UND Hockey: War of Words

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference is a tough conference. Every game is a war. I have often joked that the regular season trophy should be a meat grinder. Eight teams kick the crap out of each other for 24 games. The season takes its toll.

At the end of the season, after a grueling 24-game schedule, someone’s feeling is going to get hurt. That’s the reality of sports. It would appear that there will be no love lost between the Omaha Mavericks and the Univesity of North Dakota.

Last night, both head coaches had pointed comments for the other side. Below, I included the post-game radio comments for Brad Berry and the embedded tweet with the post-game comments for Mike Gabinet. I think you’ll find both men’s comments thought-provoking.

Berry Said What?

During the post-game interview, UND hockey radio play-by-play announcer Tim Hennessy made the comment, “I’ve never seen a team be so after the whistle tough.”

UND head coach Brad Berry took the high road, “all I am going to say, it comes from leadership.  Here’s the deal, we stuck around to shake hands after, and their coaching staff didn’t. We asked him to speak at our Booster’s luncheon, there’s only one other coach that ever declined that. He’s one of them. I don’t want to go off of the handle, but it starts with leadership and it resonates down to their players.”

Berry continued, “We also got chirped a little bit when it was four nothing and we put our power play unit out. It’s still four nothing. You never know. Two things have to happen there. The game isn’t out of reach totally yet. When you’re acting like they were, that’s what you do. You have to do something. I like how Senden went out and scored a power play goal on the power play. They wanted that unit, they got that unit.”

Gabinet Said What?

Omaha Maverick head coach Mike Gabinet had a lot to say after Saturday’s game.

In the post-game, Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet didn’t take the high road, “I didn’t like a couple of our penalties that we took at the end of the game, but I also have some empathy for of our guys. We played these guys three times, we got three concussions. At the end of the day, these guys are a very tight-knit group in there. They really care about each other. It’s hard when you see teammate’s constantly go down with concussions – with injuries.

“We’ve lost four guys in four games against these guys. I think frustrations boiled over there. Obviously, it was a three nothing game. So, we wanted to get back in the game. We don’t want to take retaliatory penalties. That’s not good. I also have some empathy for our players.”

UND Hockey: We, Us, and Our

To date, the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team has had a successful season. The Fighting Hawks 25-4-4 sit atop of the NCHC standings with a 16-3-3 Record. If the NCAA playoffs started today, they’d be the number-one overall seed. I know, I know. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The NCAA playoffs don’t start today, and there’s a lot of work left. So far, so good.

Offensively, UND’s junior class has set the pace, scoring 44 of 129 goals (34.1%). The Hawks top forward line is comprised entirely of juniors; Grant Mismash, Collin Adams, and Jordan Kawaguchi, and they have scored an impressive (35g-57a—92pts). For those that like plus/minus stats, they’re also an eye-popping plus-67.

No “I” in Team

It started on day one. No matter what, when asked about a particular play, the player in question will almost always defer the credit to one of their teammates. To a man, the 2019-20 UND hockey team has been focused and on message. They’ve been very disciplined. There haven’t been any passengers. Everyone appears to have bought in. 

Looking at their record and the NCHC standings it’s been a historic season. After 19 home games, their record is 18-1. The best ever on home ice. The only blemish, a 6-3 loss to the Omaha Mavericks back in January. 

UND senior captain Colton Poolman. (Photo Credit: Eric J. Burton)

Last season, after a disappointing ending, it would’ve been easy for senior captain Colton Poolman to sign a free agent deal with an NHL team. Instead, Poolman returned to Hawks to help right the ship. 

After a two-year hiatus, the Hawks have reemerged on the college hockey scene. As I mentioned above, the Hawks have secured home ice for the quarterfinals of the NCHC playoffs. They’re close to securing a number-one seed in the NCAA playoffs. Things are going well. It’s been a traditional UND hockey season. Fight for a league title and be in the conversation for the NCAA playoffs.

“It’s a good bunch of guys,” Poolman said. “No one is singling out themselves. It’s all for the team. It’s so fun to see different guys succeed at different points in the season.

“Guch (Kawaguchi) is having a hell of a year. He has risen to the occasion, so has Matt Keirstead. They’re two very humble guys, to have those guys as leaders in your locker room, sets a tone for everyone else. These guys play hard every minute, no matter what, and it shows to the young guys that you have to put in the work first to get to that level.”

#KawaHobey

On Wednesday, the UND athletics department officially announced the  Hobey Baker campaign for UND forward Jordan Kawaguchi.

When asked about being in the conversation for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, Jordan Kawaguchi took it in stride. the team has bigger aspirations than individual awards.

“It’s cool to have my name put in that conversation,” Kawaguchi said. “But at the end of the day, it’s 27 guys in that locker room, and I look forward to coming into that dressing room every day and building the relationships that I have with my teammates.”

Kawaguchi continued: “being able to win a national championship would be unbelievable. Individual awards are cool, but it’s more fun when you can share the accomplishment. That’s what we are going for.”

Head coach Brad Berry was very business-like when talking about his Hobey Baker candidate. The Hawks have bigger goals in mind. To a man, the focus is a deep run through the NCAA playoffs.

“We always knew he had the god-given skills and the gifts,” Berry said. “When it came to his body, he needed to get to another level, and he did that. He continues to do that. Hats off to him on that. Like I tell you guys all the time, consistency is the ultimate compliment you can give a player.  He’s brought consistency all year, in his game, which kind of pushes the bar with the rest of our group.”

“He would never toot his own horn, but at the end of the day, you know we have one of the best players in the nation and in our group here,” Berry said.

I’ve been covering the University of North Dakota hockey team since the 2011-12 season. During those nine seasons, I’ve never met a more humble group of players.  

“It’s we, us and our,” Berry said. “All of our staff say that.  (Kawaguchi) as a leader says that. I grabbed him yesterday, knowing that this campaign was coming out. Just out of respect to him. I asked him, here’s what’s coming, are you good with it? 

It sounds like Kawaguchi’s answer was pretty low-key as well, “whatever you think coach — (do) what you have to do coach going forward.”

UND Clinches Penrose Cup with 2-1 OT Victory

Grand Forks, ND – The more things change, the more they stay the same. This all seems familiar. After a two-year hiatus from the NCAA Tourney, the University of North Dakota hockey team is headed back to the NCAA tourney as one of the top seeds.

After an impressive season, the Fighting Hawks 25-4-4, 16-3-3 NCHC, return to top of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Saturday night, UND’s clinched its 18th regular-season conference title. It has been four seasons since UND last won a conference title.

Just like Friday night, Saturday’s game had the feel of a playoff game. It was a knockdown drag-out, tight-checking, defensive hockey game. It was a war. Both teams combined for 36 shots. The Hawks will celebrate tonight, but they have bigger plans.

To win titles, you have to be able to gut out close wins. This season, UND has done that going 3-0-4 in overtime games.

“There’s a belief in our group here that we’re going to win those games in overtime,” head coach Brad Berry said. “We’re going to make a long run here, and that’s good to have in your bag knowing that you know you can win games any way you can”

With the 2-1 win in OT, the UND secured at least a share of the Penrose Cup. If UND can secure at least a single point next weekend, they will win the Penrose Cup outright. UND isn’t looking to share the Penrose with anyone else.

“We have a chance to do something tonight,” Berry said. “We have a chance to hang a white banner. We have a chance to add to our tradition here, and they dug down. I think the other thing was getting a bump from the 1980 team that was here. We had them in and around our group here all morning.

To start the game, the first whistle didn’t come until the 4:41 mark of the first period. That whistle, a beautiful goal by Collin Adam to give UND to a 1-0 lead.

At the 17:01 mark of the first period, the Broncos would tie the game with a tip-in goal from Paul Washe. It was a beautiful feed from Wade Allison and UND goalie Adam Scheel had no chance on the shot.  Through 60 minutes of hockey, the two teams would play to a 1-1 tie.

At the 3:43 of the overtime period, Broncos forward Rhett Kingston thought he’d scored the game-winning goal. After a video review, it was ruled no goal. You can view the video for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

So, they played on. Forty-three seconds later, Shane Pinto scored the game-winning goal sending the Ralph into a frenzy. Pinto’s game-winning goal clinched the conference regular-season title for the Hawks.

“I think that’s the best goal I’ve ever scored, Pinto said. “Just everything about it you know, winning it for the seniors, the Penrose Cup. Just that whole moment it’s definitely awesome.”

North Dakota Contains Western Michigan 3-1

Grand Forks, ND –The University of North Dakota inched closer to winning its third-ever Penrose Cup with a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan University. With the win, UND maintained a six-point lead over second-place Minnesota Duluth with three games remaining.

Friday’s game felt like a playoff game, tight-checking, defensive-minded. There was very little time and space. Finally, at the 09:52 mark of the second period, freshman forward Judd Caulfield would score his fourth goal of the season (Video embedded below). Three minutes and 29 seconds later, Junior defenseman Matt Kiersted would give the Hawks 2-0 lead.

At the 04:35 mark of the third period, the Broncos would get on the board with a goal from senior forward Dawson DiPietro would score his 12th goal of the season.

Scheel Retakes the Net

After watching junior goalie Peter Thome start seven games in a row, sophomore goalie Adam Scheel re-took the net against the Broncos. In his first game action since January 24, 2020, Scheel was impressive stopping 26 of 27 shots to win his 18th game of the season.

If Scheel was bitter for being benched, it didn’t show in the post-game press conference. Scheel seemed to take in all in stride.

“Relationships don’t change regardless of who is in the net,” Scheel said. “No matter what Peter was always a great teammate. No matter who’s in the net. You kind of learn from a guy like that. He’s a great guy in the locker room, and he’s one of my really good friends. He was always supportive of me so I did the same thing.”

While Thome was the man between the pipes, Scheel worked hard and earned another start.

“He had a good, two, or three weeks of practice here,” head coach Brad Berry said. “We look at how goalies have done against the other teams and he was outstanding in Western Michigan. Peter Thome has been playing outstanding as well. We lost the game and it wasn’t Peters fault that we didn’t get the result we wanted in St. Cloud on Saturday night. This was an opportunity for another guy to go in. I think it was a combination of a lot of things but mostly Adam staying sharp and working his tail off in practice.”

Stats of Note

Note: of the eight NCHC goalies that have played 19 or more games, Scheel still has the top goals-against average (2.03) in National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

In three games against the Broncos, Scheel has a 3-0-0 stopped 94-of-97 shots. With Friday’s 3-1 win, Scheel record against the Broncos.

With the win, Scheel improves to 18-3-3, 2.03 GAA, and a .906 save percentage. He also has two shutouts.

Jordan Kawaguchi was held scoreless for only the seventh time this season. Kawaguchi had a five-game points streak halted.

Freshman forward Judd Caulfied has scored four goals this season, three of them have come against the Broncos.

With his sixth goal of the season, Matt Kiersted (6g-22a—28pts) is second on the team in points.

For the first time this season, Kiersted scored the game-winning goal. Collin Adams leads the team with six game-winning goals. Jordan Kawaguchi is second on the team with five.

UND Is Closing in on Penrose Cup With 3-1 Win Over Denver

Grand Forks, ND – The University of North Dakota and Denver are rivals. Neither team likes the other very much. The players on both sides look forward to this series every season. This season, the Fighting Hawks have gotten the better of the Pioneers. Entering season series finale against the Pioneers, the Hawks had a 2-0-1 record.

During the first three games of the series, only one of the games was close, game one, a 1-1 tie. With Saturday’s 3-1 win, the Hawks have taken 11 of a possible 12 conference points. What’s more impressive, the Fighting Hawks had outscored the Pioneers 12-4. Make no mistake about it, Saturday’s win wasn’t easy, it was more like a playoff game. A bare-knuckle street fight.

What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Hawks were 1-4-1 against the Denver Pioneers. The 2019-20 season has been a lot kinder to the Fighting Hawks.

From the beginning of the season, this team has been on a mission. After having Denver end their season last spring, the Hawks had some tough conversations during the offseason. During the summer, they buckled down and went to work. Finally, that hard work is paying off.

“We missed the tournament the past two years, it’s kind of tough after such a long streak. We kind of took it personally,” junior forward Collin Adams said. “I think every guy just wanted to get better in the summer and it’s paying off for us now.”

This Seems Familiar

First, there’s a lot of hockey left, but it’s hard not to want to compare the 2019-20 team to the 2015-16 team. On February 13, 2016, the Hawks had just been swept by the Pioneers in Denver and had a 22-5-3 record. Fast forward to this season. With the sweep of Pioneers, UND’s record is now 22-3-3.

“Yeah, there are some similarities,” head coach Brad Berry said. “No team is exactly the same, but there are some similarities in the teams. The one thing and I keep talking about it is depth. We had depth back in 2015-16 and we have depth now. Knock on wood, you have to remain free of injuries. You can’t be banged up at the end of the year. We have to make sure that we monitor our practices and the way we train here over the next few weeks and make sure we’re relatively healthy as we can going because that’s a big deal.”

Here are updated standings after this weekend’s results. There are three series remaining for each team. North Dakota is closing in on its third Penrose Cup. Or to quote former UND forward Nick Schmaltz, “a Penarosa Cup.”

Peter Thome’s Impressive Run

UND Junior goalie Peter Thome entered Saturday’s game with a 5-0-1 record, a 1.30 GAA and a .935 save percentage.  During his impressive run, Thome has been a brick wall. He’s given up nine goals, five of them while UND was on the penalty kill. Breaking it down further, he’s only given up five goals in the last five games. Thome’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

“He did it in style tonight,” Berry said. “There were times in the second when they were making a push and in the third that he had to make not only one but two or three saves on the doorstep to make sure that puck didn’t go in. He has a focused to him now, and he has to keep moving forward here but you know he’s doing a good job here coming in and giving us a chance to win every night.”

After Saturday’s 3-1, Thome’s updated line is (6-0-1, 1.26 GAA and a .940 save percentage). Stick tap to Danni Podlaski for this gem.

UND Beats DU 4-1

The University of North Dakota and Denver don’t like each other. Through the years, the series has resembled the Hatfields and McCoys feud. What’s even more ironic, the two teams played on Valentine’s Day. On Friday night, when it was all said and done, the Fighting Hawks sent the Pioneers back to their hotel smarting from another loss. This time, the final score was 4-1.  UND scored one goal in the first period, two in the second period and one in the third period.

What a difference a year makes. After going 1-4-1 against the Denver Pioneers during the 2018-19 season.  This season the Hawks have had the Denver Pioneers number. Through three games, the Hawks have taken eight of a possible nine points. Even more impressive, the Hawks have outscored the Pioneers 9-3. That’s no small feat based on the skill of Denver’s roster. 

Thome Shines Again

The story of the night, the play of junior goalie Peter Thome.  The Minneapolis, Minnesota native didn’t play at all during the first half of the season. Then on January 10, 2020, against the Omaha Mavericks, sophomore goalie Adam Scheel let in four goals on eight shots. Head coach Brad Berry pulled Scheel and in stepped Thome. Since that time, statistically, Thome has been the best goalie in the NCHC (5-0-1, 1.30 GAA and a .935 save percentage), he’s also recorded a shutout.

Last season,  Thome was on the wrong end of two of those losses during the first round of the NCHC playoffs. When it was all said and done, UND’s season was over and the Pioneers advanced to the Frozen Four. 

“What’s in the past is in the past, and you kind of focus on the next game,” Thome said.  “It sounds cliche, but it’s special because it’s a rivalry game. It’s been an old rival at UND for a long time, it’s fun to add to that storyline and come out on top here.”

“He’s been focused and dialed in,” Berry said. “He had some traffic in front of him and he found the puck.  He saw the puck tonight, and he even handled the puck a little bit. That’s what you need at this time of year.  That was a playoff-type game and goaltending is a big deal.”

Pinto vs. Brink

Friday’s game was the matchup of the two NCHC Rookie of the Year candidates Denver’s Bobby Brink and North Dakota’s Shane Pinto. In the end, Brink ended up leaving the game during the second period with an apparent lower-body injury. Pinto was asked if he got a chance to chirp his World Junior teammate. 

“I mean, yeah, me and Bob talk a lot and to see him go down like that hopefully he’s alright he’s my good friend so hopefully, he’s okay,” Pinto said. 

Neither player disappointed. Pinto scored the game’s first goal. Brink scored Denver’s only goal on the power play.  Brink’s status for Saturday night is undetermined. 

Shane Pinto and Bobby Brink.

Kawa-Wow!

Friday, junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi continued his torrid pace. Against the Pioneers, Kawaguchi added two more assists to push his season point total to (15g-28a–43pts), he’s also a plus-20. In the past 12 games, the Hobey Baker Candidate has scored (8g-13A–21pts), that tied for second in the nation.

Pinto and Brink Fighting For NCHC Rookie of the Year

The 2019-20 college hockey season is quickly coming to an end. Four weeks remain in the regular season. The first round of the NCHC playoffs takes place on March 13-15, 2020. Currently, the Fighting Hawks lead the NCHC with 40 points and have two games in hand on the second-place Bulldogs.

Last week, I mentioned that the NCHC Rookie of the year is going to reside in Denver or Grand Forks. Currently, in conference play, Bobby Brink (5g-10a–15pts) and leads Shane Pinto (8g-5a–13pts) by two points. (Link to stats)

In the last series between DU and UND, neither player recorded a single point. As most of you know, Brink and Pinto were teammates on the 2020 USA WJC team. My sister Holly (Brink) said that they met Pinto’s parents at the World Juniors.

2019 NHL Draft

Both players were drafted in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Pinto was selected in the second round by the Ottawa Senators (No. 32 overall). Brink was selected two picks later by the Philadelphia Flyers (No. 34 overall).

Last weekend, UND and DU were off. Overall, Brink (10g-13a-23pts) leads Pinto (13g-9a–22pts) by a single point. Pinto is tied for the league lead in power play goals with (Kobe Roth, Tanner Laderoute, Noah Coats and teammate Jasper Weatherby).

Both players have had similar seasons. During the last 15 games, both players have 16 points: Brink (6g-10a—16pts), Pinto (11g-5a—16pts). In eight games, during the month of January: Brink won the NCHC player of the month recording (3g-6a—9pts). Pinto recorded (4g-3a—7pts).

Since the beginning of the New Year, in nine games, Brink has scored (3g-7a—10pts), he’s also a plus-four.  That’s good for eighth among NCHC skaters. His counterpart, Pinto has scored (5g-3a—8pts), in eight games (Pinto missed a game due to a one-game suspension). He’s also a plus-three. During that same time, Pinto is ranked 21st overall in the NCHC. For comparison sake, UND junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi leads the NCHC with (8g-9a—17pts), he’s also a plus-four. (Link to stats)

Both players are currently on multiple-game point streaks. Brink has a five-game points streak (2g-6a—8pts). Pinto has a six-game point streak (4g-3a—7pts).

Again, there’s is no conflict. Earlier this year I wrote this: For the record, I am an alumnus of the University of North Dakota. I have two degrees (BA/MA) from UND. I bleed green and white. I want to see all of the universities’ sports programs be successful.

Bobby’s Dad Andy Brink

When I first arrived at UND in the fall of 1993, Bobby’s dad Andy was a hockey player for the University of Minnesota. In 136 games with the Gophers, Andy scored (20g-47a–67pts). Brink also played on the 1994 USA WJC team with former Fighting Sioux goalie Toby Kvalevog. I don’t know if we will ever see another WJC team with two players from Bemidji, MN.

This season, I re-upped my league-wide NCHC.TV subscription. With that, I’ve been able to see quite a few of the Denver games. I’ve also been able to watch quite a few games on Altitude this season, thanks to DirecTV. Watching both players, I believe that they’re the best two rookies in the NCHC.

Power and Strength

So Filthy

UND Races Past CC 8-1

Grand Forks, ND – The National Collegiate Hockey Conference is a tough conference and some have said the league’s regular-season trophy should be a meatgrinder. On Friday night, the last-place Colorado College Tigers gave top-ranked North Dakota all they could handle.

Saturday night, it was a much different story. The Hawks came out of the locker room on fire. They flew through the neutral zone with ease and raced to a four-goal lead before the game was 15 minutes old.

After scoring a total of eight goals in the last three games, the Hawks put eight goals on the scoreboard to send the Tigers home pointless. The Hawks righted the ship by taking out their frustration on the scoresheet. They scored four in the first period, two in the second period, and two more in the third period.

It was an impressive win.

When it was all said and done, 13 players recorded at least a single point. Five players had multi-point games: Andrew Peski (0g-3a—3pts), Jasper Weatherby (1g-1a—2pts), Grant Mismash (1g-1a—2pts), Collin Adams (1g-1a—2pts), and Jordan Kawaguchi (2g-1a—3pts). UND’s top forward line of Mismash, Adams, and Kawaguchi continued their torrid pace as they scored (4g-3a—7pts). They were also a plus-12.

Thome Shines Again

During the second half of the season, sophomore goalie Adam Scheel has struggled. Since January 3, 2020, the Lakewood, Ohio native is 3-2-0, 3.90 GAA and a .812 save percentage. This weekend, for the first time this season, junior goalie Peter Thome started back-to-back games and stopped 39-of-40 shots. With the 8-1 win against the Tigers, Thome is 4-0-1, 1.35 GAA and .928 save percentage.

“Peter is awesome, it’s not always easy, being out for a while and coming back in when you’re called upon,” Peski said. “He did a really good job and it showed he had a great night last night a great night tonight.”

“For a guy that hasn’t played a long time, he looked confident, he looked composed,” head coach Brad Berry said. “Didn’t look like there was any nervousness. I think that’s usually an attribute that you have from not playing for a while. Karl (Goehring) worked with him on staying with it. In practice, getting him the reps, and then obviously waiting for his opportunity. You know he was ready for it. We’ve got to keep moving forward with both goaltenders.”

Grind Line Shines

The GMC Grind Line of Gavin Hain, Mark Senden, and Cole Smith is assigned to check the opposition’s top lines. This past weekend, the Grind Line shutout the Tigers’ top line of Nick Halloran, Troy Conzo and Chris Wilkie. The Tigers top players didn’t record a single point all weekend long. Credit the Grind Line.

“Yeah, the Senden line is awesome,” Peski said. “You got Schmidt that’s just a horse. Sendo and Gavin that just work really hard and we know whatever top line that they have they’re going to tough night because those guys are just relentless.”

“They’re a workhorse line, Smitty, he works the hardest I’ve ever seen, and Sendo (Mark Senden) is one of the hardest workers too,” Kawaguchi said. “Gavin (Hain), he’s got the most skill on that line, and he’s such a hard worker too. Those three together, unbelievable. I wouldn’t want to play against them.”

UND is off next weekend and returns to the ice on February 13-14 against the Denver Pioneers.

Hawks Shutout Tigers 1-0

Grand Forks, ND – Sometimes you have to wait for your opportunity.  That’s exactly what happened to UND Junior goalie Peter Thome. Through the first 19 games of the season, Thome sat on the bench and watched Adam Scheel rack up wins and accolades.

Suddenly, Thome’s fortunes changed. On January 10, 2020, against the Omaha Mavericks, the ever-steady Scheel let in four goals on eight shots. With roughly 25 minutes remaining in the game, Thome took the net. Since then, Thome has played in five games. The Minneapolis, Minnesota native is 3-0-1, 1.44 GAA and a .927 save percentage. What’s more impressive, of the six goals Thome has let in, five have come on the opponent’s power play.

On Friday night, against the Colorado College Tigers, Thome recorded the second shutout of his career with a 1-0 win. It had been two years and 25 days since his last shutout, but this one was more meaningful.

“It’s always fun in a tight game like that,” Thome said. “I think the last one against Omaha was like 7-0. This was a little more down to the wire. The guys played hard for me in front and didn’t give them too many Grade-A chances. So, a lot of credit goes to them, but yeah, it feels good for sure.”

Thome sat at the end of the bench and waited for his opportunity.

“It’s pretty special in college you get then chance to work with an NHL level goalie coach (Karl Goehring). Not just once, or twice a week, it’s every day he’s at the rink. He spends all day here, and he’s always available to chat if I have questions. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s always pushing me never let me be satisfied.

“During that stretch in the first half where I didn’t play, we had a few conversations where you know frustration might have been getting to me a little bit, and he said, ‘hey, no, absolutely not’. You got to be a man. You’ve got to put the work boots on every day and prepare for your opportunity because one’s going to come. That’s just kind of the reality. If you don’t prepare for it, and it comes and you’re not ready, you might not get another one. I can’t say enough good things (about him).”

What did Thome do to stay mentally sharp during his hiatus from the net?

“I meditate every day, Thome said.  “I know that’s kind of weird. We have a great resource with Greg Lloyd, he’s a sports psychologist who works in the area. I met with him a lot of times, and he’s been great too. Just using the resources, we have here — focus on one day at a time, and not really look too far ahead.

Postgame, UND head coach Brad Berry was pleased with Thome’s play.

“He played an excellent game tonight, the fact that he made some key stops at key times, hard saves in and around the net there and his focus was sharp. I think it goes into preparation for what he’s done, and when he wasn’t playing.  He could have very easily just kind of taken a backseat. His opportunity has come he’s made the most of it.”

Against the Tigers, it was a defensive stalemate. There wasn’t a lot of time and space on the ice. The Fighting Hawks had a lot of opportunities but were only able to put one puck in the twine. At the 10:23 mark of the third period, freshman forward Shane Pinto scored the game-winning goal off a rebound in front of the Tigers net. Pinto described his game-winning goal

“Yeah, that was a pretty lucky bounce, it hit off the guy’s head and then off the wall and kind of bounced to me, Pinto said. “We got that bounce there which is huge. I thought we did a good job on the power play today. I thought we create some chances so we’re just going to keep going.”

That was all the Hawks needed as they closed out the Tigers to remain eight points ahead of the second-place Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. The Hawks and Tigers play against at 7:07 PM CT. (Offical Box Score)

UND Hockey: The Boys are Alright

It was Deja Vu. Saturday night, at the 9:16 mark of the first period, Miami scored it’s second goal to take another early 2-0 lead. UND fans started getting antsy. They’d seen this act before and didn’t like it very much. A night earlier, the Fighting Hawks had given up another 2-0 lead, just 1:29 into the first period.

The Hawks didn’t panic.

For the fourth time in six games, the opposition scored first on the Fighting Hawks. Something wasn’t right. Why weren’t the Hawks ready to play in the opening minutes of the game?

That’s a good question.

Like the previous night, UND’s fortunes improved as the game progressed. The Hawks fought back and won game two 5-3. At the end of the weekend, the RedHawks had led the weekend series for 44:38 minutes but were only able to secure a single point. The Hawks led for exactly 2.38 minutes, securing five of six possible points.

Yes, it sounds cliche’. It’s not how you start, but how you finish. There are no points awarded for taking an early lead. Hockey games are 60-minutes long. At the end of the season, wins and losses are all that matters.

As I mentioned above. Since the beginning of the New Year, the Hawks have started slowly in four of the last six games. Not all is lost. In the same span, the Fighting Hawks are 4-1-1. However, gauging by the mood of some in the UND fan base, you’d think the Hawks were last in the NCHC standings. They’re not. Far from it. UND is (.847), and 9-1-2 (.833) NCHC.

The Hawks are also leading the NCHC with 31 points. The Hawks are eight points ahead of second-place UMD and nine points ahead of third-place Denver. Even if they’re swept by the Bulldogs this weekend, they will still finish the weekend in first place.

Moreover, they’re also 1st in the Pairwise and 2nd in the KRACH rankings. If you’re still not convinced. To date, UND has played the fourth hardest schedule. If you’re a poll watcher, UND is tied for first in the USCHO Poll and second in the USA Today poll.

Please forgive me if I am seeing the silver lining. The sky isn’t falling.

I know there’s a lot of time left in the season, but, for comparison sake, the 2015-16 team was 20-3-3 on January 23, 2016. We all know how that season ended. Am I saying that UND’s current team will go on to win their program’s ninth NCAA title? I don’t know? They’re definitely not a bunch of untalented hacks. They’re not a paper tiger, either.

Scheel Struggles Early

I am minorly concerned by the recent play of sophomore goalie Adam Scheel. Since the beginning of January,  Scheel is 3-1-0, 3.10 GAA and a .810 save percentage. Rough patches happen to all goalies, Scheel is going through a rough stretch. He’s a talented goalie and he will power through this. His goaltending coach Karl Goehring will also be a big help.

Bad stretch aside, Scheel is still one of the best goaltenders in the NCHC. Statistically, Scheel is (17-2-2, 1.84 GAA and a .910 save percentage, 2 shutouts). Scheel leads the NCHC in GAA, wins, and tied for the lead in shutouts. Finally, Scheel was selected at the NCHC player of the month in November and December.

The Stats Tell a Story

When you look at the statistics, there’s a huge improvement over last season. Statistically, UND is one of the top teams in the country. The Hawks lead the NCAA in goals scored with 97. They also lead the nation in goals per game with 4.22. Defensively, UND is ranked fifth in the nation with goals against per game 1.98 and goals against with 45.

What’s impressive to me is that UND has scored twice as many goals as they’ve given up (97-45 = margin of 52). UND is second in the nation in goal margin. The weak link, UND’s power play which is ranked 22nd in the nation 19.8%. Their penalty kill is ranked eighth nationally 87.5%. (Link to Stats)