UND Defeats Bemidji at Home 

Maeve Hushman, Sports Reporter

“I think that we took a step forward, and hopefully we can continue that,” defenseman Tyler Kleven said after the University of North Dakota’s November 26th’s Saturday night 4-2 victory over Bemidji State at home. Going into this game, UND faced adversity; they had dropped out of the top 20 in the USA Today college hockey polls and lost to the University of Miami, OH. They had a somewhat successful night on Friday, November 25th, overcoming yet another 3-goal deficit. Still, they played a complete game on Saturday, outshooting Bemidji 30-20 and coming close to playing a full 60 minutes of their best hockey.   

The game started with a somewhat anticlimactic start. UND won the opening face-off and gained the zone, but they could not get sustained zone time. There was a lot of back and forth with a lot of play concentrated in the neutral zone with neither team getting much-sustained pressure in the offensive zone. UND opened the scoring with five minutes left in the first. The puck was carried to the net by Kleven, but the rebound was collected and fired in the top corner by freshman Dylan James.   

UND continued this scoring momentum into the next period with Riese Gaber scoring just five minutes into the second. That goal gave Kleven his second point of the night and his first college-career multi-point game. The game-winning goal would come off the stick of Louis Jamernick V just 2 minutes later, giving Jamernick his first goal of the season.   

Post-game, Jamernick spoke about his initial frustration over not having scored yet, “I was kind of getting down on myself a little bit…it is tough when it is not going in.” He highlighted Gaber as being a huge motivating influence on him during that period of self-doubt. “He just said it is all about mindset…just reminding yourself ‘I am gonna score.”   

A 3-nothing lead notwithstanding, UND was on fire in the second. They dominated possession and kept Bemidji hemmed in their zone. It was incredible by a hockey team that has struggled as of late.   

The third period continued off on much the same note as the second, but Bemidji quickly got within striking distance, scoring two goals within 1 minute. The first goal came when UND was on the power play; the Beavers scored shorthanded with an unassisted goal by Kaden Pickering and the second came immediately off the stick of Carter Jones. However, the Hawks did not just take this sudden tightening of the score lying down. There was a response in the intensity of play, and Judd Caulfield scored an empty net goal to cement the win.   

Overall, it was a great showing by UND. They played consistently and incredibly well. That same heavy possession style that appeared in Friday’s game against Miami was on full display, and everything was clicking. While Bemidji was playing a tight structure-focused game, they could not keep up with UND’s speed or precision. UND was also strong on the puck and did not back off when the game got physical. They battled along the boards and made smart moves to maintain possession. One player that stood out the most in that regard was Kleven. He not only had a great night on the score sheet but delivered the big hits he is known for, which made a noticeable impact.   

Head Coach Brad Berry attributed the team’s ability to finish the game strong to playing simply, which was something he had previously highlighted as something the team needed to focus on. He saw a buy-in to that principle on the ice and was parroted by players, “your team is doing the right thing when the leaders step up and they talk about doing the right things…Riese Gaber says at the end of the second…keep playing simple.”   

The leadership of the players, especially of Gaber, was highlighted in the post-game, which is a great sign. There is a beautiful quote by NHL Head Coach Rick Bowness, that states “bad teams are led by no one. Average teams are led by coaches. Good teams are led by the players.” The fact that the players are stepping up and leading is encouraging for the direction of this team.   

This team has struggled to find an identity and commit to a system. There were comments about them needing to learn to play together. Above all, this team could not manage to play a complete game. Saturday’s game showed that the team is learning and working on those mistakes.   

“I think we are coming to the point where we are playing more consistent within our game,” Coach Berry said. “I thought, for the most point, our guys got close to the 60-minute game.”   

Another notable thing about the Bemidji series is the emergence of Jacob Hellsten as the apparent winner of the battle for the starting goaltender job. Hellsten stopped 18 of 20 shots in Saturday night’s game and started for both games against Bemidji.   

Berry said of the decision to start Hellsten, “he looks confident, and he looks solid. And that is…all you are asking when you are going through what we are going through right now.”   

Overall, this weekend against Bemidji was a step in the right direction for the University of North Dakota and an incredibly positive indicator for their future this season. If they keep up playing with this level of consistency and commitment to the simple possession style, they will be able to bounce back and gain success.   

UND took on number 3, St. Cloud, at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center December 2nd-3rd, which was a real test to this team’s ability to win games against top-level teams. Hopefully, they will carry the lessons they have learned from this series and that momentum to the next few games. 

 

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