Grand Forks, ND — During the first half of the 2019-20 season, the Ralph Engelstad Arena has been a tough place to play. After Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win, the University of North Dakota hockey team closed out the first half of their home schedule unbeaten (9-0-0). A feat that hadn’t been accomplished since the 1964-65 season. Dating back to last season, UND is 11-0-0 at the Ralph.
After missing the NCAA playoffs for the past two seasons, the UND hockey team has been on a mission to return to prominence. They’ve also gotten their swagger back. They’ve been a focused, disciplined group. While the Hawks have played well as a collective group, the junior class has stepped up and led UND’s resurgence. After scoring the game-winning goal on in O.T. junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi said this in the post-game press conference.
“You know, we’re motivated, more than ever, we want to win and that’s all I can tell you,” Kawaguchi said.
During the 2019-20 season, the results have been positive (10-1-2, 5-0-1 NCHC). With each win, the fans have taken notice. So, are the Hawks are back? It does appear that way. In hockey, there’s little difference between winning and losing. This season, the Hawks are winning games they would’ve lost last season. They’re getting goals instead of hitting pipes and crossbars. They’re going on the power play instead of going a man down.
As I mentioned above, the junior class has also led the way for the resurgent Fighting Hawks. Tonight a pair of juniors (Matt Kiersted and Jordan Kawaguchi) connected on the game-winning goal in overtime to give UND 2-1 win. With the win, UND has taken 17 out of a possible 18 conference points to vault them to the top of the NCHC standings.
“I think we have confidence with ourselves, Kawaguchi said. “People can think what they want, about us from the outside, but it’s about what we think of ourselves. We knew that we’re a little bit underrated coming into the season, but we don’t really care about that. We just want to go and win hockey games and take it a period at a time.”
Really, is the UND hockey team back?
“You know what, here’s the deal, everybody asks that,” Berry said. “I don’t think we left. Last year, we had trouble scoring goals. We haven’t changed the way we played in five years here. Now, we’re starting to get some goal production from guys and that’s a big deal. So, I don’t think it’s a surprise, and I don’t think we were ever gone, and I don’t think we’re back. I think we’re a good team that’s going to keep building.”