How Does UND Hockey Fix Its Goaltending and Defense?

Brad Berry
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During the 2022-23 season, the University of North Dakota hockey team has struggled defensively and with their goaltending. At times, it hasn’t been pretty. They can do better.

How does UND fix this? Where do we start?

On Friday night, UND took on their league rival St. Cloud State in an important conference matchup. The Hawks were looking to move up in the NCHC standings and looked pretty good during the first period. They took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

That’s where it ended.

In the second period, the Hawks played undisciplined hockey and started a parade to the penalty box. It didn’t take long for the Huskies to capitalize on UND’s undisciplined play, scoring six unanswered goals and cruising to a 7-2 victory. The Huskies displayed a balanced attack; scoring two on the power play, one short-handed, and four even-strength goals. With the loss, UND’s record dropped to 6-7-3 (.469) and 2-4-1 (.333) NCHC. The UND fanbase is getting restless.

With the win, SCSU solidified their 5th-place Pairwise Ranking. Yes, it’s still early, but there’s a good chance the Huskies could end up being a top-four team on selection Sunday in March. Meanwhile, UND is currently sitting in 24th place with a lot of ground to make up.

Fire Berry! No, I don’t think so.

Yes, it’s an unfamiliar place for the UND hockey team. They’re coming off back-to-back-to-back Penrose Cups, and have experienced tremendous success during the last three and half seasons. Berry’s teams have amassed an impressive 78-32-9 (.693) record. Obviously, this is a blip on the radar. For those fans calling for Berry’s firing, I’d hate to disappoint you, it’s not going to happen. Moreover, he just signed a four-year deal earlier this year. But, but, but…

Yes, UND has won one NCAA game since 2016, but let’s take a closer look at this. UND had a year canceled due to Covid-19, there’s a good chance UND could have won it all. We will never know. They also lost two 50-50 games that could have gone either way. I don’t believe that coach Berry is on the hot seat.

How UND Stacks Up Statistically

Offensively, scoring goals hasn’t been a problem. Keeping the puck out of their net has been. The Hawks are ranked 7th nationally in goal scoring. On special teams, their power play is ranked 5th nationally. UND’s penalty Kill is also ranked 15th nationally. With that said, UND has gone three games without scoring a goal on the man advantage.

Defensively, UND is ranked 60th place nationally in save percentage, and 51st nationally in goals against (tied with Canisius and Western Michigan). At times, the Hawks goaltenders have struggled with consistency.

Stat line on UND’s goaltenders: Jakob Hellsten is 3-4-2, 3.13 GAA, and has a .859 save percentage. His teammate, Drew DeRidder, is 3-3-1, 3.08 GAA, and a .886 save percentage. They have a single shutout between them, DeRidder on October 7, 2022, against Holy Cross. That has to be better.

How does UND right the ship?

UND’s top defense pairing of Tyler Kleven and Ethan Frisch is a combined minus-14. That needs to be better. Junior d-man Cooper Moore has struggled this season, he’s also a minus-six.

Head coach Brad Berry has given us a few examples of how this can be fixed.

“Puck possession and playing a hard heavy game,” Berry said after last Saturday’s game.

At times, UND has failed to do that. Berry recently talked about simplifying UND’s game. When you look at the problems that are plaguing UND, it’s simple mistakes that can be tidied up. I don’t think they’re all that far off from where they want to be.

“Not managing pucks at the right time,” Berry said following the Saturday loss to Miami RedHawks. “Not managing pucks that ended up in our end of the rink, which ended up in goals. Not boxing out those critical grade-A opportunities when you get a second whack at it. You have to be harder in those areas, in the house area. Just making sure that you know we’re all on the same page.”

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