Grand Forks, ND – The more things change, the more they stay the same. This all seems familiar. After a two-year hiatus from the NCAA Tourney, the University of North Dakota hockey team is headed back to the NCAA tourney as one of the top seeds.
After an impressive season, the Fighting Hawks 25-4-4, 16-3-3 NCHC, return to top of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Saturday night, UND’s clinched its 18th regular-season conference title. It has been four seasons since UND last won a conference title.
Just like Friday night, Saturday’s game had the feel of a playoff game. It was a knockdown drag-out, tight-checking, defensive hockey game. It was a war. Both teams combined for 36 shots. The Hawks will celebrate tonight, but they have bigger plans.
To win titles, you have to be able to gut out close wins. This season, UND has done that going 3-0-4 in overtime games.
“There’s a belief in our group here that we’re going to win those games in overtime,” head coach Brad Berry said. “We’re going to make a long run here, and that’s good to have in your bag knowing that you know you can win games any way you can”
With the 2-1 win in OT, the UND secured at least a share of the Penrose Cup. If UND can secure at least a single point next weekend, they will win the Penrose Cup outright. UND isn’t looking to share the Penrose with anyone else.
“We have a chance to do something tonight,” Berry said. “We have a chance to hang a white banner. We have a chance to add to our tradition here, and they dug down. I think the other thing was getting a bump from the 1980 team that was here. We had them in and around our group here all morning.
To start the game, the first whistle didn’t come until the 4:41 mark of the first period. That whistle, a beautiful goal by Collin Adam to give UND to a 1-0 lead.
At the 17:01 mark of the first period, the Broncos would tie the game with a tip-in goal from Paul Washe. It was a beautiful feed from Wade Allison and UND goalie Adam Scheel had no chance on the shot. Through 60 minutes of hockey, the two teams would play to a 1-1 tie.
At the 3:43 of the overtime period, Broncos forward Rhett Kingston thought he’d scored the game-winning goal. After a video review, it was ruled no goal. You can view the video for yourself and come to your own conclusion.
So, they played on. Forty-three seconds later, Shane Pinto scored the game-winning goal sending the Ralph into a frenzy. Pinto’s game-winning goal clinched the conference regular-season title for the Hawks.
“I think that’s the best goal I’ve ever scored, Pinto said. “Just everything about it you know, winning it for the seniors, the Penrose Cup. Just that whole moment it’s definitely awesome.”