Senior defensemen Matt Kiersted. (Photo Credit: Eric J. Burton)

UND Wins Frozen Faceoff: UND 5 – SCSU 3

In the eight years that the University of North Dakota has been in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, they’d never won a Frozen Faceoff. They’d won four Penrose Cups, but never a playoff championship. Entering Monday’s game, North Dakota had only won one semi-final game (2017). With UND’s 5-3 win against SCSU, UND became the first NCHC team to win the Penrose and the Frozen Faceoff in the same season.

For the second game in a row, UND got off to a slow start. SCSU took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Huskies forward Zach Okabe and defenseman Seamus Donohue bookended a goal from UND forward Riese Gaber.

In the second period, the Huskies got the better of the Fighting Hawks, but neither team managed to score.

In the third period, the Fight Hawks took off and scored three quick goals in 5:33 to take a two-goal lead. The Huskies cut into the lead when Sam Hentges. The Hawks would hold on and score an empty-net goal with 49 seconds remaining.

“We gave up the first goal again and had to chase the game a little,” head coach Brad Berry said. “But I thought we got better as the game went on. We had some resiliency throughout the game, but especially in the third period, we did a good job of getting some o-zone time.”

Riese Gaber Finds His Scoring Touch

During the middle part of the season, Riese Gaber was goalless in 12 straight games. He’s kept plugging away, and the goals are going in again. Gaber picked a great time to showcase his abilities by adding three goals and four points during the Frozen Faceoff. When the game was over Gaber was named the Most Oustanding Player.

“It was a long few weeks,” Gaber said. “I think I just stuck with my game and really battled and worked hard, and I think when you do that, good things just come. I feel like I’ve just got to keep working and they’ll keep coming.”

Larson’s Team Ready for the NCAA Playoffs

SCSU head coach Brett Larson was impressed with his team’s effort and looking forward to next weekend.

“Nothing that prepares you better for the NCAA tourney than playing in an atmosphere and a game like this,” coach Larson said. “That felt like a Frozen Four game. You’re playing against one of the best teams in the country, you’re toe-to-toe with them all night. Certainly, you’d like five minutes of the game back that didn’t go your way. The only way to learn and grow is going through things like that. I think this is really going to help this group continue to grow, and continue to get better and prepare for next week.”

Coach Larson was asked about the environment in the Ralph for the Championship game.

“Hurting right now because of the loss,” Larson said. “Man was that fun. Up until the final buzzer, it was a lot of fun. I am glad that the players from both teams got to experience that this year. It was rocking in there. Three thousand felt like 10,000. That’s why you play. As a kid, you grow up wanting to play games like that. I am glad that we got the opportunity to do it this year.”

Gavin Hain’s Big Weekend

Junior forward Gavin Hain entered the Frozen Faceoff on a four-game scoreless streak. Hain picked a heck of a time to get hot.

“He’s getting an opportunity now offensively, obviously five-on-five. He’s got a regular shift,” Berry said. “He’s on the powerplay now and he’s doing a really good job. He scored a huge goal tonight, kind of a cross-ice pass that no player is going to score that goal unless you have a strong hands-on forehand to roof it all in one motion. He’s embracing the opportunity of getting some offensive looks, and again, that’s what we need right now. We’re nicked up a little bit, we’ve got some guys out of the lineup here. He’s got that next-man-up mentality, and he’s taking the ice time that he’s given and he’s making the most of it.”

Later in the game, Hain came up big with a huge shot block that may have prevented a goal. Hain looked stunned from the shot but didn’t miss a shift. Berry continued.

“The other part for me, he had a huge block in the third period. He ate one there going out to the point-man and blocked the shot that maybe saved a goal and that’s a big deal for us.”

One More game for the Senior Class

For the senior class, it was the last time they were going to play in the Ralph. It got a little emotional.

“We were on our walk going into the dressing room,” UND forward Jordan Kawaguchi said. “We have our own way we go before games and this was our last time making this walk before game. It’s a little emotional but happy we could get this win and pretty special to win our last game at the Ralph.”

2021 Frozen Faceoff All-Tournament Team

F – Collin Adams, North Dakota
F – Gavin Hain, North Dakota
F – Riese Gaber, North Dakota
D – Nick Perbix, St. Cloud State
D – Jake Sanderson, North Dakota
G – Adam Scheel, North Dakota

Most Outstanding Player – Riese Gaber, F, North Dakota