Grand Forks, ND — Saturday night had a festive feel to it. National Collegiate Hockey Conference Commissioner Josh Fenton had taken a red-eye flight to get to Grand Forks. The Commissioner and the Penrose Cup were at the ready, just in case. All the UND hockey team needed was a win and a Denver loss, and the trophy would be UND’s outright.
The Fighting Hawks held up their end of the deal with an impressive 5-2 win. UND got off to a fast start, racing to a 3-1 lead in the first period. UND scored two on the power play and one even strength.
The opportunistic Fighting Hawks capitalized on Western Michigan’s mistakes. The Broncos put three pucks in the net and trailed UND 3-1 after one. Scoring for UND, Luke Bast, Louis Jamernik, Judd Caulfield (X2), and Carson Albrecht. WMU forwards Jason Polin, and Josh Passolt chipped in two goals for the visitors. In the embedded tweet below, you can see Jamernik’s goal that gave UND a 2-0 lead.
— Nick Couzin (@NCouz) February 27, 2022
Following UND’s game, Ralph Engelstad Arena played the third period of the Denver and Omaha game on the scoreboard. The Fighting Hawks players watched the game from their bench. UND fans watched from stands in anticipation. Some UND fans were actively cheering for the Mavericks.
It wasn’t meant to be, Denver had other plans. Entering the third period, the Mavericks held on to a precarious 2-1 lead. The Pioneers went to work; they were aided by the Mavericks undisciplined play. The Pioneers scored three power play goals, to blow the game wide open.
No worries, the Fighting Hawks will have to do it on their own. UND travels to Omaha on March 4-5, 2022, to take on the Mavericks in an important two-game conference finale.
“It would have been nice to get it here in front of our fans, but we know it’s in our control here,” Caulfield said. “We got to go down there and play hard and win both games. We’re not just going for one we want to get both games.”
“Just get it done in Omaha,” Jamernik said. “Yes business as always, take care of business.”
UND is Streaking
The University of North Dakota is on a roll. After losing four straight to usher in the new year, UND has gone 8-1-1 since, including a six-game winning streak. The Hawks have gotten points in 10 straight games to take command of the conference standing’s race. A win next weekend would give UND back-to-back-to-back Penrose Cups.
Banged Up Hawks
UND entered the series against the Broncos banged up. They were missing some key high-end players, Jake Sanderson, Riese Gaber, Ethan Frisch, and Gavin Hain. The Fighting Hawks have embraced the next man up and found a way to win. UND scored three goals by Luke Bast, Louis Jamernik, and Judd Caulfield before the 13:00 minute mark of the first period.
“It talks about the trust and care that’s in our group, guys are willing to do anything for each other,” Berry said. “We had 20-some blocks in the game tonight. We had 15 after two periods, and it’s about giving your body up and sacrificing. Whatever you have to do.
“Everybody thinks, OK, you got Riese Gaber out, Sanderson, and Frisch, and a lot of high-end players. They’re unbelievable players, but doing whatever you can in your role to help win a game. I think our guys are maximizing their roles right now.”
After being swept by Western Michigan in January, the Fighting Hawks players had this game circled on their calendars.
“We went into Western and we battled hard but didn’t come up with any wins,” Caulfield said. “We knew we owed them a couple of games here at the Ralph. We always played hard in our building. We weren’t gonna make it easy on them.”
With the win, UND improves to 21-11-1, and 16-5-1 NCHC. UND also improves to fifth in the Pairwise Rankings. With the loss, WMU drops to 20-10-1, and 12-9-1 NCHC.
Save of the Game
At the 4:58 mark of the second period, UND held a 3-1 lead. WMU possessed the puck in UND’s d-zone. Broncos All-NCHC defenseman Ronnie Attard shot the puck hard off the glass. The puck bounced back, hitting UND goalie Zach Driscoll in the back. Driscoll felt the puck on his back freezing the puck against his back. He spun away from the net, keeping the puck out of the net.
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) February 27, 2022