UND HOCKEY: Hawks Slide Past Bemidji State in Exhibition Opener

GRAND FORKS, ND– It has been a long time since the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks played in front of a full Ralph Engelstad Arena. With the weekend in Grand Forks being as busy as it was, The Ralph was packed with 11,812 fans happy to be in the arena and cheer on the Hawks. On a banner raising night to commemorate the NCHC Championship, the Fighting Hawks and their 14 new players took on the Bemidji State Beavers in their exhibition tune-up and took home a victory by a count of 2-1. 

The game was initially supposed to be against the University of Manitoba, as most teams face USports teams from Canada for their exhibition games. Because of that, the NCAA allowed exhibition games against fellow NCAA teams if need be. 

“This was a litmus test for us,” mentioned head coach Brad Berry. “Even though both teams might have a little rust tonight; the heaviness, the lack of time and space, you know, an intense college hockey game was thrown at us. There’s nothing that replaces that. We have a lot of areas to work on, but I’m glad we got to play against a very, very good opponent.”

“That’s a great team over there,” Jake Sanderson said of Bemidji State. “I saw that the schedule changed and I was pretty happy just to see where we stacked up against another good team. I was pretty pumped.”

It was a feeling out period for both teams, with North Dakota getting chances early on, but Michael Carr had some pretty solid saves from the Fighting Hawks attempts. Bemidji didn’t get a shot on goal until after halfway through the first, with North Dakota getting into the shooting lanes, as well as not giving the Beavers any time to set-up their offense. Bemidji did get plenty of chances after the halfway mark, including a breakaway that just got past Zach Driscoll, but couldn’t get past the left post to keep the game scoreless. 

It didn’t take long for North Dakota to find the net in the second period, as an early power play for the Fighting Hawks yielded the first goal. The puck cycled around the zone and ended up on Riese Gaber’s stick, where he fired a wrister past Mattias Sholl to give UND the lead 2:30 into the frame. Bemidji would answer back moments later as a tic-tac-toe passing play from Lukas and Owen Sillinger ended with a Alex Ierullo goal to even the score. North Dakota seemed to be on their heels after that goal, with Bemidji working the puck around, but not getting many shots onto Driscoll. 

Going in tied at one in the third, both teams were looking for any space they could. Bemidji’s forecheck was giving North Dakota fits, while maintaining pressure on net. Driscoll kept composure and kept the game knotted up, including stopping an Owen Sillinger breakaway attempt. Just past the halfway mark, Jake Sanderson took the game on his stick, going end-to-end and putting a shot five-hole on Gavin Enright to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. While Bemidji pushed, the Fighting Hawks defense got in front of shots and clogged up the neutral zone on their way to the 2-1 victory. 

“I just saw time and space,” Sanderson said of his goal. “The defense kind of backed off and I just took it.” 

North Dakota starts their regular season off next weekend against Niagara University at home. 

THEY SAID IT

“It was a weird experience for sure. I played three seasons in that program, so going out for warm-ups and seeing the Beaver jersey on the other side was a little weird. One the puck drops, you’re just playing hockey after that.”– Driscoll on playing his former school in his first game at North Dakota. 

“I thought it was awesome. Haven’t played in over a year, but these guys made it easy for me. It’s a good group here, so it was awesome. I just gotta give credit to the team and my D partners for making it so easy for me. Kept it easy and simple.”– Chris Jandric on playing his first NCAA game in over a year.

Twenty

August 8th, 2001 marked the first Face Off Hockey Show. Known just as “Face-Off,” it was a streaming radio show that pre-dates the iPod by two-and-a-half months– which is why we didn’t call it a podcast. It was a show that streamed live and thanks to code and all of that– it was made available as an on-demand stream. It was kind of ahead of its time.

If you were to tell me then that this show would still be going two decades later, I’d be a little apprehensive. At that time, Marc and I were both about to head to college, while Jon had a career already, and Sean was running the streaming business that hosted our show. At any time it could have just fell by the wayside because of life getting in the way. Hell, I moved to another country three years into the show, so needed to adjust and adapt to that was a big deal.

But we did just that. From VOIP phones to cell phone cards to Excalibur boxes, to then Hangouts On Air and now Skype– we’ve found a way to do a show every Wednesday (give or take two or three) from 2001 until the present. It’s been a way for us to keep in touch, it’s been a way for us to get/keep our names relevant in the hockey landscape, and it’s allowed up opportunities we might not have otherwise have taken. Granted, Sean has gotten plenty on his plate nowadays and really dropped off for a bit; the Pitzes and I have kept this train a-rollin’.

When you look at the 20 years or work we’ve done and the places we’ve been; the question that may come up and one that I always have is whether or not we feel we should be bigger in terms of popularity than what we have now??

Personally (since I don’t know what the Pitzes think), I do think we should be bigger. That’s easy to say when there’s a bias in it, but I mean– we’ve put in the work, the longevity, know some of the right people– but the wide-spread notoriety hasn’t happened for us. While that sucks, the core group of people who enjoy us seem to enjoy us a lot. Having that “underground” fan base is pretty cool and I love them to death. I just wish more people enjoyed us how our fans have enjoyed us.

We don’t play the game well. We never wanted to be the fake persona on the podcast or any kind of online presence just to be in the good graces of people. We know who we like, we want to talk to people who we like, and it’s kind of easy for us to pick up the people who might be great in some capacity in their own online bubble; but are people I personally don’t think I could be fake for if they were to come on the show. We know the people we gel with on the show and that’s why they’re a constant for us. But we also know who we wouldn’t gel with and I wouldn’t want to do a forced interview just to get listeners from their portfolio.

Another way we don’t play the game well is that we don’t mesh with the NHL ideology. That was never more noticeable when Jen (NHL History Girl) introduced me to former senior VP of communications for the league, Frank Brown, and to get the response of an icy cold stare and a “I know who you are” as a response to my introduction…pretty much shows why we as Face Off Hockey Show rarely get NHL credentials under the show name. The show hasn’t been credentialed since 2017. No reason why, no real idea why– but it is what it is now, I suppose.

Granted, I’m sure a lot of other bloggers and podcasts have been treated the same way. After the big internet boom of the late ’00s, early ’10s; the NHL has had to be picky and choosy about who gets what and where. Add that to everyone old beat writer joining The Athletic and doubling the coverage by team beats because of it– if you don’t have a big status; you’re not going to get into the show.

In any case, we still soldier onward. This show has been great for me to stay in touch with my friends back home every week and make me play pretend radio guy as a hobby for the past two decades. This has been a great time for me and I hope it continues for many more years to come. We have a great relationship with the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL, a solid relationship with the University of North Dakota, and made some pretty long-term friends/fans out of this whole thing. For me, someone who wanted to get into media since I was a teenager, I couldn’t think of a better time than these past 20 years.

Take care of yourself and someone else.

UND HOCKEY: Mr. Johnson Goes to Washington in Third Round

Photo via Sioux Falls Stampede

GRAND FORKS, ND– As a wedding was set-up for Saturday afternoon on the floor of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, another marriage took place hours before, as incoming University of North Dakota defenseman Brent Johnson was selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Sitting in a suite with his family, Johnson actually didn’t initially notice his name on the board.

“Actually, I wasn’t even looking,” said Johnson. “I was looking at my phone and then I looked up and it was pretty exciting. My heart kind of dropped for a second. Just a lot of emotions all at once. Unreal experience. I’ve been working on this for a long time now– especially with my family here with me. It’s something that’ll never forget. They’ve all been pulling the same rope that I have, so they know hard I’ve worked and it was special to have them here.”

Coming from Frisco, Texas, Johnson will be the first player to wear a North Dakota uniform from the Lone Star state and should be play for the Capitals, he’ll be the second player of record to hail from Texas, the first being Chris Brown from 2013 until 2016. Developing in the Dallas Stars Elite youth program, Johnson sees a lot of talent coming from the area from his experiences.

“It’s been a lot better and it’s growing fast,” Johnson mentioned of hockey in Texas. The guys are growing up and becoming hockey players and there’s some guys ahead of me that have come up. I think it’s a developing market and I’m really excited to see what the future holds for Dallas hockey.”

With the Draft being virtual again this year, the pomp and circumstance wasn’t at an NHL arena. Luckily for Johnson, North Dakota and The Ralph pulled out all the accommodations as they did last year for the 2020 Draft class that were slated to play for UND.

“It was amazing. Thanks to the staff for helping me put this together and allowing me to have such a special day. It was an unreal experience to see the building I’ll be playing at for the next four years. I can’t wait to get started.”

Johnson looked to be very dedicated to staying at North Dakota for the long haul, saying he had no changes in plans after getting drafted and was focused on a National Championship in the next four years. When talking about his incoming defender, North Dakota head coach Brad Berry was very eager to have him in the line-up.

“Just getting to know Brent over the last few months, it was something he was very excited for an when he name was called, him and his family were very excited. And we’re excited, too. It’s a point in time where he’ll never forget this moment, but not the work begins for him to have a productive season for us at North Dakota,” Berry said.

Berry continued, “He’s a very, very smart player. When you talk about smart players, you always wants those players who anticipate the next play. Even before the puck is on his tape, he knows where it’s going. And to add, he’s also ultra-competitive. He’s a very competitive player with a lot of offensive ability. We have a great, great player; but an even better person in our group.”

Johnson is coming off a solid season on the blueline in the USHL with 21 assists and 32 points in 47 games in his first full year. His offensive side is matched by his ability to keep the play in front of him defensively and protect his blindside well. One thing some scouting reports looked at was his skating style leading needing some work, which should come with time. While Johnson will be in the line-up this season, there is still things that are needed to work on, which Berry honed in on.

“He has very good offensive ability and he defends real well, but you can tell he’s a person who needs to grow his body a little bit,” mentioned Berry. “Him coming from Sioux Falls and coming here to train, which has already with the group; you can tell he’s going to get bigger and stronger with our group. We’re going to let time take place and we know he has the work ethic to do it.”

UND HOCKEY: Slow Starts Sours Senior Night

GRAND FORKS, ND– On senior night when eight players from the University of North Dakota were honored, the Fighting Hawks dropped their first home game of the season to Omaha in overtime. It was the sixth meeting in five weeks between the two, who used this last game as a tune-up for the NCHC Playoffs that start on Friday. 

The opening 20 minutes yield not much of anything. Very few high quality chances on either side of the puck led to a scoreless first. At times, it seemed like each team was playing not to get injured with how conservative each side played in their last regular season game. 

“I didn’t think we had our best early in the game,” head coach Brad Berry stated, “Thirty  minutes in the game we pressed a bit, but a two-goal lead is tough to comeback from. We’ve got to start like we did the second half of the game.” 

Omaha opened the scoring by captain Kevin Conley on the power play with a heavy one-timer from the point that went right past Peter Thome for the Mavericks 1-0 lead. Seconds later, Chayse Primeau picked up a blocked shot and went under the arm of Thome to make it 2-0 Mavericks. An in-arena faux pas almost cost the Fighting Hawks another goal against, as coming out of a TV timeout; a replay on the jumbotron showed a shot from a previous sequence that Thome kicked off the goal-line. However, when the replay was shown from the in-net cam, it looked like the puck may have crossed the line. After an almost five-minute review, the goal did not count. UND turned on the pressure after that review, which paid off in the second half of the period. Louis Jamernik drove down the left side, putting a shot onto Isaiah Saville that kicked out to Jackson Keane, who put it in to halve the Omaha lead. 

It only took 15 seconds for UND to even up the game, as Jordan Kawaguchi redirected a pop-up blocked shot and went past Saville for a tie game. North Dakota kept the pressure on, dictating the play thanks to a couple of power plays in the first half of the frame. The second half of the frame, Omaha clawed back and put plenty of pressure on North Dakota, but Thome stood tall and had plenty of help from his defense to clear out any rebound in harm’s way. With no other scoring, the senior night went into overtime. 

In the extra frame, North Dakota had two solid chances from Matt Kiersted and Collin Adams, but took a penalty 50 seconds into the frame on a Kiersted slashing call. That led to a Tyler Ward deflection off a Brandon Scanlin shot to end the game 3-2. It was the first home loss of the season for North Dakota. 

“When you deviate from the game plan, it feeds into the momentum of the other team,” Berry mentioned. “This time of year, you have to be your best. It was an emotion game with it being senior night– but we have to make sure we’re dialed in for next week in the playoffs.”

THEY SAID IT

“To me there’s no pattern, we’ve lost one game at home. If it was three or four, then I’d say there’s a pattern. It’s not a panic situation, but we have to bring it and play our best in order to win games.” — Berry when asked about the first loss at home this season.

“It was a little bit of a wake-up call. We’ve played these guys a lot  and we kind of thought it was going to be easy. I like the way we battled back, but we got to be ready right from the start” — Keane on the feeling of the room after the game.

“This is a great group of guys who welcomed me with open arms. I was kind of looking up to them when I first got here and it was great to be a part of the night.” — Keane on playing in senior night despite coming in a year later than the rest of the class.

“It would have been nice to end the regular season with the win, but at end of the day; we’re still #1 in our conference and we’re moving on getting ready for the playoffs next week.” Kawaguchi on his feelings after Friday’s game. 

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks One Win Away from Back-to-Back Penrose Cups

GRAND FORKS, ND– Need two wins in their last four games in order to win the NCHC regular season, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks are in charge of their own destiny. They’ll be facing off against the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in all four of those games. They took the first step in securing the Penrose Cup by beating Omaha Friday night 4-1. 

The first period featured a bit of a tight checking start, with only six shots total through the first half of the frame. Passing for both sides weren’t hitting their mark, which caused golden chances to go by the wayside. North Dakota did break the scoreless tie first, as Jacob Bernard-Docker let a shot go from the point, through a mass of humanity in front, and lighting the lamp for his second of the season. As the teams loosened up, so did the shot total, as Omaha outshot UND 14-10 after 20 minutes. 

“Our first period was rough,” Bernard-Docker mentioned post-game. “(Coach Brad Berry) came into the room and told us to clean it up, mainly in the neutral zone. I think we really found our game after that.”

After more tight checking and some chances on either side, Bernard-Docker was the focal point of the second gaol, as he took a Harrison Blaisdell pass, weaved through the offensive zone, put a backhanded shot on Isaiah Saville, but when Saville couldn’t hold onto the puck; Jackson Keane was there to put home the rebound for his first of the season. UND kept the pressure going, making sure they didn’t give Omaha any chance to breathe, which culminated in a Tyler Kleven tally. North Dakota worked the puck around smoothly, ending when Collin Adams set-up Kleven in Kleven’s wheelhouse and hammered home the 3-0 tally. Omaha broke the shutout after a point shot from Jason Smallidge ricocheted off the back boards and to Tyler Weiss, who had a wide-open net to put it past Adam Scheel. 

An uneventful start to the third period had action pick up on a North Dakota power play, which had been stymied all night up to that point. During the last throes of the power play, Mark Senden moved the puck to Bernard-Docker, who found a streaking Jasper Weatherby, who unleashed a brilliant snapshot past the glove of Saville, giving UND the 4-1 lead and victory. UND did catch-up in shots, outshooting the Mavericks 41-25. 

“It’s a team mentality,” Berry stated. “When you go up one or two goals, most players would want to get another goal or another assist for their stats. Our guys play a team mentality and are doing anything to get the win and not working about personal stats. It’s doing the things in game blocking shots, playing short shifts, and it’s reassuring to see it on a consistent basis.”

This was the first of four straight against Omaha to end the regular season for North Dakota. With another win, they’ll clinch the Penrose Cup for regular season champion of the NCHC. They’ll have to do that against a team who is undefeated in the back-end of the back-to-back series. 

“It’s not going to come easy,” Berry said. “We’re playing a team that’s 5-0 in second games of back-to-back games. We firmly believe they’ll be excited to play this and we’ll have to play our best game to win it. We have to come into the rink with a workman-like attitude.” 

“It’s something you think about,” mentioned Keane about winning the Penrose at home. “It sounds weird to say you don’t want to win it on the road. Our plan is to win it tomorrow. We don’t want to leave anything to chance.”

UND HOCKEY: Weekend Sweep of Denver Puts Hawks in Control of NCHC

Photo: Eric Burton/Inside Hockey

GRAND FORKS, ND– After last night’s game, goalie Adam Scheel said he felt fine and could probably play Saturday. That wasn’t the case as the goalie was a scratch for the rematch against Denver, which allowed Peter Thome to step into the starting role. Even with another goalie in net, North Dakota swept the weekend over Denver with a 5-2 victory. 

“I found out this morning at 10:15,” Thome mentioned. “Originally, I thought I wasn’t going to play because I talked to Scheeler and thought it was a charley horse. But I knew there was a chance and prepared like I was going to play. We talked about this last year, it’s really tough making a start with two months in between. They scored a couple goals I’d like to have back. Overall I did what I wanted and what I needed to do and it was enough to get a win.”

The Fighting Hawks got things going within the first five minutes, as Mark Senden’s shot from the top of the circle got tipped in front by Jasper Weatherby and made it 1-0 UND. Jake Durflinger took a penalty, but made up for it after it was done, as he took an outlet pass as his penalty expired and beat Peter Thome on the backhand to tie the game. Part of a problem for UND was passes missing their marks, leading to icings or turnovers. That allowed Denver to control the offensive output, which showed as shots were 13-6 Denver after the first. 

“We had a slow start, one of our slower starts,” head coach Brad Berry stated. “Denver is always very good and they play fast and we didn’t have much time and space. We looked at ourselves after the first and knew we had to be better, a lot better the last 40 minutes. In the NCHC, you’ve got to be ready to play a 60-minute game and I think we got away with only playing 40.”

A neutral zone battle started the second period, but havoc ensued when a Brendan Budy tip in front eluded Magnus Chrona and created a big scrum in front. Out of the scrum, Matt Kiersted got an initial shot into Chrona, but Shane Pinto picked up the puck off that shot and buried it for his 14th goal of the season. Minutes after that, a Pinto pass bounced over the stick of Jacob Bernard-Docker and Denver went the other way with Ryan Barrow passing it out to Carter Savoie, who beat Thome glove side to knot the game at two. More neutral zone battles before a power play for North Dakota led to an odd bounce off an attempted centering pass by Collin Adams deflected off a Denver player and into the net to make it 3-2. 

The tight checking affair continued in the third, but UND was able to get a break due to a Carter Savoie five-and-game for checking from behind. While there wasn’t any scoring for the Fighting Hawks, they got some momentum going and it turned into another Weatherby goal off a rebound from a Judd Caulfield shot to make it 4-2. Penalty issues came for UND, as they had three consecutive penalties in the second half of the frame, one creating a two-man disadvantage. Luckily for UND, their penalty kill was top notch and were able to stave off the Denver pressure. Judd Caulfield finished the job with an empty net goal to make it a 5-2 win and a weekend sweep for North Dakota. 

With the win, the Fighting Hawks are in sole possession of first place in the NCHC. North Dakota remains at home next weekend, as they play the first of four match-ups in three weekends against Nebraska-Omaha. 

THEY SAID IT

“Couldn’t be happier for Peter. He’s a team guy and works hard. He hasn’t had the easiest career, but he makes the most of the opportunity. Our guys were fired up when we knew today, guys were happy, and wanted to play hard for him. He made some big saves and it’s nice to know he can come in and do the job anytime.” — HC Brad Berry on Peter Thome’s performance

“Budy, we started him on the Mismash line and we wanted to try and get a spark and get the attention of some guys, so we flip flopped him and (Riese) Geber and they performed well. Those guys are the next wave that’s going to be influential in our line-up in the future, so it was good to have them make an impact so quickly.” — Berry on Brendan Budy and the youth of the team.

“Yes and no. It’s the third year in a row that I’ve come in on a big spot after not playing for a while and deliver. It doesn’t make it any easier, it’s tough to get into rhythm and find a comfort zone. But that’s part of it, my job is to prepare like I’m playing every game because you never know when you are going to be needed.” — Thome on being familar with coming in on a relief role.

“We love this building and our fans are great and it’s nice to have that home routine. Three thousand isn’t 12,000, but it’s awesome the job they do as 3,000 to make it feel more crowded.” — Jasper Weatherby on playing at home and having fans in the stands.  

UND HOCKEY: Hawks Shutout Pioneers, But Get a Bit of a Late Scare

GRAND FORKS, ND– For the fifth time this season, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Denver University Pioneers did battle in what seemed to be a bit of a throwback to olden times. 

“There’s something special about these NCHC rivalries– even coming from the WCHA days,” UND head coach Brad Berry mentioned post game. “Players and coaches coming and go, but the rivalry remains the same. Both teams had to deal with penalties, both teams had to overcome adversity, and that’s what you saw tonight.” 

UND were the ones to really overcome adversity, killing off a five-minute major spanning two periods while getting 24 saves from Adam Scheel to secure a 3-0 victory over the Pioneers. 

Denver seemed to control the play in the first half of the period, outshooting North Dakota for a time. However, the Fighting Hawks turned to another gear after back-to-back power plays. Late in the frame, Jake Sanderson rung a shot off the post, but after stalling the Denver transition, Jasper Weatherby wired a shot from the left face-off dot past Magnus Chrona to make it 1-0. That’s when the feisty play started, as Gavin Hain collided with Chrona at one end, then it turned into a dance party with Tyler Klevin and Jake Durflinger getting into a wrestling match in the neutral zone. Hain was assessed a five-minute major for running into Chrona. 

The Hawks were able to kill that penalty thanks to well-timed blocks while managing to pin the puck deep in the Denver zone. The Hawks were able to control the tempo a bit, while also getting some power play time to get ahead on the shot counter. Shane Pinto put the Fighting Hawks up by two on the power play after a bit of a broken play down low saw the puck get pushed back to Matt Kiersted, who found Pinto on the left face-off dot with a huge mass of humanity in front to put UND up 2-0. 

A back-and-forth third was the tale of the frame, with UND and Denver trading chances, but both Adam Scheel and Chrona being equal to the task. Hain and Chrona got acquainted again, as Hain was crashing the net on a power move, running into Chrona with help from the Denver defense. Hain, however, got called for interference– which UND promptly killed off. Pinto sealed the deal for UND with an empty-net goal for his second of the night and fifth-straight multi-point game. A bigger story was at the end of the game, Adam Scheel got tangled up and was unable to put weight on his right leg and needed to be helped off the ice and down the tunnel. 

“I got my leg taken out from under me,” Scheel mentioned, “It’s just a charley horse and I’ll be okay.”

“(Scheel) absolutely got ran into and he’s hurting a little bit,” Berry mentioned. “We went to the net a couple times and there were some consequences. We’ll have to see what happens going ahead.”

Keeping the emotions under control will be a key factor in the return match-up Saturday. North Dakota’s discipline has been a little lacking against Denver, taking 95 of their 271 (35%) penalty minutes on the season against the Pioneers.

“We have to be more disciplined,” remarked Pinto. “We did what we had to do, our kill played well. We have to finish the job tomorrow by being more disciplined.”

UND HOCKEY: Fighting Hawks Shut Out Tigers, Sweep Weekend

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a 4-1 win on Saturday night, the University of North Dakota kept their home cooking going, as they faced off against the Colorado College Tigers. In front of 1,775 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks completed the sweep with a 5-0 victory over the Tigers to move them into 1st of the NCHC. 

“We did a good job of coming out early,” head coach Brad Berry mentioned post-game. “We talk about the second night is the toughest after winning Friday and dealing with pushback. We had good discipline, until what happened at the end there, but that is what it is. We talked about taking less unneeded penalties, there are ones we will take, but I think we got rid of the unneeded penalties.”

North Dakota took control in the first part of the period, taking the pace of play to Colorado College and holding the Tigers’ offense to no shots until halfway through the frame. The Fighting Hawks struck first after Shane Pinto made a power move down the left side, cutting in and beating Dominic Basse for his seventh of the season. 

“During our video scouting this morning it was pointed out,” Pinto said of his goal. “Coach said their defense was pretty immobile, so I just took it to them.”

Pinto was the focal point for the first part of the frame, being set-up twice back door, but not being able to connect on either chance. The Fighting Hawks had some issues in their own end, giving up the puck and allowing the Tigers to get some offense going at the tail-end of the period. 

A chess match in the first few minutes, as both UND and CC played in the neutral zone a bit, but Collin Adams gave UND a 2-0 lead when he got a pass from Matt Kiersted behind all of the Tigers defense and slid the breakaway chance five-hole on Basse to extend the lead. Minutes later, Shane Pinto gots his second goal of the game after coming from the side wall and threw a fade-away shot from the top of the slot that eluded the traffic in front and went past Basse to make it 3-0. Judd Caufield got into the action midway through the period, getting a centering pass in front from Riese Gaber, initially getting it stopped by Basse, but following his own rebound to make it 4-0. 

The Tigers got into penalty trouble in the middle part of the second, going down two men. During the two-man advantage, Grant Mismash tallied his eighth goal of the year after a wonderful pass from the point by Jake Sanderson, making it a 5-0 UND.

Things broke down with 6:16 remaining, as Hugo Blixt laid a hit from behind to Jasper Weatherby, which drew the ire of Tyler Kleven, who dropped cross-check on Blixt while Blixt was on the ice. Both Blixt and Kleven were given the game misconducts on the incident. That was the last of the fireworks, as UND kept the play in the CC zone, keeping them away from Adam Scheel, who pitched a 15-save shutout and swept the weekend for the Fighting Hawks. 

The sweep at home was a carryover from the dominant home record UND had last season. While they don’t like to look in the past, the team did need to make sure it wasn’t neglected on the first weekend back. 

“This is our home. We don’t go back in history, but we had to this weekend,” Berry said of UND’s home ice advantage. “We were 18-1 last year and our younger guys had to know about it. It’s a special place we want to make sure we protect that and keep moving forward.”

The defense was active in the offensive end, as well, with Kiersted and Sanderson putting up two assists apiece, while helping hold the Tigers to only 15 shots on Sunday, bringing CC’s total to  36 on the weekend. 

THEY SAID IT

“Coming off the break and you play a couple of games and try to get momentum. Everyone is trying to  find their stride and building momentum. We saw what our bar is, how we can play to the capabilities of our team on that second night in Denver.” -Brad Berry on the team coming back off the Denver weekend

“It was a wake-up call. We were good in the pod, but we weren’t playing well. We’ve been much better ever since. We’re just being harder on pucks and playing our game. We’ve got to be physical, we cheated in Colorado (versus the Tigers) thinking it’d be coming easy to us, but we’ve got to keep working.” — Shane Pinto on how the loss against Denver affected the team.

UND HOCKEY: What Could Have Been

Ralph Engelstad Arena, 03/12/20; Photo by Scotty Wazz

After I drop Jen off at work, I usually go for a ride around the city to decompress before going to bed. On a night like Thursday March 12th, it was probably much needed. Sports stopped on that day. Rightfully so, but still a bummer that the thing many used to distract themselves from the issues around them is not there. In any case, I decided to drive to Ralph Engelstad Arena and just zone out.

As I pulled up, no lights were on in the building or outside. Light adorn the plaza area with the statue of Sitting Bull, but not much else. It was a fitting scene for the night, as the NCHC cancelled their tournament, as did the NCAA. Again, rightfully so– still a bummer.

Mostly a bummer for the student-athletes on the University of North Dakota squad who had come back to life this season following two years of missing the big tournament. They were on pace to be one of the all-time great teams in North Dakota hockey history, as they were ranked 1st in the Pairwise and were odds-on favorites to win the National Championship.

Now, it’s a case of what could have been.

With the cancellations, all anyone can do is wonder if this team would have won the NCHC playoff title to go with the Penrose Cup, if they could have dominated the NCAA and have won the school’s ninth National Championship, and if there’d be another Hobey Baker Award winner from this team. It was a season to remember for the right reasons and for the reasons that could have been.

You hate it for the team, of course, but you really hate it for the seniors of this team. Colton Poolman, who came back because he had unfinished business; Cole Smith, the heart and soul of this team; Andrew Peski, who bookended his tenure with two solid seasons; Casey Johnson, who became a valued utility option for this club in any spot; Zach Yon, who fought through injuries his last season and was a bit of an energy guy; Dixon Bowen, who carried on the UND tradition his father started, as well as being an energy guy; Westin Michaud, who came to UND as a graduate transfer and made people wish this team had him for a full four years. Those are the guys who may not get much closure on this season.

Then you look at guys outside of the seniors that may think about leaving, but could reconsider given the way this year ended. This is going on nothing at all, but you’d have to think the Ottawa Senators were heavily invested in what Jacob Bernard-Docker did this year and may have even taken a look at him moving forward. Jordan Kawaguchi’s Hobey Baker-esque season could have gotten him looks by NHL teams, but he might stay to finish this fight off. Then there’s Shane Pinto, who was looked at by the Senators heavily in the World Juniors– like JBD– but assured everyone that he would be staying at UND; but time can changes things.

Those are the stories to look at now– who stays, who goes, who comes in. There is no pomp and circumstance, no banner, no one-last-hurrah for the seniors. It’s just over. And now UND fans and players alike will have a chip on their shoulder with how this season ended and what could have been.

Rightfully so.

UND HOCKEY: Penrose Make Appearance After Hawks OT Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– With a playoff like atmosphere and the 1980 National Championship team in the house, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks had a lot to play for on Saturday. In a tight-checking game and an emotional roller coaster in the last 47 seconds of the game, the Hawks took out the Western Michigan Broncos 2-1 in overtime. 

“It was an entertaining game that’s for sure from a fan standpoint,” UND head coach Brad Berry mentioned after the game. “From our perspective on the bench, wow, two evenly matched teams, hard fought battle, and physical series. Just glad we found a way to win in overtime and win the Penrose right away.”

It was back and forth between the two to start the game, as the Fighting Hawks got on the board first with Collin Adams putting home his 12th of the year off a rebound kicked to his stick from an initial shot from Colton Poolman. The goal came from a sharp angle, as Adams was right next to the goal line when he got the puck and fired it far-side past Ben Blacker to put the Hawks on the board first. It was a neutral zone battle for most of the period before Paul Washe tipped home a Wade Allison shot that fooled Adam Scheel to tie the game. 

The final 40 minutes of the game were a grind. Neither team let up an inch and the score remained tied at one at the end of regulation with a combined shot total of 33 shots (17-16 UND) after sixty minutes of regulation play. 

“That’s playoff hockey what you saw this weekend,” mentioned Berry. “I thought the officiating let us play and there was a lot of energy that was spent out there. A lot of plays weren’t being made because two teams were playing fierce out there”

In the overtime, there was plenty of action in two minutes to make up for the last 40, as Western Michigan thought they had a game winner, only for it to be called off on goalie interference, as there was no attempt by the Broncos player to get out of the way of Scheel. A short time later, the Fighting Hawks came back on a rush for Matt Kiersted to rip a shot from the point, which rebounded off of Blacker to the stick of Shane Pinto– who made no mistake with an empty net and sent the sellout crowd home happy and give UND a weekend sweep. With the sweep, the Fighting Hawks will get a share of the 2020 Penrose Cup for best regular season record in the NCHC.

“This whole year has been a bit different than the last two years, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” UND captain Colton Poolman said of the team this season. “We still have one more weekend to go and we’re going to try to win this thing outright, for sure.”

THEY SAID IT

“I think that’s the best goal I’ve ever scored. Just everything about it– winning for the seniors, winning the the Penrose Cup. Just the whole moment is something I’ll never forget. I really can’t gather my thoughts, but that building all night you could feel the momentum shift” — Pinto on the game winning goal.

“That shows you the focus and resiliency they had. We had to wait there for the review of the play and we just huddled up the guys and talked to them that we’re going to play longer and just make sure you’re ready to go.” — Berry on the team focus during the overtime review.

“A bad bounce for Western Michigan, but one got called back last night, one got called back tonight. That was a spark we needed honestly. We got some energy on the bench and we go out and score that one. We’ve won games in so many different ways and that’s another new, different way.” — Poolman on the team’s will to win this season. 

“It means everything. Coming in as a freshman you’re a little bit scared. It’s just how it is, it’s a new kind of environment, but they took us in with open arms and kind of taught us the ropes. They’re a special group of guys and we just want to win it for them.”– Pinto on the senior class.