Earlier in the season, the University of North Dakota Hockey team had a six-game winless streak, nothing seemed to go right. While the Fighting Hawks didn’t play all that bad, they were making glaring mistakes at key points in games. Most of these mistakes were ending up in the back of their own net.
Then UND’s fortunes started changing.
After starting National Collegiate Hockey Conference play 0-3-1, the Hawks went to St. Cloud and swept (4-0 W, 3-0 W) the Huskies. Over the course of the next three games, UND went 1-1-1 in nonconference play against Michigan State and Boston College.
After last weekend’s crucial non-conference win against the Boston College in Madison Square Garden, the Fighting Hawks appeared to have the wind beneath their wings as they entered their conference series against the Western Michigan Broncos.
This is the last series before the New Year. Currently, the Hawks have some work to do, they’re sitting in fourth place in the NCHC standings tied with Western Michigan. UND would like to get a series sweep and put the Broncos in their rear view mirror. The Hawks know what’s on the line this weekend.
“Guys knew there were only two games left in the first half of the season, head coach Brad Berry said. “We talked about finishing it the right way. We played well tonight. The biggest thing is, tomorrow, making sure we wake up and have the same mentality.”
In the first period, UND raced to a 2-0 lead with goals 27 seconds apart from Shane Gersich and Colton Poolman. The Broncos would get their only goal of the game when Scott Moldenhauer scored 33 seconds later. That was all the closer the Broncos would get. The Hawks would add three more goals in the second period and coast to a 5-1 win.
UND Looking for Secondary Scoring
So far this season, forwards Tyson Jost (7g-11a—18pts) and Gersich (12g-11a—23pts) have been red-hot. After those two, UND has struggled at times to find secondary scoring. One of the players that hadn’t scored in a while was junior forward Austin Poganski. With his two goals on Friday night, Poganski broke an eight-game goalless streak and had the second three-point game of his career (2g-1a—3pts). Nonetheless, the St. Cloud, Minnesota native was happy to get the monkey off his back and put a few pucks in the twine.
“I think obviously it helps,” Poganski said. “I am just playing to my abilities and doing what I can. If it’s getting a big hit or chipping it in and going after it and getting more space for Josty (Tyson Jost) and Gersh (Shane Gersich) it works. But obviously, to score a few goals it feels good.”
Also chipping in for the Hawks was the trio of freshmen forwards Dixon Bowen, Ludwig Hoff and Zach Yon. They had a lot of chemistry. They played on their toes and were relentless on the forecheck. In the second period, they hit pay dirt and connected for UND’s fourth goal of the night. Check out the goal below.
Freshman –> Freshman –> Freshman –> Net. pic.twitter.com/GVisvinVNC
— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) December 10, 2016
For the most part, the Fighting Hawks are playing better and putting a few full 60-minute games together. After a quick start by both teams, UND was able to buckle down and win going away.
“I thought we were a little bit loose in the first period,” coach Berry said. “There were some chances both ways, but I thought we tightened up as the game went on. I thought we had some depth scoring tonight which was good. I thought our guys played the right way and found a way to win.”
Statistics of Note
With the win, UND is 16-1-0 all-time against WMU.
UND junior goalie Cam Johnson continues his strong play in net. Johnson has started 47 games in a row. That’s currently the second-longest streak in UND history. Former goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux holds the record with a streak of 55 games in a row.
Last night, the junior from Troy, Michigan, stopped 24-of-25 shots and improved to 9-5-3 on the season. In 17 starts, Johnson is 9-5-3, 2.16 GAA and .911 save percentage. In the past month, Johnson is 4-2-2, 1.73 GAA and .932 save percentage.
Sophomore forward Brock Boeser missed a fourth game in a row with a wrist injury.