UND HOCKEY: Late Rally Comes Up Short As UND Lose to Minnesota


Photo from @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– It was the first time I personally experienced the rivalry between the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota in hockey. The hype coming this week after a six-year absence from Grand Forks brought about plenty of great reads from the Grand Forks Herald‘s Brad Schlossman and after the Friday game and the atmosphere that came with it, I get what it was all about.

While the outcome wasn’t what the 11,862 wanted, the game brought about all the emotions of the past and brought some into the present. From blocker punches to the head to scraps after whistles to dead gophers being thrown onto the ice after Rhett Gardner’s goal in the third– this had the makings of something great to come for Saturday night.

However, Friday night was a different tone for the home squad. Despite the hype from the home crowd, Minnesota got on the board first when Casey Mittelstadt dished off to Rem Pitlick, who split the North Dakota defense and put it high blocker on Cam Johnson 11 minutes into the first period.

It was a stalemate for most of the game after that, though UND did keep the pace up in the offensive zone, but Eric Schierhorn was equal to the task, especially with the help of the defense clogging the lanes and blocking shots to the tune of 29 for the game to the Gophers’ stats.

Can’t take credit away from them for blocking shots,” said Christain Wolanin post-game. “They bring not just one, but two and sometimes three layers of blocking. But we gotta work around it and adjust in order to get through it.” 

While the second period yielded no goals, Minnesota took a two-goal lead after Rem Pitlick set up Steve Johnson to go far on the blocker side of Johnson. When a team could have gotten down after a goal like that late, UND kept pushing and finally broke through on their power play after a set face-off play where Gardner got the face-off win to Wolanin with a touch pass to Grant Mismash who ripped it from the point, as Gardner crashed the net and picked up the rebound Schierhorn left to cut the Gophers’ lead in half and got the Ralph Engelstad Arena back into it.

Yet, despite having the energy from the crowd, the Fighting Hawks couldn’t get the equalizer, despite having numerous chances with an extra-skater as coach Brad Berry took out Johnson with two minutes left in the third. It didn’t come without chance after chance by UND, down to the last second when freshman Gabe Bast ripped a one-timer, but it got blocked by Jack Ramsey’s ankle as time expired to give the Gophers the 2-1 victory.

Our effort was there tonight,” said coach Berry. “We took penalties and gave them momentum. They’re opportunistic, when they got chances they buried them. We were relentless tonight. We pushed the pace and playing in the other team’s zone. I liked the pace of our play and not spending a lot of time in our end of the rink, but we didn’t finish plays.” 

“They’re a team that takes advantage of opportunity,” mentioned Gardner. “We are trying to stay positive. We knew they block in their own zone, we just gotta work on some more things. Loss is a loss and we gotta regroup. If we keep the crowd in it in for the full 60 it will help us.”

The crowd was awesome,” Wolanin added, “But we did a good job of being even keel. Good energy on the bench. When we got down, guys were saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it back’ and it got us through a lot.”

One can only hope the crowd can stay behind UND with better results on Saturday, as UND tries to even the score and come out of the weekend with a split series, though they would have wanted those two wins.

UND HOCKEY: Three in First, Big Penalty Kill Leads UND to Weekend Sweep


Photo from @UNDMHockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– What the University of North Dakota has been lack in the early part of this season has been scoring. Saturday, however, they turned that around with six goals from six different goal scorers to cruise to a 6-1 victory to conclude the series sweep of St. Lawrence.

After needing 19 minutes to get one goal last night, the Fighting Hawks were able to get three in that time-span in Saturday. Christian Wolanin, Shane Gersich, and Grant Mismash all got their first goals of the season in the first, with Gersich getting his on the power play. Colton Poolman had two assists on the Wolanin and Gersich goals, while Mismash’s goal came off a turnover on a St. Lawrence breakout.


Shane Gersich/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“We were using our strength and our speed and really overwhelming them,” said Gersich. “We were causing turnovers and that’s what creates offense. We were playing great off the puck, too,”

As good as Arthur Brey was on Friday, he didn’t have the stuff on Saturday. Coach Mark Morris swapped out Brey for sophomore Daniel Mannella, who was tested early, but only let in one second period goal by Jordan Kawaguchi, another power play tally.

Things almost took a turn after the Kawaguchi goal, as Mismash got a five minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head of Philip Alftberg. While Ben Finkelstein of St. Lawrence got a penalty, UND got back-to-back calls against them to make it an extended 5-on-3 for St. Lawrence. Cam Johnson and the defense was equal to the task, stopping everything thrown at them as St. Lawrence was held scoreless on the power play.


Cam Johnson/ Photo by @NHLHistorygirl

“It was tiring, but it was nice to get some action there,” said Johnson of the 5-on-3. “Had a couple choice words when it happened, but I thought our penalty kill did unbelievable not giving them too many quality chances. It was a huge momentum builder for us”

“The could have gone either way, but he was our best penalty killer,” Poolman mentioned of his goaltender. “He comes up big in big moments and his rebound control is unbelievable. He’s a steady influence back there.”

Eventually, St. Lawrence was able to break the ice in the third with a goal from Jacob Pritchard almost four minutes into the frame. UND answered back towards the end as Cole Smith and Rhett Gardner got their first goals of the season sending the 11,599 at The Ralph home happy off a successful weekend.

“The biggest thing is I think guys knew we could play better tonight,” commented head coach Brad Berry. “Last night, we were grateful for the win, but we talked about it and knew we could be better.”

One down note was the loss of Johnny Simonson, who got hit awkwardly in the second period, not to return for the game. Coach Berry said he was be evaluated and they’ll see how it goes throughout the week leading into next week’s rival series against Minnesota.

UND HOCKEY: Wolanin Ready to Step Into Experienced Role


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After winning a National Championship with UND in his first season, Christian Wolanin, along with the other Fighting Hawks, had to learn their way around a season without the veteran core they had to lead them to the National Championship. However, Wolanin took away the experience of both seasons with a solid vision for the future.

“We just learn what it takes,” said Wolanin during UND’s Hockey Media Day. “We were lucky in the National Championship season to have Troy Stetcher and Paul LaDue on defense and Drake Caggulia, Nick Schmlatz up front. It was a blessing to learn from them. Last year, we figured it out as it went along. We had a rough start, had some ups and downs. But we figured it out what it takes to win on a day-to-day basis. I think we deserved a better fate, but that’s behind us and we’re ready for this year.”

However, this year, Wolanin will be the senior most player on the blueline. With Gage Ausmus graduating and Tucker Poolman going pro, Wolanin will be looked at to be the leader on and off the ice for the younger defenseman, but it’s a role he’s more than willing to take up.

“I’m excited. I had great leaders and great people around me to help me in my first two years,” Wolanin mentioned. “At some point you expect the role to be dropped on you. I hope to exceed everyone’s expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I know the pressure is there but that’s what you play for.”

Wolanin sees this team a little different than the past two years and providing a line-up that may see this UND team have a higher internal competition between teammates than what has happened in year’s past.

“We’re deep, we have four lines we know can go,” said Wolanin. “Unfortunately, with how North Dakota is, we’ll have some great players will be out of the line-up; but that will create some better competition in practice. And that goes for every player from senior to freshman. New guys are great. They haven’t played a game yet, but their work ethic is there and they’re learning to buy into the tradition and culture of the team.”

During the summer, Wolanain went back to Ottawa Senators developmental camp, as the 2015 Fourth Round choice of Ottawa said he had gained the weight that Ottawa, as well as UND, wanted him to gain. While he keeps his eyes on the UND season, Wolanin knows that if he can play his game– both the Senators and Fighting Hawks staff will be more than pleased with his performance.

That performance could lead him to the NHL, which is something that is in his lineage, as Christian is a second generation player, with his father Craig playing almost 700 games in the NHL and was a member of the 1995-96 Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche.

“My dad is the reason I’m here,” said Wolanin “He’s been so influential in my whole life, whether it’s turning hockey into life lesson or life into a hockey situation. I’m very thankful for him.”

While Christian has carved out his own path, having a father that has experience does help. That said, with more on his plate this season and his hunger to help get UND back into the National Championship picture, expect Wolanin to be better than he has been and make those around him up their games in order to keep up.