Men’s hockey wins NCHC championship for second year in a row

Mens hockey wins NCHC championship for second year in a row

The UND men’s hockey team celebrates after winning its second NCHC regular season championship in a row. Photo courtesy of Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student. 

The UND men’s hockey team swept Western Michigan in its final regular season home games, became the outright NCHC regular season champions and clinched the Penrose Cup. This was its 17th conference championship victory, which is an NCAA record.

Friday night the Fighting Hawks could not be stopped.

The team scored eight goals, and Nick Schmaltz’s goal from behind the goal-line was featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter Top-Ten.

It was apparent early that UND brought it’s “A” game, and they did not want to wait until Saturday to get their hands on the Penrose Cup.

“The whole week we had the mentality that we were gonna get this done as soon as possible,” UND freshman Chris Wilkie said.

By the time the Broncos had scored for the first time, the Hawks had already netted five goals.

UND’s dynamic “CBS” line, Drake Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz, went to work Friday night, scoring UND’s first three goals. They were a step ahead of Western Michigan all night.

“We really wanted to dial it in,” Boeser said. “I think we did a good job of that in the first period.”

For the Hawks, Boeser, Schmaltz, Wilkie, LaDue and Sanderson all scored goals. Both Boeser and Wilkie recorded four point games.

After the dust had settled, UND had dominated the Broncos 8-1. The fireworks went off and the Hawks were champions, but they still had a game to play the next night.

Saturday night was senior night. As with all other senior nights, emotions ran high as the seniors were playing their last regular season game of their college careers.

“It was a rollercoaster,” UND senior Bryn Chyzyk said. “The game itself and my emotions.”

While the night was already abnormal for the seniors, it also took a different turn for one freshman.

UND forward Joel Janatuinen’s night started in his dorm room. He received a call shortly before the game started stating that he needed at the arena because Schmaltz could not go after he suffered an injury in the third period the night before.

The Fighting Hawks began Saturday night in the complete opposite way they had Friday night. They looked lackadaisical and unmotivated and after the first period, they were down 1-3.

Goalie Cam Johnson let in the three first period goals and was pulled for Matt Hrynkiw. Hrynkiw played a solid game thereafter by only letting in one goal.

“That’s exactly my job, to just be ready for that opportunity,” Hrynkiw said.

After entering the second period with a two goal deficit, the Hawks scored three unanswered goals to put themselves ahead 4-3.

A WMU goal towards the end of the period tied the game heading into the third period.

The game remained tied until a Caggiula goal made it 5-4.

Poetically, it would be a senior who won the game for UND. Caggiula was able to send a scorching puck past the Broncos’ goaltender and gain the lead for UND. That 5-4 lead was all the Hawks would need after fending off a last minute attack from WMU.

After adding another goal Saturday night, Boeser has put himself in good company. He ended the regular season with 25 goals. That puts him between UND greats TJ Oshie (24 goals) and Zach Parise (26 goals) for most goals scored by a freshman in a single season.

For the third straight year, UND will face Colorado College in the first round of the NCHC playoffs at the Ralph Englestad Arena. The Fighting Hawks have won the previous two matchups.

The series against C.C. will start at 7:37 p.m. on March 11 at Ralph Englestad Arena. Game two will be on the following night at 7:07 and game three would be played Sunday at 7:07 in necessary.

Adam Gunderman is a sports writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]