This past weekend, the University of North Dakota hockey team got a much-needed series split against the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
Here’s what I saw from last weekend’s series. Feel free to agree or disagree.
After being blown out 5-0 the night before, the Fighting Hawks gutted out a 2-1 win. With the win, UND improved to 8-6-1, 2-4 (NCHC). Reading the Grand Forks Herald today, with the win, UND is the only team with multiple wins over teams ranked in the top four USCHO Poll.
During Saturday’s game, a theme emerged from the UMD media and the fans. UND won because of the 7-2 power play advantage. I included a couple of tweets from UMD Super Fan Drunk Hockey Guy for you entertainment.
And this comedy gold.
I’ll go back to something that head coach Brad Berry said about an earlier rivalry series.
“You want to be aggressive as a team, but you have to have discipline in the game,” head coach Brad Berry said. “I go back to a guy like (former head coach) Gino Gasperini, a long time ago, he said when you’re playing in these types of series, you’ve got to get to the edge. You can’t be over the edge, and you can’t be three feet back from the edge. You have to get to the edge and you have to play on the edge.”
In Saturday’s game, I think UND went to the edge, UMD went over that edge. It showed in the post-games stats. The penalty differential didn’t go unnoticed by the other side.
Officiating Didn’t Cost UMD the Game
After Saturday’s game, Duluth News Tribune college hockey beat writer Matt Wellens started his post-game comments by asking UMD head coach Scott Sandelin, “Don’t ask about the penalties? Nothing penalty related?”
“I said refereeing, Sandelin said. “If I make a slight reference… you’ll get the right answer.”
Right out of the gate, the beat writer is asking a pointed question about the on-ice officials. Wellens is a smart beat writer, he knows that Sandelin can’t comment about the officials because he could be sanctioned by the NCHC. By not commenting about the officials, he’s actually commenting about the officials. It’s a passive aggressive move. One could make the argument that Sandelin is already lobbying for calls in the next series against UND.
Again, we’re to believe that Saturday’s win some how tainted because of the penalty differential. My answer, a win is a win. There’s no asterisk in the standing for UND’s win against UMD.
On Monday, Bruce Ciskie wrote this for his blog. I think that Ciskie’s thoughts are well though out.
This isn’t going to be about the officials. After looking at Wolff’s hit on Cole Smith, I can’t disagree with their call as vociferously as I did at first (look, it’s not the first nor last time I’ve been wrong and admitted it afterward). It looks like a check to the head that could have been avoided on replay, though I do believe worse hits have not been penalized with ejections (hello, Casey Johnson hit on Kobe Roth Friday).
I don’t fault Wolff for trying to throw a big hit to spark his team after a failed five-minute power play, but he has to do a better job picking his spots than that. Especially after he got ejected the night before, too. He’s too important of a player to get tossed back-to-back nights.
We’re not going to get into ridiculous conspiracy theories. This isn’t some “UND favoritism because they helped found the league” or “UMD gets the shaft because it’s a small market” tripe. After all, Colorado Springs is the home of the NCHC and former Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph was instrumental in the league’s formation. Where are all the Tigers’ breaks from the stripes?
It’s worth noting, I agree with what Ciskie said here. The refs didn’t cost UMD the game, the lack of disciplined cost the Bulldogs the game.
Nick Wolff Goes Over the Line
In the last three games against the Fighting Hawks, Bulldog defenseman Nick Wolff has been kicked out of three straight games. So, actually, it’s back-to-back-to-back games. But who’s keeping track, right?
March 17, 2018 – Third place game of the Frozen Faceoff, Wolff received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for kneeing.
November 30, 2018 – game one, UND vs. UMD, Wolff receives a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a face masking penalty.
December 1, 2018, Nick Wolff five-minute major and a game misconduct for contact to the head.
As this play unfolded, the UMD television crew disagreed vehemently with the call on Wolff, here’s a GIF of the hit in question. You have to be a total homer not to see that this is a major penalty. Wolff drills Smith in the head.
Kawaguchi’s Spearing Penalty
Saturday, during the final minutes of the first period, sophomore forward Jordan Kawaguchi speared UMD defenseman Louie Roehl between the legs. That was an unneeded, undisciplined penalty. There’s no reason to make that play.
“It was on me, that (spearing) penalty,” Kawaguchi told the media following Saturday’s win. “It was obviously something that was not very smart. That’s on me. I’m just lucky that I have some good teammates behind me and they did an unbelievable job for the rest of game.