This past week, the University of North Dakota Hockey team entered their series against St. Cloud State University in the midst of a six-game winless streak 0-4-2 (.166). The Hawks were playing well but they weren’t rewarded for their efforts. The Hawks didn’t panic, they went back to work and cleaned up a few things.
When the weekend was over, the Fighting Hawks had swept the Huskies in back-to-back shutouts outscoring them 7-0. With the sweep, the Hawks are also back in the NCHC race.
There are times when a player is in the zone. The net looks bigger, and every shot seems to go in. Right now, sophomore forward Shane Gersich is red-hot and is scoring goals at an incredible rate.
In the last three games, Gersich has scored six goals. In the two-game series against the Huskies, Gersich scored four goals. This season, in 13 games, Gersich has scored 10 goals and 18 points, that leads the Fighting Hawks. In his second season, he has already surpassed last season’s point total.
In 50 career games, the Chaska, Minnesota-native has scored 19 goals and 29 points. Gersich’s play has also caught the eye of his head coach.
“He’s playing the right way,” head coach Brad Berry told the media after the game. “He’s playing fast. He’s tenacious on pucks and he’s going into the hard areas. More than anything, he finds the puck once the puck goes to the net. If there’s a rebound, he’s got a knack for whacking it in off the rebound.”
In Cam We Trust
Over the years, there’ve been a lot of great hockey players that have played for UND. During the past 18 years, not one UND hockey team has been able to sweep the Huskies at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Even Last season’s NCAA champions returned home with a series split. The Huskies aren’t easy to beat at home. For the first time since November 27-28, 1998, UND beat SCSU in consecutive games on their home ice.
What’s even more remarkable about the Hawks’ series sweep is that they shut them out in back-to-back games. According to Mick Hatten, the Huskies beat writer, SCSU has never been shutout in both games of a series in the Division I era. Breaking it down further, the Huskies haven’t been shutout in back-to-back games since the 1993 season.
Speaking of players that are in the zone. This past weekend, junior goalie Cam Johnson’s play was one of the main reasons the Hawks secured a sweep against the Huskies. How good was the goaltending? Johnson was nothing short of amazing as he stopped all 62 shots that he faced stopping numerous grade-A scoring chances.
After last weekend, Johnson’s numbers have improved drastically. For the season, Johnson is 7-4-2, 2.07 GAA and .915 save percentage. During the month of November , Johnson is 2-2-2, 1.80 GAA, .934 save percentage. Breaking it down further, in the last four games, Jonson has been almost unbeatable going 2-1-1, 0.99 GAA, and .964 save percentage.
Improved Special Teams Play
Entering their weekend series against the Huskies, the Hawks were struggling on special teams. The numbers weren’t good. The Fighting Hawks were ranked 43rd nationally on the power play 7/51 (13.7). The penalty kill was even worse, they were ranked 51st nationally 43/55 (78.2).
In 11 games, the Hawks had given up 3 shorthanded goals, that ranks them 55th nationally.
Last week, the Hawks spent some time working on their special teams play in practice. That hard work appears to have paid off. Against the Huskies, the Hawks killed all eight of the Huskies’ power play opportunities. On the power play, the Hawks went 3-8.
After the weekend, UND is now ranked 31st nationally on the power play 10/59 (16.9) and ranked 39th nationally on the penalty kill 51/63 (81.0). Finally, the opposition is cashing in on 18.8 percent of their power play opportunities. For those keeping track, that’s an improvement in all three areas.
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.