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A week ago, after UND’s 5-2 win over archrival Denver, senior goalie Peter Thome walked the media through UND’s team goals for the 2020-21 season.
“The first one that we always talk about is getting home ice for the playoffs; box checked,” Thome said. “Next, Penrose, to be determined. We have to keep rolling down the way. Win the regional in Fargo. Win the semifinal game in Pittsburgh, and then win the final game in Pittsburgh.”
Win the Penrose Cup. Box checked. The rest to be determined.
On Saturday night, the Omaha Mavericks were the only thing standing in the way of the Fighting Hawks winning another Penrose Cup.
UND came at UNO in waves, scoring two goals in the first, three goals in the second, and two more in the third period. They chased the Mavericks starting goalie Isaiah Saville after a period and a half. Six UND players had multi-point games. When the final horn had sounded, the Fighting Hawks had blown out the Mavericks 7-1.
To top it all off, Omaha’s vaunted penalty kill (ranked sixth nationally) gave up three power play goals on five chances. That’s no small task. UNO has given up 10 power play goals all season long, UND has four of those goals.
The Mavericks, and Hawks Rivalry
Whether the fans want to acknowledge it or not, this is becoming a huge rivalry series for both teams. At the 19:01 mark of the third period, there was a line brawl in front of the penalty boxes. When it was all said and done, UNO’s Noah Prokop, and UND’s Gabe Bast were assessed five-minute majors and game disqualifications for fighting. The penalty boxes were full and both head coaches were screaming at each other.
Just think, we have another 120 minutes of this.
“Well, I think they both play hard, Berry said. “They are both hard, heavy, physical teams. Omaha has had a lot of success this year. They’re a team that’s on the rise. They’ve done a good job winning games. It’s a situation where you’re jockeying in the standings. We’re all trying to get top four. We’re all trying to win the Penrose and when you got two teams that are at the top of the conference, they’re going at it. That’s what happens. It’s no different from year-to-year.”
UND hasn’t seen the last of the Mavericks. UND has two more games against them to close out the regular season. Next weekend, the Fighting Hawks travel to Omaha to play a single game against the Mavericks. The following weekend, the Mavericks make the trip up I-29 to finish off the regular season.
“I think it has something to do with coming down the stretch playing six of our last eight against them, knowing that they stood in the way of our success and then winning the Penrose that is part of it and definitely fueled the fire,” senior forward Jordan Kawaguchi said.
The season has been a grind and there are no easy games in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. UND looks battle-tested and ready to go.
“You know I firmly believe the NCHC makes you battle-tested and ready for the postseason,” Berry said. “It’s a situation where teams grind each other out throughout the regular season. Towards the end of the year when it culminates into the NCAA Tournament. I think that’s why you see a lot of the NCAA champ successes because you’re going through that gauntlet of teams throughout the year.”
Back-to-back Penrose Cups for the Fighting Hawks. This was Berry’s third as a coach, the program’s fourth.
“Out of all the Penrose Cups, MacNaughton Cups, whatever you want to call them,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “This has to rank as one of the toughest to win, just because of the Pod. Going down to Omaha, and playing 10 games in 19 nights, grinding away. Then, finally, getting back and being patient for the weekends of healthy teams playing in the second half and just staying focused.”
Stats of Interest
On Saturday against the Mavericks, Jasper Weatherby continued his torrid pace scoring another goal and an assist. In the last six games, Weatherby has scored (7g-2a—9pts), he has multi-point games in two of the last three games. Last night, he also equaled his career-best in goals with 10.
With the win, UND goalie Adam Scheel improves to (15-3-1, 1.78 GAA, and a .928 save percentage). Scheel has been almost unbeatable at home, he’s (5-0-0, .60 GAA, .970 save percentage), two shutouts. In five home games, he has only given up three goals. That leads the NCHC.
Recording an assist last night, Scheel now has five assists for his career. He has two this season, two last season, and one during his freshmen season.
Shane Pinto leads the NCHC in points with (15g-13a—28 pts), he’s a plus-16.
Jordan Kawaguchi is second in the NCHC in points with (6g-20a—26pts), he’s a plus-8.
UND leads the NCHC in penalty minutes with 115. Fret not; the Fighting Hawks PK is ranked second in the conference killing 83-of-95 opposition power plays. UND’s PK is ranked eighth nationally. Omaha’s penalty kill is ranked first in the NCHC killing 77-of-87 opposition power play. Moreover, UNO PK is ranked sixth nationally.
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Double Digit Hockey Show with Riley Pollock from Sportsnet 960 the Fan in Calgary Feb 4
First, what a weekend of hockey. This past weekend, the University of North Dakota hockey team split their weekend series (6-2 W, 4-5 L) with Omaha Mavericks. If you would’ve told me UND would score 10 goals against UNO and split the series, I would’ve said you’re crazy. Not all is lost. UND has won nine of the last 13 games (.692) against UNO. The Fighting 13-4-1 (.750) lost for just the second time in last 12 games. Here’s what I saw in the series against the Mavericks.
This season, UND has had a propensity to take a lot of undisciplined, untimely penalties. Until Saturday night, the Hawks have been able to kill the penalties they’ve taken. Last night, the Fighting Hawks penalty kill was 2-of-5 (.400). They gave up a season-high three power play goals. That was the difference in the game. If the Hawks gave up one less power play marker, it’s a tie game. Kill two more of the Mavericks five power plays and they win the game. You’re not going to win a lot of games allowing the opposition to score on 60 percent of their power plays.
“I think five-on-five we kind of dominated we’re getting our chances, but where we ran into trouble was getting penalties,” senior defenseman Matt Kiersted said.
In the past, head coach Brad Berry has said that his team need to find the line, but not go over it. A few times this season, they’ve crossed that line and played undisciplined hockey. Moving forward, his team will have to re-establish where that line is.
“We want to play with fire, and we want to play with pace and physicality,” Kiersted said. “I think there’s just a line that we you know we’ve been going over and getting penalties. We’ve got to find that line and flirt with it, but not go over it. We’ll be able to play our game but five on five.”
Positives From the Weekend
After listening to coach Berry’s post-game press conference on Saturday night, I came away with that impression that he cautiously optimistic. He was very matter of fact and ready to get back to work. I think there’s a lot to be positive about.
Enjoy Shane Pinto while he’s here. There’s a good chance that he’ll be playing in Ottawa next season. This past weekend, he continued his torrid pace. Against the Mavericks, Pinto scored three goals and four points. Pinto now has nine multi-point games that leads the NCAA. Pinto leads the NCHC in goals scored and points. Pinto has scored 51 points in 51 games (27g-24a—51pts). He’s also a plus-32.
Senior forward Jordan Kawaguchi remained hot this weekend. Against the Mavericks, He added three assists. In 18 games, Kawaguchi has scored five goals and 16 assists for 21 points. Kawaguchi leads the NCHC in assists. He’s tied for second with Duluth’s Nick Swaney in the NCHC scoring race. Kawaguchi has six multi-point games.
With his goal on Friday night, senior forward Grant Mismash has equaled his season-best goal total with nine goals. Seven of Mismash’s nine goals have been scored in the third period. Mismash is on a four-game point streak (3g-3a—6pts).
After racing to the early goal-scoring lead in the NCHC, freshman forward Riese Gaber has cooled off a bit. He’s goalless in six games. Gaber is tied for second in the NCHC in rookie scoring race with Denver’s Carter Savoie. In 18 games, Gaber has scored (8g-6a—14pts). He’s also a plus-seven. Currently, Gaber has a four-game point streak, four assists. I would expect Gaber to break out of his goalless streak.
Recently, I’ve seen a few people say that UND junior goalie Adam Scheel is struggling. Some questioned his rebound control. One of the knocks against him is his lateral side-to-side movement. Criticism aside, this weekend, I thought Scheel was the difference in Friday’s win and was the victim of some unfortunate bonces in Saturday’s game. For his career, Scheel is one of UND’s top goalies in goals against average.
Yes, Scheel needs to stay closer to the net and not cough up gifts to the opposition forwards. I would imagine that UND assistant coach Karl Goehring will work with Scheel to remedy that. Statistically, Scheel (12-3-1, .921 save percentage, 1.99 GAA) is one of the best goalies in the NCHC. He ranks first in goals against average, second in save percentage, first in winning percentage. Scheel is also tied for third in the nation in shutouts with three. There’s also a reason he’s starting over senior goalie Peter Thome, Scheel is statistically, the better of the two goalies and gives UND the best shot to win.
Play 60-Minute Game
To win in the NCHC you have to play a full 60-minute game. You can’t go to sleep on any team in the league. From top to bottom the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is a tough league. Every team is a tough out. There are no easy wins or automatic wins on the schedule. The Mavericks are no different. On Saturday night, the Hawks came out flat in the first period and the Mavericks capitalized on it.
“I thought we thought we played pretty well for 40 minutes,” coach Berry said. “Not so good for the first 20 minutes. You know I thought we spotted that team some goals early on, and we had to play from behind, which we haven’t done a lot this year. In saying that, I thought we battled hard. We played well from behind. We had our chances. We had enough chances to win this thing, but you can’t give up that many goals, especially early. Anytime that you give up three power play goals, I don’t think you’re going to win many games.”
“I thought we played well for 40 minutes,” senior defenseman Matt Kiersted said. “The last two periods of the game. Where we’re getting into trouble, in penalty trouble, it was big last night.”
The Hawks didn’t really play that bad. They Hawks put 47 shots on the Mavericks net and scored four goals. Normally, that’s enough to win a hockey game. On Saturday, it wasn’t.
“Again, the message is, you’ve got to play a 60 minute game to win in this league, especially after you win the first game,” Berry said. “The good part is, our guys battled, they battled extremely hard. Putting up 47 shots, their goalie had to make a bunch of saves and he did. Our battle level was high. We made it a game and came back, and almost tied it at the end. It’s one of those things where you can spot those goals early on a team.”
The Hawks have spent the majority of their season playing on the road. They’ve played 16-of-18 games and have an impressive 11-4-1 (.718) road record. UND leads the NCHC with 38 points, UMD and SCSU are tied for second with33 points. After a week off, the Hawks are looking forward to playing five of the last six games in the friendly confines of Ralph Engelstad Arena. UND is 20-1-0 (.952) in the last 21 games they’ve played at the Ralph.
“Playing at the Ralph, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else in the world,” Kiersted said. “Going back to home and having a few weekends at home is going to be huge for us. We’ve basically been on the road all year. I think going back to the Ralph will be good for us.”
UND take on the Denver Pioneers on Feb 12-13, 2021.