The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks entered this weekend’s Western Colligate Hockey Association’s best-of-three series against the St. Cloud State Huskies knowing that they had to win to extend their season.
UND’s Pairwise Rakings were hurt by too many bad losses during the regular season. Hence, they need to win the Final Face-off to qualify for an NCAA at-large bid. Standing in the way first was the upstart Huskies.
Scoring Goals, a Problem for the Fighting Hawks
During the regular season, the Huskies gave the Fighting Hawks all they could handle. Even though UND held the edge in the series 2-1-1 and outscored the Huskies 10-5, they weren’t an easy out. Pardon the pun, the Fighting Hawks were walking into a dog fight and they were looking for some much-needed goal scoring.
More on that later.
Scoring goals has been a problem for the Fighting Hawks this season. However, their defense was very good (1.78 G/PG, 3rd in the WCHA). On offense, UND entered Friday’s playoff game averaging 2.21 goals per game. When the weekend was over they’d improved to 2.32 goals per game.
During the 2015-16 season, the Fighting Hawks scored four or more goals nine times (7-0-2). This past weekend, UND set a new milestone. Not once during the regular season, did the Fighting Hawks score six or more goals.
This past weekend, they scored six goals in back-to-back games beating the Huskies (6-1 W, 6-1 W). For the first time since January 15-16, 2016, UND swept an opponent.
UND Uses Nuclear Option Against SCSU
This weekend, the Fighting Hawks had a chip on their shoulder. They weren’t going to be denied. The goal was to make it to the Final Face-off for a sixth straight season in a row.
UND women’s radio play-by-play announcer Darrin Looker refers to UND’s top line of Becca Kohler, Amy Menke and Meghan Dufault as the Nuclear Option.
No, that’s not a miss-print; UND’s top line scored nine of UND’s 12 goals. On the weekend, combined, the Nuclear Option scored (9g-9a—18pts) and was a combined +27.
Looking at those aforementioned numbers, there’s was no doubt that UND head coach Brian Idalski was pleased with his top lines performance.
“The Nuclear Option is pretty good,” coach Idalski. “They had a great weekend, and you need your best players to be your best players at the end of the year. They definitely have stepped up and accepted that challenge this weekend.
Last Home Game for UND’s Senior Class
This past weekend, eight seniors played their last game at Ralph Englestad Arena. Coming to the arena on Saturday, Kohler realized that Saturday’s game was probably her last at the Ralph. After the game, the St. Thomas, Ontario, native was noticeably choked up and a bit emotional.
“I honestly didn’t think about it till coming to the rink this morning,” Kohler said. “Then at first, I really didn’t have a thought till after the game. Now it’s kind of hitting me. It’s always special to play here. It means a lot. I am happy we got the win.”
It’s simple, keep winning and the Fighting Hawks extend their season. Lose and they go home.
With the sweep of the Huskies, the Fighting Hawks improved to 18-11-5 on the season. Next weekend, UND travels to Minneapolis to play in the WCHA’s Final Face-off.
With the results from around the league tonight, UND will take on @GopherWHockey in the 5pm semifinal game next Saturday at Ridder Arena.
— North Dakota WHockey (@UNDwhockey) February 28, 2016
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.