Grand Forks, ND — The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks and the Denver Pioneers don’t like each other very much. For the players and the fans, it’s a rivalry game. Both teams seem to relish playing against each other. On Friday night, it didn’t take very long for the temperature to go up. Yes, there was the usual post-whistle pushing and shoving.
Last season, against the Pioneers, UND had the upper hand in the series, winning five of seven games, including a 2-1 overtime win in the semifinal game of the Frozen Faceoff. With the 3-1 win against Denver, UND has now won five games in a row against the Pioneers. In the last 18 games that Denver has played at Ralph Engelstad Arena, UND has a 11-2-5 (.750) record against the Pioneers.
After watching the UND hockey team get beat 6-4 against Penn State, UND fans were probably a little apprehensive. After playing an undisciplined game against Penn State, UND tightened things up against Denver. Against the Pioneers, the game was a tight-checking game, there was little time and space. The first period was a stalemate as neither team was able to score. UND had the edge in shots 8-5.
In the Second period, the Fighting Hawks scored two goals 49 seconds apart (Matteo Constantini and Louis Jamernik) to give UND a 2-0 lead. In the final minute of the second period, DU was able to break Zach Driscoll’s shutout with a goal from Cameron Wright. That was all the closer DU would get. With 28 seconds remaining in the game, Jamernik would ice the game with an empty-net goal.
Playing With Discipline
After last Saturday’s game against Penn State, UND head coach Brad Berry was unhappy with the number of penalties his team had taken, they were whistled for eight minor penalties, including a five on three that lead to a power play goal by the Nittany Lions. Against the Pioneers, the Hawks played a more disciplined game and cut their penalty minutes in half. The end result, a 3-1 win.
“There’s a 100% correlation of how many penalties you take; and if you win or lose games,” Berry said. “I think we only took three tonight. If you can take three, maybe four at the most you have a good chance of winning. Any more than that, especially five on threes and more than three or four penalties, your chances of winning goes down. It was stressed and it was important and again, there’s a balance you have to play hard, but you got to play hard with discipline. I think we’ve got to find that that that middle line.”
Luis Jamernik making an Impact
Last season, sophomore forward Louis Jamernik arrived at UND during the Christmas break. In 19 games with the Fighting Hawks, Jamernik scored one goal and four points. Fast forward to this season. Jamernik is making an impact. In seven games, the Calgary, Alberta native has already surpassed last season’s point total (3g-3a–6pts). Moreover, he’s already had two multi-point games.
This week, coach Berry shuffled the lines. Against the Pioneers, Jamernik centered Gavin Hain and Mark Senden. Their assignment shut down Denver’s top line of Carter Savoie, Cole Guttman, and Bobby Brink. Mission accomplished. That line entered NCHC play as one of the top forward lines in the conference, collectively they had scored (12g-18a–30pts) in six games. In game one, that line didn’t record a single point.
“He’s a great hard worker,” Senden said. “He plays the hard-nosed style game and keeps it simple. I love playing with Jammer and it’s great.”
“He absolutely loves a situation of being a strong, hard, heavy guy that can try to maybe shut down another team and provide whatever role it is,” Berry said. “He’s with Hainer and Sendo, and they all have that same mentality. I think that’s good. I think down the road. I think when you’re playing against really good teams like Denver and having strong lines like that you need guys I can provide some certainty.”
Zach Driscoll Rebounds With Solid Effort in Net
Much like his teammates, UND senior goalie Zach Driscoll struggled against Penn State. Driscoll wasn’t on the top of his game. The Apple Valley, Minnesota native gave up five goals on 22 shots. That performance dropped Driscoll’s save percentage dropped below .900. He entered Friday’s game with a .890 save percentage, and a 2.74 goals-against average. With the win, Driscoll improved to 5-3-0, a .893 save percentage, and a 2.53 GAA.
It was a solid effort all the way around. To date, UND played one of their most complete games of the season. Driscoll was voted the number one star of the game by the media. Driscoll’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by his head coach.
“That’s experience right, Berry said. “He’s been in college hockey for the fifth year, and he’s seen all sorts of games. He was another guy that had to step up knowing that we had a key guy out of the lineup. He had to be called upon to make some saves. He made that huge cross-crease save in the second, and I thought he made some really good saves in the third to preserve the win. One of the most important positions, if not the most important part position is goaltending. He was very good tonight.”
“Obviously that wasn’t the game that we wanted last week in Nashville,” Driscoll said. “So, coming into this week with NCHC plays started, we want to get back on track. To get that first Friday win and three points on our belt. It’s a step in the right direction for sure.”
Game two of the series is on Saturday at 6:07 pm CT.