This past weekend, the University of North Dakota swept their best-of-three series with St. Cloud State (5-2 win, 6-5 overtime win). With the series win, the Fighting Hawks advanced to the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis. They will take on the Denver Pioneers this Friday in the semifinals of the Frozen Faceoff. Game time is 7:38 PM. In two games against the Pioneers this season, UND is 0-1-1.
With the two-game sweep, UND is on a four-game win streak and has won five of its last six games. Last weekend, the Hawks needed to win their first-round series against the Huskies to keep their season alive and are now moving closer to securing an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney.
After Saturday’s series-ending game, head coach Brad Berry was happy to be moving on to the conference championship.
“I want to say congratulations and hats off to Bob Motzko and their team,” Berry said. “They battled extremely hard. That’s what you get from a team he coaches and a team that has that much skill. Their lives were on the line tonight and it showed.”
Here are three things from Huskies versus Fighting Hawks.
— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) March 13, 2017
NCHC Referee Swears at Huskies Player
Saturday, at the 18:06 mark of the first period, the Huskies thought they had taken a two-goal lead when Robby Jackson scored a goal off a mad scramble in front of the Fighting Hawks’ net. After a lengthy video review, it was determined that the Huskies had too many men on the ice. The goal was waved off.
To add injury to insult, Huskies forward Blake Winiecki was assessed a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty. What did Winiecki do to warrant an unsportsmanlike penalty? Apparently, he swore at the on-ice officials. On its face that’s worthy of a two-minute penalty, however, just minutes earlier, that same referee had done the same thing. UND scored on the power player to tie the game at 1-1.
“A referee calls our player a four-letter expletive and then the same guy calls a penalty on us for bad language four minutes later,” head coach Bob Motzko told Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times. “Our guys are livid with that. You can’t explain it. That changes the whole momentum of a game because they score on that (power) play.
Trevor Olson, UND’s Mr. March
On Saturday, with the game tied 5-5 in the first overtime, forward Trevor Olson scored the game-winning goal at the 7:38 mark, sending 10,540 fans into a frenzy. After the game, a humble Olson was all smiles.
Over the course of the past month, Olson has become UND’s Mr. March. The junior from Duluth, MN, has scored the game-winning goal in three of the last four games. Even more remarkably, this season, Olson has scored five goals and four of them have been game-winning goals.
“That was a game that we needed,” Olson said. “A few shifts got away from us in the third there, but we were rumbling around in their zone a little bit. (The puck) went out to John [Johnny Simonson]…to be honest, I was kind of tired. I was trying to get net front and then go to the bench. Actually, I didn’t get all the way there. I just kind of threw my stick out there and it hit (the puck) and went upstairs. It was kind of a cool experience.”
When Olson was asked if he knew that the puck had gone into the net:
“I had no idea,” Olson said. “It hit my stick and I didn’t see anything and I was going to the bench for a change and I saw the ref hammering down at the ice. Then the ‘celly’ started and then obviously, they had the review.”
This season hasn’t been your typical North Dakota hockey season. Since the late 1990’s, UND fans are used to their favorite team winning conference titles and qualifying for the NCAA tourney. In the past 14 years, there have been quite a few seasons where UND didn’t need the conference tourney to qualify for an at-large bid.
This season, it’s been different, as it was touch and go a week or two ago. Now, things appear to be coming around for the Hawks. With the sweep of the Huskies, UND advances to the conference championship for the 15th season in a row. With the win, UND also has won 20 games, 15 years in a row.
There’s one box left to check for the Fighting Hawks: qualify for the NCAA tourney for the 15th season in a row. With the sweep this past weekend, it appears that UND is closing in on another at-large bid. At the present moment, UND is ranked 11th in the Pairwise Rankings.
According to College Hockey Ranked, UND has an 89% chance of securing an at-large bid even if they don’t win a game at the Frozen Faceoff.
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.