UND Hockey Team Is on a Mission

At first look, the University of North Dakota hockey has taken off where they left off. On March 12, 2020, the college hockey season came to a crashing end with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fast forward to the present, 12 games into the 2020-21 season, the UND hockey team is cruising along at a (.792) winning percentage. At this moment in time, that’s better than last season’s impressive (.771) winning percentage. This weekend, UND 9-2-1 takes on their heated rival the Denver Pioneers 4-7-1.

So far this season, the Fighting Hawks have played like a team that is on a mission. After being denied last season, they have played with even more vigor. If that’s possible?

The 2020-21 UND hockey team has something to prove. It’s an older, more experienced team, that hasn’t made the playoffs in a couple of seasons.

“We haven’t made the national tournament in a couple of years,” head coach Brad Berry said after sweeping the Colorado College Tigers. “We would have made it last year, but due to COVID, everything got shut down. These guys haven’t had a taste of it (NCAA tourney). I think there’s a burning desire in there to get back there and try to do something special.”

Like last season, there seems to be a lot of chemistry in the Hawks locker-room. They genuinely seem to like each other. That’s helpful if you want to survive a college hockey season.

“I would say we are a tight team that cares about each other,” Berry said. “We’ve got a lot of different personalities on our team. A lot of guys from different places. The guys like being together. They like being at the rink. They like hanging around each other.”

Take a penalty late in the game, no problem. Let’s go kill it.

“When we took that penalty late in the game, the first tendency was here we go,” Berry said. “We’ve got to kill a penalty. They have a great chance of scoring a goal.

“It wasn’t like that. Grant Mishmash took a penalty in the offensive zone. Let’s pick him up here. Let’s have his back. That’s a big deal when you have that on your team.”

Mr. Third Period

This season, senior forward Grant Mismash from Edina, MN, has taken his game to another level. His improvement is noticeable. Through 12 games, Mismash is three goals shy of a career-best. (During his freshman season, he scored nine goals and 22 points). Breaking it down further, he’s scored nine points in the last seven games (4g-5a—9pts). He’s also on a four-game points streak.

“He (Mismash) put himself in very good shape,” Berry said. “He prepared himself to get to that level. Now, it pushes him to play with a couple of guys who are pretty fast. His skating ability is much improved from last year. That line is clicking. When they play with pace. That’s a big deal.”

Mismash’s linemate, Collin Adams, has also gotten off to a great start during the 2020-21 season. Currently, Adams has scored five goals and 12 points. Adams, like Mismash, is on a six-game point streak scoring four goals and eight points.

This past week, Mismash was the NCHC Forward of the Week.

UND vs DU Schedule Change; Now Sunday and Monday

First, the good news, the University of North Dakota will be traveling back to Colorado to take on the Denver Pioneers. Those games originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday have been moved to Sunday and Monday.

Due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the University of Denver, those games were in question. However, Denver has passed their COVID-19 tests and are back on the ice. Even better news, CBS Sports Network will be carrying Monday’s game.

Per the NCHC Release: The North Dakota at Denver series, originally slated for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15-16. Will now take place on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 17-18. Both games will start at 7:07 p.m. MT, with Monday’s game now on CBS Sports Network, replacing the Jan. 15 UND-DU telecast that was scheduled.

For the weekend after, Colorado College will now make a return trip to North Dakota on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 23-24, game is 6:07 pm CT for both games.

Here’s the UND hockey team’s schedule with the appropriate changes.

Jan. 17   at Denver                        8:07 PM
Jan. 18   at Denver                        8:07 PM
Jan. 23   COLORADO COLLEGE 6:07 PM
Jan. 24   COLORADO COLLEGE 6:07 PM
Jan. 29   at Omaha                        7:37 PM
Jan. 30   at Omaha                        6:07 PM
Feb. 5    DENVER                        7:37 PM
Feb. 6    DENVER                       6:07 PM
Feb. 19  OMAHA                         7:37 PM
Feb. 20  OMAHA                         6:07 PM
Feb. 26  at Omaha                         7:07 PM
Mar. 5   OMAHA                          7:37 PM
Mar. 12-14          NCHC Quarterfinals
Mar. 19-20          NCHC Frozen Faceoff      (St. Paul, Minn. (Xcel Energy Center)
Mar. 26-27          NCAA Regionals               Fargo, N.D. (Scheels Arena)
Apr. 8-10              NCAA Frozen Four           Pittsburgh, Pa.

Duluth Suffer COVID-19 Outbreak

Last night, UMD radio PxP announcer Bruce Ciskie was alluding to an announcement today on his Twitter feed. This has to be what he was talking about.

Due to a combination of positive COVID-19 tests, contact tracing, and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Minnesota Duluth hockey program, this weekend’s Minnesota Duluth at Miami series, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15-16, at Steve Cady Arena has been postponed. The series has been rescheduled for Friday and Saturday, Jan. 29-30 in Oxford with game times set for 7:05 p.m. ET on Jan. 29 and 5:05 p.m. ET for the series finale.

Gaber Leads North Dakota Past Miami, 6-2

For 20-plus days, the NCHC has entertained their fans with non-stop hockey action. Due to Covid-19, the NCHC decided to start the regular season in a pod, similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Eight NCHC teams traveled to Omaha to kick off the regular season. Looking back it was a great move by the NCHC. The action on the ice was fast and furious and fans bing watched college hockey for 21 days. It appears that the fans enjoyed being able to watch college hockey again after a 270-day hiatus. Albeit, there’s one more game left in the pod. Monday, Colorado College plays Omaha at 12:05.

“Going through something that nobody’s ever experienced,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “The NCHC, Josh Fenton, and Michael Weisman did an outstanding job here of putting a controlled environment, professionally done, and everybody adhered to the protocol, kudos to them. It was a great experience.”

After Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Miami RedHawks, Berry thought the Omaha Pad was a great experience for his team.

“You’re forced to be with each other 24-7,” Berry said. “It’s like a family. You’re with each other all the time. I enjoyed it. I know it’s situational where’s there’s a lot of sacrifice by a lot of people. It was the best chance for us to get 10 games under our belt.

“I think our guys had a good experience. They made the best of it. We came down here and said ‘hey,’ we’ve got to be positive. You’ve got to make sure that you have a good mindset each and every day. Our guys did.”

The players echoed their head coach’s sentiments.

“A lot of good memories, freshman forward Riese Gaber said. “I enjoyed this process. It was a ton of fun. We had a good setup. Having the schedule that we did, throughout the 20 days, it was a lot, but at the same time, we got to play a lot of hockey.”

Riese Gaber Shines

One of the stories to emerge from the pod is the play of freshman forward Riese Gaber. Through 10 games, Gaber has scored seven goals and nine points. He leads the team in goals and has played on the first line with Shane Pinto and Jordan Kawaguchi. I asked Berry if he thought Gaber would make this big of an impact this early.

“We thought he’d make an impact, but you never know how much of magnitude early on, Berry said. He’s made a great impact early on. It was one of those things where goals are hard to come by. Both five-on-five and power play, and he’s taken full advantage of that.”

If you didn’t watch today’s game, Gaber scored two beautiful goals helping propel UND past Miami.

“I’m pretty happy with my goal scoring production,” Riese Gaber said. “The coaches have a ton of confidence in me and give me lots of opportunities. I’ve got to make the most of that opportunity. I’ve been fortunate to have some good linemates and be able to do that.”

For the first half of the game, the two teams played to a 2-2 tie.  Then the Fighting Hawks took the game over. The Hawks scored four goals during the second period and one in the third.

“I think we got out-competed tonight,” Miami forward Jack Clement said. “We gave them way too many odd-man rushes, and against a team like that, they’re going to make you pay.”

(Official Box Score)

Multi-point games

Ethan Frisch (1g-1a–2pts)
Grant Mismash (0g-2a–2pts), has seven points in the last five games (2g-5a–7pts).
Riese Gaber (2g-1a–3pts)

North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth Battle in Omaha, Tie 2-2

Sometimes change is good. On Thursday night, the University of North Dakota men’s hockey changed up their forward lines. The first thing that jumped off of the lineup chart; Brad Berry broke up the top line of Grant Mismash, Collin Adams, and Jordan Kawaguchi. In its place, Berry put Riese Gaber, Shane Pinto, and Kawaguchi on the top line. That line would finish with two goals and four points.

Through four games, UND hasn’t played bad, Berry just wanted to get another look from his forward lines.

“We just wanted to try and push our guys a little bit, in situations of playing with other guys early in the season trying to see if we can build some chemistry, Berry said. “I thought that line (Gaber, Pinto, and Kawaguchi) played pretty well. I thought all the lines play pretty well getting some chances. We had a lot of grade-A and grade-B chances in front of the net. We just didn’t finish tonight.”

The changes would pay dividends. With the Bulldogs clinging to a one-goal lead, freshman forward Riese Gaber would score his third goal of the season.

At the 12:24 mark of the third period, Pinto would give UND a brief 2-1 lead.  From the left faceoff dot, Pinto pounded home a one-timer from Matt Kiersted. Through five games, Pinto leads the Fighting Hawks in scoring with (3-g-4a–7pts).

That lead didn’t last very long. With 3:25 remaining in the game, Bulldogs forward Cole Koepke picked up a buried the equalizer. Tie game 2-2.

“I thought we did a pretty good job of weathering the storm,” Berry said. “Then I thought, from the 10-minute mark of the first through the rest of the game. I felt we did what we had to do. Heavy on the fore-check, and pucks in the offensive zone. We didn’t play a lot in our end of the rink. I thought we did all the right things to deserve a win tonight, and we didn’t. We didn’t close out the game tonight in the last few minutes, and we need to be better at that.”

In the post-game press conference, Gaber echoed his coaches sentiments.

“I think the two things that have killed us so far have been our discipline, and we gave up a few late goals,” Gaber said. “Good teams find a way to win no matter what. So, just managing the game and learning to close out games is going to be huge for us. Once we kind of figured out, I think we’ll be rolling.”

For the second game in a row, UND’s lack of discipline proved costly.

“We went up 2-1 late in the game, and then we take a penalty in the last few minutes of the third period there to give them momentum,” Berry said. “They didn’t score, but they got momentum a little bit. Then a d-zone face-off, we didn’t get a clear there, and got kind of hemmed in, and whack the puck is in the net. It’s one of those things and details on how to close up games come from discipline and finishing off on a d-zone faceoff clear.”

The two teams would play to a 2-2 tie. The Bulldogs would take the extra point in the shootout.

Pod Hockey in Omaha

UND Enjoys Matinee Win Against WMU, 8-2

Pod Hockey: UND Beats DU in OT, 4-3

Pod Hockey: North Dakota Beats Miami 2-0

Kawaguchi Leads UND past Denver, 4-3 in OT

Yes, rivalry games. Denver and North Dakota is an exciting, historic rivalry. On Friday night, due to COVID-19, not a single fan attended the game in the Pod. Baxter Arena in Omaha was empty except for the people working the game and some fan cutouts. If you watched the game on MidcoSN, Altitude Sports or NCHC.TV, you weren’t disappointed.

We’re six games into the NCHC Pod schedule, and the hockey has been nothing short of amazing. The production of the games has been top-notch. This Christmas season we have the 20 days of hockey.

After 272 days, not much has changed. Senior All-American, forward Jordan Kawaguchi picked up where he left off from last March, roofing the game-winning goal 1:17 into the 3-on-3 overtime period. Kawaguchi’s goal lifted the Hawks to a 4-3 win over Denver Pioneers. Kawaguchi is also an early  favorite to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

With Friday’s win, UND is now 4-0-1 in the last five games against the Pioneers. The good news, there are at least five more games between the two teams. Good times.

At the 11:05 mark of the first period, the Pioneers scored the game’s first goal on the power play from Carter Savoie. Pioneers Bobby Brink and Mike Benning drew the assists. Brink found Savoie in the left faceoff dot, and he buried the puck in the back of the Hawks net.

Savoie became the first Pioneer since 2008 to score in his first two games. He now has three goals on the season.

At the 17:16 mark of the second period, freshman defenseman Jake Sanderson scored his first collegiate goal on the power play from the right faceoff dot. Tie game. Sanderson has one more game in the Pod before he heads to the WJC.

The game didn’t stay tied very long. Just 30 seconds into the third period, Pioneers forward Brett Edwards scored. Drawing assists on the goal were Bobby Brink and Jaakko Heikkinen.

Later in the third period, UND would tie the game and then take a one-goal lead with goals from Ethan Frisch and Jasper Weatherby.

UND head coach Brad Berry’s thoughts on his captain’s game-winning goal. 

“Jordan (Kawaguchi) obviously an elite player with a high skill level; (he) saw a lane to the net and got it up very quick, in a hurry, on (Magnus) Chrona, Berry said. “He’s a difference-maker when you get to three-on-three. You look down on your bench and you try to put those players on the ice and give yourself an opportunity for the extra point. He didn’t disappoint.  

“I think it’s one of the things that Jordan is. Working hard over the course of the last few games, (he) really haven’t gotten rewarded on the stat sheet, goals or assists, but when the game was on the line made a big play.”

Playing in the Pod

This past summer, we watched the NHL play in the pods in Edmonton and Toronto. Now, fast forward to the NCHC’s Omaha Pod. It’s been surreal watching teams play in empty buildings. The NCHC Pod looks very similar to the NHL Pods from this past summer.

“It’s not too hard to get your excitement up, or your passion for the game, Berry said. “It’s funny with no fans in the stands, I mentioned in the last press conference. As a coach and I know as a player, you really don’t notice it.   You’re tuned into the game. You’re competitive.  You’re focusing on each and every shift. I know our guys (were). I know Denver was. That was a back and forth game the lead changed a few times. That’s the beauty of college hockey, the guys create their own excitement and especially when two teams like that were going at it.”

“There’s no noise, Kawaguchi said. “No extra noise from the crowd or anything like that. You have to bring your own energy and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at it sometimes. We got to forget there’s no crowd and we kind of have to do it on the bench. I think we’ve done a good job so far in the first two games to kind of bring out the kinks.  We’re just looking to get better every game.”

Forwards Carter Savoie (2-0-0), Bobby Brink (0-2-2), and defense Mike Benning (0-2-2) led the Pioneers on the score sheet.

Defense Jake Sanderson (1-1-2), and forward Colin Adams (0-2-2) led the Hawks on the score sheet.

(Official Box Score)

North Dakota Beats Miami, 2-0

The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team played for the first time in 270 days and they continued with their winning ways.

Ironically, the Fighting Hawks returned to the arena where they played their final game of the 2019-20 season.  Like the previous game, the Hawks hung another shutout on the opposition. This time the Miami University RedHawks were the victim. The Hawks D-core stifled Miami holding the Red Hawks to only 19 shots on the net. UND outshot Miami, 18-4 during the first period.

In the last two games UND has played in Omaha, the Hawks have outscored their opponents 7-0. According to the UND SID: UND extended its streak of not allowing a goal to 125:02, dating back to a Mar. 6, 2020 game at Omaha.

The game was close and Miami fought till the end of the game. The two teams played to a 0-0 tie through 33 minutes of play.  Finally, senior defenseman Matt Kiersted broke through and scored the game-winning goal with a laser from the top of the slot.

At the 1:10 mark of the third period, UND padded their lead with a beautiful goal by freshman forward Riese Gaber, a wrist shot under the right bar, glove-handed side. His goal reminded me of the ones Brock Boeser used to score. A welcome addition to the UND hockey team.

The goal scorer Gaber played on a line with Gavin Hain and Shane Pinto. The trio had instant chemistry. Pinto, who had primary two assists in the game, and assisted on Gaber’s goal. The three had never played together, but they have been practicing together for the last three months.

Junior goalie Adam Scheel was solid in net stopping 19 shots and recording his fourth career shutout. For his career, Scheel is (32-14-4, a 2.07 GAA and a .907 save percentage).

Friday, North Dakota will face their heated rivals the Denver Pioneers.

Two UND Players Take a Knee

Back in August, the NHL returned to play in two pods, one in Toronto Ontario, and one in Edmonton, Alberta. For the opening ceremonies, in Edmonton, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba kneeled during the American national anthem. Dumba would later say that he regretted not kneeling for the Canadian anthem, too.

Fast forward to December 2, 2020.

Pregame, during the day, there was a report that two UND players, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jasper Weatherby, like Dumba, were going to kneel during the national anthem. That did happen. Postgame, head coach Brad Berry was asked what he thought about it. Listening to Berry’s comments, it sounds like this could be a one-time thing.

“We’ve given it a lot of thought here,” Berry said. “We have a tight-knit group that cares for each other. We have players from different parts of the country. In saying that, people have different beliefs. They have different thoughts, and one of the things that we are is respectable.

“This was thought about from a player standpoint. Jasper and JBD talked about it within the locker room. Everybody got their head around what was going on. And for the one time they did it, the one time tonight, it was something they wanted to do. Everybody, myself included, has different thoughts, different beliefs as probably those guys. It’s a respect thing, and we want to make sure that nobody’s disrespected through what happened today. It was something that we talked about in the locker room. It’s part of the process here.”

Senior defenseman Matt Kiersted also shared his thoughts on the matter.

“This is my third year playing with those guys, Kiersted said. “I knew Jasper coming in, and they’re both great human beings. You can see they’re very outspoken and ready to express their feelings the way they choose. I think there’s enormous respect in the locker room for those guys like you said. They’re leaders on the team that were elected this year (by their teammates), and that’s well deserved.”

Freshman forward Riese Gaber had similar thoughts.

“I’m just gonna go support them, Gaber said. “Everyone has their views and everything. There’s gonna be positive and negative feedback. Overall, I respect their decision.”

Originally posted here.