Three Takeaways from UND’s Frozen Faceoff Performance

Claire Weltz, Sports Editor

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — With the Regional games in the NCAA Tournament starting on Thursday, it is officially the best time of the year. Only 16 teams remain in the hunt for the Frozen Four in Boston, and five are NCHC teams. UND enters as a No. 2 seed and will face Notre Dame. (Those poor announcers… UND vs UND and Fighting “Mascot Name 1” vs Fighting “Mascot Name 2”.) Despite UND losing 4-2 against Western Michigan, we learned a lot about how the Green and White can put together a championship run. Here are my three takeaways from UND’s Frozen Faceoff performance.

1. Power Play Units 

On both sides of the ledger, UND hasn’t been at its best. From five-minute majors that disrupt rhythm/tire players out on the penalty kill to not capitalizing on their own power plays, it hasn’t been pretty. (Then again, it doesn’t need to be pretty for it to be a win.)   

WMU scored on a power play to put themselves ahead 2-1 in the second period, but the Broncos gave UND a power play of their own. NoDak couldn’t find the back of the net, and it only got worse when Hugh Larkin slipped past the defense seconds after exiting the penalty box to make the score 3-1 in favor of WMU.

Ness took a five-minute major against Western Michigan while down 3-2 at the start of the third period. UND spent its energy fending off Western Michigan’s explosive offense rather than chasing an equalizing goal. A lot of fans were unhappy with the call, but most would agree that UND can’t put itself in those situations to begin with.  

Those two scenarios show that UND needs to take advantage of its power plays and avoid penalties to keep all five bodies on the ice.

2. Consistency 

Some teams can swing with momentum and pull off the win, but that hasn’t been the case for the Green and White this season. That style of play doesn’t work at a high level, especially not the NCAA Tournament.

Even with UND scoring first, complacency, turn overs, and costly power plays allowed the Broncos to score three unanswered goals. You can’t win a game when you’re digging yourself out of a deficit.

Sometimes North Dakota does find a spark, and in the Frozen Faceoff, the spark was Nick Portz. WMU had just scored off of the Hugh Larkin goal mentioned above, and with a minute left before heading into the locker room, morale was down. Mark Senden found the freshman to get the puck out of the defensive zone, and Portz barreled down the ice to find the back of the net. It was a beauty, but UND can’t rely on those types of goals to win games.  

I’ll grant that it’s hard to develop a consistent playing style when your team began with 14 new players and has been plagued by injuries throughout the year, but it’s March. With Coach Brad Berry’s “next man up” mentality, he’d agree that whoever steps on the ice for UND needs to play their best game.

3. Balance Older Leadership with Hungry New Players.  

Players like captain Mark Senden, Ashton Calder, and Connor Ford need to show up. They have experience playing on big stages like the NCAA Tournament and need to contribute both on the ice and in the locker room like they have throughout the season.

In recent years, the most successful collegiate teams have had age on their side; players who wait to enter the NHL or come back with their extra “COVID year” eligibility are bigger, stronger, and better on-ice decision making skills. UND has several true seniors and fifth year players that have the ability to make an impact during tournament time. (Not to mention that this may be their last chance at a national title…)

However, it’s not entirely up to older players to carry the Green and White – there are talented underclassmen who are ready to prove themselves. In the past month, freshmen Matteo Costantini and Jake Schmaltz combined for 10 points. Of course, the sophomore class is putting in the work too. There’s Hobey Baker nominee Riese Gaber who leads the team with 15 goals and is described by Coach Berry as “an incredibly competitive young man.”  

UND takes on Notre Dame March 24 at 5pm Central Time in Albany. This marks the 38th all time meeting against the Fighting Irish. The game is available on ESPNU.  


Claire Weltz is the Sports Editor at the Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]