North Dakota playing as one unit, ‘knowing that everybody is doing their job instead of doing something outside of your job’

28 Nov 19: Matt Kiersted (North Dakota - 3) The University of Minnesota Golden Gopher host the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks in a non-conference matchup at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis, MN. (Jim Rosvold)
Matt Kiersted has collected four goals and 23 points from the North Dakota blue line this season (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Good hockey teams know how to redeem themselves following a setback.

Great teams don’t worry about having that happen too often.

This season’s North Dakota team is comfortably somewhere on that line, with the Fighting Hawks looking at holding the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament if it began today.

After missing the tournament in back-to-back years, UND picked up only its third loss this season on Friday at No. 11 Minnesota Duluth.

In opening a series that USCHO featured last week, UND looked to continue a hot streak that had seen the Hawks lose just once in their last 20 games dating back to Oct. 19.

Friday’s game looked to be going UND’s way early as the Hawks led 3-1 six minutes into the second period. Minnesota Duluth used goals from its special teams units to tie the game heading into the third. The Bulldogs then piled on three third-period goals that helped snap a three-game winless skid.

UND turned the tables Saturday, coming from behind in the third period to win 3-2. Westin Michaud opened the scoring for the Hawks for the second consecutive night, but although Duluth’s Luke Loheit and Scott Perunovich scored two goals four minutes apart in the third period, UND would snatch the points. Matt Kiersted leveled the game at 10:24, and Jonny Tychonick scored the eventual game-winner 94 seconds later.

Kiersted’s tying goal marked his fourth point of the weekend and bumped his multi-point game streak to four. UND goalie Peter Thome, making his second start of the season, finished with 22 saves.

During his weekly press conference on Monday, UND coach Brad Berry was asked about the Hawks’ ability to make adjustments after running into problems like what they faced Friday.

“On Friday night, we led the game and then we gave up a shorty and they scored a power-play goal, so two specialty team goals to tie it, and then the critical thing in hockey, you never want to give up a goal in the last minute of a period,” Berry said. “We did that (on Nick Swaney’s go-ahead goal with 50 seconds left in the second period), so there’s a lot of things that went into their momentum. They’re a good team, they earned everything they got, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.

“When we got into the third period on Friday night, we chased the game and we didn’t chase the game the right way. When we won games from behind earlier in the year, it was when everybody was following the structure, believing and having patience in your game and then coming back. We tried to do a little bit of one-on-one hockey, meaning that guys tried to do a little bit too much, and that’s part of caring and competing, but we didn’t play as a team in the third, which kind of opened it up a little bit.

“On Saturday night, we had a lead going into the third, they got the lead (and) we were more patient and disciplined in our game. We had belief that we can come back as (six) guys playing on the ice, so I think there was a little bit more patience and confidence of knowing that everybody doing their job instead of doing something outside of your job.”

UND isn’t out of the woods with regards to the NCHC’s regular-season title chase, but the Fighting Hawks are six points clear heading into a home series this weekend against Colorado College. The series will likely have added meaning for Michaud, a UND graduate student who collected 29 goals and 62 points over three seasons at CC.

Two weeks from now, UND welcomes No. 4 Denver to Grand Forks, N.D., for what currently are the Hawks’ last two regular-season games against ranked opponents. UND then finishes at St. Cloud State, at home against Western Michigan and on the road again at Omaha.

Denver’s Olischefski nets league, national honors

Kohen Olischefski, a junior forward for Denver, earned NCHC and NCAA awards earlier this week for his performances in two wins last weekend at Miami.

Olischefski recorded three goals and two assists in the two-game sweep. That saw him earn NCHC offensive player of the week honors Monday, and on Tuesday he was named as the NCAA’s second star of the week.

Bussi impresses for WMU

Western Michigan freshman goalie Brandon Bussi made 44 saves in a pair of 6-2 Bronco wins last weekend against St. Cloud State. Bussi was the NCHC’s only goaltender to record two wins in that span.

Bussi, who has now started all but one game this season for Western, now has a .909 save percentage and 2.73 GAA on the year.