(Photo Credit: Eric J. Burton, Inside Hockey)

UND Sweeps DU, 4-1

Grand Forks, ND — The University of North Dakota loves playing in the friendly confines of Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Fighting Hawks have also enjoyed a great deal of success lately against the Denver Pioneers at the Ralph. In the last 19 games against Denver at the Ralph, UND has a 12-2-5 (.763) record against the Pioneers. Unfortunately, these were the only two games UND will play against DU in the regular season. There will be no return trip to Denver.

After last weekend’s lackluster performance against Penn State in Nashville, the UND hockey team bounced back and played a solid two-game conference series. It was a good start to the NCHC conference play. When it was all said and done, UND won two games by a combined score of 7-2. For the most, Denver was never really in either game.

“It’s a character builder and it’s for sure a team builder for the coming year here,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “I told our guys at the end of the game that I was proud of the way they battled up. Obviously (we faced) a little bit of adversity with (Connor) Ford going down and guys getting shifted around a little bit — playing some different roles.

“I thought our guys did a good job. Our start was better tonight. We came out of the chute hard and had some opportunities early. I think that was a learning lesson last night, kind of sitting back in the third period and with one goal lead is just making sure that we be assertive and everything we do. I thought our guys had a good start tonight.”

Three forwards led the Fighting Hawks with two-point games, Matteo Constantini’s goal and an assist, Rise Gaber’s goal and an assist, Ashton Calder’s goal and an assist. With his fifth goal tonight, Calder took over the team lead in goals with five. Tyler Kleven scored the Fighting Hawks second goal, the game-winning goal. Ryan Barrow scored Denver’s lone goal. Denver’s top forwards of Carter Savoie, Bobby Brink, and Cole Guttman were held off the score sheet all weekend long.

Maybe, just maybe the Hawks are starting to gell at the right time? Junior forward Ashton Calder seems to think so.

“I think we’re definitely going to gel,” Calder said. “With that many new guys and a lot of us playing it’s gonna take some time to gel. I think this weekend was big for us to kind of keep moving in the right direction. Hopefully, keep gelling.”

After the disappointing results in Nashville, the players heard the chatter and the noise.

“People have been talking,” Calder said. “They’re questioning us a little bit, so, it was big to get the sweep. We never had a doubt. We knew what we could do. I think this weekend kind of helped prove it a little bit and keep going from here.”

All Hell Breaks Loose

With 3:49 remaining in the game, the Pioneers lost their composure. With Magnus Chrona sitting on the bench for an extra attacker, Pioneers forward Carter Savoie hit UND captain Mark Senden in the head with a predatory elbow. There’s no doubt it was a deliberate attempt to injury. Savoie’s night ended with a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

Things would get uglier. At the 1:39 mark of the third period, Tyler Kleven hit McKade Webster with a high hit. In the end, Kleven exited the game with a five-minute major and game misconduct. Yes, both hits will get a look from the league. With that said, Savoie “should” be suspended for his dirty, predatory hit. It was message sending. On the other hand, Kleven was the case of a bigger player going for a big hit on a smaller player and making contact with that player’s head. I don’t think it was intentional like Savoie’s.

With the sweep of the Pioneers, UND leads the NCHC with six points after one weekend of play, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot of hockey left.