UND Hockey: There Are a Lot of Positives to Build on Moving Forward

by | Dec 23, 2023

UND Hockey: There Are a Lot of Positives to Build on Moving Forward

by | Dec 23, 2023

First, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. It is the most wonderful time of the year.

Looking at the first half of the 2023-24 season, the University of North Dakota hockey team took a step forward. Through 18 games, the Hawks are 12-5-1 and (5-3-0 NCHC); they’re also ranked 5th in the Pairwise Rankings. At this time last season, UND was 7-8-4 and didn’t win their 12th game till January 28, 2023.

With those facts in mind, why are some in the Nodak Nation souring on the UND hockey team? Some fans may be worried this season will look like last season. It’s possible.

It wasn’t the best ending to the season’s first half. UND lost three consecutive games in overtime, 3-2. It wasn’t a total loss if you look at it in segments. UND took four of six points in Denver, losing the final game 3-2 OT. UND last swept in Denver 20 years ago. Even the 2015-16 team was swept in Denver. Taking 4-of-6 points was not a total loss.

In the second part of this equation, Friday night against Colorado College, UND led the game 2-1 when Hunter Johannes took an ill-advised penalty while they were on the power play. That can’t happen, but it’s better it happens now than in March, during the NCAA playoffs. Colorado College would score the game-tying goal on the ensuing power play. The Tigers would win the game in the 3-on-3 overtime.

Saturday night against the Tigers, it was deja vu. UND would lose the game 3-2 in the 3-on-3 overtime. I am a betting man, and I can confidently say that UND will not be the last team to get swept by the Tigers. After the game, UND head coach Brad Berry didn’t mince his words.

“Good start to the first half,” Berry said. “We’ve slowed down a bit. Again, there’s no excuses. We have yet to have an open weekend. Some guys looked a little fatigued. Some guys are nicked up. This comes at a good time to get a reset. There’s no panic.”

I also noticed some spice in Berry’s post-game and Wednesday press conference comments.

“I know everybody’s getting caught up in the overtime losses, especially the most recent ones,” Berry said. “It doesn’t take away what we’ve done here, and having only two regulation losses in the first half against some formidable competition is a very good positive for us. Now, we have to keep building on it.”

If you look at the teams that UND played in the first half of the season, the break comes at a good time. Their schedule was a grind; they played Wisconsin, Minnesota, Boston University, and Denver.

“The break comes at a great time for us,” Berry said. You can get guys healed up. Get some energy in the tank where guys are down a bit; we’re playing every weekend for a lot of minutes and taking a mental reset break here, too, as far as guys for a long run in the second half of the season.”

Looking at the big picture, all teams go through rough patches—even the championship teams. Nobody expected the UND hockey team to go 24-0 during the conference season. UND ended the first half of the season on a higher note than last season.

“People look at the win-loss column; when you win games, you’re the best thing, and when you lose games, you’re the worst,” Berry said. We’re probably somewhere more up at the top than down there. But at the end of the day, we have to make sure we stay together and get better as a group.”

At the halfway point, UND is ranked 9th nationally in goals, 19th in goals against, 21st in save percentage, 11th in the penalty kill, tied for 11th in shorthanded goals, 15th in faceoff wins, 10th least in penalty minutes, meaning they’re only taking an average of 7 penalty minutes a game. On the negative side, UND’s power play is lagging; UND is ranked 26th on the PP and is clicking along at 19.7 percent.

When you look back at the first half of the season, there were a lot of great memories, and the team will build on those memories in the second half. This team is in a lot better place than the 2022-23 team was.

Ever wonder what it would be like if your everyday car was a ZAMBONI?!?!?

Wonder no longer…

Check out The Zambonis' latest hit, "Slow Whip"!