Grand Forks, ND – For the first time in 17 seasons, the University of North Dakota hockey team will go on the road for the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs. Friday the Fighting Hawks found out their fate as they were waiting to take the ice for the third period. That result didn’t matter they still went out an got the 2-1 win.
“There’s no discouragement in our locker room,” a confident UND head coach Brad Berry said. “Guys are fired up. It’s almost like (we have) an underdog mentality now.”
“We knew (about the score of the game between Western and Miami) going into the third period,” sophomore defenseman Gabe Bast said. “It was on TV just outside our locker room. That doesn’t change anything we have to do. If we got to win a series on the road, we’re going to go do that.”
This we know, the Fighting Hawks are either headed to Kalamazoo, Michigan or Denver Colorado. We’ll know their destination at about 10:30 pm tonight.
After missing the previous four games with a lingering injury, senior forward Nick Jones scored his sixth goal of the season. That proved to be the game-winning goal.
“I just won a draw,” Jones said. “I won it a little too clean. I was trying to win it to Yoner there and got it back to Colton, he made a hell of a play. He found me off to the side there and I just was able to get a stick on it. You know, I was just trying to find the net and I was fortunate to get that one.”
— UND Insider (@undinsider) March 9, 2019
For five seniors, Saturday’s is the last time they will play at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The reality will sink in for each one of them.
“I thought about it a lot,” Jones said. “Now it’s for sure. It hasn’t sunk in too much. You know, I’m going to miss this place. But no better way to go and win tomorrow night.”
This season, UND has taken their fair share of undisciplined, untimely penalties at key points in the games. Last night, with Zach Yon already sitting in the penalty box for a roughing minor, senior forward Rhett Gardner took a two-minute minor for goalie interference. The Mavericks would score on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play. Gardner would take another minor penalty in the second period. Coach Berry had seen enough. During the third period, Gardner didn’t see the ice except during the post-game handshake. Message sent.
“Taking a penalty to go down 5-on-3 and they score and then taking another one,” Berry said. “Everybody’s accountable here. Again, I love Rhett to death, but it’s more than that it’s a team-first mentality and he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.
With the win, UND improves to 17-15-2, 11-11-1 NCHC. More importantly, the Hawks also improved to 18th in the Pairwise Rankings. With the loss, the Mavericks fall to 9-20-3, 5-15-2 NCHC. While this season might not have gone as planned, they’ve stayed in the fight and haven’t given up. They’re still coming to the rink trying to gut out wins. The Fighting Hawks will be a tough out for whoever they play.
“First of all, it’s the way we recruit,” Berry said. “When you when you look at it, you check the boxes – skilled players or players that need to come to North Dakota – on-ice ability. But the off-ice ability is a huge thing for us. And that’s a staple here at North Dakota. That’s been here for years, as far as recruiting guys with character. And that character starts with first-year guys coming in here and believing in what we do. And then it transforms into the upperclassmen or your leaders on the team that send that message on a daily basis in the good times in the not so good time. So that’s something that you recruit to.”
Thome Shines in Net for UND
On February 16, 2019, against the Western Michigan Broncos, UND starting goalie Adam Scheel went down with a lower-body injury. Sophomore goalie Peter Thome returned from an undisclosed injury to retake the net. Since taking the net on February 22, 2019, Peter Thome has played well. During that time, Thome has been one of the top goaltenders in the NCHC. In five games, the Minneapolis, Minnesota Native is 3-2-0, 1.62 GAA and .934 save percentage. With the win, Thome improves to 4-5, 2.61 GAA and a .891 save percentage.