A week ago, after UND’s 5-2 win over archrival Denver, senior goalie Peter Thome walked the media through UND’s team goals for the 2020-21 season.
“The first one that we always talk about is getting home ice for the playoffs; box checked,” Thome said. “Next, Penrose, to be determined. We have to keep rolling down the way. Win the regional in Fargo. Win the semifinal game in Pittsburgh, and then win the final game in Pittsburgh.”
Win the Penrose Cup. Box checked. The rest to be determined.
On Saturday night, the Omaha Mavericks were the only thing standing in the way of the Fighting Hawks winning another Penrose Cup.
UND came at UNO in waves, scoring two goals in the first, three goals in the second, and two more in the third period. They chased the Mavericks starting goalie Isaiah Saville after a period and a half. Six UND players had multi-point games. When final horn had sounded, the Fighting Hawks had blown out the Mavericks 7-1.
To top it all off, Omaha’s vaunted penalty kill (ranked sixth nationally) gave up three power play goals on five chances. That’s no small task. UNO has given up 10 power play goals all season long, UND has four of those goals.
The Mavericks, and Hawks Rivalry
Whether the fans want to acknowledge it or not, this is becoming a huge rivalry series for both teams. At the 19:01 mark of the third period, there was a line brawl in front of the penalty boxes. When it was all said and done, UNO’s Noah Prokop, and UND’s Gabe Bast were assessed five-minute majors and game disqualifications for fighting. The penalty boxes were full and both head coaches were screaming at each other.
Just think, we have another 120 minutes of this.
“Well, I think they both play hard, Berry said. “They are both hard, heavy, physical teams. Omaha has had a lot of success this year. They’re a team that’s on the rise. They’ve done a good job winning games. It’s a situation where you’re jockeying in the standings. We’re all trying to get top four. We’re all trying to win the Penrose and when you got two teams that are at the top of the conference, they’re going at it. That’s what happens. It’s no different from year-to-year.”
UND hasn’t seen the last of the Mavericks. UND has two more games against them to close out the regular season. Next weekend, the Fighting Hawks travel to Omaha to play a single game against the Mavericks. The following weekend, the Mavericks make the trip up I-29 to finish off the regular season.
“I think it has something to do with coming down the stretch playing six of our last eight against them, knowing that they stood in the way of our success and then winning the Penrose that is part of it and definitely fueled the fire,” senior forward Jordan Kawaguchi said.
The season has been a grind and there are no easy games in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. UND looks battle-tested and ready to go.
“You know I firmly believe the NCHC makes you battle-tested and ready for the postseason,” Berry said. “It’s a situation where teams grind each other out throughout the regular season. Towards the end of the year when it culminates into the NCAA Tournament. I think that’s why you see a lot of the NCAA champ successes because you’re going through that gauntlet of teams throughout the year.”
Here is the fight at the end of the North Dakota-Omaha game. Bast(2) and Prokop(21) got game DQs. pic.twitter.com/3MQX6uvkgO
— Chris Dilks (@ChrisDilks) February 21, 2021
Back-to-back Penrose Cups for the Fighting Hawks. This was Berry’s third as a coach, the program’s fourth.
“Out of all the Penrose Cups, MacNaughton Cups, whatever you want to call them,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “This has to rank as one of the toughest to win, just because of the Pod. Going down to Omaha, and playing 10 games in 19 nights, grinding away. Then, finally, getting back and being patient for the weekends of healthy teams playing in the second half and just staying focused.”
Stats of Interest
On Saturday against the Mavericks, Jasper Weatherby continued his torrid pace scoring another goal and an assist. In the last six games, Weatherby has scored (7g-2a—9pts), he has multi-point games in two of the last three games. Last night, he also equaled his career-best in goals with 10.
With the win, UND goalie Adam Scheel improves to (15-3-1, 1.78 GAA, and a .928 save percentage). Scheel has been almost unbeatable at home, he’s (5-0-0, .60 GAA, .970 save percentage), two shutouts. In five home games, he has only given up three goals. That leads the NCHC.
Recording an assist last night, Scheel now has five assists for his career. He has two this season, two last season, and one during his freshmen season.
Shane Pinto leads the NCHC in points with (15g-13a—28 pts), he’s a plus-16.
Jordan Kawaguchi is second in the NCHC in points with (6g-20a—26pts), he’s a plus-8.
UND leads the NCHC in penalty minutes with 115. Fret not; the Fighting Hawks PK is ranked second in the conference killing 83-of-95 opposition power plays. UND’s PK is ranked eighth nationally. Omaha’s penalty kill is ranked first in the NCHC killing 77-of-87 opposition power play. Moreover, UNO PK is ranked sixth nationally.