UND Has Faced Its Share of Adversity During the 2021-22 Season

What’s another injury to the UND hockey team? It’s an opportunity for someone else. It’s no mystery, during the 2021-22 college hockey season, the University of North Dakota hockey team has faced its fair share of adversity. Rest assured, they’re not begging for your sympathy. They don’t want it.

UND entered this past weekend’s series against Western Michigan extremely banged up. They played a top-ten team minus some of their best players. When the final horn sounded, it didn’t matter, UND had swept the Broncos (2-1 W, 5-2 W).

Currently, UND is missing some key, high-end players: defenseman Jake Sanderson (day-to-day), forward Riese Gaber (day-to-day), defenseman Ethan Frisch (day-to-day), and Gavin Hain (long term). UND played an important conference series minus two of their top d-men,  and they didn’t miss a beat. It’s been a constant rotation of players on and off the injured list. It’s just another day at the office for UND.

Playing with Five Defensemen

Against Colorado College, UND played 112 minutes with only five d-men. At the eight-minute mark of game one, UND defenseman Cooper Moore was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a high-hit on CC’s Ray Christy. The NCHC would tack on an additional one-game suspension.

Shorthanded or not, it was a great weekend for UND. They took all six points against the Tigers. Sure, they played with only 17 skaters and five d-men, but they found a way to gut out wins. With that in mind, UND head coach Brad Berry would’ve rather played with a full lineup.

“In youth hockey it’s fun,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “When you’re playing high-end college hockey on back-to-back nights, it’s tough.”

Next Man Up

Instead of licking their wounds and feeling sorry for themselves, UND has embraced the next-man-up mentality and found a way to win. You won’t hear them complaining about not having a full lineup card or not having all of their star players available. Following UND’s series-opening win against the Bulldogs, defenseman Cooper Moore summed it up well.

“I thought a lot of guys stepped up,” Moore said. “There were a lot of guys missing from our lineup, but a lot of guys played bigger minutes and I think everyone played pretty well.”

To put it in perspective, UND was missing some high-end guys from their lineup. Some of these missing players will be on All-NCHC teams when the season is over. With that said, UND went out and swept one of the top teams in the country. It speaks a lot about the character of this team.

“It talks about the trust and care that’s in our group, guys are willing to do anything for each other,” Berry said. “We had 20-some blocks in the game tonight. We had 15 after two periods, and it’s about giving your body up and sacrificing. Whatever you have to do.

“Everybody thinks, OK, you got Riese Gaber out, Sanderson, and Frisch, and a lot of high-end players. They’re unbelievable players, but doing whatever you can in your role to help win a game. I think our guys are maximizing their roles right now.”

Looking at the North Dakota roster: UND’s top defenseman Jake Sanderson has missed 12 games due to the World Juniors, Olympics, and injury. UND’s top points getter, Reise Gaber has missed three straight games due to injury. Defenseman Brady Ferner (undisclosed injury) missed six games prior to the series against Western Michigan. Forward Mark Senden missed four games due to injury. He returned to the lineup against Western Michigan and added an assist. Earlier in the season, forward Ashton Calder missed five games due to an upper-body injury. Finally, Sanderson could return next weekend.

“(Sanderson) is working on his conditioning, it’s going to be a big thing here over the next few days,” Berry said. “I think he’s close and hopefully it’s closer than we think.”