First, it was “Penne Rosa!”
Then it changed to “Back-to-back!”
Just in case the trophy they hoisted at the end of the night wasn’t enough proof that UND was the best team at the National Collegiate Hockey Conference this regular season, the Fighting Hawks have a likely NCAA tournament-bound Omaha team with 7-1 dismantled. Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena to prove that point.
They only scored 89 seconds in the game.
They buried three power play goals on a team that killed 50 times in a row at one point this season.
By the end of the second period, they were chasing an all-conference goalkeeper candidate, NHL draft pick Isaiah Saville.
They made sure the UND soccer team wasn’t the only team on campus to score a touchdown on Saturday.
Then they took the Penrose Cup, which the team has affectionately called the ‘Penne Rosa’ since they first won it in 2015, and immediately put it back in the same spot where he has been calling home for the past 12 months.
“I’ve been here as a coach for a long time – as an assistant and head coach – and there have been a lot of good times here, a lot of championships, but this is one of the highest we’ve captured here,” said UND coach Brad Berry. “It’s a special bunch of guys. I’m so proud of them. They deserved all the success of winning that Penrose here. Now we move on to the next one.”
There was a pandemic limited audience of 2,514 at Ralph Engelstad Arena to witness the beating of another opponent in The Ralph, where the team is now 26-1 in the last 27 games, and at least thousands of others who are on TV at home. watched. was the main way to follow UND during the strangest hockey seasons in college.
It started in December in the NCHC Pod without a fan. UND played 10 games in a span of 19 days at Omaha’s Baxter Arena. Despite the fact that much of the Pod played shorthanded because of players at the Junior World Championship and injuries, that event took first place in the standings.
In the second half, as the league shifted to home sites, the Fighting Hawks began to roll, despite constant schedule shifts due to COVID-19 outbreaks across the competition.
“There were a lot of unexpected turns,” said goalkeeper Adam Scheel, who has conceded three goals in five home games this season. “You see the first half of the season in the Pod … nothing like this has ever happened. You get matches moved, canceled, you just have to join the punches and overcome setbacks. I think it’s a great proof for our group. how we have done this throughout the year and how we will continue to do so. “
It is UND’s fourth Penrose Cup in the NCHC’s eight-year history and the 19th overall title of the regular season conference.
“Of all the Penrose Cups, MacNaughton Cups,” said Berry, “this has to be one of the hardest to win, if only because the Pod goes to Omaha, plays 10 games in 19 nights, grinding away … and then finally coming back and be patient. are for the weekends of healthy teams that played in the second half and just stay focused. I think this tops the list for many different reasons due to all the setbacks of the previous few months. “
On Saturday UND (17-4-1) came in waves to Omaha (13-8-1).
Senior Collin Adams had two goals and three points. The NCHC’s top two scorers, Shane Pinto and Jordan Kawaguchi, each scored a goal and two points. Jasper Weatherby scored for the sixth game in a row and added an assist. Tyler Kleven and Brendan Budy each scored one goal, while defenders Jake Sanderson and Ethan Frisch added two assists.
“You could feel it at the meeting in the morning,” Berry said. “We had a 10am meeting and started our day with a team stretch. Some guys skated and we had a few meetings. There wasn’t a lot of laughter or guys were casual. It was quite a businessman attitude. You knew. that we would get the best of our boys tonight.
“They were pretty focused, knowing there was a chance at the end of the night to host the Penrose here. I have to give it to our boys. They were all digging and they were all focused and they were all excited about it. trying to add to the tradition and putting up another banner. “
That flag will be lifted next season.
For now, UND will turn its attention to its next goals.
It will close the regular season with a single game in Omaha this Friday, followed by a single home game against Omaha on March 5. UND defender Gabe Bast and Omaha forward Noah Prokop are suspended from the next game after being disqualified from fighting. at the end of Saturday’s game, when the teams accumulated 98 penalty minutes together.
After the regular season ends, it comes on the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, the only crown UND has yet to win since the league formed in 2013-14. The Frozen Faceoff will be held this year from March 12-16 at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The venue should delight the Fighting Hawks, as they are 6-0 at home this season and outperformed their opponents 28-5.
“I think it’s a testament to our schedule,” said Kawaguchi, who didn’t play the last few shifts on Saturday, but stayed on the bench and insisted it was going well. Obviously, the boys have been fighting all year. It’s another box we checked tonight. ”
Before the Penrose Cup was awarded, NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton listed all the challenges of weathering the global coronavirus pandemic and credited UND for pushing it forward.
“I think it was just our mindset all year round,” said Kawaguchi. ‘We were beautiful … I don’t want to say easy going … but we accepted whatever was thrown in our path. We were prepared for anything. We knew this year would be different from any other. ‘
To this end, UND will hang at least one new banner in The Ralph next season.
“It’s really exciting,” said Scheel. “Every year as the year enters, it’s one of our goals. It’s not our only goal. We have a lot more to do, but we’re going to celebrate.”
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