North Dakota Finish First Half at Home with Victory Over Beavers

Photo: Eric Burton/ Inside Hockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– Coming back on the tail-end of a home-and-home, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks looked to gather up a win after tying the Bemidji State Beavers in Bemidji the night before. With a battered and bruised roster, the Hawks brought any healthy body they could to the roster and found an extra gear and were able to pull out a 4-2 win in their last home game of the semester. 

North Dakota was able to get pressure early and get pucks to the net, but Gavin Enright was able to hold the Hawks, even with pucks coming through traffic. Bemidji was able to counter with some odd-man rushes the other way, but Jakob Hellsten, in his second straight start, was able to hold off the attacks and keep the sheet clean. With plenty of zone time, North Dakota struck first with Tyler Kleven taking a skate around the zone before driving to the net. While Kleven’s attempt was stopped, Dylan James came in to clean up the garbage and put home his second of the year. A late power play from the Beavers had some chances created, but Hellsten shut them down to keep it 1-0 after 20 minutes. 

Starting early in the second, the Hawks were bringing plenty of energy and having some solid looks at the net. It wasn’t until five minutes in when Riese Gaber found the puck at the side of the net and buried his 10th of the year and gave North Dakota the 2-0 lead. Moments later, coming down the wing, Louis Jamernik V let one rip from the dot under the arm of Enright to make it 3-0 and tally his first of the year, something he was struggling to find all season. 

“The first guy I want to mention is Riese Gaber. Not only is he an unreal teammate, but a real good friend,” Jamernik V said post-game. “We had a good chat (Friday) night in Bemidji. I was getting down on myself. But he said it was all mindset. He gave me a lot of pointers on just reminding yourself ‘I’m gonna score, I’m gonna score’ and he was telling me all through the 1st and 2nd period. And as soon as it went in, I pointed right at him.”

It wasn’t all grand for North Dakota, as they did have a let down towards the mid-part of the third period, first with Kaden Pickering wiring home a shorthanded goal to the top corner, then Carter Jones being left alone in the slot to pick up the loose puck and make it a 3-2 game with two goals in 1:02. 

“There were a couple of shifts that got away from us, but I thought for the most part our guys got close to a sixty minute game,” Brad Berry said post game.  “The perfect game would have been in the third to roll through the lines and doing all the right things to preserve a 3-0 lead. Obviously, a little adversity, getting hit with a shorty and right after, another one. Had to call a timeout, the guys had to take a breath. I thought the guys did a good job of getting back to where we gave up those two goals.” 

Judd Caulfield was able to chip one into the open net to make the final score 4-2, as the Hawks finished out their first half at home with a 4-4-1 record. They’ll be on the road the next two weekends with NCHC contests in St. Cloud and Western Michigan. 

POST GAME VIDEO

Wright Loaned to Coachella Valley for “Conditioning”

Photo: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP

After playing seven games and being healthy scratched for 11 games– including the last five straight games, Shane Wright has been moved to the AHL for a conditioning stint with the Coachella Valley Setlist– errr– Firebirds. For me, this is reminding me of something that happened back in 2008. 

Back when Steven Stamkos entered the league, then Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Barry Melrose didn’t play the former 1st overall pick because he felt Stamkos wasn’t ready for the NHL yet. This is after the Lightning had a “Seen Stamkos” campaign hyping up their young star in the making. In Melrose’s disastrous 16 games (5-7-4) in Tampa, he played Stamkos in all those games with Stamkos playing under 10 minutes five times in that stretch and with two goals and two assists. 

It seems like Hakstol is feeling the same way about Wright that Melrose felt about Stamkos. The difference is that the Kraken have a decidedly better record (10-5-3) than what the Lightning did at the time, so not playing Wright seems like the correct decision since his absence isn’t something that has seemed to be a big factor. NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman said on the Jeff Marek Show that “Unless Hakstol was forced to play Wright more, he isn’t going to play very much in Seattle” and a move to the OHL could be looming. 

Granted, this decision probably won’t sit well with Kraken fans, as they feel Wright is a big part of the team going forward. Hard to argue when you use the fifth overall pick to snag what many people believed would be the player going first overall in the draft. But, again, the record indicates he’s not needed as much because he’s direct involvement isn’t affecting too much of the result. 

My biggest issue is what’s going to happen if he’s sent to the OHL and loses interest in that because he feels he’s outgrown it?? He was brought into the league with exceptional status granted. Even missing a year for COVID, he racked up 94 points in 63 games last season and his rookie OHL year he had 66 points in 58 games. There’s not much more for him to accomplish out there in major junior; unless it’s winning an OHL title and Memorial Cup. It’s hard to think that he needs to be there for improvement and he could even get disenchanted with the notion and regress a bit while then feeling vindictive against the Kraken for sending him down there. 

Some people claim he might have an attitude problem due to him excelling at every level and thinking he’s owed things. Some people claim he’s just not NHL ready with his play and he needs to get stronger and have more ice time elsewhere before making the jump. It’s kind of a shame that the CHL has a deal with the NHL for players with junior eligibility, because Wright could very well excel in that climate against other prospects while also not taking two steps backwards by going back to juniors. 

At the end of the day, Kraken fans are left wondering if they’ll ever see Shane at all the rest of the season.

Fighting Hawks Topple RedHawks with an Eagle Looking On

Graphic via Univeristy of North Dakota Twitter

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a tough weekend against Denver the previous week, the University of North Dakota used the energy from another bird of prey to help boost them for Friday’s game. Eddie “the Eagle” Belfour was in town for his “One Last Shift” at the Ralph Engelstad Arena and his energy for his skate around helped the Fighting Hawks handily defeat the Miami RedHawks by a count of 7-1. 

It started 3:31 in with a solid tic-tac-toe play between Mark Senden, Louis Jamernik V, and the goal scorer Gavin Hain– a line reunited after some jockeying around the last few weeks. Hain potted his six to get the scoring going for the Hawks. At the end of the frame the Hawks again struck with Ben Strinden getting the puck out of the corner and drove to the net for his first NCAA goal to make it 2-0. What was apparent was the tenacity North Dakota showed that they may have not had the week prior. They were crisp in their own zone, they make big pushes in the offensive zone, and were buzzing around Miami goalie Ludvig Persson and putting the pressure on Miami, as a whole. 

“Right from the puck drop, I thought we had a jump,” captain Mark Senden said post game. “I thought we played really well as a five-man unit up and down the ice. That was the main point in practice this week. Being sharp in those plays, supporting each other up and down the ice, working as a five-man unit up and down the ice. I thought we executed that very well.”

“You know, what really got me going on the bench tonight was the guys started to talk on the bench,” noted head coach Brad Berry. “When guys made a good play, there was positivity there, there was encouragement, there was reaffirmation. When guys didn’t make the right play, it was the accountability side, for me, that when they came back it was, ‘You know what, you got to get that puck in. You know what, you’ve got to take a shorter shift.’ It was standing up and telling someone. And we got better.”

Things definitely got better in the second period, with four goals in the frame– two coming from a major power play and one from the shorthanded side. Jackson Blake and Griffin Ness used redirections off Miami defenders to post the power play goals for UND, while Mark Senden finished off a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush for North Dakota’s first shorthanded goal of the season. Though Miami’s Blake Mesenburg scoring late in the fame, UND battled back 18 seconds later with Judd Caulfield restoring the five-goal lead to end the second frame. 

Persson was given the rest of the night off, with Logan Neaton getting third period duties. Blake added his second goal of the game 4:43 into the frame to give North Dakota the 7-1 lead and victory. Jakob Hellsten got his second straight start and was solid when called upon, making 18 saves in the victory. 

POST GAME VIDEO

North Dakota Drops Series Opener to Denver 3-2

Graphic via North Dakota Hockey Twitter

GRAND FORKS, ND– Almost there. 

That seemed to be the theme from the North Dakota Fighting Hawks following a 3-2 defeat against Denver on Friday night. With bits and pieces of their game coming together, the whole package hasn’t seemed to be completed for this squad, as the Hawks drop to 4-4-1 on the season. 

“Just buying into the little things here and there,” mentioned Chris Jandric post game. “We kept them to 19 shots, stopped their top line; but it comes down to the little things and have to have a more business-like mentality. Just have to gain some more speed and clean up our defensive zone, too. It’s just buying in, whether it’s blocking shots or chipping the puck out; but it’s unacceptable to be losing these games.” 

After a messed up travel schedule coming into this weekend, the Pioneers were the first on the board when Kyle Mayhew beat Ty Farmer to a loose puck in the corner and found Carter King in the slot, who whipped one over Drew DeRidder’s shoulder for the early 1-0 lead. North Dakota picked up the pressure after that, taking control offensively, but couldn’t solve Magnus Chrona for much of the first frame. It wasn’t until under three minutes left did UND get on the board with Ryan Sidorski jumping into the rush and centering a pass in front that initially got deflected by Chrona, but laid in the crease for Griffin Ness to pick up and put home to tie the game going into the intermission. 

Denver got going early in the second with Aidan Thompson creating a takeaway in the slot and using a couple of screens in front from North Dakota skaters to beat DeRidder and make it a 2-1 Denver lead only 2:17 into the second frame. The score could have gotten a lot worse, as North Dakota was getting the brunt of the penalty calls against them; but DeRidder made some fine saves during those PKs and kept the deficit at only a goal heading into the second intermission. 

To start the third, UND was able to get it going early on a carry-over penalty with Jandric getting the puck at the blue line, taking his time for a screen to form, and wristing one through everyone to tie the game only 33 seconds into the last regulation period. With each team pressing to break the tie, the Pioneers would be the team to do it, with Jared Wright picking up a rebound and getting just enough on it to have it squeak through DeRidder’s pads to make it a 3-2 score. North Dakota would hold Denver to only two shots in the last 13:27 of the game, but could not find an equalizer themselves, even with the extra attacks for almost three minutes at the end of the game. Denver wins only their second games in 20 trips to The Ralph by a score of 3-2. 

“Just having more consistent habits to details,” said head coach Brad Berry when asked what more is needed from the Hawks. “I do think we’re close. I give Denver credit, they won the game. But sometimes we beat ourselves a little bit. In situations where games in the third period when the game is up for grabs and sometimes we give up a goal at inopportune times by beating ourselves and not by playing the percentages and not having a chance playing in the offensive zone.” 

POST GAME VIDEO

The Mullett Arena Student Section Will Be the Best Thing Other NHL Teams Will Never Incorporate

Photo via VenuesNow.com

Everyone is going to dunk on the Arizona Coyotes. Rightfully so, as this team has been a disaster since 2009 when Jerry Moyes first sold the team. Even more now playing in a college hockey arena with an unfinished visiting locker room for the opening weekend and no concrete plans for their own arena coming up. 

But could this turn the corner for them?? Could playing in a sub-5,000 capacity building be the turning point for the Coyotes to get people to love them and not wish them to move elsewhere. 

Short answer, no. 

Long answer, no– but they’re going to give people and the league an experience that won’t soon be forgotten. 

The one thing out of this whole situation is going to be what becomes of the “Student Section” portion of Mullett Arena. With the cost-effective student tickets in that section, it could very well create something akin to what European fans experience every game. It’s something that would be strictly unique to the Coyotes and Mullett Arena…but when it’s gone once the Coyotes leave, will that concept stay??

A part of me would like to think that if the Student Section is a success, especially being so close to the ice, would more teams think about doing the same kind of thing in their arenas to build a younger fan base and create a more jovial atmosphere for their rink??

Short answer, no.

Longer answer, no– but because they don’t want to give up those high-dollar seats for $25 tickets for a rowdy crowd because sports is corporate and the belief is that you can’t have a good fan experience when the rowdies are near the ice and not in the nosebleed– where some think they belong. 

It all comes down to dollars. Regardless of if the Student Section at Mullett becomes one of the bigger stories out of this season. Regardless of if you can build a new, younger fan base from lowering ticket prices for a section to accommodate college students to build their own culture. Regardless of if it will make the sport grow because of how insane the crowds will become– owners don’t want to give up $100 a seat to make a better atmosphere. 

Because sports aren’t about fun. Sports are a business. And businesses need money– not fun. My hope is that through this whole situation the Coyotes find themselves in (yet again), that the Student Section can bring some fun to the hockey-going experience and to the TV experience, as well. My hope is that enough Arizona State students show up to not only support the Coyotes, but to make their mark on hockey to let other colleges know that they are a hockey school now, too. Make the experience big, make it project through the TV broadcasts, and make it so that people actually start thinking of Arizona as a hockey destination.

Fighting Hawks Comeback To Tie in First Test of the Season

Graphic via University of North Dakota Athletics

GRAND FORKS, ND– In their first big test of the season, the University of North Dakota came out of it with a mixed review. Despite the 5-5 tie against eighth-ranked Quinnipiac, the Fighting Hawks have plenty to improve on when it comes to their own game should they want to play against the heavy hitters in the NCAA. 

While they outchanced Quinnipiac offensively, North Dakota didn’t have the best of times in their own zone, with the Bobcats picking apart the defensive scheme from North Dakota. It started past the midway point, with Jacob Quillan picking off a bad breakout attempt from UND and found Joey Cipollone streaking unmarked down the slot, who put it over Drew DeRidder’s shoulder for the 1-0 Quinnipiac lead. North Dakota would try to push back, but the Bobcats would strike again with Christophe Fillion taking a shot that was blocked off Ethan Frisch’s ankle and the puck finding Christophe Tellier, who deked DeRidder– who overshot his post in his reset– and Tellier made it 2-0 putting passed the outstretched pad of DeRidder. With under a minute remaining, the Bobcats ended the period on a high as Cipollone beat out Tyler Kleven for a loose puck, pushed it to TJ Friedmann, who found Quillan in front for a one-timer to make it 3-0 at the end of the first and the end of the night for DeRidder. 

“It was pretty firm and direct,” head coach Brad Berry said post game of his talk in the first intermission. “We pulled our goaltender to maybe get a push from our team, and I thought we did that. But I wanted Drew DeRidder to know that when we’re not playing our best, it’s not just one guy. It’s everyone in that locker room who didn’t play up to the standard that we needed to do.” 

The response from UND was solid, as within the first three minutes they were on the board, as Dylan James made a great stick check in at the point to spring himself and Nick Portz on a 2-on-1 with Portz’s shot going off the post, but James following up on the play and notching his first NCAA goal. It was nearly 3-2 for UND, with Mark Senden poking in a puck in front, but a Quinnipiac challenge for offside was upheld and the goal was called back. The Bobcats took that high and got their three-goal lead back with Friedmann being able to skate around the zone and create his own space before wiring one home behind Jakob Hellsten to make it 4-1. The Hawks were pumping in the shots in the second, totaling 21 in the middle frame alone. Those chances helped with Riese Gaber getting onto the board, putting him a one-timer off a slick pass from Owen McLaughlin behind the net and the Hawks cut the lead in half 4-2 going into the second intermission. 

North Dakota benefited from a couple power play in the early part of the third, with Jackson Blake bringing North Dakota to within one with a great spin-move off the half-wall and cutting to the net to put it through Yaniv Perets and make it a 4-3 game. Less than two minutes later on a two-man advantage, Chris Jandric picked up a loose puck in the slot and wired it home to even the game. Thirty-four seconds after that goal, Gavin Hain took a loose puck in the circle and ripped on that trickled behind Perets and made it 5-4 North Dakota as the roof was close to coming off The Ralph with the hypeness from the UND faithful. The Bobcats would get it back to even as Jayden Lee skated the length of the blue line, drawing two defenders, opening up CJ McGee for a one-timer to put this game at 5s with half a period to go.

Neither team was able to get the go-ahead goal, nor the winner in overtime; thus the game would be officially a draw. However, in the shootout– North Dakota got goals from Blake and Gaber with Hellsten stopping two of three Bobcats to give the Hawks the emotional victory on Friday night. 

POST GAME VIDEO

North Dakota Finishes Sweep of Holy Cross

Photo via UND Athletic Department

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a gaggle of goals on Friday, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks were looking to complete the sweep of Holy Cross and maybe shut them out entirely on the weekend. While the defense was strong and the offensive depth was shown from all angles, North Dakota could only complete one of those tasks with the win, but couldn’t hold onto the weekend shutout. 

North Dakota started on their heels a bit, as Holy Cross wanted to jump out early after last night’s debacle on their end. Jakob Hellsten, getting his first start of any kind this season, was solid to start off the game; withstanding the attack from the Crusaders to keep the game scoreless. As the Hawks adjusted the game to counterattack, they were able to get plenty of shots on Holy Cross’ Louden Hogg, though they couldn’t get much past him in the early going. It was until under three minutes in the frame when the Hawks got on the board after Gavin Hain picked up the puck out of a scrum and put a backhand shot past Hogg for his second of the season. Holy Cross challenged a high-stick, but the call stood. Minutes later, on the power play, Ethan Frisch unleashed a cannon of a one-timer to make the Hawks lead increased to two. Another Holy Cross challenge was denied on replay and they were assessed a delay of game call. 

In the second, it was more of a settled period, with both teams working in the neutral zone for most of the frame, UND limited Holy Cross to only four shots in the period. North Dakota were firing at net, but the Holy Cross defense was clogging up the shooting lanes in front of Hogg and helping him out with blocks. NoDak got on the board late in the frame with Hain tallying his second of the night, against on the backhand off a rebound in front to make it 3-0. A minute and thirty seconds later, Carson Albrecht made it 4-0 picking up a puck in front of a mass of humanity and putting it home for his first of the season. 

The Crusaders had a big counterpunch in the third, trying to not get shutout on consecutive nights, while also holding North Dakota at bay. Despite two power plays in the frame, North Dakota only mustered four shots on goal in the final frame, with Holy Cross’ defense getting in front of a lot of shots. Holy Cross would break though with a little help from UND, as Charlie Spence was credited with a goal after the puck bounced off of Frisch’s leg and into the net to make it 4-1 with under three minutes remaining. Nothing would change in those minutes and UND held on for the 4-1 win and a sweep of the weekend. 

VIDEO POST GAME

(Video Desync at End)

Quick Start Guide North Dakota to Season Opener Win Over Holy Cross

Jackson Blake scores first goal of game and his college career (Photo: Eric Burton/Inside Hockey/@goon48)

GRAND FORKS, ND– Friday night was the opening of the regular season for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. With a full roster after a brief illness, you could see the synergy in the first period for the Hawks with all their lines rolling throughout the first period. It took only four minutes and twenty seconds in the middle portion of the game for NoDak to get out to a 4-0 lead. 

Jackson Blake and Mark Senden scored 17 seconds apart on two wonderful cross-ice passes from Chris Jandric and Louis Jamernik V respectively. Jamernik V also created the turnover that led Gavin Hain to his first goal back since his injury back in January, as Cooper Moore capped off the scoring spree with a rip from the top of the circles and behind Holy Cross’s Jason Grande. 

Though the second period was another story. After a heavy start and despite a Riese Gaber goal in the middle of the frame, you could see UND getting a bit too relaxed. Not much hard skating through the zones, letting up on possible scoring attempts, and letting Holy Cross start to outshoot them with three straight penalties back-to-back-to-back. It was something known within.

“We had to be better in our D-zone,” Blake mentioned post game. “Bear down, getting the puck out and stuff like that. I think that’s what we did in the third.’

The third period was a little bit better in getting their strut back that they had in the first period, though Thomas Gale stepped in for Holy Cross and made some solid saves and got the benefit of some interference calls to stymie the North Dakota scoring chances. A late Jake Schmaltz goal sealed the 6-0 win for NoDak. It gave new transfer goalie Drew DeRidder his first shutout since the 2020-21 season when he was at Michigan State. 

“It’s nice to have that kind of cushion,” said DeRidder. “I’m able to relax a little bit and know I’m able to make a mistake or two and it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game.” 

North Dakota looks for the sweep on Saturday over Holy Cross.

POST GAME VIDEOS

Depth Rules the Day for UND in Exhibition Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– This past week, the University of North Dakota had to deal with an illness going through the program, so much so that they had to go into the exhibition game with the University of Manitoba with 13 forwards, five defensemen, and two goalies, a far cry from the abundance of players who suit up for usual exhibition games. Despite the lack of usual skaters and needing to drop captain Mark Senden back on defense in the third period, the Fighting Hawks were able to get the victory in their tune-up for the 2022-23 season. 

It wasn’t the start that the Hawks were looking for, as on the first shot from Manitoba; Mitch Dyck ripped one through a big screen in front of Drew DeRidder to put the Bison up 1-0. North Dakota didn’t have the puck luck early on, as pucks were hopping off of sticks, too many passes being made, or holding the puck just a bit too long when lining up for a shot. The Hawks got onto the board with 7:01 to go in the first with Griffin Ness taking a rebound and putting it behind Brett Murphy to tie the game up at one. North Dakota kept the offense going until the end of the frame, but could only muster one goal through the first 20. 

“It was a good play by Jandric,” said Ness, “when you get to the heavy area in front of the net, sometimes you get rewarded. I just happened to be there. Feels good, but I look forward to next weekend. 

The second period showed what the UND squad was capable of, with Jake Schmaltz scoring 21 seconds into the frame after Matteo Costantini had his shot blocked by a Manitoba defender in front. North Dakota kept the pressure up through the second, but it wasn’t until after halfway where they got their paydirt. It started with Red Wings’ pick Dylan James rifling a shot home after Ben Strinden won the offensive zone face off to make it 3-1 Hawks. Less than a minute later, Tyler Kleven showed off his offensive upside, coming down from the point and putting it over the shoulder of Murphy, near side, to make it 4-1 Hawks. Finally, after the Hawks killed off a penalty, Chris Jandric poked the puck ahead to Gavin Hain, who found Jandric to finish off a four-goal period and take North Dakota to the 5-1 lead. 

While there was no scoring in the third, local product Kaleb Johnson was able to get into net for the first time in his college career, taking the third period and stopping all five shots he faced. Giving credit to the team in front of him, Johnson basked in the moment he was afforded on Saturday. 

“All the memories from my childhood kind of came over me,” Johnson said after the game. “It’s always been my dream. To get that win, it’s so special. I’m glad I got to share it with this group of guys. They’re great people, hard workers, and they made it even more special for me.” 

VIDEO POST-GAME

To Hell With the NHL Awards Show

Photo from the Hockey Hall of Fame

The NHL Awards Show happened Tuesday. It was terrible. Get rid of it.

Okay, I can’t say it was all terrible. Chris Snow and his family coming out to award the Norris Trophy was nice, as well as Brian Hamilton and Nadia Popovici coming out. But by and large– we don’t need award shows anymore.

Not only was it clunky, but it looked like most people would rather be anywhere else, the jokes didn’t hit, and then they cut off Kenan Thompson as he was trying to end the show. They announced the GM of the Year nominees, but then are going to make us wait until the Draft to get that answer; some awards were given out ahead of the show with video messages of the shortened acceptance speech, and it just all looked forced.

The idea of the Awards Show just feels archaic in that hacky feeling of everyone getting together in one spot for the end of the year. But especially when it comes to hockey, the idea of hearing cliched acceptance speeches, forced bits by the hosts, and trying to talk to nominees as if it’ll be a make-or-break trophy for them to win seems like it’s past it’s prime.

When it comes to awards, the NBA does it right. They announce it during the playoffs, if the player is still in it– they get acknowledgement from the crowd before playing, and then it’s over with. No need to fill up deadspace, no need to rent out an event center, player’s can give their usual responses post-game– everyone wins. It just seems like a slog trying to coordinate all of this when it’s something that well past it’s sell-by date.

Sure, there’s some veil of mystery and it’s not the worst awards show (that goes to NASCAR where everyone knows who won what during the last race); but it’s not something that should be given the TV time. Considering they rushed it off the air right at 8 PM ET, you could tell that it was merely an obligation to have it done rather than a necessity.

Times change, desire to see all the players/coaches/talking heads at an awards show isn’t as demanded anymore, and it’s treated as filler by most folks involved. Just get rid of it and announce it during the playoffs.