(Photo Credit: Russell Hons UNDSports.com)
On Saturday night, the University of North Dakota hockey team made their 2017-18 debut. It was a successful evening as the UND hockey team blasted the Manitoba Bison 6-2.
While there aren’t any first-round draft choices in this season’s Fighting Hawks lineup, there’s still a lot of talent. UND’s cupboard isn’t bare.
While there’s not a lot of high-end talent that immediately jumps out at you, there are some very solid players that are sneaky good. In other words, Denver and the other teams in the NCHC shouldn’t overlook this UND hockey team.
This 2017-18 version of the UND hockey team is going to wear down their opponents by rolling four lines. I am not kidding, this team kind of reminds me of the 2011 Boston Bruins that won the Stanley Cup. And here’s why, the Bruins didn’t have a lot of bluechip talent, but they had a lot of second and third line players that gelled together and bought into a system. I think the 2017-18 Hawks are going to be that team.
Like Brad Schlossman mentioned last week, the strength of this year’s team is going to be their third and fourth lines. On Saturday night, I thought that Trevor Olson, Johnny Simonson, and Dixon Bowen were relentless. Their forecheck was tenacious and they gave the Bisons very little time and space.
Who’s Going to Score?
All summer long, UND fans have pondered; who’s going to score now that Brock Boeser and Tyson Jost are gone? This season, it’s going to be balanced scoring by committee. Obviously, UND’s top returning scorer, junior forward, Shane Gersich will get his points and I expect a good season from him.
There’s more to the equation, UND returns seven of their top-10 scorers from last season and I expect a few of these players to step up and make a bigger contribution. I also expect players like Rhett Gardner to take a big step forward. Gardner is a big, strong, rugged forward that goes into the dirty areas and does a lot of the things that don’t show up on the score sheet. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for him to score 15 goals this season.
Now, we probably can’t glean a lot from an exhibition game against a CIS team like the Manitoba Bisons, but you can begin to see improvement from some of the sophomore class. On Saturday night, I thought that Ludvig Hoff was very good. I thought he fit in well with Gersich and Austin Poganski. His first goal was a thing of beauty. I didn’t realize that he had that kind of offensive finesse. His first goal was a goal scorers goal. It will be interesting to see if head coach Brad Berry keeps that line together. I think taking lumps last season will pay off this year.