Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Gameday: Just Like Old Times?

UND defenseman Derek Forbort battles along the boards with a UAA skater from in Anchorage, Alaska
in 2011 during the last time the Green and White and Seawolves played each other in Sullivan Arena. (Photo: UND Sports)
Alright, so this time is counts.

We've officially reached college hockey season as the No. 7 University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks travel to a place well known by the program, but not much by the current team.

The Hawks are on the road to faceoff with long-time Western Collegiate Hockey Conference foe the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves Friday and Saturday from Sullivan Arena.

These two teams have a long history together, but haven't played each other since the 2012-13 season as North Dakota left to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference before the 2013-14 campaign. UND hasn't played in Sullivan Arena since 2011.

Since then, UAA has struggled to perform in the WCHA having continued to finish near the bottom of the conference and dead last the past two years. UND, on the other hand, has continued its run at or near the top of the college hockey world, making the NCAA tournament every year since 2001 and winning its 8th National Championship in 2016.

So, will it continue to be like old times for this series that has seen UND dominate to a 46-17-5 clip all-time, or is the dawn of a new season and the task of the Hawks traveling nearly 3,000 miles for a pair of games enough to sway the tide for UAA?

Let's see what DDC thinks will stand out this weekend in Alaska in his weekly "Who? What? How?" series preview.


Players to Watch

Sr. G Olivier Mantha

Alaska-Anchorage (2016-17 scoring):

Sr. F, Matt Anholt, 5 goals, 17 assists -- 22 points; Sr. F, Tad Kozun, 5g, 14a -- 19 pts; Sr. D, Jarrett Brown, 5g, 10a -- 15 pts; Jr. F, Jonah Renouf, 3g, 6a -- 9 pts; Fr. F, Cameron Trott, 50 points in two seasons of Junior A hockey; Sr. G, Olivier Mantha, 7-18-4, 2.82 goals against average, .913 save percentage.

UND (2016-17 scoring):

Jr. F, Shane Gersich, 21g, 16a -- 37 pts; Sr. F, Austin Poganski, 12g, 13a -- 25 pts; So. D, Christian Wolanin, 6g, 16 a -- 24 pts; So. F, Rhett Gardner, 8g, 13a -- 21 pts; Fr. F, Grant Mismash, 2nd Round NHL draft pick; Sr. G, Cam Johnson, 20-13-3, 2.38 GAA, .903 SV PCT.


Standout Stats

Alaska Anchorage:

The Seawolves were last in the NCAA in scoring last season, recording just 1.74 goals per game and were second to last in power play goals at 0.44 per game.

Senior Matt Anholt leads UAA returners with 22 points (5g, 17a) last season.

Senior netminder Olivier Mantha has posted a .903 save percentage of better in his of his three seasons with the Seawolves.


UND leads the all-time series with UAA at a 46-17-5 mark. This weekend marks the first time the two long-time WCHA foes have played since October 26-27, 2012.

North Dakota has made the NCAA tournament in 15-straight seasons.

The Fighting Hawks return 7 of their top 10 scorers from last season, but lose 99 combined points from Tyson Jost (Colorado), Brock Boeser (Vancouver) and Tucker Poolman (Winnipeg), who all left for NHL contracts and are on opening-night rosters for their respective teams.


How’d they get here?

UAA won their exhibition matchup against Simon Fraser University, 6-1. Senior forward Austin Azurdia had a hat trick and an assist in the win..

No. 7 UND topped Manitoba 6-2 in exhibition fashion as sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff notched two goals while all six rookie skaters tallied at least a point.

The Green and White are 6-0 in their last six games against Alaska Anchorage.
UND rookies Jordan Kawaguchi (29) and Nick Jones
converge on a Manitoba skater. (Photo: GF Herald)

The Pick

Well, this is kind of an odd one.

A non-conference series (and we know how important these are to the Pairwise) that's 3,000 miles from home with a team in UND that's chocked full of new faces that are still trying to get to know each other while replacing three NHL players from last season's roster.

Sounds easy, right?

Well, DDC thinks it will end up being that way, but it may take a minute. UAA has a nice group of returning players and are going to be fired up at home against an old-time foe, but frankly put, they have been at the bottom of the WCHA for the past two years for a reason.

The Hawks look like they are going to bring a depth that the Seawolves just cant hang with for a 60-minute game. With a group of returning standouts like skaters Shane Gersich, Austin Poganski, Christian Wolanin and netminder Cam Johnson, UND is simply more talented than UAA.

With that complement of talented returners, the Green and White showed in the exhibition that their rookies can play, too. Freshmen Grant Mismash and Jordan Kawaguchi both potted goals in their first games in a UND sweater while all six rookies tallied at least a point in a 6-2 drubbing of Manitoba. Of course, this is only an exhibition, but the rookies certainly passed the eye test last week against the Bisons.

Travel shouldn't be an excuse for the Fighting Hawks as they arrived three days in advance for this series and are the more talented team.


Thanks for reading! Check back next week to see how the Green and White fared.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Roses and Thorns: Starting Hoff on the Right Foot

UND freshmen Matt Kierstad and Grant Mismash (16) celebrate a goal on Saturday from the Ralph Engelstad Arena
in Grand Forks. All six rookie skaters notched at least one point as the Fighting Hawks rolled
the Manitoba Bisons 6-2. (photo: GF Herald)

It'd been six months since we saw our boys in Green and White on the ice for competitive hockey and after a 6-2 exhibition drubbing of the Manitoba Bisons, the game was less about the score and more about who did the scoring for the Fighting Hawks.

UND got at least one point from all six of its rookie skaters, including a goal and an assist from second-round pick Grant Mismash and two assists from Collin Adams while the entire group looked like the college game would suit them fine.

Not to be undersold, the Hawks got a big performance from a returning skater in Ludvig Hoff who, centering the top line for the first time in his career, potted two goals leading the top group with Shane Gersich and Austin Poganski to a +6 performance.

Depth was the story before the start of the season and that held through in the exhibition as all four foward lines and two of three defensive pairings notched points against the Bisons.

It was a good start for the Green and White and here's what stood out to DDC in 2017-18's first installment of Roses and Thorns.


So. F, Ludvig Hoff
netted two goals
against Manitoba

No. 1 -- New Man in the Middle?

For the past two seasons before the start of 2017-18, UND's top line featured a dynamic, game-breaking name that centered the Green and White's clear best group. With Nick Schmaltz and Tyson Jost, both now in the NHL, UND has to find someone new to find that role. With two goals, including laser from the spot to open the scoring for the Fighting Hawks, sophomore Ludvig Hoff has firmly planted his name on the line chart, to start this year. Centering Shane Gersich and Austin Poganski, Hoff looked very much in control as the trio notched four points and were a combined +6.

No. 2 -- Newbies Step Right In

As DDC mentioned in his previous of this season, UND's season could come down to its depth and having a contributions from the crop of new faces would be a big development. Well, at least for this night, this rang true as all six rookie skaters notched a point. Standing out from that group were Grant Mismash with a goal and an assist. Mismash looked like he belonged with heady vision and a couple fantastic moves with his hands. Jordan Kawaguchi also scored a nice goal off a terrific pass from fellow freshman Josh Rieger from cross ice. This will be a group that is tremendously important to UND this season and the exhibition was a great start.

No. 3 -- Top Players Start Quick

Jr. D, Christian Wolanin
recorded a goal and an assist

Not to be forgotten during the underclassmen bonanza, the Green and White got great performances from a few established stalwarts. Junior Shane Gersich looked incredible, skating and creating chances all night while adding and assist while fellow Junior Christian Wolanin netted a goal and an assist. Arguably UND's two best pure playmakers, Gersich and Wolanin looked ready to start the season on a high note as both saw significant special team's time, as well. Wolanin quarterbacked the Power Play and looked calm and collected in doing so. Not to be left out, senior netminder Cam Johnson played well, too. While he let up two goals, one was on a clean breakaway after a turnover and the other on a bit of an off bounce. Johnson made a couple of key saves early in the second, as well. Good performance from some of UND's key players in this one.


No. 1 -- Bad Turnovers

Turnovers were a bit of a problem last year and unfortunately, this hasn't wholly changed following the exhibition. Whether it's trying to go too quickly out of transition or completely missing open sticks on passes, UND had couple bad lapses against the Bisons. Sure, this can be attributed to knocking off a bit of rust, but it's a trend that has roots from 2016-17. Here's to hoping that's left behind before the Hawks travel up to Alaska.

Thanks for reading and check back later this week as DDC previews the Green and White traveling to Anchorage to face off with the Seawolves.