It’s been fourteen seasons, since a Division I hockey team won back-to–back NCAA titles 04/15/19

By Eric Burton

It’s been fourteen seasons, since a Division I hockey team won back-to–back NCAA titles. Only Three teams have done it during the 2000’s (Minnesota 2002, 2003, Denver 2004, 2005, Minnesota-Duluth 2018, 2019).

With their impressive 3-0 victory against UMass on Saturday, the Bulldogs solidified the National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a power conference. This is also the first time since 2005 that a conference has won four NCAA titles in a row. As you can see above, the last conference to win four titles in a row was the WCHA 2002-2005.

For the folks that are keeping track at home. In the last eight years, Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin has led the Bulldogs to three NCAA titles; 2011, 2018, 2019. Two of those came with the NCHC.

“We didn’t foresee four national championships in six years,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said. “I don’t think anybody envisioned that. We felt like we could have parity across the league from a competitive standpoint. We felt it would be tough, and it wouldn’t be easy on any given weekend. We knew the competitiveness would be there, but certainly the success of the national championships, I don’t think anybody envisioned that.”

I also like the way that Commissioner Fenton is thinking. Keeping the conference games at 24 gives teams an opportunity to play 10 non-conference games.

“We believe in the number of games at 24 (NCHC games),” Fenton said. “We could play more and be in complete balance, but we believe in having 10 non-conference games. It’s the right amount to (help) maximize the number of teams in the tournament. When you get into the postseason tournament with the Frozen Faceoff at Xcel Energy Center, there’s a premium in the NHL arena with that atmosphere that can help teams like Minnesota Duluth in the Frozen Four.”

Ponder this, during their back-to-back title run, UMD hasn’t even been been the best team in the conference. This season, they finished 19 point out of first place. When it’s all said and done, none of that matters. NCHC teams are battle tested when the NCAA playoffs start.

On Saturday after beating Colorado College 6-1 in the third-place game of the NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff, a relieved Denver Pioneers head coach David Carle said this.

“The great part about going to the national tournament, we don’t have to play anyone from the NCHC in the first round,” Carle said. “We all play each other all year long, beat each other up. We played at a different pace in this league, and that’s why we all do so well in the first round. So we’re looking forward to playing someone out of our conference.”

NCHC not Expanding Anytime Soon

Don’t count on them expanding anytime soon. The league is worried about focusing on the existing eight members.

“We haven’t had a ton of discussion about the current membership makeup or even expansion into new members down the road,” Fenton said. “I think the focus has been on the eight member institutions and with all the sincerity that I can answer this question, and that continues to be the focus, and I don’t know that I see that changing anytime soon.”

The NCHC’s Impressive Resume

Let’s take a look at what the NCHC, has accomplished in it’s brief six-year history. It’s an impressive resume. During their six-year history twenty-two teams have made the NCAA tourney. Even more remarkable, Denver has made made the tourney every year since the NCHC began conference play. Ten NCHC teams have mad the Frozen Four since the beginning of the NCHC (2013-14). Finally, four teams have won NCAA titles with Minnesota-Duluth repeating in back-to-back seasons. What does the conference do for an encore?

NCAA Playoffs

2013-14 – Denver, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State
2014-15 – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, & St. Cloud State
2015-16 – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, and St Cloud State
2106-17 – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Western Michigan
2017-18 – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, & St. Cloud State
2018-19 – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State

Frozen Fours

2014 – North Dakota
2015 – North Dakota, Omaha
2016 – Denver, North Dakota
2017 – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth
2018 – Minnesota-Duluth
2019 – Denver, Minnesota-Duluth

NCAA Champions

2016 – North Dakota
2017 – Denver
2018 – Minnesota-Duluth
2019 –Minnesota Duluth

A day and a week after his team was eliminated from the NCAA West Regional by American International, former St. Cloud State forward Ryan Poehling made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadians. 04/06/19

By Eric Burton

“First impressions are the most lasting,”  Proverbs.

A day and a week after his team was eliminated from the NCAA West Regional by American International, former St. Cloud State forward Ryan Poehling made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadians.

Let’s just say, Poehling had a fabulous night.

The Habs had to be impressed. Poehling would score a hat trick and the game-winning goal in the shootout to lead the Canadians to a 6-5 victory.

Maybe it’s only fitting that Poehling would make his NHL debut during Bob Cole’s final Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

“What an unbelievable start to a career,” Cole said.

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So, on Saturday night, we welcomed a new player to the NHL and said good bye to a Hall of Fame hockey play-by-play announcer.

“You have to feel the game – breathe it – the timing, the sounds you’re creating,” Cole said in the night’s taped opening. ”When you get 20,000 (fans) roaring after a play, it’s perfect.”

“The great players are special people,” he added. ”I’ve enjoyed that over the years. It’s a great privilege.”

The Ryan Poehling File

Poehling’s debut with the Bleu Blanc Rouge may be a preview of things to come next season. According to the Globe and Mail, Poehling, became the fifth Canadiens player in franchise history to score at least two goals in his NHL debut.

The Lakeville, MN native was drafted 25th overall by the Canadiens in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. In three season with the Huskies, Poehling scored (29g-46a—75pts), he was also a plus-eight.

Next season, the Huskies lose five of their top-six scorers (Patrick Newell, Blake Lizotte, Robby Jackson, Jimmy Schuldt and Poehling)

In April of 2016, AIC decided to change their program’s trajectory. The college hired AIC Alumnus Eric Lang, to be their program’s ninth head coach. 03/31/19

By Eric Burton

In April of 2016, AIC decided to change their program’s trajectory. The college hired AIC Alumnus Eric Lang, to be their program’s ninth head coach. Lang returned to the Yellow Jackets after spending four seasons as an assistant coach with Army Black Knights. With a new head coach and the move to the MassMutual Center, the Yellow Jackets’ hockey program was ready to fly to new heights in Atlantic Hockey and Division I college hockey.

That was only just the beginning.

During the summer of 2016 American International College announced that their hockey team would be moving into a new 6,866 seat arena, the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Pre-MassMutual Center, the Yellow Jackets played in the 2,220 seat Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Prior to moving into their new building, the Yellow Jackets would win just 21 times in 111 games.

Also, during the fall of 2016, at the Atlantic Hockey’s annual directors meeting, the league announced that it was increasing their scholarship to 18 scholarships, the maximum allowed per the NCAA.

“This is another step forward for our league” Atlantic Hockey Commissioner Robert DeGregorio announced in a release. “Increasing the scholarship limit to 18 incrementally will allow us to maintain our vision of not leaving any of our members behind while increasing our competitiveness nationally. Our teams have made great strides in recent years and this will continue that trend.”

Do you see where this is heading? A new building, a new coach, more scholarships. Equals a bigger commitment to college hockey.

AIC Starts Ascension

On Friday, October 14, 2016, when the Yellow Jackets played their first game in their new home against the Union Dutchmen. The Yellow Jackets would lose that game 5-4. During the 2016-17 season, there would be more downs than ups, the Yellow Jackets would finish the season 8-20-8 (.333). The following season, the Yellow Jackets would improve winning seven more games and finish 15-20-4 (.435).

It would appear that AIC’s investment in college hockey has finally paid off. This season, the Yellow Jackets went 23-17-1, they went 18-9-1 in AHA play. They won league playoff championship and qualified for their first-ever NCAA tournament bid. Last Friday, the Yellow Jackets shocked the college hockey world when they upset number one overall seed St. Cloud State 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA West Regional Championship. The Yellow Jackets magical season would end in the West Reginal Finals on Saturday night with a 3-0 loss to the Denver Pioneers.

After their first-ever NCAA game, an excited head coach walked the media through their game plan. The Yellow Jackets had a set script and they executed it flawlessly.

“We had a script, this game had to go a certain way,” Lang said. “Sometimes that a tough pill to swallow, but credit to our guys who didn’t back down. I thought we had some good chances to win the first period and we did what we had to do to advance. It’s an exciting day for our program, but I am extremely delighted for these guys. I get to spend another day with them.”

Moving forward, this past weekend’s NCAA appearance will pay dividends for Lang’s Yellow Jackets. Especially, when it comes to recruiting.

‘I can tell you three years ago when I was making phone calls from a four, five and six-win team, it’s hard to get guys to call you back,” Lang said. “But it’s a little easier if you’re regular season conference champs and when you’re making recruiting phone calls from first place, or we’re squeezing as many phone calls that we could in a 24-hour period from yesterday to today.

“You know, you have to ride momentum in recruiting, and I think our program has a lot of it right now and I think we’ve got a lot to offer. And I think I mentioned to you yesterday a little bit like in terms of what we look for in a player. And it’s really important that we stay with these A mindset players. And we’re not tempted by recruiting anything but an A mindset that supersedes everything that actually supersedes our talent, you know, in terms of our evaluations if they’ve got an A mindset, we know they’re going to develop we know they’re going to be great human beings and we know they’re going to get better.”

It would appear that the future is very bright for the AIC Yellow Jackets. They showed the college hockey world that they’re going to be a team to be reckoned with in the future. Just ask the SCSU Huskies, they got an introduction last Friday Night.

This weekend, the NCAA kicks off the Division I men’s hockey playoffs 03/28/19

By Eric Burton

This weekend, the NCAA kicks off the Division I men’s hockey playoffs. Even though the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team isn’t in the NCAA playoffs this season, I will be headed to Fargo, ND, to cover the West Regional Championship.

Last week at the Frozen Faceoff, I told a friend, I feel a void (yes, UND has missed the NCAA tourney two years in a row). While our favorite team may not be there, let’s stop and enjoy the moment. It is what it is.

Moving forward, I do predict that next season, UND will again make the NCAA tourney. Moreover, I predict that Canisius College will be on the wrong side of two lopsided losses next October. Just two years ago, UND bounced SCSU in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. Look at them today.

This is what we know. There can be at best, two National Collegiate Hockey Conference teams in the Frozen Four. I will save you the conspiracy theory. There’s no black helicopter landing in Fargo.

Here are some of the themes and stats surrounding this regional. In the West Regional, we have St. Cloud State 30-5-3, Ohio State 20-10-5, Denver 22-11-5 and American International 22-16-1. The biggest question, can SCSU finally advance to the Frozen Four. Last season, the Huskies were unceremoniously bounced by the Air Force Academy Falcons.

With that in mind, this season, I am picking Ohio State University to advance from the West Regional. I look forward to hearing how wrong I am at the end of the weekend.

SCSU Forward Patrick Newell. (Photo Credit: Eric J. Burton Sin Bin Photography)

Huskies Favored?

This afternoon, I took look at the statistics and on paper, the Huskies should run American International right out of the building. Yes, see last season’s, Air Force team that shocked SCSU 4-1 in the first round of the West Regional.

Obviously, the games aren’t played on paper, but this could end up being a really onesided affair. However, with that said, no one will complain if I am able to pen the title “Yellow Jackets Sting Huskies”. If the Huskies have a weakness, it’s their goaltending.

The game between the Buckeyes and the Pioneers could end up being a goaltending battle. Both teams feature outstanding goalies. For DU, it doesn’t matter which one plays. Both are very capable.

Last weekend, Pioneers head coach David Carle said something that was very profound.

“The great part about going to the national tournament, we don’t have to play anyone from the NCHC in the first round,” Carle said. “We all play each other all year long, beat each other up. We played at a different pace in this league, and that’s why we all do so well in the first round. So we’re looking forward to playing someone out of our conference.”

Points Per Game
8 Patrick Newell St. Cloud State SR F 38 21-26-47 1.24
13 Blake Christensen American Int’l JR F 39 16-30-46 1.18
6 Blake Lizotte St. Cloud State SO F 36 14-27-41 1.14
19 Robby Jackson St. Cloud State SR F 36 19-21-40 1.11
30 Mason Jobst Ohio State SR F 35 17-19-36 1.03
57 Liam Finlay Denver JR F 38 15-20-35 0.92
63 Jimmy Schuldt St. Cloud State SR D 38 10-24-34 0.89
Jack Ahcan St. Cloud State JR D 38 6-28-34 0.89
66 Ryan Poehling (MTL) St. Cloud State JR F 35 8-23-31 0.89

Goalie GAA
4 Devin Cooley Denver SO 1169:27 36 1.85
12 Filip Larsson (DET) Denver FR 1097:10 38 2.08
16 Dávid Hrenák (LOS) St. Cloud State SO 1756:26 64 2.19
39 Sean Romeo Ohio State SR 975:49 42 2.58
43 Zackarias Skog American Int’l JR 1941:05 89 2.75

Goalie Save Percentage
3 Devin Cooley Denver SO 512 36 .934
4 Tommy Nappier Ohio State SO 495 35 .934
9 Filip Larsson (DET) Denver FR 498 38 .929
45 Dávid Hrenák (LOS) St. Cloud State SO 628 64 .908
55 Sean Romeo Ohio State SR 388 42 .902
65 Zackarias Skog American Int’l JR 765 89 .896

Scoring Offense: Games Goals G/GM
2 St. Cloud State 38 155 4.08
9 American Int’l 39 127 3.26
17 Ohio State 35 108 3.09
29 Denver 38 107 2.82

Scoring Defense: Games Goals G/GM Shutouts
9 Denver 38 79 2.08 6
11 St. Cloud State 38 83 2.18 6
14 Ohio State 35 81 2.31 7
37 American Int’l 39 115 2.95 5

Power Play: Totals SHA PCT
7 St. Cloud State 35/146 2 24.0
17 Ohio State 33/154 6 21.4
25 American Int’l 34/175 7 19.4
46 Denver 24/154 2 15.6

Penalty Kill: Totals SHF PCT
6 St. Cloud State 109/126 2 86.5
25 Denver 115/140 1 82.1
30 Ohio State 105/129 4 81.4
35 American Int’l 117/145 1 80.7

(Link to NCAA Hockey Stats)

(AIC Stats)

(DU Stats)

(OSU Stats)

(SCSU Stats)

Links to the West Regional

Bid years in advance, UND plays role of host for 2019 NCAA West Regional (The Rink Live)

North Dakotans hope to make it four years in a row on NCAA title team (Grand Forks Herald)

Huskies All-American forward Ryan Poehling was back on the ice after a scary moment last weekend (The Rink Live)

Papa’s Looking A-Head (College Hockey News)

AIC’s Lang Named CHN Coach of the Year (College Hockey News)

West Regional preview: St. Cloud State, Denver, Ohio State, American International (USCHO.COM) Apparently, the writers at USCHO are also addressing the elephant in the room.

Why they will not advance to Buffalo: St. Cloud has bowed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament each of the last two years. Last time, it was as the No. 1 overall seed against the Atlantic Hockey champion.

For as good as St. Cloud State has been all season in putting together 30 wins, four of the Huskies’ five losses have happened since New Year’s.

Now would be a bad time to pick up No. 6, and SCSU isn’t taking any chances.

AIC hockey attempting to add to historic season in NCAA Tournament vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State (Mass Live)

“It’s a fine line. We can embrace being the underdog to a certain degree but we also want our guys to be confident in our ability. There’s a reason why we are here. We’re earned out way in and played out way in. We’re battle tested,” Lang said. “We deserve to be right where we are. It’ll be nice to hunt vs. being the hunted. … The longer this thing goes and the score stays tight, the pressure then shifts. We’ll have to weather some storms. We know that.”

NCHC Frozen Faceoff: Huskies Bite Tigers, 5-2 03/22/19

By Eric Burton

St. Paul, MN — The conference tournaments are one of the most exciting times in college hockey. Entering Friday’s first semifinal game between Colorado College Tigers and the Saint Cloud State Huskies, we knew one thing. The Huskies were already in. They’re going to be a number one seed. They’re probably headed to the West Regional in Fargo, ND. If you read the USCHO Bracketology blog post.

On the other end of the ice, the Tigers need to win to advance to next weekend’s NCAA playoffs. Lose and there is no tomorrow. Their season will be over on Saturday night. The upstart Tigers were making their first trip to the Frozen Faceoff.

In the end, it wasn’t meant to be. The Huskies came at the Tigers in waves. After going down 1-0 in the first period, the Huskies scored two goals 24 seconds apart by Patrick Newell and Nolan Walker to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead.

At the 15:54 mark of the first period, the Tigers lost one of their top-six forwards. Tigers forward Trevor Gooch was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head. His victim, Jack Poehling. His night would be over. Moving forward, that kind of messed up the Tigers chemistry in the forward lines.

After the major penalty, It was all downhill from there. The Huskies would score again, this time it was Robby Jackson a 3-1.

 t didn’t get any better for the Tigers. At the 07:21 mark of the third period, Huskies defenseman Jack Ahcan would give the Huskies a 4-1 lead.

The Tigers would cut the lead to 4-2 with a power play goal by Bryan Yoon. That was all the closer the Tigers would get. The Huskies would break through again with a goal from Nick Poehling. Make it 5-2 Huskies.

During the first period, the Huskies lost junior forward Ryan Poehling. It didn’t look good,  Poehling was skating in the Tigers end, caught a rut and launched head first into the boards. He didn’t return to the game. Poehling be evaluated tomorrow.

“Obviously, playoff battle in this league, in this tournament, I knew it was going to be tough,” Huskies head coach Brett Larson said. “I thought CC played really hard. You could tell they’ve been battle-tested and playing in really tough games fighting for their lives.”

“They’re a good hockey team,” Mike Haviland said. “They play the game the right way. This isn’t a mistake why this team is the number one team in the country for a majority of the year. I mean, they’re a very good, well-coached hockey team.”

With the win, the Huskies improve to 30-4-3 and remain the number one team in the Pairwise Rankings. They will again play in the Championship game. With the loss, the Tigers fall to 17-19-4. The Tigers will play tomorrow in the third-place game.

UND Hockey: There’s no Tomorrow Wednesday, at the end of the hockey press conference, University of North Dakota head coach Brad Berry told the media, “See you next week.” 03/15/19

Wednesday, at the end of the hockey press conference, University of North Dakota head coach Brad Berry told the media, “See you next week.”

For that to happen, the Fighting Hawks needs to win their first-round series in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs. It’s a tall order, but not impossible. Should be a fun weekend of hockey.

The Mission is Simple, Win

Moving forward. Wednesday, the UND hockey started their journey to Denver, Colorado to take on the Pioneers in a best-of-three National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoff series. This is the first time in 17 years UND has been on the road for the first round of the playoffs.

That trip has started off with a hitch. On Wednesday, the Denver International Airport was closed. So, change of plans. UND decided to fly to Albuquerque, NM, and bus to Denver. Yes, the team has made it safely to the great state of Colorado.

UND hockey fans are in unchartered waters. If you don’t believe me. From this week’s UND game notes — North Dakota is playing on the road in the first round of the conference playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Breaking a string of 16 straight years in which UND hosted the opening round. During that impressive run, UND compiled up an impressive 32-6 (.842) mark. Including a 10-1 (.909) mark in the NCHC. UND won all 16 of those series.

What’s even more daunting, UND hasn’t swept in Denver in Denver since November 21-22, 2003. In the last 10 games, UND is 3-4-3 (.450) against the Pioneers. This season, UND is 10-8-1 against ranked teams and 8-7-1 that aren’t ranked. In the last 10 games UND played in, eight were against teams ahead of them in the NCHC standings. During the last 10 games, UND was 5-4-1 (.550).

As I noted earlier, this team likes playing against the teams ahead of them in the standings and the USCHO rankings. With that said, the Fighting Hawks are ready for a tough challenge.

“Things haven’t come easy this year and our guys, through thick and thin they stuck together,” Berry said. “We feel we’re playing our best hockey right now and finally getting a few bounces here and there. You can feel the momentum in our room. We’ve had two unbelievably sharp practices this week and you know we’re going on that plane with confidence this weekend to win two games.”

Pairwise Jail

UND’s problems are well documented. On January 4-5, 2019, UND lost a pair of non-conference games (1-3 L, 1-2 L) to the Canisius College Golden Griffins. That series has put UND is in Pairwise jail.

What could’ve been?

If UND had won one of those games, they’d be 14th in the Pairwise Rankings. If they’d swept Canisius they’d currently be sitting in eighth place.

Just Win

Defenseman Colton Poolman. (Photo Credit: Eric J. Burton, Sin Bin Photography)

Moving forward, it’s pretty clear what has to happen for UND to advance to the NCAA playoffs. Just Win. UND’s captain, junior defenseman Colton Poolman laid out what has to happen for the Fighting Hawks season to continue. It’s pretty simple, right?

“Right now, we need we need this weekend, for sure,” Poolman said. “Whether it takes two or three games, we have to go into this weekend thinking that our lives are on the line, which they are. If we don’t end up doing very well this weekend, we probably won’t be making NCAA’s. Obviously, it’s do or die time right now.”

UND Players Up for Awards

On Thursday, the NCHC announced it’s finalists for the 10 individual awards for the 2018-19 season.

Player of the Year
Colton Poolman, Jr., D, UND
Jimmy Schuldt, Sr., D, SCSU
Hunter Shepard, Jr., G, UMD

Herb Brooks Coach of the Year
Brett Larson, SCSU
Andy Murray, WMU
Scott Sandelin, UMD

Senior Scholar-Athlete Award
Mason Bergh, F, CC
Fredrik Olofsson, F, Omaha
Jimmy Schuldt, D, SCSU

Rookie of the Year
Noah Cates, F, UMD
Taylor Ward, F, Omaha

Goaltender of the Year
Dávid Hrenák, So., SCSU
Filip Larsson, Fr., Denver
Alex Leclerc, Jr., CC
Hunter Shepard, Jr., UMD

Forward of the Year
Jarid Lukosevicius, Sr., Denver
Mason Morelli, Sr., Omaha
Patrick Newell, Sr., SCSU

Defensive Defenseman of the Year
Mikey Anderson, So., UMD
Colton Poolman, Jr., UND
Jimmy Schuldt, Sr., SCSU

Offensive Defenseman of the Year
Jack Ahcan, Jr., SCSU
Scott Perunovich, So., UMD
Jimmy Schuldt, Sr., SCSU

Defensive Forward of the Year
Rhett Gardner, Sr., UND
Blake Lizotte, So., SCSU
Josh Melnick, Sr., Miami
Justin Richards, So., UMD

NCHC Three Stars Award
Trevor Gorsuch, Sr., G, WMU
Alex Leclerc, Jr., G, CC
Hunter Shepard, Jr., G, UMD

5-4 OT Winner From Kawaguchi Saves Senior Night for UND: Now What? – 03/10/19

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Last night in front of a strong crowd braving the elements at Ralph Engelstad Arena we saw a microcosm of the University of North Dakota’s season in one game. When this team starts fast, they typically do well. Nick Jones, senior forward playing on senior night, took a cross-ice feed from Rhett Gardner and wired home the opening salvo of the night 37 seconds into the game. Later in the period, Omaha forward Tyler Weiss banged home a loose puck in the crease with the majority of skaters sharing time and space with Peter Thome to tie it up.

In the second, Jordan Kawaguchi made his first contribution to the box score taking a cross-checking penalty. Zach Jordan made UND pay for that mistake with a sensational release on a wrist shot to stake the Mavericks to their only lead of the evening. That lead would last 5:51 as Kawaguchi would return to the box score, this time to the good converting a power play marker on a Nick Jones feed.

The third is where everything happened.Cole Smith converted the only really “soft” goal of the evening against Omaha netminder Evan Weninger who played an otherwise stellar evening. He finished with 41 saves on 46 shots. After a Gavin Hain tally gave UND a two goal lead, the Mavericks rallied back to tie things up with tallies from Nate Knopke and Tristan Keck. The Keck marker came off a Kawaguchi turnover with an extra attacker.

Kawaguchi made up for it with a clean shot past Weninger 16 seconds into overtime. He is UND’s leading goal scorer after the regular season with only ten goals.

Now What?

For Nebraska Omaha, if they can some how find a way to hold Duluth down a bit defensively than the expected result may be a little harder for the Bulldogs to achieve in the first round. The Mavericks showed this weekend that they do not need much time or space to have a chance with their quick transition game and Weninger’s ability in net.

As for UND, this weekend did result in two wins pushing the Fighting Hawks closer to the NCAA Tournament. That said, this team still has things to clean up. Every week this team seems to take some undisciplined penalties that skew their rhythm and force them to alter what Head Coach Brad Berry likes to do, getting everyone involved in the game. This team has also dealt with a lot of injuries over the course of the season and is closer to being healthy with the return of Grant Mismash on Friday in limited minutes, and the return of Nick Jones. The most consistent line for this team this year is the GMC line of Gavin Hain, Mark Senden, and Cole Smith. Brad Berry did not have the option to deploy this line to shutdown the game at the end of regulation because Cole Smith was given a ten minute misconduct for involvement in a fracas with UNO 13:30 into the third period.

Puck possession is this team’s strength, and even when healthy, as this weekend showed, they cannot take undisciplined penalties and need to find ways to stay ahead in games. Credit the seniors for playing well on senior night. Now UND has to take on a fast Denver team and take the series on the road to stay in the NCAA Tournament hunt.

Game Report: UND 5 – UNO 4 OT – 03/10/19

UND 5 – UNO 4 OT

On Saturday night, the University of North Dakota hockey team honored five seniors from the class of 2019. When the night was over, those five seniors had played their final game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. There are no more home games for the class of 2019. Next weekend,  UND is headed to Denver, Colorado, to take on the Denver Pioneers in the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs. This will be the first time in 17 seasons, UND has played on the road for the first round of the conference playoffs.

Make no mistake about it, the Fighting Hawks need wins or their season is over. They need two wins in Denver to advance to the Frozen Faceoff. Then they’ll probably need to win a game at the Frozen Faceoff to advance to the NCAA West regional they’re hosting in Fargo, ND.

Eleven to Four

To start the 2015-16 season, 11 players began their journey at UND. In the fall of 2015 Mike Gornall,  Brock Boeser, Shane Gersich, Joel Janatuinen, Hayden Shaw, Matej Tomek, Ryan Anderson, Christian Wolanin, Rhett Gardner Danys Chartrand, Chris Wilkie arrived on campus.  Today, four of those 11 players remain (Anderson, Gardner, Janatuinen, Shaw). Senior Nick Jones transferred in from Ohio State two seasons ago and is the fifth member of this season’s senior class.

A New Line Combination?

On Saturday night, to honor the senior class, UND head coach Brad Berry put all of the seniors on the ice for the game’s opening faceoff. Thirty-seven seconds later, senior Nick Jones scored the game’s first goal. It didn’t take long for that line to develop some chemistry. After their opening shift, the coaching staff kept that line together. 

“It was one of those things where, initially we were going to roll four lines, and they were each on a different line,” Berry said. “Rhett, he had a lot of pace tonight. I think he was feeling it from last night. Jonesy knew it was the last game here, and Jackson Keane brings a lot of speed to that line. So, they had chemistry together.”

At the 14:58 mark of the first period, the Omaha Mavericks would answer with a goal from Tyler Weiss. In the second period, Zach Jordan would score on the power play to give the Mavericks a 2-1 lead. At the 09:17 mark of the second period, sophomore forward Jordan Kawaguchi would score his first of two goals to tie the game at 2-2.

In the third period, the Hawks would take a 4-2 lead with goals from Cole Smith and Gavin Hain. From there, things would get testy. There was a scrum in the Omaha end and then UND got into penalty trouble. When it was all said and done, Smith ended up with a two-minute roughing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. That lapse in discipline ended up costing UND. The Mavericks would tie the game with goals from Nate Knoepke and Tristan Keck. Those penalties didn’t sit well with the UND coaching staff.

“When you’re up 4-2 in a game, when emotions start getting high, we have to have more discipline,” Berry said. “We’re in the lead, you might have to take a punch to the head and, play to the next whistle. Get out of all that stuff. They scored couple goals in the third period to give us that momentum and we can’t have them in the box. And there again, we got to make sure that we learned from having discipline and not having those guys in the box.”

After three periods, the game was tied 4-4. The overtime period didn’t last long. Sixteen seconds into overtime, Jordan Kawaguchi made up for a previous mistake by scoring the game-winning goal.

“That turnover was on me,” Kawaguchi said. “I take responsibility for it.”

Stats of Interest

Grand Forks Herald hockey beat writer Brad Schlossman had an interesting tidbit in his Saturday morning blog post. UND has scored in the opening four minutes in 6 of the last 18 games (a third of them). The Fighting Hawks are 6-0 in those games. After Saturday’s quick start, you can make that 7-0.

Since taking the net on February 22, 2019, sophomore goalie Peter Thome is (4-2-0, 2.02 GAA and a .915 save percentage).

Fighting Hawks Fight Past UNO 2-1: Recap and Now What? 03/09/19

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violent Turtle Photography)

Coming into this one, the setup for the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota could not have been more simple. Win two games against the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha this weekend and hope for some help from Miami (OH) against Western Michigan this weekend. One of those things happened as UND earned a 2-1 hard-fought victory over the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha.

On Friday night, not only did Western Michigan ensure UND’s home ice streak for the first round of the playoffs would end.Now the Fighting Hawks will be on the road next week for the first round of the conference tournament for the first time since 2002. The Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha almost battled past UND and featured another stellar performance by netminder extraordinaire, Evan Weninger.  He made 38 saves on 40 shots faced on the night and could have taken home star honors for his play. As for scoring on the night, Gabe Bast started the scoring soiree with a sublime wrap around to pot one past Weninger 3:45 into the first.

Following the Bast salvo, things would remain quiet until Zach Jordan buried a five-on-three marker on a cross ice feed against Peter Thome. UND Head Coach Brad Berry noted that Thome would have liked to have made that play laterally, but he did not have much of a chance. Jordan hides a howitzer of his quite well and uses it to his advantage. All though he is not on the level, ask how many goalies are able to stop an Alex Ovechkin cannon from that spot, the answer of course is very few, even on their best day. Then finally in a third period that saw Rhett Gardner benched for taking two terrible penalties, Nick Jones came back to the lineup and tipped home a Colton Poolman shot on a draw Jones himself won. If centers could get two assists on their same play, the goal would read Jones from Poolman and Jones.

Now What

UND needs to play more disciplined. The Fighting Hawks were,arguably, one non call on Jacob Bernard-Docker as he did knee Tristan Keck with the puck having left the area, away from losing their best defender and having to play with five defenders. The Fighting Hawks need to get better at two things for their home finale. First, maintain better discipline and make UNO drive 200 feet to get a good chance on you. Their only goal came on a power play that occurred because of two fast penalties that did not need to be taken.

As for the Mavericks, protect Evan Weninger because he is a treasure to be better guarded than he has been this season. He made 38 saves but was under consistent duress all night and made plenty of grade-a stops to burnish his impressive career mix tape. Same two teams wrap up their regular season Saturday from the Ralph at 7:07 PM, how this one starts and how many penalties UND takes will determine who wins.

UND Hockey: Saying Goodbye to the Class of 2019 03/08/19

By Eric Burton

UND Hockey: Saying Goodbye to the Class of 2019

This season, I’ve read a lot of comments about the makeup of the University of North Dakota hockey team. While this season hasn’t been as successful, there were still many amazing moments and storylines. Some younger players have taken big steps forward and next season should make a bigger impact on the team.

Just for the record, this season’s team isn’t all coach Berry’s recruits. Some of the current players committed under former head coach Dave Hakstol. Stick tap to Brad Schlossman, he broke down the current players and who they committed under. Coach Berry had a big hand in recruiting the 2016 NCAA title team and this weekend UND will honor four remaining players from that historic team.

Committed under Hakstol/Berry/Jackson

Rhett Gardner, Sr (DAL)
Hayden Shaw, Sr
Joel Janatuinen, sr
Zach Yon, Jr
Dixon Bowen, Jr
Andrew Peski, Jr
Matt Kiersted, So
Gabe Bast, So
Collin Adams, So (NYI)
Grant Mismash, So (NSH)
Mark Senden, Fr
Jackson Keane, Fr

Committed under Berry/Jackson/Shaw

Nick Jones, Sr
Ryan Anderson, Sr
Colton Poolman, Jr
Ludvig Hoff, Jr
Cole Smith, Jr
Casey Johnson, Jr
Peter Thome, So (CBJ)
Jordan Kawaguchi, So
Josh Rieger, So
Gavin Hain, Fr (PHI)
Jonny Tychonick, Fr (OTT)
Adam Scheel, Fr
Jasper Weatherby, Fr (SJS)
Jacob Bernard-Docker, Fr (OTT)

The Last home series?

Based on where UND is currently sitting in the standings. More than likely, this will be last home series of the 2018-19 season. To get home ice, UND needs a lot of help. The Fighting Hawks are four points behind the Broncos. Basically, they need Western Michigan to get swept. UND also needs to sweep the Mavericks. Both scenarios are possible, but not likely. I am not doubting that UND can sweep UNO, they’re not a very good hockey team. But, Western Michigan isn’t going to get swept by the RedHawks, they’re a gigantic dumpster fire.

The Class of 2019

During the Wednesday media day, there was some discussion about the senior class and how big the incoming freshman class was during the 2015-16 season. There were 11 players. Four of them remain. Could you imagine if that class had stayed in tack?

Mike Gornall – Transferred to RPI.
Brock Boeser – NHL Vancouver.
Shane Gersich – NHL/AHL Washington.
Joel Janatuinen – with team, undisclosed ailment.
Hayden Shaw – Still with the team.
Matej Tomek – Transferred to UNO.
Ryan Anderson – Still with the team.
Christian Wolanin – NHL/AHL Ottawa.
Rhett Gardner – Still with the team.
Danys Chartrand – Left team, never played a game in two seasons.
Chris Wilkie – Transferred to CC.

Senior Nick Jones transferred in from Ohio State two seasons ago and is the fifth member of this season’s senior class.