In eight seasons, the University of North Dakota hockey team has won four Penrose Cups, but they’ve never won a Frozen Faceoff. On Monday night, the Fighting Hawks moved one game closer to checking that box. With the 2-1 win in overtime, UND will play the St. Cloud State Huskies in the Championship game of the Frozen Faceoff.
The win didn’t come easy for the Fighting Hawks. They were in a war for 68:37. At the 5:52 mark of the second period, the Pioneers would take the lead on power play goal by Carter Savoie. Drawing assists on Savoie’s goal, Bobby Brink and Mike Benning.
The Hawks started gaining momentum in the third period and finally with 1:27 remaining in the game they broke through with the game-tying goal. With the goalie pulled for an extra-attacker, Jasper Weatherby tipped a shot from Shane Pinto past Magnus Chrona. Tie game.
The game would go to overtime and 8:37 into the extra frame, UND forward Gavin Hain would end the game with a one-timer from the left faceoff circle.
After the game, UND head coach Brad Berry broke down his team’s win.
“They made a push in the second period, and they had some opportunities against us,” Berry said. “I thought we were on our heels a little bit. Then we came back in the third. We moved the lines around a little bit. I thought the first shift in the third period we got the momentum, and we put some shifts together to gain that momentum.”
The Win wasn’t pretty. It was a tight-checking, physical game, but in the end, the Hawks ground out the win.
“It was one of those nights analytically where things weren’t going right as far as scoring goals,” Berry said. “I thought we did a lot of good things we didn’t play in our end a whole lot of parts of the second period. But that’s the game of hockey. It all evens out in the end sometimes.”
Reminiscent of another former UND head coach, UND pulled the goalie with almost three minutes remaining.
“We pulled the goaltender with almost close to three minutes left – made a play to tie it,” Berry said. “The guys were relentless on that and found a way to get it done in overtime. Like I said, some adversity in that game, but the guys found a way to band together and bring it home.”
You have to give the Pioneers credit; they came to Grand Forks with a depleted lineup and gave UND all they could handle.
“I thought our whole lineup was really good,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “Our guys; they put their balls on the line tonight. They came and they worked. We put a great effort forth. Proud of the guys in the room that were here on the trip.”
Denver to the NCAA Tourney?
With the win, UND improves to (20-5-1). With the loss, the Pioneers drop to (10-13-1) and their season is probably over. Or is it? Denver’s head coach sees it a little differently.
“We would have liked to have left no doubt, and finish the game tonight,” Carle said. “I think if we win the game it’s a no-brainer. I still think that we have a real strong case. It’s a nationally televised game. Committee all had a chance to watch it. I struggle with the fact if we’re not one of the best 16 teams in the country. I’m not sure who is and I know a lot of coaches are getting on their soapbox right now and preaching a little bit.
“I guess my rationale all comes down to our league. We deserve four, if not five teams, to be honest. We have the best non-conference record in recent history. I think we’re one of the best four teams certainly in our league. And if you expand it to five, then it’s a no-brainer.”