Entering the weekend, the University of North Dakota hockey team traveled to Buffalo, NY, looking to take two wins against Canisius College to vault them into the second half of the season. When the weekend was over, the Fighting Hawks were looking for answers.
After watching their favorite team struggle for the last two and a half seasons, the UND fan base is getting anxious. The UND faithful want accountability and they’re tired of watching their favorite team come up short in must-win games. Some have suggested that the head coach Brad Berry 81-44-18, (629) should be fired. I think that talk is a bit premature.
If the hometown team doesn’t right the ship and go on a run, they could miss the NCAA playoffs for a second season in a row. A feat that hasn’t happened since the 1990’s (1991-1996). Since the 1996-97 season, UND has missed the NCAA tourney twice (2001-02 and 2017-18).
No Silver Lining
It wasn’t for a lack of effort, UND out-shot the Golden Griffins 82-30 and dominated the Golden Griffins in the faceoff dot 85-40. All of that was for not. The Fighting Hawks scored two goals on 85 shots (.0235%). That shooting percentage isn’t going to win a lot of hockey games. With that in mind, many of the 82 shots were from the perimeter.
Entering Saturday’s game, UND hadn’t scored a power play goal since November 24, 2018 against Alaska Anchorage. During the last five plus games, UND was 0 for 21 on the man advantage. At the 15:12 mark of the first period, senior forward Nick Jones broke that horrendous streak.
Unfortunately, UND didn’t score another goal the rest of the game. Canisius would score two unanswered goals to secure a 2-1 win and the sweep against UND. With the loss, UND drops to 9-9-1. Canisius improves to 8-9-1.
Goalies Steal the Show
Canisius goalie Matt Ladd, who came in during the semester break, shut the door the rest of the way stopping 48-of-49 shots. With the win, Ladd improves to (1-1-0, 2.50 GAA, and a.941 save percentage).
On the other end of the ice, UND freshman goalie Adam Scheel falls to (8-6-1, 1.91 GAA and a .908 save percentage). I don’t think it’s fair to pin the loss on the goalie. If the forwards aren’t scoring, the goalie almost needs to have pitch a shutout ever game and that’s not realistic.
UND entered Friday’s game with a 26-0 record against Atlantic Hockey Association teams. They were also 7-0-0 against the Golden Griffins. When the weekend was over, UND had dropped to 26-2-0 against AHA teams and 7-2-0 against Canisius.
During the post-game radio interview Berry was very matter of fact. During the post-game press conference talked about getting back to work and moving forward.
“We started the right way and we played for 60 minutes, but when you’re not scoring goals, everything gets magnified,” Berry said. “We’ve got to make sure we leave here with the right attitude as we get back to the NCHC and stay together as a group.”
The captain Colton Poolman echoed Berry’s comments.
“It’s pretty hard right now,” Poolman told the Grand Forks Herald after the game. “I wish we had the answers. For whatever reason, it’s not going right now. We’re struggling to find goals and it sucks. But I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. I’m more proud to be a Sioux tonight than some other nights when we win, because that’s one of the most complete games I’ve seen us play. We’re not getting rewarded right now.”
UND at the Crossroads
Finally, today is the first day of the rest of the season. Counting the NCHC playoffs, there are at least 18-19 games remaining. Eight of those games are against Omaha and Colorado College. UND needs to start gutting out wins or they will end up having to win the NCHC Frozen Faceoff to make the tourney.