It was Deja Vu. Saturday night, at the 9:16 mark of the first period, Miami scored it’s second goal to take another early 2-0 lead. UND fans started getting antsy. They’d seen this act before and didn’t like it very much. A night earlier, the Fighting Hawks had given up another 2-0 lead, just 1:29 into the first period.
The Hawks didn’t panic.
For the fourth time in six games, the opposition scored first on the Fighting Hawks. Something wasn’t right. Why weren’t the Hawks ready to play in the opening minutes of the game?
That’s a good question.
Like the previous night, UND’s fortunes improved as the game progressed. The Hawks fought back and won game two 5-3. At the end of the weekend, the RedHawks had led the weekend series for 44:38 minutes but were only able to secure a single point. The Hawks led for exactly 2.38 minutes, securing five of six possible points.
Yes, it sounds cliche’. It’s not how you start, but how you finish. There are no points awarded for taking an early lead. Hockey games are 60-minutes long. At the end of the season, wins and losses are all that matters.
As I mentioned above. Since the beginning of the New Year, the Hawks have started slowly in four of the last six games. Not all is lost. In the same span, the Fighting Hawks are 4-1-1. However, gauging by the mood of some in the UND fan base, you’d think the Hawks were last in the NCHC standings. They’re not. Far from it. UND is (.847), and 9-1-2 (.833) NCHC.
The Hawks are also leading the NCHC with 31 points. The Hawks are eight points ahead of second-place UMD and nine points ahead of third-place Denver. Even if they’re swept by the Bulldogs this weekend, they will still finish the weekend in first place.
Moreover, they’re also 1st in the Pairwise and 2nd in the KRACH rankings. If you’re still not convinced. To date, UND has played the fourth hardest schedule. If you’re a poll watcher, UND is tied for first in the USCHO Poll and second in the USA Today poll.
Please forgive me if I am seeing the silver lining. The sky isn’t falling.
I know there’s a lot of time left in the season, but, for comparison sake, the 2015-16 team was 20-3-3 on January 23, 2016. We all know how that season ended. Am I saying that UND’s current team will go on to win their program’s ninth NCAA title? I don’t know? They’re definitely not a bunch of untalented hacks. They’re not a paper tiger, either.
Scheel Struggles Early
I am minorly concerned by the recent play of sophomore goalie Adam Scheel. Since the beginning of January, Scheel is 3-1-0, 3.10 GAA and a .810 save percentage. Rough patches happen to all goalies, Scheel is going through a rough stretch. He’s a talented goalie and he will power through this. His goaltending coach Karl Goehring will also be a big help.
Bad stretch aside, Scheel is still one of the best goaltenders in the NCHC. Statistically, Scheel is (17-2-2, 1.84 GAA and a .910 save percentage, 2 shutouts). Scheel leads the NCHC in GAA, wins, and tied for the lead in shutouts. Finally, Scheel was selected at the NCHC player of the month in November and December.
The Stats Tell a Story
When you look at the statistics, there’s a huge improvement over last season. Statistically, UND is one of the top teams in the country. The Hawks lead the NCAA in goals scored with 97. They also lead the nation in goals per game with 4.22. Defensively, UND is ranked fifth in the nation with goals against per game 1.98 and goals against with 45.
What’s impressive to me is that UND has scored twice as many goals as they’ve given up (97-45 = margin of 52). UND is second in the nation in goal margin. The weak link, UND’s power play which is ranked 22nd in the nation 19.8%. Their penalty kill is ranked eighth nationally 87.5%. (Link to Stats)