On Friday night, the University of North Dakota spanked Miami University in impressive fashion, 7-1. The game was over by the middle of the second period. With the win, UND improves to 6-1-1 (.813).
Yes, it’s early and we shouldn’t get out over our skis. With that said, I don’t see this team finishing in the bottom half of the NCHC.
So far this season, the Hawks have been an improved hockey team. I will break down a couple of things that have caught my attention early on. For the most part, they’re playing 60-minute games. Even when the game wasn’t in question anymore, they kept competing and trying to add to their 7-1 lead.
Protect Home Ice
During one of the season’s first hockey press conferences, junior defenseman Gabe Bast said something that caught my attention.
“Like Schmidty (Cole Smith) said a couple of weeks ago, it was a salty offseason,” Bast said. “This year, we’re really trying to establish a swagger to our group and play with confidence every night and just believe in ourselves that we can get the job done.”
So far, this season, the Hawks players have embraced that philosophy. Through six games, Ralph Engelstad Arena has been a tough place to play. With the 7-1 win, UND has won eight straight games at home dating back to last season.
“I think it starts with the fan base,” junior defenseman Matt Kiersted said. “They’re, unbelievable and it’s so much fun playing at the Ralph. You’ve got have 10 and a half thousand (fans) a night. That’s a great atmosphere. They’re all engaged, and it really kind of feeds into our energy. So, that’s really important is that because that crowd and that kind of gives us like I said that energy does keep winning, and keep playing the right way.”
In listening to the players and head coach Brad Berry during the press conferences, it sounds like it was a tough summer. I’ve also heard that coach Berry challenged a few of the players to work harder in the offseason. It also sounds like there was a lot of self-reflection in the offseason. From the early season results, it appears that this approach has worked.
“I’ve worked hard this summer,” sophomore defenseman Jonny Tychonick said. “I’m trying to lead it to pay off is the type of thing that I’m looking at. I’m trying to do everything that I can the right way. I’ve been doing lots of video with the coaches and they’ve really helped me kind of develop this year.”
Points of Interest
Junior forward Jordan Kawaguchi has started the season hot. With his three assists against Miami, Kawaguchi now has (2g-8a—10pts). Currently, Kawaguchi is leading the team in points.
This season, junior defenseman Matt Kiersted has elevated his game and taken a step forward. Kiersted is tied for third on the team in points and has (1g-3a–4pts) in his last two games.
Last night, Brad Schlossman said something that was pretty profound. After scoring one goal in the first 33 games, Tychonic scored his next two goals in 33 seconds.
With his fourth goal of the season, senior forward Dixon Bowen already surpassed last season’s goal total. Last season, Bowen scored (3g-3a–6pts). Barring injury, Bowen should surpass his season-high in goals. In 106 games, Bowen has scored (15g-11a–26pts), he’s also a minus-four.
UND is second in the nation in Corsi rankings with 62.4% ranking. Even strength, UND is ranked third with a 59.1% ranking. On the power play, UND is ranked 75.2%. Finally, UND is ranked fifth for Close Corsi rankings 57.9%. (Link to Fancy Stats)
In last night’s win, 12 players for UND recorded at least a single point. By definition, that’s balanced scoring. Only four players (skaters) on the UND roster have yet to record a point (Zach Yon, Casey Johnson, Josh Rieger, and Carson Albrecht). It’s worth noting that Albrecht has yet to play in a game.
Sophomore goalie Adam Scheel, 6-1-1, .923 save percentage, and GAA 1.36. Scheel also has one shutout. He’s ranked 22 in save percentage, third in GAA, and tied for ninth in winning percentage. (Link to Stats)
UND’s offense is ranked fifth in the nation, averaging 4.25 GPG.
UND’s defense is ranked second in the nation, allowing 1.38 GAPG
UND is ranked second in the nation in scoring margin with 2.88.
UND’s penalty kill is ranked third in the nation (22/23, 95.7%).
UND’s power play needs some work. The Hawks are ranked 41st in the nation with 4/29 (13.8%). Last night, UND went 2/4 on the power play.
UND is ranked 55th in the nation in Penalty Minutes averaging 7.2 per game.