The University of North Dakota hockey team kicked off the 2021-22 campaign with a 2-1 exhibition win against Bemidji State University. On Saturday night, the recurring theme at the Ralph; hey, who’s that? I don’t know, he’s one of the new guys. UND fan checks the roster. Oh yeah, that guy.
Someone forgot to tell the two teams that the game was only an exhibition. The game was a knock-down, drag-out war. Neither team gave the other very much time and space. At the 2:30 mark of the second period, sophomore forward Riese Gaber put UND on the board first with a power play goal. Less than two minutes later, BSU would tie the game with a goal from Alex Lerullo. The game would stay tied until sophomore d-man Jake Sanderson scored the game-winning goal at the 11:02 mark of the third period to give UND a 2-1 lead. BSU wouldn’t get any closer and the Hawks would hang on for a 2-1 win.
Many New Faces
It’s not breaking news, this season’s UND hockey team is going to have a very different look, from last season’s team that made a magical run to the top of the NCHC standings. This season there are 14 new players on the 2021-22 roster. It’s going to take some time for the fans to familiarize themselves with the new guys. A few of them are already making their presence known.
For those keeping track at home, 12 of the 21 UND players that dress were seeing their first action in a UND sweater. You may want to download a copy of the Fighting Hawks roster and introduce yourself to the new players. I will let you know, you’re not alone. I found myself looking at my line sheets a lot last night.
New Look First Line?
With the departure of many high-end players, UND’s top forward line will have a different look. UND also has a few players that are nicked up. Against the Beavers, UND head coach Brad Berry had Connor Ford centering Mark Senden and Aston Calder. In their first game together, they didn’t disappoint.
“Obviously, Brendan Budy is out of the lineup and he should be back shortly,” Berry said. “I like what they do together they’re experienced and have played a few years of college hockey. When they’re on the ice, you know, whether it’s a defensive zone face-off or a situation where you need them to… To make a play or be good in all ends of the rink. It’s nice to know you have three guys that have played a lot of hockey.
BSU, A Great Exhibition Game Opponent
Normally, UND plays the Manitoba Bison in a season-opening exhibition game, however, due to the current COVID-19 restrictions at the US border, UND had to schedule an exhibition game against another opponent. Sitting 120 miles away, was a logical choice, the BSU Beavers. In the end, playing against a tougher opponent in an exhibition game will be more beneficial to the Fighting Hawks and the Beavers. It was a win-win situation.
“This is a pretty good litmus test of what college hockey is, even though both teams probably had a little bit of rust tonight,” Berry said. “The heaviness, the lack of time and space, an intense college hockey game was thrown at us tonight and there’s nothing that replaces that. I’m glad we went through it, and you know we have a lot of areas to work on. We’re going to address those areas. I’m glad we got to play against a very good opponent.”
There will be a lot of things to work on this week in practice. The Hawks were a step slow or a half-second off on their timing. That’s expected the first time out with many new players in the lineup. Also, those are fundamental things that can be cleaned up and fine-tuned as the season progresses. It didn’t help that the ice was really choppy due to the big crowd and outside temperature.
Jake Sanderson agreed with his coach’s sentiments.
“That’s a great team over there, said Sanderson who scored the game-winning goal on an end-to-end rush. “When I saw the schedule changed, from our total budget I was pretty happy just to see how we stacked up against another good team. I was pumped to play them. They’re a great team, they’re gonna be a good team throughout the year.”
Up next for the Fighting Hawks, a two-game non-conference series against the Niagra Purple Eagles.