UND Hockey: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

by | Nov 19, 2023

UND Hockey: So You’re Saying There’s a Chance

by | Nov 19, 2023

We’re already third of the way into the 2023-24 hockey season, and the University of North Dakota hockey team has a 9-2-1 (4-0-0 NCHC) record after 12 games. We’re also three weeks away from the Christmas break.

This past weekend, UND swept the Miami RedHawks (6-4 W, 5-1 W). Jackson Blake led the Hawks with four points (2g-2a–4pts). His linemate, while under the weather, Riese Gaber scored (2g-1a–3pts) and led the Hawks with two goals on Saturday night. He could barely talk in Saturday’s post-game press conference; it was revealed by head coach Brad Berry that he was under the weather. His linemate, Owen McLaughlin (3g-8a-11pts), sat out Saturday night’s game with an illness. 

Gaber has been a leader on and off the ice. “We’re a confident group,” Gaber told the media after his team swept UMD in Duluth. “We’ve got a lot of weapons. We showed that this weekend. We’re just going to keep going and doing our thing.”

UND is currently on a five-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 22-11. After four conference games, the Hawks have taken 12 of 12 possible points. Albeit they played the two bottom dwellers in the NCHC, however, there are no nights off in the NCHC, and coach Berry refers to the conference as a gauntlet, so they will take the wins and prepare for next week’s non-conference series against Bemidji State. 

Battle Tested Hawks

After 12 games, this team is battle-tested already; they’ve split with Minnesota, beat Wisconsin, beat and tied Minnesota State, and split with Boston University. Speaking of the series, with BU. UND ended a 33-year drought by winning in 3-on-3 overtime when Blake found the twine 20 seconds into OT. 

“To come in here and win on a Saturday night is so big for us,” Blake told the Grand Forks Herald. “We have a lot of transfers and freshman, so to get their first road experience with us is huge. Getting a win on Saturday, there’s nothing better.”

I’ve been covering the UND hockey team for 12 years, and this team is one of the better teams that I’ve covered. I’d say they’re comparable to the 2015-16 team that won an NCAA title. They have a lot of firepower and if they can figure out their power play, they will be a very hard out. There’s excitement around this team, and UND hockey fans are again talking about their favorite team. After 12 games last year, UND was 5-5-2 and going nowhere fast. 

Let’s Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

This past week, Hall of Fame hockey writer Virg Foss penned a beautiful article, and one of his sentences caught my attention.

He said: “I’ll stop short of predicting a league and NCAA title for this team at this point in the season. I believe the ingredients are there for this team to reach such lofty goals.”

Again, it’s early, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I think Virg Foss is onto something. As I mentioned briefly, this team is very good and has all the pieces to go deep into the NCAA playoffs. Yes, anything can happen in a one-and-done tourney. This team is significantly better than last year’s team. Defense and goaltending are noticeably better.

I revisited a column that one of the media personalities in the NCHC wrote earlier this year.  You can read said media member’s pre-season predictions on the embedded link. It would seem he underestimated the UND hockey team. The final story isn’t written, and this is a five-month season, so anything can happen.

Based on the personnel the Hawks have on the team, there’s no way they are going to finish in 7th place. The eight D-men in question have performed well against a tough schedule. Defensively, UND is currently ranked tied for 11th place overall. If you look at the players that came in, the forward group is better with the additions of Cameron Berg (2g-7a–9pts), Hunter Johannes (6g-2a–9pts), and Jayden Perron (7g-0a–7pts). This “could’ end up being a special year.  “If” UND stays healthy.

Statistically Speaking

UND has improved statistically this season. Currently, they’re tied for 8th nationally in goal scoring, 11th for goals against, save percentage 13th, 3rd in Faceoff wins, and 16th in PIMs. UND’s penalty kill is ranked 21st overall. The power play needs some work; checking in at 37th was ranked 54th. (Link to stats)

For comparison’s sake, last season, UND was ranked 10th in goal scoring, 39th in goal against, 2nd power play, 19th in faceoff wins, 12th on the penalty kill, and 24th in PIMs. (Link to stats)

Careful what you Tweet?

Earlier on Saturday, I tweeted that senior forward Carson Albrecht had gone 37 games without being penalized. Looking at the stats, he hadn’t been assessed a penalty since March 12, 2022. On Saturday, Albrecht was assessed two minor penalties. I may want to hold off praising players for individual efforts in the future.

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