UND forward Rhett Gardner goes hard to the net. (Photo Credit: Russ Hons)
Today, I was checking out my Facebook page when I came across an article that I wrote a year ago for the Hockey Writers. It’s like history has repeated itself. Kind of like Ground Hog Day.
This past weekend, the University of North Dakota split their two-game conference series with St. Cloud State (1-3 L, 2-1 W O.T.). With the split, UND remains tied for third place in the NCHC standings. More importantly, the Hawks are ranked ninth in the all-important Pairwise Rankings.
Fast forward 360 days, UND 12-8-8 (.571) and tied for fourth in the NCHC standings with Minnesota-Duluth. More importantly, UND is sitting at eighth in the Pairwise Rankings. Comparing the records, a year ago, UND was 15-11-3 (.551) and basically sitting in the same place.
While the fans might be a little down on the hometown team, I think there’s room for enthusiasm. This season, based on the adversity the Fighting Hawks faced, I feel they’re in better standing than they were a year ago. If they can shake the injury bug and get some continuity in their forward line.
Traditionally, the Ralph Engelstad Arena has been a tough place for visiting teams to win hockey games. This season, the Ralph has been a house of horrors for the Fighting Hawks, wins at home haven’t come easy. During the 2016-17 season, UND has an 8-7-2 (.529) record. On the road, UND is 7-4-1 (.625). In the last 12 games played on home ice, UND is 3-7-2 (.250).
This season, UND has been pretty good at home 7-3-5 (.633) and they’re 5-5-3 (.500) on the road. Again, I don’t want to be a dead horse, but with all of the injuries that UND has suffered, I think that UND is doing pretty well. In his two and a half seasons, I think this is coach Berry’s best coaching job. Obviously, the coaching staff would like to develop some chemistry in their forward lines before the playoffs. I imagine they’d like to not suffer any more injuries.
Per UND SID Jayson Hajdu, UND head coach Brad Berry has used 28 different lineups in 28 games. During those 28 games, UND has lost 63 man-games due to injury, illness or suspension this season, including: Trevor Olson (11), Cam johnson (8), Gabe Bast (7), Dixon Bowen (7), Ludvig Hoff (7), Rhett Gardner (5), Johnny Simonson (4), Andrew Peski (3), Collin Adams (2), Joel Janatuinen (2), Nick Jones (2), Peter Thome (2), Josh Rieger (1), Cole Smith (1) and Zach Yon (1).
Coach Berry Has Options
This weekend, they get Junior forward Rhett Gardner back. Hopefully, UND will get Jones and Bast back, soon.
Christian Wolanin as a forward, it could happen in the future.
“If you would’ve asked me… probably on those 3-on-3’s against Denver, I probably would have kept him out there the whole five minutes and kept him at a forward position, Berry said during Wednesday’s press conference. “Those are situations, I think down the road I (am) pretty open to. If nothing is going on in a game offensive, or different things like that. Down the road that could be a possibility. If you probably asked him he’d probably be all in for that.”