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UND Splits with Omaha

UND+Splits+with+Omaha
Aspen Jewkes

Head Coach Brad Berry says that the biggest takeaway from the series against the University of Nebraska Omaha was the team’s ability to play the “right way” and close out a game.  

“We learned tonight, as we learned last night the other way, how to close the game and how to be responsible,” Berry said. “That’s part of growth, and we’re going to continue to keep working on that.”  

The University of North Dakota split the weekend series against NCHC opponent, the University of Nebraska Omaha. UND lost in OT 5-4 on Jan. 12 and won 3-1 on Jan. 13 in the Ralph Engelstad Arena. UND earned four of six possible points toward the NCHC standings.  

Friday night marked the return of goaltender Ludvig Persson, who had missed the previous three games due to injury and illness. Another notable line-up loss was defenseman Bennett Zmolek, who was out with an illness.  

Jackson Blake scored 10 seconds into the game on the opening possession to give UND the immediate lead. Omaha answered back immediately, also on their first shot on goal.  

Blake drew a penalty to give UND their first power play of the game, and Owen McLaughlin was able to capitalize to restore the lead. The Fighting Hawks were able to take advantage of another power play, with Riese Gaber potting UND’s third goal of the night. The score after 20 was 3-1 UND with a shot count of 19-7 UND.  

“I thought our start was really good. Scoring in 10 seconds, and our guys were ready,” Berry said. “I thought we did a good job of answering the tie game tweaking to make it three-one.” 

Despite the dominant finish to the first period and the 3-1 lead, the second period was where things started to fall apart for The Fighting Hawks, according to Ben Strinden.  

“We kind of just let them back into it. I think we stopped skating a little bit,” Strinden said. “We just stopped playing to our identity. They’re a good team. Every team in the NCHC is good. You can’t stop.”  

Early into the second, UND would go on the penalty kill for the first time in the game when Abram Wiebe took a penalty for interference. Omaha scored ten seconds into the power play and again three minutes later to tie the game, but Strinden would score on a two-on-one five minutes later to restore UND’s lead.  

“Louis [Louis Jamernik V] obviously got the puck, so I tried to skate as fast as I could off the ice,” Strinden said. “He [Jamernik] made an awesome pass over, and it was pretty much a tap-in.”  

The Mavericks got another chance on the man advantage and were once again able to capitalize, tying the game at four.  

Berry emphasized the role that special teams played in this game, especially in Omaha’s push to tie the game.  

“You’re not going to win too many games if you give up two power-play goals,” Berry said. “Our penalty kill has been good all year, but we gave up two kinds of loose goals… We have to have the habits and the details to be able to cut down on a couple of chances.”  

There was no shortage of good scoring opportunities for UND to break the tie early into the second period, but the score stayed knotted at 4-4 until nine minutes in. UND had an opportunity to win in regulation with a five-minute power play, but they could not convert, and the game stayed tied. Regulation ended tied 4-4 with a three-period shot count of 38-22 in favor of UND.  

“It’s frustrating. Obviously, we think that we shouldn’t have even been in an overtime situation if we just put the game away, which was a couple of games now we’re all we’ve had to do is put the game away,” Strinden said. “We’re going to have to figure out at some point.”  

In overtime, Cameron Berg won the opening faceoff for UND and took a shot on goal. Then Omaha got their turn. Jack Randl scored off a rebound shot to win the game when Garrett Pyke and Ty Mueller crashed into Persson, giving UND their third OT loss in NCHC play.  

“It’s pretty sour right now,” Louis Jamernik V said. “We’ve been talking about it lots, we practiced it this week and last week because obviously, we’ve lost a handful of games in OT… That’s all it is, really, it’s just a couple of small bounces here and there where they’re going to come out eventually. So, we just have to keep working.”  

After Friday night’s loss, there was some tinkering with the lineup. Saturday night, Hobie Hedquist started in net instead of Persson for his third career NCAA start and his first against an NCHC opponent. Tanner Komzak, who was the extra skater the night before, was out, and Griffin Ness put in, and Hedquist found out he was slotting in at a team meeting that morning.  

“KG [assistant coach Karl Goehring] pulled me aside while we were stretching and warming up and told me that I’d be going tonight,” Hedquist said. “Always excited to play.”  

Berry said he hoped adding Ness to the line up would help shake things up.  

“We needed we needed a spark a little bit,” Berry said. “And that’s what Griffin does, he provides a spark. He’s a team first guy.”  

Ness played his first shift in the second period, after a scoreless first twenty minutes of play with Berry hoping that Ness would use that spark-creating ability to find some needed offense for UND.  

For most of the first period, Omaha looked like the better team. They led the shot count and kept UND trapped in the neutral and defensive zones. However, after the first 10 minutes of the period, UND was able to find their game a bit and began to control possession and get some high-danger chances. The shot count at the end of the first was 10-8 Omaha. 

“I thought our team defensively really locked it down in front of me,” Hedquist said. “Didn’t really give them a lot of high-scoring chances. 

On Ness’s first shift, he provided that needed spark plug and scored the opening goal seven minutes into the second period.  

“The puck was just lying there in the slot; I just kind of saw the play develop,” Ness said. “It was a little bit of a wobbly puck, so I didn’t want to shoot it right away. So, I tried to settle it down a little bit and I just brought it to my backhand and kind of opened up.” 

UND harnessed that “spark” to generate more scoring chances and dominate. Despite the positive performance, Ness would take a penalty for boarding, giving Omaha the first power play of the game. Still, the penalty kill, which was a point of emphasis after Friday’s game, stood tall and held the Mavericks off the score sheet. For the rest of the period, UND maintained its dominant position. Shots in the second were 11-7 UND. 

Hedquist felt that Ness’s second-period goal was a significant difference in the pace and tone of the game.  

“That was a big boost for us early in the second, and I think it showed in the rest of the game,” Hedquist said. “After that, we kind of took over, and it was pretty much our game.” 

Omaha attempted to get back in the game, evening it up one minute into the third period, but Dylan James would answer back for UND four minutes later. Ness had high praise for the sophomore forward.  

“He’s so fast. He flies around out there. He does little things right,” Ness said. “He just does everything, and he’s scoring goals too.” 

To win, UND needed to hold onto the one-goal lead and “close out” the game. In the final minutes of the third, UND held onto possession and prevented Omaha from finding the back of the net again. Hedquist thought the third was UND’s strongest period of the game.  

“As a team, we were playing right, and we played defensively. We played, we protected the house,” he said. “That was one of our better three periods, once we got that lead back, we shut it down and didn’t really give them anything.”  

With a minute left, Omaha pulled their goalie, and Cameron Berg scored on the empty net against his former team to give UND the 3-1 win. The shots in the third were 11-6 UND.  

The team was excited for Berg to have scored the clinching third goal, according to Hedquist. 

“That’s the icing on the cake,” Hedquist said. “Obviously, he just wanted to win. He’s a good team guy, and to see him get that goal to solidify the win is very exciting.”  

Hedquist himself finished the game with a .95 SV%. Berry says he sees Hedquist’s performance as positive when it comes to goaltender depth and that Persson remains the starter. He said the decision to put Hedquist in was made to protect Persson’s health and safety as he continues to recover from the illness that kept him out of the lineup last weekend.  

“Ludvig [Persson] is our number one goaltender,” Berry said. “At the end of the day, he’s going to be back in the net.”  

 

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

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