Quick thoughts on UND’s exhibition

The UND women’s team played its first exhibition game of the season Saturday night and beat the Toronto Junior Aeros 9-1. It’s difficult to judge the level of competition, but for reference, St. Cloud State beat them 3-0 a day earlier.

Anyway, here are a few impressions from the team’s first outing:

  • Offense is going to be the big question mark for this team, so putting up nine goals is a good start, especially considering the fact that the team was missing three of its top players — Meghan Dufault, Becca Kohler and Halli Krzyzaniak — who are all at the Canadian National Team camp.
  • Gracen Hirschy is going to do a little bit of everything for this team. Hirschy is going to play both forward and defense. Coach Brian Idalski said he’s not sure how he’s going to list her. “She’s a hybrid,” he said.
  • One reason for moving Hirschy up is because UND is so deep on the blue line. With Northeastern transfer Jordan Hampton joining the D-corps, UND had six strong blue liners Saturday night, and it will add Krzyzaniak next weekend.
  • Leah Jensen is finally healthy and that’s a good thing for UND. She’s been injured much of her time at UND, but was one of the team’s top forwards this season.
  • Amy Menke’s minutes were limited, likely to keep her healthy for this week’s upcoming nonconference games.
  • One play that Idalski and the coaching staff is really going to like is Kayla Gardner’s goal. She drove the net hard, went to the far post and was rewarded for it. In the past, not enough players would go hard to the net like that.
  • It was tough to get any sort of read on the goaltenders. All three of them played but faced very minimal work.

Women’s final: UND 9, Toronto 1

Of note: UND playing without Meghan Dufault, Becca Kohler and Halli Krzyzaniak, all of whom are at the Canadian National Team camp. Gracen Hirschy playing forward.

First period

UND 1, Toronto 0 — Gracen Hirschy (Marissa Salo, Samantha Hanson) 6:05. Hanson makes a nice backcheck to break up a centering pass and deny Toronto a Grade A scoring chance. The puck goes the other way with Hirschy, who dishes it to Salo. Salo skates in and feeds Hirschy with a cross-crease pass.

UND 2, Toronto 0 — Shannon Kaiser (Leah Jensen, Jordan Hampton) 6:29. Hampton launches a shot from the point that Jensen deflects behind her back into the slot area. Kaiser is there to finish it off.

UND 3, Toronto 0 — Layla Marvin (Josefine Jakobsen) 12:50. Jakobsen treads an outstanding pass through three Toronto players to send Marvin in. Marvin skates it to the top of the crease and snaps one home.

UND 4, Toronto 0 — Shannon Kaiser (Josefine Jakobsen, Tori Williams) 19:01. Jakobsen, standing at the point, sends one to the side of the crease, where Kaiser makes a perfect tip over the goaltender’s glove.

Second period

UND 5, Toronto 0 — Kayla Gardner (Jordan Hampton, Johanna Fallman) 2:46. Gardner rushed the puck up the left wing and got a step behind the defenders. She got to the top of the crease, carried the puck to the far post and flipped a backhand just inside the post.

UND 6, Toronto 0 — Gracen Hirschy (Samantha Hanson, Nicole Novak) 3:40. Hanson has the puck at the top of the left circle and feeds Hirschy in the opposite circle. Hirschy sends a one-timer past the goaltender for her second goal of the game.

UND 7, Toronto 0 — Amy Menke (Gracen Hirschy, Leah Jensen) 12:07. Jensen made a pass from the bottom of the left circle to Hirschy. She couldn’t handle the pass, but Menke picked it up and threw a no-look backhand on net and it squeezed through the goaltender.

UND 8, Toronto 0 — Josefine Jakobsen (Leah Jensen) 17:42. Jensen, standing at the bottom of the left circle, found Jakobsen camped out on the other side of the crease. Jakobsen tapped it in.

Third period

UND 9, Toronto 0 — Leah Jensen 7:24. After putting on some pressure, Toronto tries to clear the puck out of the zone, but it hits Jensen’s hand in the high slot. Jensen picks it up and shoots. Her shot catches part of the goalie, but still goes in.

UND 9, Toronto 1 — Mikayla Grant Mentis 14:51. Mentis carries the puck from her own end to the center line, where she dumps a looping puck on net that Chipman loses and it goes over her.

UND’s lines

15 Kayla Gardner–25 Leah Jensen–6 Gracen Hirschy
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–13 Layla Marvin
11 Shannon Kaiser–55 Lisa Marvin–14 Marissa Salo
21 Amy Menke–32 Nicole Novak

8 Samantha Hanson–22 Tanja Eisenschmid
4 Sam LaShomb–16 Tori Williams
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

NCAA rejects Karvinen’s bid for fourth year

The NCAA has rejected Michelle Karvinen’s appeal to gain a fourth year of eligibility.

The NCAA originally took away a year of eligibility from Karvinen because she played in a league while enrolled at UND. She played overseas in Finland while preparing for the Olympic Games.

Karvinen originally planned to play at UND that season, but the NCAA deemed her a non-qualifier because of issues with her school curriculum in Europe. She enrolled in order to become eligible the next season.

Karvinen racked up 131 points in 87 games while at UND. She was named team captain her senior season and she is a Dean’s List student.

At the 2014 Sochi Games, Karvinen was named the top forward in the tournament.

With the NCAA’s ruling, UND loses Karvinen, who would have potentially been the top forward in the WCHA this season.

UND women picked fourth

UND is tabbed fourth in the preseason WCHA women’s poll behind Minnesota, Wisconsin and Duluth. UND was just one vote back of the Bulldogs.

Bemidji State and St. Cloud State — the two teams with new head coaches in the league — are picked in the final two spots.

Minnesota, despite losing Amanda Kessel for the season, is the favorite to win the league.

WCHA preseason coaches poll

1. Minnesota (6) 48
2. Wisconsin (2) 44
3. Duluth 34
4. North Dakota 33
5. Ohio State 26
6. MSU-Mankato 17
7. Bemidji State 13
8. St. Cloud State 9

WCHA preseason player of the year

Hannah Brandt, Minnesota (8)

WCHA rookie of the year

Annie Pankowski, Wisconsin (6); Baylee Wellhausen, Wisconsin (1); Cara Piazza, Minnesota (1)

Dufault, Krzyzaniak make U22s

A pair of UND players made the Canadian U22 team roster and will compete in a three-game series against the U.S. this week in Calgary.

Forward Meghan Dufault and defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak will be competing against a number of future Olympians in the series, which should be a good experience before the start of the college season. The teams play Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Krzyzaniak is the youngest defenseman to make Canada’s U22 roster.

Dufault is expected to be among UND’s leading scorers this season. Krzyzaniak should be one of UND’s best defensive blue liners, though she also has the ability to add offense.

The pair snapped a photo together yesterday at practice (courtesy @meghandufault).

Update on UND women’s recruiting

We’re into July. The players will all be on campus next month, so I’ve updated the sidebars, turning the page to the 2014-15 season for both the men and the women.

I threw the incoming recruits onto the stats file and cleared them off the commit list. The women only are bringing in two players — Fargo South’s Kara Tupa and Northeastern transfer Jordan Hampton, who will have three years left.

They have five future commits — here’s a bit of info on them.

Rebekah Kolstad, F, 2015: The Mankato East player racked up 58 points in 25 games last season, leading her team in scoring by a whopping 24 points. She finished 16th in the state in scoring. Kolstad has one year left in high school, then will arrive on campus. The Mankato Free Press wrote a story on her last season.

Taylor Flaherty, D, 2015: The blueliner for Lakeville North has the ability to add some offense from the back end. She had 14 points in 22 regular season games, then tallied five points in three section tournament games, leading Lakeville North to state. She has one seasons left before coming to UND. Her highlight video is pretty impressive.

Charly Dahlquist, F, 2015: The Eden Prairie forward had 35 points in 25 games as a junior last season, leading her team in scoring. In the first round of the state tournament, she scored the tying and go-ahead goal against Andover to lead Eden Prairie to a victory. Her father is Chris Dahlquist, a defenseman who played for the 1991 Stanley Cup finalist Minnesota North Stars. She has one year of high school left.

Kristen Campbell, G, 2015: UND went up to Manitoba to get another goalie. This one is Winnipeg’s Campbell, who plays for the Shaftesbury Titans. She was Manitoba’s goaltender at the 2013 Canadian Under-18 championships and is listed at 5-foot-10, which is tall for a women’s goaltender. She will come next season.

Abigail Stanley, D, 2016: Stanley is from Missouri, which hasn’t exactly been a hot bed for hockey recruits. But I’ve heard that the coaching staff is excited about this get. Stanley is a very offensive defenseman who can pile up the points. That’s evident if you see her stat page from when she played with the St. Louis Lady Blues program. She won’t be on campus until 2016.

Future targets?

It’s no secret that two of the most hyped recruits in the women’s hockey world right now are defenseman Jincy Dunne from Missouri and forward Amy Potomak from British Columbia. Dunne’s sister is an Ohio State commit. Potomak’s sister is a Minnesota commit. They are big-time players, though.

Potomak is a 2017 recruit, but was good enough to play in the WCHA as a top-six forward as a high school freshman. Dunne nearly made the U.S. Olympic team as a 16-year-old.

The younger sister of UND defenseman Tanja Eisenschmid, Nicola, also is a potential target. Nicola is a forward. A local name to watch is East Grand Forks forward Haley Mack. She will play Division I hockey somewhere. You have to believe that her old high school coach, Bemidji State new bench boss Jim Scanlan, would like to nab a commitment from Mack.

UND women unveil schedule

The UND women’s hockey team announced its schedule today. Since they play everyone in the WCHA home and road each year, the only suspense is the nonconference games and times.

This year’s nonconference schedule:

Oct. 3 — RPI
Oct. 4 — VERMONT
Dec. 12 — at RIT
Dec. 13 — at RIT
Jan. 10 — SYRACUSE
Jan. 11 — SYRACUSE

I believe that RPI and Vermont also will play Bemidji State on their trip up here. So, they will alternate nights playing UND and the Beavers.

One thing stands out about this year’s schedule, though. While the nonconference opponents are solid teams (five of the six games are against teams that had a winning record last season), none of the teams will be ranked in the top 10 nationally to start the season.

That’s a bit of a departure from UND’s past nonconference scheduling. Last season, UND played at eventual national champion Clarkson. It hosted Clarkson, a top-five program, the year before.

The two years prior to that, UND played Boston University in nonconference action. The Terriers were a top-five team both years and played for the national championship the first year.

The WCHA schedule is already a bear the way it is, and it’s only going to get more difficult after St. Cloud State hired respected men’s coach Eric Rud to turn around its program. So it might be better not to play such dominant teams in nonconference action, too.

The fact that the nonconference opponents are not predicted to be top 10 teams also means those games are going to be extremely important if UND wants to make the NCAAs. The RPI and Vermont games come right away. No easing into it.

UND does play an exhibition game the weekend prior, but come early October, it has to be ready to go or it could potentially be playing catch up the rest of the year.

Other notable items on the schedule:

  • As previously reported, the WCHA Final Faceoff is in Grand Forks this season for the first time in more than a decade. UND has made the Final Faceoff for each of the last four seasons. Interestingly enough, that is scheduled for Saturday-Sunday. You would think teams would want the extra day off before NCAAs.
  • The NCAA Frozen Four is in Minneapolis, and the Gophers will be the huge favorite to win that.
  • UND closes the regular season at St. Cloud State and home against MSU-Mankato. Those are opportunities to head to the postseason on a positive note. Mankato loses a ton of players. The Huskies also lose some top players.

Kemp to be WCHA women’s commish

The WCHA will introduce Mercyhurst associate athletic director Aaron Kemp as its next commissioner on Wednesday, the Herald has learned.

Kemp has a strong hockey background, having served as an assistant coach for the Canisius men’s team and the Mercyhurst women’s team.

Kemp is a graduate of Canisius College.

He replaces Sara Martin, who retired at the end of last season. The WCHA will have new commissioners on both sides as Bill Robertson replaces Bruce McLeod on the men’s side.

UND women reach WCHA championship

It was deja vu for the UND women in the WCHA Final Faceoff.

It beat Wisconsin in the semifinals in a one-goal game thanks to a great performance by Shelby Amsley-Benzie and it will now head to the championship game for the second year in a row.

Amsley-Benzie stopped 35 shots in posting a 1-0 shutout win over the Badgers on Friday in Bemidji’s Sanford Center. Meghan Dufault scored the lone goal, forcing a turnover, launching a shot and finding the rebound.

That sets up a showdown between North Dakota and Minnesota for the WCHA championship for the second year in a row. That game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday in Bemidji.

UND needs to win the game in order to get to the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota has lost only twice in its last 96 games — both times against UND. Earlier this season, UND split with the Gophers at Ridder Arena when the team was at full strength.

The Gophers swept UND in The Ralph when UND was missing its Olympians.

The Bemidji Pioneer’s Jack Hittinger covered the game for us. Check out his story here.

Friday morning reading

One of the most fun parts of this job is interviewing players in the second half of their senior year.

You start interviewing them after they commit, often times as 16- or 17-year olds. You get to know them a little bit once they get on campus as freshmen. But it isn’t until later in their careers where they really come out of their shells, become comfortable around the media and show their personality.

By the time their careers are winding down, they usually gain a great perspective on everything and they are very interesting to talk to.

This weekend is Senior Weekend at UND, and next weekend, they will play their final games in Ralph Engelstad Arena during the first round of the NCHC playoffs. I will catch up some of the seniors at that time.

But this week, I caught up with one senior on Western Michigan who people around here know well — former Sioux Mike Cichy.

Cichy was always a good quote even when he was back here, but it was good to catch up with him, and in true senior form, he seems to have a great perspective on everything. While we always focus on what’s happening on the ice, Cichy will become the first member of his family to earn a college degree — a significant accomplishment.

Read the full story on Cichy here.

Cichy has bounced from defensive lines to scoring lines this year, filling in wherever he is needed. Not sure where he will play this weekend.

There’s a lot on the line for both teams.

UND is playing for a chance to be the first winner of the Penrose Cup. With St. Cloud State playing at seventh-place Colorado College, UND may have to sweep in order to lift the Penrose.

Read a little bit of what the players are saying about the series here.

According to this USCHO story, it doesn’t sound like NCHC commish Josh Fenton knows exactly where he’s going to be at this weekend.

Western Michigan enters this series coming off of a 3-1 win over Denver — a contest that has Bronco coach Andy Murray confident heading into this weekend. He told the Kalamazoo Gazette that he sees some good signs.

I’ll be really curious to see how this series plays out.

The series in Kalamazoo was pretty much a toss-up both nights. If anything, the Broncos may have outplayed UND. But the two best players on the ice — both games — were Zane Gothberg and Rocco Grimaldi.

The series was pretty physical and I’d expect the same this weekend. Western Michigan may be the toughest team physically that UND plays against in the NCHC this season. It wasn’t easy for UND to get to the paint during last Saturday’s game against St. Cloud State, and that part probably won’t be any easier this weekend.

In the last three years, these teams have played three times. They have all been one-goal games if you take away empty-netters. UND has won all three.

On to this weekend’s picks….

St. Cloud State at Colorado College: Everyone will be keeping their eyes on this series. And yes, even though the Tigers are playing better as of late, I think that UND will need to sweep the Broncos to lift the Penrose. St. Cloud State sweep.

Omaha at Duluth: Forgotten in the Penrose race is that Omaha actually has a chance to get the Cup as well. The Mavs are only three points back of UND and SCSU. Armed with a 7-4 record in their last 11 games, they might just make this thing interesting. Omaha regulation win, Omaha shootout win.

Miami at Denver: The Pioneers are expected to get Joey LaLeggia back after he missed five games with an injury, but they will likely be without Quentin Shore and Josiah Didier. The return of Blake Coleman, meanwhile, has been a big factor for the RedHawks. Split.

Western Michigan at UND: I think we see two more close games this weekend. The difference last time was Gothberg and Grimaldi. The difference this time is Ralph Engelstad Arena. UND sweep.

*******************************************************************************

For the women, it’s now or never.

They know they need to win the WCHA Final Faceoff in order to make the NCAA tournament because of their 1-6-1 record in the month without the Olympians.

Here’s my preview for today’s semifinal game against the University of Wisconsin.

UND has played Wisconsin four times this season, and actually, has probably been the better team overall in those games. But the Badgers have arguably the top goaltender in the nation in Alex Rigsby.

UND has only scored one goal in two games against Rigsby, who is aided by a strong defensive system and defensive corps.

The Badgers are patient, wait for opponent mistakes and capitalize.

UND has struggled a bit offensively lately, so it might not be easy to get that cranked back up against a team like the Badgers. But the Olympians are all back and have had some time to get their body clocks on to a normal schedule.

The fact that UND only had to travel to Bemidji also helps.

It appears that the WCHA wants to start moving the Final Faceoff around. Today, the league commish told the Bemidji Pioneer that next year’s event will be in Grand Forks.

Eight of the last 10 WCHA Final Faceoffs have been at Ridder Arena.

Here’s a preview on the tournament from the Bemidji Pioneer.

That’s it for now. I’ll post if there are any updates this afternoon. Have a good one.