Yes, rivalry games. Denver and North Dakota is an exciting, historic rivalry. On Friday night, due to COVID-19, not a single fan attended the game in the Pod. Baxter Arena in Omaha was empty except for the people working the game and some fan cutouts. If you watched the game on MidcoSN, Altitude Sports or NCHC.TV, you weren’t disappointed.
We’re six games into the NCHC Pod schedule, and the hockey has been nothing short of amazing. The production of the games has been top-notch. This Christmas season we have the 20 days of hockey.
Hulu has all of the episodes. They’re all classics. Pretty impressive start to the broadcast of the pod games. I like how Alex and Dave did the Denver game. Ben you and Dave stellar as always, too. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas we have the 20 days pod hockey.
— Eric J. Burton TSD (@goon48) December 3, 2020
After 272 days, not much has changed. Senior All-American, forward Jordan Kawaguchi picked up where he left off from last March, roofing the game-winning goal 1:17 into the 3-on-3 overtime period. Kawaguchi’s goal lifted the Hawks to a 4-3 win over Denver Pioneers. Kawaguchi is also an early favorite to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.
With Friday’s win, UND is now 4-0-1 in the last five games against the Pioneers. The good news, there are at least five more games between the two teams. Good times.
At the 11:05 mark of the first period, the Pioneers scored the game’s first goal on the power play from Carter Savoie. Pioneers Bobby Brink and Mike Benning drew the assists. Brink found Savoie in the left faceoff dot, and he buried the puck in the back of the Hawks net.
Savoie became the first Pioneer since 2008 to score in his first two games. He now has three goals on the season.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 5, 2020
At the 17:16 mark of the second period, freshman defenseman Jake Sanderson scored his first collegiate goal on the power play from the right faceoff dot. Tie game. Sanderson has one more game in the Pod before he heads to the WJC.
The game didn’t stay tied very long. Just 30 seconds into the third period, Pioneers forward Brett Edwards scored. Drawing assists on the goal were Bobby Brink and Jaakko Heikkinen.
Later in the third period, UND would tie the game and then take a one-goal lead with goals from Ethan Frisch and Jasper Weatherby.
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) December 5, 2020
UND head coach Brad Berry’s thoughts on his captain’s game-winning goal.
“Jordan (Kawaguchi) obviously an elite player with a high skill level; (he) saw a lane to the net and got it up very quick, in a hurry, on (Magnus) Chrona, Berry said. “He’s a difference-maker when you get to three-on-three. You look down on your bench and you try to put those players on the ice and give yourself an opportunity for the extra point. He didn’t disappoint.
“I think it’s one of the things that Jordan is. Working hard over the course of the last few games, (he) really haven’t gotten rewarded on the stat sheet, goals or assists, but when the game was on the line made a big play.”
Playing in the Pod
This past summer, we watched the NHL play in the pods in Edmonton and Toronto. Now, fast forward to the NCHC’s Omaha Pod. It’s been surreal watching teams play in empty buildings. The NCHC Pod looks very similar to the NHL Pods from this past summer.
“It’s not too hard to get your excitement up, or your passion for the game, Berry said. “It’s funny with no fans in the stands, I mentioned in the last press conference. As a coach and I know as a player, you really don’t notice it. You’re tuned into the game. You’re competitive. You’re focusing on each and every shift. I know our guys (were). I know Denver was. That was a back and forth game the lead changed a few times. That’s the beauty of college hockey, the guys create their own excitement and especially when two teams like that were going at it.”
“There’s no noise, Kawaguchi said. “No extra noise from the crowd or anything like that. You have to bring your own energy and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at it sometimes. We got to forget there’s no crowd and we kind of have to do it on the bench. I think we’ve done a good job so far in the first two games to kind of bring out the kinks. We’re just looking to get better every game.”
Forwards Carter Savoie (2-0-0), Bobby Brink (0-2-2), and defense Mike Benning (0-2-2) led the Pioneers on the score sheet.
Defense Jake Sanderson (1-1-2), and forward Colin Adams (0-2-2) led the Hawks on the score sheet.