On Friday, the University of North Dakota hockey team was in Buffalo, NY to take on Canisius College Golden Griffins in an important two-game non-conference series. The Fighting Hawks were looking for two non-conference wins.
Entering Friday’s final non-conference tilt, UND had never lost to an Atlantic Hockey Association team (26-0-0). Moreover, they were 7-0-0 all-time against the Golden Griffins. You had to like UND’s chances. Or not.
Something had to give.
Statistically, the Golden Griffins entered Friday’s game giving up almost four goals a game (3.78 ranked 56th nationally). UND’s forwards should’ve been licking their lips. Could have, should have, would have.
On Friday night, nothing went UND’s way. The Fighting Hawks hit everything but the twine (3 posts and 1 crossbar). Finally, in the second period, while killing a penalty, Mark Senden managed to score a short-handed goal. UND’s first of the season. For the stats gurus, Senden has scored three goals this season, two are game-winning goals and a short-handed goal.
UND was unable to get anything else past Golden Griffins goalie Blake Weyrick who stopped 32-of-33 shots. While UND outshot the Golden Griffins, many of the shot were from the perimeter. They’ve got to get traffic in front of the Griffins net.
With the loss, UND drops to 9-8-1 and is sitting at 20th in the all-important Pairwise Rankings. Luckily, UND plays in the toughest league in college hockey and if they can turn things around, they still have a very good chance of making the NCAA playoffs. Yes, UND has little room for error. Starting today, UND can’t afford any more half efforts. They have to find a way to gut out wins. The loss didn’t sit well with the Fighting Hawks.
“It’s not a good feeling,” UND senior center Rhett Gardner told the media after the game. “We’re sick of splitting, especially out of conference. That’s a huge loss for us. It’s going to make it a lot harder on ourselves the rest of the year. We have to learn from it, come back tomorrow and make that our last hiccup of the year.”
“The bottom line is, you’ve got to start earlier,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “We didn’t get a shot until eight or nine minutes into the first period and that’s too late. We’ve got to capitalize, we had five power plays and we’ve got to get at least one on the power play. We ended up trying to press a little bit there in the third period and they get an out-numbered chance and they score on it. We only gave up 14 shots, but you can’t give up the quality shots like we did on that second goal.”
Must Win Game
Not all is lost, UND has a chance to gain a split when they take on the Golden Griffins in game two. I probably don’t have to state the obvious, but this is a must-win game. Being swept by a team that sitting at number 46 in the Pairwise Rankings is unacceptable. Another loss would be devastating.
Stats of Note
Here are some stats that I found on the Golden Griffins webpage. The Griffins win over the 13th ranked Fighting Hawks is their first win over a nationally-ranked team since beating No. 20 Niagara on Dec. 8, 2017.
Home Field Advantage? The Griffs also improved to 4-5-1 against nationally-ranked competition at Harborcenter.
With the win against UND, Canisius improved to 1-1-1 this season and 4-5-1 under during the Trevor Large era against nationally-ranked competition.
With Friday’s win, Canisius holds an all-time record of 10-41-5 against nationally-ranked schools since moving to the Division I ranks prior to the start of the 1998-99 season. (Link to Stats)
North Dakota’s National Rankings
Power Play North Dakota — 12/ 78 (15.4%)
Penalty Kill 42 North Dakota — 53/ 67 (79.1%)
Penalty Minutes 10 North Dakota — 18 252 14.0
Scoring Margin 30 North Dakota – 2.50 – 2.50 0.00
Offense 42 North Dakota — 45 2.50
Defense 21 North Dakota — 45 2.50
(College Hockey Stat Net)
Fans are Getting Anxious
After Friday’s clunker, the UND fan base is getting more anxious. After listening to UND’s latest podcast, I think I can say with great confidence that, Brad Berry isn’t going anywhere. Not anytime soon. Yes, Dave Hakstol is currently unemployed. Yes, Hakstol was very successful behind the UND bench. I would be surprised if Hakstol returned to UND.
Finally, I think some have a very short memory, just four years ago, there were a vocal minority of fans that wanted Hakstol fired because he’d gone 0-7 in the Frozen Four. Now after winning a national title, there are again fans that want coach Berry fired because he’s hit a rough patch. I am not sure it’s as bad as it looks. Since winning an NCAA title Berry’s teams are 47-37-14 (.556). Here are a few tweets that came across my twitter feed.