This past weekend, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks won the NCAA Midwest regional championship beating the Michigan Wolverines 5-2 in the championship game. With the win, UND qualified for a third straight Frozen Four. This is the eighth time that UND has qualified for the Frozen Four in the last 12 seasons.
While UND has been a regular participant in the Frozen Four, an NCAA title has eluded UND. In eight visits to the Frozen Four, UND owns a 1-8 record. This will be the third time that UND’s senior class has qualified for to the Frozen Four. The Fighting Hawks aren’t satisfied just making the Frozen Four, they intend to win it.
Huskies Bow out to Fighting Hawks
Entering Friday’s game, the Northeastern Huskies were red-hot and had won 20-of-23 games. The Huskies were also unbeaten in the last 14 games going (13-0-1).
The Huskies opponent, the Fighting Hawks, were coming off a less than stellar performance at National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s Frozen Faceoff.
While the Fighting Hawks were the top-seed in the Midwest regional, some of the college hockey pundits had predicted that UND would stumble in their semifinal game against the Huskies. Some pundits predicted that Huskies would win the Midwest regional. Obviously, those predictions wouldn’t come to fruition.
When it was all said and done, the Fighting Hawks had beaten the Huskies 6-2. After giving up the first goal of the game, UND would come back with a vengeance and blitz the Huskies with five unanswered goals from five different players. UND junior forward Luke Johnson scored the game-winning goal at 16:55 mark of the second period.
Cam Johnson Shines in Midwest Regional
Fighting Hawks goalie Cam Johnson loves playing against teams from the state of Michigan. In eight games against teams from the state of Michigan, Johnson is 7-0-0, with a 1.53 GAA and a .949 save percentage.
This past weekend, Johnson was again on top of his game. For his efforts, the Troy, Michigan, native was named the Midwest regional’s Most Valuable Player. During the weekend, Johnson stopped 45-of-49 shots and was (2-0, 2.00 GAA and a .925 save percentage).
Since his return from an early season, lower-body injury, Johnson has been solid in net. Against the Huskies, he stopped 19 shots in the second and third period to preserve the win for the Hawks.
Heavy Line Limits Wolverines CCM Line
Back in February, right before an important series with the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, the UND coaching staff put forwards Austin Poganski, Luke Johnson and Rhett Gardner on the same forward line. The line was named the “Heavy Line” because all three members of that line are big bodied forwards that play a tenacious, relentless, heavy game.
While it sounds cliche’, the Heavy line is miserable to play against. All three members play a 200-foot game and never shy away from physical contact. During their time together, the Heavy line has taken on the NCHC’s top lines giving the opposition little time and space. They’re not just a checking line, they’ve also generated offensive points off the opposition’s turnovers.
“We like being the guys who are hard to play against,” Johnson told the Grand Forks Herald. “I think all three of us can bring a physical presence to the lineup. I love finishing checks and making it hard on the other team’s top guys. I think all three of us take pride in that.”
This past weekend, the Heavy line limited Michigan’s highly touted CCM line of Kyle Connor, JT Compher and Tyler Motte to (2g-3a—5pts) and a minus-seven rating. For the weekend, the Heavy line chipped in three goals and five points. Not many teams have been able to limit the CCM line this season. The play of the Heavy line was one of the reasons the Fighting Hawks were able to be the Wolverines.
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.