The University of North Dakota hockey team made the trip to Omaha this weekend for their last regular season series of the season, looking to put a cap on what has been a stellar season. What they got wasn’t what they were hoping for as it seemed like there were two different teams playing for UND this weekend. One that lost to unranked Omaha 4-1 on Friday, and one that beat the doors off them 5-0 on Saturday night. This is the type of volatility that you do not want in your squad come playoff time.
Coming into this weekend’s tilt there was still a chance that UND would have to share their Penrose cup honors with Minnesota Duluth. If UND was swept this weekend and didn’t earn a single point, while the Bulldogs swept their series at St. Cloud, they would find themselves tied at the top of the table and thus, sharing the honor.
The 5-0 defeat on Friday night was highlighted by the loss of the second leading scorer in the country and Hobey Baker Award candidate, Jordan Kawaguchi, who left the game halfway through the first period. UND played without Kawaguchi for the rest of the weekend but Head Coach Brad Berry left fans with hope of a quick return.
“I wouldn’t rule him out for next weekend here. He made tremendous improvements over the last 24 hours.” Berry said.
The Hawks were only able to get one goal past goalie Austin Roden and his injury replacement Isaiah Saville, but not for lack of effort. They uncorked 37 shots on the duo, only one finding the back of the net. A redirected shot by Colton Poolman was the only quality amongst the quantity as it found the back of the net.
Omaha must have found the secret formula to beating UND, as they have just five losses on the season, two of them coming against the Mavericks. Let’s hope they don’t share it with the rest of college hockey. Coach Berry must have had some words of inspiration for his team in between their two games because a different UND squad hit the hit on Saturday night. Either that or they didn’t get their balanced breakfast Friday morning.
It took the Hawks just 63 seconds to score their first of five goals on the night. First round draft pick Jacob Bernard Docker led the way with two goals on the night and an assist. Senior Westin Michaud scored his 16th goal of the year. With Kawaguchi sidelined, UND did a great job finding other offensive options.
A change in net was also on the cards for UND as Peter Thome started the game after Adam Scheels four goal performance the night before. It only took 17 saves from Thome to secure his second shutout of the season. The man in net will be a very interesting conversation in the upcoming week as coach Berry will have to pick between two talented netminders for the rapidly approaching playoffs.
With their win Saturday night UND succured the Penrose cup outright and it will call the Ralph home for the next year. With it comes clinching the number one seed in the conference tournament where they will play basement dwellers Colorado College in a best of three series this weekend at the Ralph. The winner will head to St. Paul for the Frozen Four, UND hoping to be the first team in the short history of the NCHC to win the regular season and playoff titles.