UND Sweeps Western Michigan, One Win Away from the Penrose Cup

Claire Weltz, Sports Editor

Lackluster starts plagued UND during the first half of the season. Even when the Green and White managed to score first, the team dropped 16 points (five losses and one tie/OT win to not take all three points in the contest). Managing leads has not been easy, but NoDak found its stride. Starting goalie and birthday boy – Zach Driscoll – and his defensive units put together 34 saves and 11 blocks in Friday night’s contest to preserve a 2-1 win with goals from Ashton Calder and Matteo Costantini.
 

“When he’s hot, he’s hot, so watch out,” Ashton Calder said of Driscoll’s performance.
 

The University of North Dakota’s roster has been a rollercoaster all throughout the season. To start, the team had 14 fresh faces – nine freshmen and five transfers. Head Coach Brad Berry explained how that turnover impacted the team dynamic, saying that the three factions (freshmen, transfers, and returning players) have come together. “I think guys are melding together and galvanizing each other through the ups and downs this year,” Berry said.
 

Injuries have plagued the roster too. Captain Mark Senden and defenseman Brady Ferner returned to the lineup for the series against Western Michigan, but the team remained without senior Gavin Hain, top-scorer Riese Gaber, and elite defenseman Jake Sanderson. The defense took another hit when Ethan Frisch took a spill into the boards on Friday and sat out on Saturday versus the Broncos.
 

Being without several top players did not stop UND from sweeping Western Michigan, and Berry attributes that success to the team’s next man up mentality and noting that, “Our guys are maximizing their roles right now.”
 

Zach Driscoll’s birthday bash continued into Saturday’s Senior Night. Although the team was without first line defensemen Ethan Frisch and Jake Sanderson, Driscoll played a crucial role yet again for UND’s defense. Driscoll posted 21 saves, and in the most unbelievable save of the year, the senior goaltender proved he does in fact have eyes in the back of his head. Western Michigan’s Ronnie Attard missed the initial shot, but the puck ricocheted off the glass and over the net to hit Driscoll’s back. While leaning forward so as not to allow the puck to cross the goal line, Driscoll reached behind his back to pin the puck to himself and prevent the goal.
 

Forward Judd Caulfield summed up his goalkeeper’s prowess best: “He just finds a way to make saves, and it’s incredible.”  

 

If goals were hard-fought on Friday, Saturday was a scoring clinic 5-2 win. Luke Bast opened the scoring, and less than five minutes later, Louis Jamernik doubled the lead with a little help from a Western Michigan defenseman. (Please don’t get me started on how hockey credits own goals. My soccer brain doesn’t comprehend this.)
 

The next two goals came courtesy of Grand Forks native Judd Caulfield. His second goal of the night was also his second shorthanded goal of the season. Caulfield has scored six goals in his last nine games against Western Michigan.
 

To round out UND’s scoring, Carson Albrecht found the back of the net on an odd man rush with Senden. Five goals and a win later, attention turned to a potential Penrose Cup win. Both NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton and the trophy were present as there was a possibility (dependent on a Denver loss) for UND to secure the top spot in the conference for the season.
 

Fans stayed in the Ralph Engelstad Arena to watch the final period of Denver vs Omaha provided via livestream on the $6 million, 2,100 square foot scoreboard. The UND players also sat on their bench to view the game; recently arrived in Grand Forks after representing Team USA in Beijing, Jake Sanderson also joined the team watch party on the bench. Denver started the period behind 2-1 but overcame the deficit to win 5-2.
 

Despite needing Denver to lose to Omaha, UND’s pursuit of the Penrose Cup is far from over. “You don’t want to rely on anybody’s bad luck or misfortune,” Berry said. “We have two games left to try to capture that.” NoDak is one win away from securing their third straight Penrose Cup. To do it, they will face off in Omaha March 4-5 where they have two chances to beat the Mavericks.  

 

Claire Weltz is a Dakota Student General Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected]