If you had to use one word to describe the University of North Dakota hockey team during the first half of the season it would be inconsistent. One night they look like they can play with any team in the country. On another night, they have trouble getting the puck out of their own zone. Tonight was one of those nights.
After beating the Western Michigan Broncos 5-1 the night before, the Fighting Hawks were looking for a much-need series sweep. The Broncos had other plans. At the 9:08 mark of the first period, freshman forward Wade Alison put the Broncos on the board with a power-play goal.
The Hawks would claw their way back, at the 18:34 mark of the first period, UND sophomore forward Shane Gersich would snipe the game-tying goal.
From there, the Broncos beat a path to the penalty box. In the third period, In what could be described as a lost opportunity, the Fighting Hawks had 12:35 of power-play time but were unable to get anything past freshman goalie Ben Blacker.
Bronco’s senior defenseman Taylor Fleming was the game’s villain. Fleming, took a pair of minor penalties and was assessed two five-minute majors in the third period (one for kneeing and one for checking from behind). In the end, none of this mattered, the Hawks failed to cash in on the man advantage. For the game, UND was 0-6 on the power play. For the weekend they were 1-9 on the man advantage.
“It was the lack of execution,” junior defenseman Tucker Poolman said. “Just not playing together, as far as making the little plays that make a power play successful – as far as getting it deep – little passes and pops, (we weren’t ) moving our feet. As a team, here, including myself, it wasn’t good enough.”
Needless to say, head coach Brad Berry wasn’t impressed with his team’s effort on Saturday.
“We weren’t ready to play in the first 10 minutes of the game,” Berry said. “Obviously, it wasn’t the kind of start we wanted. We were on our heels. Eventually, we got into it, but the first 10 minutes which was critical on a team we had beaten the night before, we weren’t ready to go.”
Next Man Up
When a player goes down or is missing from the lineup, the next player on the roster is up. Hence, next man up. On Saturday, UND freshman forward Tyson Jost left Grand Forks to join his teammates on the Canadian World Junior Championship team. The next man up was sophomore forward Mike Gornall. Jost’s absence from the lineup on Saturday was obvious. Coach Berry wasn’t pleased with the performance of the guys that were in the lineup.
“Hockey Canada wanted all their guys,” Berry said. “Tyson (Jost) has been a hard-working ambassador for our program. “When they have their 32-man roster come in, that’s what it is. Again, It’s not about the guys that are not in our lineup. It’s about the guys in our lineup. We have 26 guys that can play at our level and we didn’t get the job done tonight.”
The players weren’t making excuses for their performance either.
“The mentality here at the North Dakota is the next man up,” Poolman said. “No excuses and find a way to get it done. It’s not an excuse for us. We should have found a way to get it done.”
The highly skilled Jost won’t return to the Fighting Hawks until Canada is finished with their WJC run. UND was already missing sophomore forward Brock Boeser due to a wrist injury, he’s set to join team USA’s WJC team.
One could conclude that the Christmas break might be what the UND hockey team needs.
“A couple of weeks off, optimistically, hopefully each guy can go home and think about this, think about why our season has been so up and down and why we lack consistency,” Poolman said. “This is a long time to think about something like that.”
With the loss, UND falls to (9-6-3 and 3-4-1-1 NCHC). They’re off till December 31, 2016, when they travel to Schenectady, N.Y. to play the Union Dutchmen in a one-game non-conference matchup.