The No. 14 University of North Dakota took to the ice on Saturday to play host to the annual hockey Hall of Fame game. A once a year celebration of the greats to play the game. There was no exotic location for this years edition of the clash, as last year the game was played in Las Vegas, but the Ralph was chosen as the location. There could not be a better place to celebrate the game than the most beautiful hockey arena in the country.
Old rivals from before the NCHC was founded, the Michigan Tech Huskies would head into town for this occasion playing in the Ralph for the first time in the recent past.
“(Michigan Tech) is another WCHA old rival from that league and we expect them to bring their best for a one game shot here at the Ralph,” UND Head Coach Brad Berry said.
This game is also different from the normal week to week scheduling from UND as this will only be a one-game weekend as opposed to the normal two-game series.
As the puck dropped on a beautiful fall night in Grand Forks, UND took control of the game early maintaining possession and establishing the zone for the first few minutes of the game. After a few shots couldn’t find their homes Michigan Tech took control of the puck and proceeded to score on their first shot of the game. A backhander from Justin Misiak gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead early in the game.
From this point on it was the UND defense, that had been shown to be vulnerable in the past, shone through in an excellent performance. Over the 60 minutes of the game UND allowed only 15 shots on net and only six in the final two periods of the game. An impressive night for any defensive unit but when you add that the Hawks were missing their senior captain and defenseman, Colton Poolman, it shows how good of a night it was for the UND defense.
Defense is important but you can’t win games unless you score goals. For that, UND turned towards Matt Kiersted who unleashed a first period missle from the blue line that found its way just inside the post and the back of the net. This mid-first period goal would be the only goal for the next 40 minutes as the two teams fought back and forth in the defensive struggle.
When the game was on the line in the back half of the third period UND turned to none other than their points leader Jordan Kawaguchi. In a 4-on-4 powerplay Collin Adams found Kawaguchi on a beautiful feed into space followed by a wrist shot that found the back of the net and gave UND the 2-1 lead.
“It’s confidence,” Kawaguchi said. “Scoring goals is confidence, and I think we have that now. I think we’re tired of tying games and losing games by one goal (last year). We go out there and we want to win a hockey game. It doesn’t matter what it is, we want to win a hockey game, bottom line.”
UND has now won its last seven games at home and will wrap up their home stand next week as they open up conference play against against Miami University, in what many are calling a warm up series for when the Hawks head to Denver to play the number one team in the country the following weekend. A 5-1-1 record shows a great start to the season, but the true tests of this UND team are yet to come.