First, what a weekend of hockey. This past weekend, the University of North Dakota hockey team split their weekend series (6-2 W, 4-5 L) with Omaha Mavericks. If you would’ve told me UND would score 10 goals against UNO and split the series, I would’ve said you’re crazy. Not all is lost. UND has won nine of the last 13 games (.692) against UNO. The Fighting 13-4-1 (.750) lost for just the second time in last 12 games. Here’s what I saw in the series against the Mavericks.
This season, UND has had a propensity to take a lot of undisciplined, untimely penalties. Until Saturday night, the Hawks have been able to kill the penalties they’ve taken. Last night, the Fighting Hawks penalty kill was 2-of-5 (.400). They gave up a season-high three power play goals. That was the difference in the game. If the Hawks gave up one less power play marker, it’s a tie game. Kill two more of the Mavericks five power plays and they win the game. You’re not going to win a lot of games allowing the opposition to score on 60 percent of their power plays.
“I think five-on-five we kind of dominated we’re getting our chances, but where we ran into trouble was getting penalties,” senior defenseman Matt Kiersted said.
In the past, head coach Brad Berry has said that his team need to find the line, but not go over it. A few times this season, they’ve crossed that line and played undisciplined hockey. Moving forward, his team will have to re-establish where that line is.
“We want to play with fire, and we want to play with pace and physicality,” Kiersted said. “I think there’s just a line that we you know we’ve been going over and getting penalties. We’ve got to find that line and flirt with it, but not go over it. We’ll be able to play our game but five on five.”
Positives From the Weekend
After listening to coach Berry’s post-game press conference on Saturday night, I came away with that impression that he cautiously optimistic. He was very matter of fact and ready to get back to work. I think there’s a lot to be positive about.
Enjoy Shane Pinto while he’s here. There’s a good chance that he’ll be playing in Ottawa next season. This past weekend, he continued his torrid pace. Against the Mavericks, Pinto scored three goals and four points. Pinto now has nine multi-point games that leads the NCAA. Pinto leads the NCHC in goals scored and points. Pinto has scored 51 points in 51 games (27g-24a—51pts). He’s also a plus-32.
Senior forward Jordan Kawaguchi remained hot this weekend. Against the Mavericks, He added three assists. In 18 games, Kawaguchi has scored five goals and 16 assists for 21 points. Kawaguchi leads the NCHC in assists. He’s tied for second with Duluth’s Nick Swaney in the NCHC scoring race. Kawaguchi has six multi-point games.
With his goal on Friday night, senior forward Grant Mismash has equaled his season-best goal total with nine goals. Seven of Mismash’s nine goals have been scored in the third period. Mismash is on a four-game point streak (3g-3a—6pts).
After racing to the early goal-scoring lead in the NCHC, freshman forward Riese Gaber has cooled off a bit. He’s goalless in six games. Gaber is tied for second in the NCHC in rookie scoring race with Denver’s Carter Savoie. In 18 games, Gaber has scored (8g-6a—14pts). He’s also a plus-seven. Currently, Gaber has a four-game point streak, four assists. I would expect Gaber to break out of his goalless streak.
Recently, I’ve seen a few people say that UND junior goalie Adam Scheel is struggling. Some questioned his rebound control. One of the knocks against him is his lateral side-to-side movement. Criticism aside, this weekend, I thought Scheel was the difference in Friday’s win and was the victim of some unfortunate bonces in Saturday’s game. For his career, Scheel is one of UND’s top goalies in goals against average.
Yes, Scheel needs to stay closer to the net and not cough up gifts to the opposition forwards. I would imagine that UND assistant coach Karl Goehring will work with Scheel to remedy that. Statistically, Scheel (12-3-1, .921 save percentage, 1.99 GAA) is one of the best goalies in the NCHC. He ranks first in goals against average, second in save percentage, first in winning percentage. Scheel is also tied for third in the nation in shutouts with three. There’s also a reason he’s starting over senior goalie Peter Thome, Scheel is statistically, the better of the two goalies and gives UND the best shot to win.
Play 60-Minute Game
To win in the NCHC you have to play a full 60-minute game. You can’t go to sleep on any team in the league. From top to bottom the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is a tough league. Every team is a tough out. There are no easy wins or automatic wins on the schedule. The Mavericks are no different. On Saturday night, the Hawks came out flat in the first period and the Mavericks capitalized on it.
“I thought we thought we played pretty well for 40 minutes,” coach Berry said. “Not so good for the first 20 minutes. You know I thought we spotted that team some goals early on, and we had to play from behind, which we haven’t done a lot this year. In saying that, I thought we battled hard. We played well from behind. We had our chances. We had enough chances to win this thing, but you can’t give up that many goals, especially early. Anytime that you give up three power play goals, I don’t think you’re going to win many games.”
“I thought we played well for 40 minutes,” senior defenseman Matt Kiersted said. “The last two periods of the game. Where we’re getting into trouble, in penalty trouble, it was big last night.”
The Hawks didn’t really play that bad. They Hawks put 47 shots on the Mavericks net and scored four goals. Normally, that’s enough to win a hockey game. On Saturday, it wasn’t.
“Again, the message is, you’ve got to play a 60 minute game to win in this league, especially after you win the first game,” Berry said. “The good part is, our guys battled, they battled extremely hard. Putting up 47 shots, their goalie had to make a bunch of saves and he did. Our battle level was high. We made it a game and came back, and almost tied it at the end. It’s one of those things where you can spot those goals early on a team.”
The Hawks have spent the majority of their season playing on the road. They’ve played 16-of-18 games and have an impressive 11-4-1 (.718) road record. UND leads the NCHC with 38 points, UMD and SCSU are tied for second with33 points. After a week off, the Hawks are looking forward to playing five of the last six games in the friendly confines of Ralph Engelstad Arena. UND is 20-1-0 (.952) in the last 21 games they’ve played at the Ralph.
“Playing at the Ralph, to be honest, I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else in the world,” Kiersted said. “Going back to home and having a few weekends at home is going to be huge for us. We’ve basically been on the road all year. I think going back to the Ralph will be good for us.”
UND take on the Denver Pioneers on Feb 12-13, 2021.