The University of North Dakota hockey team likes to play a difficult non-conference schedule because it prepares them for the post season. This weekend, you’re in luck, the opponent gets a lot tougher. Standing in the way is the Quinnipiac University Bobcats.
For the fans, this should be an exciting series; the Bobcats will be a tough out. They’re not going to be intimidated by playing at the Ralph. They give their opponents little time and space. Bobcats’ goalie Yaniv Perets is a brick wall. Statistically, he’s the country’s active shutout leader. In 34 collegiate starts, he has 12 shutouts. Prediction: goals aren’t going to come easy. Peret’s career stats are impressive, he’s 23-5-3, has a .942 save percentage and a 1.14 goals against average.
This weekend’s series could prove to be a preview to the post season. Some in the media have ranked the Bobcats number one in their preseason polls. Sweeping the Bobcats would go a long way in the final Pairwise Rankings.
“These out-of-conference games are massive,” defenseman Chris Jandrik said. “Making sure that we win those out-of-conference games, they’re huge for us just for the polls and in the rankings.”
Age is Just a Number
One of the things that sticks out with UND’s opponent this weekend; Quinnipiac has seven grad students on their roster. They’re an older team. According to College Hockey News, the Bobcats average age is 22 years and three months. For Comparison’s sake, UND is 21 years and 11 months. Both teams have a lot of experienced so, age isn’t going to be a major factor in the series.
“We have our own experience, too,” head coach Brad Berry said. “It’s a situation where, (Mark) Senden and (Gavin) Hain came back for a fifth year. We have some older guys in our group as well. I think you’re going to see that around the country. (This weekend) it’s two teams that have a high compete level. You saw last year; it was a good series. Nothing was left out as everybody poured it out.”
Last Season’s Loss Against Bobcats Helped Focus Team
Historically, the Fighting Hawks and the Bobcats haven’t played a lot of games against each other. All-time, they are 5-1 against the Bobcats including a 5-1 victory in the championship game of the 2016 Frozen Four vaulting UND to their eighth NCAA title. In six games against the Bobcats, UND has outscored them 24-11.
Records mean nothing this weekend. Last season, UND traveled to and lost 5-2 on Friday night, Saturday morning wasn’t a lot of fun for the Hawks. That loss got the UND player’s attention and might have helped them focus and grow as a team.
“Yeah, it kind of opened our eyes a little,” Berry said. “We knew what we were dealing with, going in there. The week of preparation was very good, but until you get into those games it doesn’t resonate until the first period and you know what you’re dealing with. We had 14 new guys in our group. They didn’t know what to expect. Verbally telling them, but once we physically got in the game, it was like man we got to be better.
“Give it to Quinnipiac. I thought they played outstanding through the whole weekend. We didn’t play our best on Friday night. It was a tough morning on Saturday. There was some self-realization from players and coaches that we all have to be better and accountability on our part. I have to hand it to our guys, they responded well. That was a tough game on Saturday night to get the split. They answered the bell.”
“Getting your butt handed to on Friday night is never fun,” UND forward Louis Jamernik V said. “At North Dakota, one of our staples is our penalty kill, and they scored two (power play) goals on us, on the penalty kill, and that’s a difference in the game right there. Yeah, if we bear down on the penalty kill this weekend, it can give us the chance to do the job.”