This past weekend, the University of North Dakota split their two-game conference series with St. Cloud State (1-3 L, 2-1 W O.T.). With the split, UND remains tied for third place in the NCHC standings. More importantly, the Hawks are ranked ninth in the all-important Pairwise Rankings.
Here are three things that stuck out from last weekend’s series against the Huskies.
Traditionally, the Ralph Engelstad Arena has been a tough place for visiting teams to win hockey games. This season, the Ralph has been a house of horrors for the Fighting Hawks, wins at home haven’t come easy. During the 2016-17 season, UND has an 8-7-2 (.529) record. On the road, UND is 7-4-1 (.625). In the last 12 games played on home ice, UND is 3-7-2 (.250).
Before the horrendous 12-game streak, the Fighting Hawks had gone 31-2-2 (.914) in their previous 35 home games. With Saturday’s win, it will be interesting to see if UND again starts another impressive winning streak on home ice.
Gornall’s Game-Winning Goal
Fighting Hawks sophomore walk-on forward Mike Gornall has missed about 80 percent of the games that UND has played during his two-year career. In two seasons with UND, Gornall has played in 13 games, scoring (3g-1a-4-pts), he’s also a plus-two.
Two weeks ago, with all of the injuries that have plagued UND, Gornall was the next man up. On Saturday night against the Huskies Gornall made the most of his opportunity, scoring two goals.
When the final horn sounded, Gornall was the unlikely hero. On Saturday night, with the game tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, the game went to overtime. UND wasted little time ending the game, Gornall scored the game-winning goal 41 seconds into the overtime period sending 11,744 Hawks fans into a frenzy. Checking the box score, Gornall also scored the game-tying goal. Who knew that Gornall’s 13th game in uniform would be his biggest.
In his second ever appearance at the post-game press conference, Gornall took it all in stride, he was happy his team won.
“It feels great, the big thing is that we won,” Gornall said. “Wins have been a little scarce lately for us. It’s huge to get a win in our building going into the bye week, building momentum for the rest of the regular season”
Limited playing time aside, role players scoring important goals in big games has been part of UND storied history and culture.
Gornall’s play hasn’t gone unnoticed, he’s caught the attention of the UND coaching staff. Head coach Brad Berry was very happy to see Gornall score the game-winning goal for the Hawks.
“We were all very happy for him,” coach Berry said. “He’s a guy that comes to work every single day. He’s earns everything that he gets. He does it the hard way. It’s great to see him have a little bit of success here. We needed it. We need guys like that to step up. The moral on the bench was second to none.”
Grab a doggie bag because we're taking this one home. pic.twitter.com/lCOmUvnwQN
— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) February 5, 2017
Get to the Blue Paint
Recently, during a post-game press conference, coach Berry said that his team needed to play less on the perimeter and more in the dirty areas. In other words, his players need to get to the blue paint. He’s also talked about taking away the goalies’ eyes. It’s hard to score on shots from the perimeter without a lot of traffic in front of the net.
At the 14:10 mark of the second period, UND sophomore forward Mike Gornall took that advice to heart, he skated through a Huskies defender to pick up a loose puck in the Huskies crease. Gornall made no mistake as Gornall made no mistake as he buried the puck in the back of the net.
This weekend, the Fighting Hawks have a much-needed bye week. On February 17-18, the Hawks will travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan to take the Broncos in an important two-game conference series. I think it goes without saying, UND’s next series against the Broncos is crucial.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.