Western Michigan Sweeps UND

Maeve Hushman, Sports Reporter

After Friday’s shutout loss to Western Michigan (WMU), Judd Caufield swore, “tomorrow is going to be a little bit different situation.” While the way the game started and the final score differed from the night before, the outcomes were the same. On Saturday, January 15th, the University of North Dakota was defeated by Western Michigan 7-6 in the Ralph Engelstad arena completing WMU’s sweep of the weekend. The final shot count was 35-25 in favor of WMU with UND only managing six shots in the third period.  

Saturday night’s game was full of interesting stories. Tyler Kleven, UND’s top-pairing defenseman, was suspended for his hit in Friday’s game. Kaleb Johnson, a Grand Forks native, also received his first career start on Saturday. This was against a WMU team with one of the conference’s best and most dynamic offenses. UND had been shut out the night before, and this was their chance to get one back.  

The game felt vastly different than Friday’s. The referees called more penalties, and WMU quickly got into penalty trouble. UND was able to open the scoring on the powerplay. The powerplay was pointed out as an area that UND wanted to tighten up before Saturday’s game, and it worked; five of their six goals came on the man advantage.  Playing without the benefit of multiple power plays and their failure to convert on the few chances they had hurt their ability to build momentum and score in Friday’s game. Still, scoring was not in short supply on Saturday’s game.  

Early in the game, UND kept WMU out of the crease and away from high danger shooting lanes. They also improved their offensive net-front presence, getting in tight to the net or screening WMU’s goaltender, Cameron Rowe. They seemed to have fixed many of their problem areas from the night before.  

However, it was a season-old story for UND. After making the score 5-2 in the second period, WMU scored two goals within two minutes of each other.  The third period started with a score of 5-4. Five minutes into the third, the score was 6-5 in favor of WMU; UND blew a three-goal lead with only half of the game to play. While WMU gifted UND a powerplay where Ethan Frisch could score a game-tying goal, Carter Berger of WMU struck only 2 minutes later, returning the lead to WMU.  

There were some common threads in every goal UND allowed against. Many times, the players around were caught puck-watching or over-committed by diving down to block a shot that had not been fired or going to double cover the same player, leaving the goal scorers wide open. They were also greatly outshot in the third period once again, only managing six shots, whereas WMU had 13. Repeatedly, this UND team hits a bump in momentum, and they fail to stick to their systems and play the way they planned. 

  “There has to be some mental toughness and some grit as far as when you go through adversity,” Head Coach Brad Berry said in Saturday night’s postgame. “There has got to be a way in the second half of the season here where we were more resilient within our group, coaches and players together as far as making a situation where…you get back on the horse again.”  

The theme of mental toughness, grit, and resilience was the most reinforced in the post-game with Captain Mark Senden and Senior Ethan Frisch both mentioning the importance of instilling those values.  

“We have good flashes in games, and then we get on our heels when stuff starts going wrong.  And you know, no great team does that; they find a way to battle through,” Frisch said.  

Mental toughness is one the most challenging attributes to acquire since it is extremely difficult to simulate a game-day environment in practice. There is no drill for grit like there is for the powerplay or controlling odd-man rushes.  

The trick to ensuring the team keeps up a good mindset during games is to “keep guys positive and keep guys up on the bench,” Senden said. “You know whether some guy blocks a shot or makes a nice play, you know, chips a puck in deep and hits a guy, we just got to cheer for those little things, and make sure guys know that those small details matter.”  

 UND will have another chance to redeem themselves against another conference opponent at home when they play Minnesota-Duluth on January 20th and 21st. In the second half of the season, this team needs every win they can get in the highly competitive NCHC.  

 

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