University Splits Two Game Series Against University of Miami 

Maeve Hushman, Sports Writer

On Friday night, UND alumni and famed former NHL goaltender Ed Belfour took to the ice for his “last shift.” He skated around the rink in his old jersey and pounded his chest while the entire Ralph Engelstad arena enthusiastically roared. On Saturday, the 1982 championship-winning team returned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their victory over Wisconsin. The team gathered and reunited despite the years, filled with legends. Both displays contrasted sharply with the current UND hockey team, who were coming into this two-game series after being swept by Denver and plummeting to 19th place in the USA Today College Hockey Polls. “No one is hungrier than us,” Gavin Hain said during Wednesday’s pregame press conference.  

On Friday night, UND defeated the University of Miami, Ohio, 7-1, outshooting them 24-13. However, despite rallying back from a 3-0 deficit on Saturday night, UND handed Miami their first conference win of the season with a final score of 4-3, even though they outshot Miami 36-16. It was another instance of this team putting up solid, even show-stopping performances one night to give a losing performance the next game. Despite the loss, there was a lot learned about this team in these two games. 

Friday’s win was UND’s most dominant performance since their opening weekend against Holy Cross. Going into these two games, both UND and Miami needed a win. The Hawks demonstrated that in Friday’s game. They were sharp, making clean and effective passes. They dominated possession and got in tight to the net front.  UND showed many flashes of a team identity that had been missing last weekend.  

Another thing UND did infinitely better in Friday’s game was winning puck battles along the boards. They were much stronger on the forecheck and did not hesitate to dig pucks out of the corner. While their play could have been better, it extensively showed growth and learning from past losses.  

Also, in Friday’s game, Ben Strinden had his first career college goal; he went in tight to the net and tucked the puck past Miami’s goalie Ludvig Persson. It was a brilliant and somewhat sneaky move by the young player. It was an excellent move and a perfect way to start his scoring at the college level. Two of the seven goals came on a five-minute major that Miami’s Axel Kulin received for head contact against Nick Portz. The Hawks were able to capitalize off that.  

Jacob Hellsten was also impressive in net on a night honoring the great goalie Ed Belfour, only allowing one goal on thirteen shots.  

In Saturday’s game, Miami opened the scoring. There was a noticeable difference between Friday’s team and the one playing to start Saturday’s game. The most basic being that Hellsten was not the starting goaltender; Drew DeRidder started Saturday’s game. However, the differences did not end there. UND was dropping passes. The crisp possession style they played in the first game was not as dominating in the first one-and-a-half periods of Saturday’s game. Miami went harder into the corners, and the boards and UND were not battling along the boards the way they did on Friday night. They also could not capitalize on a 5-3 opportunity to tie the game early in the first. UND went into the second with an even shot count, and a 2-0 deficit to a team with no conference wins.  

Miami scored their third goal early in the second period. That third Miami goal marked a turning point in this game. UND pulled Drew DeRidder, and they returned more to the style that had earned them so much success Friday night. Riese Gaber opened the scoring for UND on a powerplay opportunity, and Gavin Hain scored his second goal of the series to bring UND within striking distance by the end of the second.  

UND quickly tied the game in the third period, with Freshman Jackson Blake scoring five minutes into the period. However, the joy of the comeback was somewhat short-lived. Miami’s Jack Clement restored Miami’s lead with his first goal of the season. Miami took their first conference win of the season, and UND walked away with another disappointing Saturday night.  

The goaltending issue must be brought up regarding Saturday’s game. DeRidder was pulled in favor of Hellsten, so the coach acknowledged that issue. DeRidder was playing behind a UND team that was not playing their best. Hellsten came in when the effort of the whole team increased. While goaltending was a factor in Saturday’s loss, it is not enough to chalk it up to that and ignore the trend of this team failing to show up for a full 60 minutes of hockey.  

Some teams can get away with starting slow or taking their feet off the gas halfway through a game, but if UND cannot overcome a slow start against Miami, they are not one of those teams. This trend of playing well for half the game or playing well on Friday just to come out flat on Saturday must end if the team wants large-scale success.  

UND will get a break from NCHC play next weekend when they take on Bemidji in a home-away split series over Friday and Saturday. It is another opportunity for UND to demonstrate what they can do and what they have learned from their past weekends.  

 Maeve Hushman is a Dakota Student Sports Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected].