This weekend, the University of North Dakota hockey team takes on the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in an important two-game conference series. After losing eight games in a row to the Bulldogs, UND has won two of the last three games.
Make no mistake about it, the two teams hate each other. Expect a very tense, highly contested series. Like his Fighting Hawks teammates, junior forward Cole Smith is looking forward to this weekend’s series.
“We kind of go at it every series, but I think that the built-in rivalry is good. I like that,” Smith said.
The two teams split an earlier two-game series (0-5 L, 2-1 W) on November 30-December 1, 2018 in Duluth, MN. The first meeting between the two teams was a bit rough. When the weekend was over, both teams would lose two players to major penalties. I think it’s safe to say that the NCHC officials could have their hands full this weekend.
How do you play in a rivalry series like this and not lose your head? You don’t want a parade to the penalty box. Earlier in the season, head coach Brad Berry explained.
“You want to be aggressive as a team, but you have to have discipline in the game,” 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.”
Nick Wolff Goes Over the Edge
In the past three games, one player from the Bulldogs has gone over that edge. Bulldog defenseman Nick Wolff has been thrown out of three straight games against the Fighting Hawks. The question this weekend, will Wolff get tossed for the fourth game in a row? 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.
Smith was on the receiving end of Wolff’s high hit. Post hit, Smith went to the bench and had to have his cage replaced because it was caved in from the hit.
“Obviously, it hurt, but it’s hockey,” Smith said. “I’ve given a few myself. So, I can’t really get down on him for that hit. We’re just playing hockey out there and things happen. It doesn’t really bother me too much.”
Adam Scheel Week-to-Week
Late in last Saturday’s game, freshman goalie Adam Scheel suffered a lower-body injury and had to be helped off of the ice. Initially, it didn’t look good.
At the 3:09 mark of the third period, Broncos forward Jade McMullen and UND forward Rhett Gardner were going hard to the net. After a short-handed goal by Broncos forward Hugh McGing, McMullen and Gardner ran into Scheel landing on his knee.(At the 5:11 mark of the embedded video below).
On Wednesday, UND head coach Brad Berry briefed the media.
“Obviously this weekend he’s unavailable, Berry said. “It’s one of the things we’re hoping that it’s it’ll be shorter term than long term.” Right now, Scheel is listed as week-to-week.
Thome Takes the Net
For now, the net is sophomore goalie Peter Thome’s (1-3-0, 3.75 GAA and a .838 save percentage). After a good week in practice, Berry is confident in Thome moving forward.
“He’s been really good, to say the least,” Berry said. “Obviously, going back to his last start, one period, I think it was against the USA team he was sharp there. He’s relaxed. He’s focused and I think he’s more than excited about the opportunity going forward here.”
At this point in the season, it’s the next man up. Newly added freshman goalie Harrison Feeney could get a look in net, too.
“He’s a guy I wouldn’t hesitate if an opportunity presented (itself), for him to go in goal,” Berry said. “He’s shown well enough that he could be game-worthy at any time. That’s the beauty of having a guy who has played recently, albeit at the junior level.”