a good goal, it was not overturned since the evidence was not conclusive despite the long review time.

A few minutes later, Ledford would strike again. This time he redirected a Matt Koch pass past David Hrenak to make it a 2-0 game 6:29 into the second. From that point on, St. Cloud State generated the majority of its chances. They utilized their team speed to generate different looks from multiple angles.

It would not matter.

The Falcons played a defensively superb third period, and limited second and third chances. They also guarded the front of the net well, and eliminated a lot of the backdoor scoring plays St. Cloud State likes to utilize with its superb speed. The Falcons blocked 29 of the 78 attempted shots from St. Cloud State on the evening. They did just enough to limit the Huskies when it mattered, and capitalized on the rare St. Cloud State mistakes.

For Air Force to have a chance tomorrow, they will have to face a fast team in Minnesota Duluth or Minnesota State Mankato once again and need to replicate the game they played today. If the Falcons can help their dialed in netminder Christopoulos see the puck well, who knows what could happen tomorrow.  Since Air Force scores a lot by comitee, whomever it faces has to utilize its speed early, and generate traffic in front of Christopoulos. If they can do that, then they can score before the Falcons’ netminder settles in. If not, then the winner of game two tonight could be in for the same fate tomorrow as St. Cloud State was tonight.