UND forward Connor Ford. (Photo Credit: Eric J. Burton)

North Dakota Runs Past Niagara, 6-2

Entering the 2021-22 season, the University of North Dakota hockey team added 14 new faces to their roster. There were a few question marks. Who was going to fill the offensive void in the UND forward group? On Friday night, UND officially kicked off the 2021-22 season with an impressive, 6-2 non-conference victory over Niagara University. After Friday’s game, it appeared that some of those questions had been answered. Moving forward, the UND coaching staff will be evaluating their new players and collecting information.

Importance of Non-Conference Wins

In college hockey, winning non-conference games is important for the Pairwise Rankings and making the NCAA tourney at the end of the season. The task at hand, get the non-conference win. Last night, three Big Ten Teams lost to Atlantic Hockey teams. Those losses could be fatal at the end of the season when it comes to making the NCAA tourney.

“We talk about it right at the beginning of the year,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “We talked about it going into the first series like this one right away. We don’t even look at them as non-conference series, we look at them as NCHC games because they count just as much and they’re vital to making the national tournament. Whether you’re at home or on the road in non-conference play it, we count them as an NCHC game.”

“It was huge,” Ashton Calder said. “Last game I thought we were a little sloppy at some points, but then we had some good chances that we just didn’t really bury on. Today, we are kind of firing on all cylinders and show during the first period. It was nice and we just kind of kept going with momentum from there. Hopefully, we keep it going.”

Calder Scores on the Power Play

Last season, Ashton Calder lead Lake Superior State in scoring and was the third-leading scorer in the WCHA. in 29 games, the Sault Ste Marie, Michigan native scored (16g-13a–29pts), not a single one of his goals were scored on the power play. In his first game in a UND sweater, Calder scored a power play marker. That’s a relief for Calder.

“I didn’t know that till you told me he didn’t have a power play go all year, Berry said. “I was scratching my head going how did that happen? It was nice to get one out of the way right away for him and I think the guys were happy for him. He’s a shooter and that’s a spot and hopefully, he gets on he gets a lot more of those.”

Balanced Scoring Attack

The Fighting Hawks scored three goals in the first, two in the second, and one in the third period to race past the Purple Eagles. The Purple Eagles were never really in the game. The Hawks took flight in the first period and never looked back.

Three of UND’s goals were scored by d-men (Ethan Frisch, Jake Sanderson, and Tyler Kleven.

The Ralph Celebrates 20 Years

This past week, the Ralph Engelstad Arena has celebrated its 20th Anniversary. The Ralph has been good to the UND hockey team, it’s also been a tough place for opposing teams to play. UND holds 30-2 (.937) record the last 32 games.

Over the past 20 years, UND has played some memorable games at the Ralph. When asked if he had a favorite memory of the Ralph, coach Berry reflected back to the 2019-20 season.

“There’s a bunch of them,” Berry said. “I know I have been here a long time and there’s a lot of great memories and you always look at the Holy Cross game against Minnesota (2006 NCAA West Regional) and then we had to play Michigan, and that whole weekend.

“I just try to stay relevant and current, I think the biggest one was Western Michigan scores a goal to win the game (after a review, the goal was waved off), then Shane Pinto scores in overtime to win it, and win the regular-season championship. I think that was the biggest thing in my mind it was, it was mind-blowing.”

 Points of Interest

Four UND players had multi-point games: forward Riese Gaber, three assists, defenseman Jake Sanderson goal and an assist, rookie forward Jake Schmaltz goal and an assist, and newcomer Ashton Calder two goals and an assist.

Freshman forward Jake Schmaltz became the third Schmaltz to score a goal in his first game. Jake’s cousins Jordan and Nick also scored a goal in their first game with UND.

UND is 28-2 the past two seasons at the Ralph. The only team to beat them, the Omaha Mavericks.

All-time, UND has a 30-2 record against Atlantic Hockey Association teams. UND is also 8-0 against Niagara.

The same two teams play Saturday at 6:07 PM.