Hawks count eggs before they hatch

Jack Harvey, Staff Writer

The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team will be taking the trip out to New York City this weekend to face Boston College in Madison Square Garden.

The College Hockey Showdown will feature two of the most storied college hockey programs of all time.

Sailing hasn’t been exactly smooth for the defending national champions. UND has gotten off to a relatively slow start with a record of 7-5-3 to begin the 2016-17 season as they have dropped to the ninth rank in the country.

Last season UND started out the season 11-2-1 en route to winning it’s eight national championships with a record of 34-6-4.

Two weeks ago the Fighting Hawks were able to stop the bleeding that was a six game losing streak with a sweep over NCHC St. Cloud State. This sweep also saw back-to-back shut outs from goaltender Cam Johnson.

Johnson took to social media to express his feelings about the sweep, tweeting “I’m Baaaaaack” shortly after shutting out the Huskies for the second night in a row.  This message boasted confidence from the junior tender but saw mixed messages from fans.

This past weekend saw a different story; they lost and tied to Michigan State. With the loss and tie, UND has won only two of the last 10 despite starting the season 5-0.

Although Johnson isn’t the only one to take the blame, people were quick to jump back to the popular tweet and called the goalie out with tweets questioning him, “are you baaaaack?” one skeptical fan tweeted.

Johnson took the responses in stride and gently reminded the doubters that he did bring home a national championship and he has full intentions on trying to do it again.

Despite the two games above .500 record as we go into December, we have been in this same boat before. Back in the 2013-14 season, UND started the year at a record of 6-7-2. However they finished with a record of 25-14-3.

To start the season, UND has been able to average three goals a game including scoring four goals or more in six games thus far.

UND’s opponents’ goals per game isn’t incredibly far behind, where they have averaged 2.27 goals a game.

“It’s unbelievable how well we play when we’re on and we’re firing on all cylinders forwards, defense and goaltenders,” sophomore defensemen Christian Wolanin said. “Then, we turn it off for a period, turn it off for five minutes and there’s a momentum swing and the energy on the bench dies.”

That same team made it all the way to the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals, but unfortunately lost a heartbreaker to the University of Minnesota with a goal scored with less than a second left of play (0.6 for those who blocked that out of their memory).

The Hawks will look to rebound against on the most elite eastern hockey schools in the country which are the Boston College Eagles.

“It’s got to come from within. You’ve got to have some fire in your belly. We’re in a deep, deep hole right now. We’ve got no one but ourselves, coaches and Sioux faithful to believe in us,” Wolanin said.

This will be the 24th matchup between the two legendary programs that the advantage going to no one as the all-time record between the two is 11-11-1.

The Eagles are no strangers to a national championship either, as they have a total of five national championships, including four coming since the turn of the century and three in the past eight years.

Combined between the two schools, they have a combined 47 Frozen Four appearances and also 24 national championship appearances including the two teams facing each other in 2000 and 2001.

The third ranked team in the country is coming off a win against Northeastern which now has them winning eight of the last ten.

The Eagles have averaged 3.7 goals a game and having opponents only average 2.3 goals a game.

The game will be a tale of two programs with different goals in mind. UND will look to gain traction and get onto another winning streak. Meanwhile, Boston College will look to keep the ball rolling and maintain if not improve its third rank in the country.

“We’re the University of North Dakota,” Wolanin said. “That’s what’s expected. It’s excellence or nothing.”

Puck drop will be at 6:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

Jack Harvey is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]