As 2016 comes to an end, we will usher in the new year in a matter of hours. As University of North Dakota fans look back at 2016, they will have fond memories of the boys in Green and White winning their 8th NCAA title. UND would go 34-6-4 and steamroll through the NCAA playoffs. Their toughest match in the NCAA playoffs was against fellow NCHC foe, Denver.
During the offseason, while fans were celebrating UND’s eighth NCAA title, the Hawks would lose nine players from the 2016 championship team (Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Colten St. Clair, Coltyn Sanderson, Nick Schmaltz, Troy Stecher, Paul LaDue, Luke Johnson, and Keaton Thompson). Three of these players are playing in the NHL (Caggiula with Edmonton, Schmaltz with Chicago, and Stecher with Vancouver). A fourth player, LaDue, is close to making his NHL debut, too.
Through 18 games, UND is (9-6-3, 3-4-1 NCHC). After winning a conference championship and NCAA title last season, UND sits in sixth place in the NCHC standings. While there were many positives in the first half, UND also had their share of negatives, too.
Currently, inconsistency has plagued UND’s special team’s. UND is ranked 32nd nationally on the power play, 14/81 (17.3%) and 46th on the penalty kill, 64/80 (80.0%). Through 18 games, UND has already given up four shorthanded goals. (linky)
Last season, UND lost a grand total of six games. So far, this season, through 18 games UND has lost six games. The current players on this team haven’t experienced a long winless streak like they did earlier in the season. At times, UND has looked like one of the best teams in the country. At other times, they’ve looked like a cellar dweller. The Hawks have been very inconsistent.
After the series against Denver, I think head coach Brad Berry said it best. This kind of how their season has gone.
“We hit a couple of pipes there at the end,’ coach Berry said. ‘There are no excuses on our part. We have to be better. We have to be sharper.
“Again, we talk about finishing plays. Those plays start in our end of the rink executing passes and making plays where you get into the other team’s end of the ice. We have to focus on the execution part before we even get into their end.”
After losing 3-1 to the Western Michigan Broncos, the Christmas break couldn’t have come at a better time. I think that junior defenseman Tucker Poolman stated it best.
“A couple of weeks off, optimistically, hopefully each guy can go home and think about this, think about why our season has been so up and down and why we lack consistency,” Poolman said. “This is a long time to think about something like that.”
Some UND Fans Want a Change in Net
This season, junior goalie Johnson has started every game and been the only goalie to play in net for the Hawks. In 18 games, Johnson is 9-6-3, 2,16 GAA and .912 save percentage. In the last five games, Johnson’s game has improved to 2-1-1, 2.02 GAA and .922 save percentage. Johnson’s 26 wins are the most in Division I during the calendar year of 2016. In his three seasons at UND, 33-10-5, 1.89 GAA and .924 save percentage. Johnson also has 8 shutouts.
Johnson is closing in on a historic record. The Troy, Michigan native enters Saturday’s game against Union having played in 48 consecutive starts. That’s the second-longest streak in school history. First place is held by Jean-Philippe Lamoureux’s streak of 55 in a row from 2006-08. (Thanks Jayson Hajdu of UND Sports)
Solid performance aside, some UND hockey fans just aren’t happy. I’ve received many tweets like the one above. Today, All-American honors and a NCAA title are distant memories. There is a group of vocal fans that would like to see Johnson sit for a game or two. This year, as the season has progressed, the call for the backup goalie has increased which each UND loss.
Yesterday, with sophomore backup goalie Matej Tomek’s performance against the Americans in the WJHC, those calls could get louder with UND’s next loss. Against Team USA, Tomek stopped 45 of 50 shots and prevented Team Slovakia from getting routed. Tomek has yet to make his debut with the Hawks. Those same fans would like to see Tomek make that debut when he returns from the WJHC.
So, as you can see, there’s a lot on UND’s plate right now. All this aside, there’s still a lot of things to be thankful for. Finally, I want to wish everyone a happy New Year. Thanks for reading and love Goon. 🙂