This week after the University of North Dakota Hockey team returned from Minneapolis, MN, with a tie and a loss, I wrote this.
While things might not look so rosy for the Fighting Hawks right now, the team is building for the future and there’s a lot of potential for growth. During the offseason, the defending champs lost nine players to graduation and NHL defections.
Nine players from last season’s championship lineup (Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, Nick Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, Paul LaDue and Luke Johnson, and Keaton Thompson) are gone. Those players accounted for 81 goals and 217 points. Breaking it down further, that means 50 percent of last season’s offensive firepower is no longer in the lineup. Currently, there are 19 underclassmen on the Fighting Hawks roster trying to make up the difference. While it sounds like a cliché, there’s no substitute for experience.
On Saturday night, the Fighting Hawks dictated play for large parts of the game, and they outshot the Gophers 33-20. However, they still came up with the short end of the stick. They generated a lot of scoring opportunities but weren’t able to punch through. Moving forward, Saturday’s effort gives the coaching staff something to build on.
Too Much Pressure?
As I was writing this, I wondered, are we putting too much pressure on a young team? It seems like the Fighting Hawks are getting closer to being a pretty good hockey team. They lost a lot of firepower from last season and younger players are going to be filling big roles that were vacated by more experienced, older players.
At UND, teams are expected to compete for a conference title and a NCAA title every season. But in reality, they may not be able to. So far this season, UND is 5-3-1 and starting to figure things out. Head coach Brad Berry seems to think that his team is improving and making progress.
“The consistency side of it, absolutely,” coach Berry said. “I think going into Duluth two weeks ago and then into Minnesota a couple of tough environments on the road. We’re playing against good teams this weekend and next weekend. I think there’s a fine line between winning and losing. Part of that is playing a 60-minute game, part of that is managing your game and controlling what you can control.
“We saw on Saturday in Minnesota night, if you can control what you control a lot of times you will have success. That night, in particular, we didn’t on the scoreboard but we did in a lot of different areas. We have to make sure what we remain consistent in what we do in what we can control.”
When asked where his team is right now, coach Berry gave his analysis of the state of his team, “There’s a lot of work to do in many different areas to build our game. I think we’re in a good spot right now. I think the biggest things is trying to manage from the offensive side of the game to try and find secondary scoring other than the one line. Whether that through five-on-five play or through the power play.”