The first sign that UND is in no mood to mess around this season came 39 minutes before Friday’s game.
That’s when the Fighting Hawks took the ice for warmups, revealing that they were wearing their black jerseys -- the ones they usually break out just a couple of times per year and only for big, must-win road games.
UND has only worn them at home four times in the past 20 years.
It was clear that UND wanted to make a statement right away in Game 1 against Canisius College, the team that ruined its shot at making the NCAA tournament a year ago.
"It was just kind of eye-opening," UND junior Grant Mismash said about seeing the black jerseys hanging in the locker stalls. "I think it sent a message to the whole team, to their team and to our fans that we're ready to go and we mean business."
UND showed that on the ice, too, by convincingly beating Canisius 5-0 to open the 2019-20 season in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
East Grand Forks Senior High graduate Dixon Bowen scored twice, while rookie Shane Pinto, junior Grant Mismash and junior Gabe Bast each added one goal for UND, which blew the game open with a three-goal third period.
By the middle of the third, UND chased Canisius goalie Matt Ladd, the same guy that frustrated the Fighting Hawks by stopping 48 of 49 shots in a Canisius sweep-clinching win in Buffalo last January.
UND sophomore goalie Adam Scheel played for the first time in the regular season since suffering a season-ending knee injury at Western Michigan on Feb. 16. He turned in an 11-save shutout, the second of his career.
"You know, those guys handed it to us last year," said UND forward Jasper Weatherby, who recorded two assists. "There was a feeling inside our dressing room that this is our time. We prepared extra hard, not that we don't, but there was an extra emphasis on that and we have to finish the job."
The metrics were all lopsided.
Shots on goal were 40-11 UND.
Shot attempts were a staggering 80-14 UND.
Faceoffs were 37-14 UND.
And, finally, unlike so many times last season, the important part of the scoreboard also was in favor of UND.
"It didn't come easy early," UND coach Brad Berry said. "They played extremely hard throughout the 60 minutes of the game. But what we talked about is staying with the game and doing the things we have to do and staying with the process, and I thought we did. I thought we had a workman-like attitude and everybody contributed."
- Also see: GameCenter - UND 5, Canisius 0
- Also see: Dixon Bowen gets stick back from fan, scores twice with it
It was only the fifth game that UND has worn its black jerseys in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The first time was in December 2002 for a home series against St. Cloud State after Ralph Engelstad died. UND swept that series with 4-3 and 5-4 wins.
The next time was Dec. 4, 2010, for a home game against St. Cloud State. After failing to earn a sweep on Saturday in its three previous home series that season, UND broke out the black jerseys, scored five goals in the first period and won 6-2.
In 2015, UND’s seniors requested to wear them on Senior Night. So, they did on Feb. 28, once again, against St. Cloud State. UND won that game 3-1.
The Fighting Hawks stayed perfect wearing them at home with Friday’s win over Canisius.
"We just walked into the locker room and it was a surprise to us," Weatherby said. "But blacks mean business and it was a pretty cool feeling to see those hanging in the stall."
Bowen said: "It's go time. That's our business suit. So, you know it's on when we've got those (on). We owe these guys from last year. We still have a job to do. We've got one more game to go."
UND will go for the sweep at 7:07 p.m. Saturday night, reversing the outcome from last season in Buffalo.
Friday night was so much different from that series and last season in general.
Last year, UND scored twice on 82 shots on goal against Canisius. This time, 12 of UND's 19 skaters registered points on opening night.
Last year, UND had a four-week stretch where it put a puck in its own net every week. This time, it got one of those bounces. Bast's goal was a centering pass that went off of Canisius defenseman Blake Wareham.
Last year, UND often took untimely penalties and finished fifth nationally in penalty minutes per game. On Friday, it was Canisius that took a costly penalty. Senior captain Matt Hoover was called for a contact to the head major in the second period. Although UND didn't score on the major power play, the Golden Griffins lost one of their leaders for the rest of the game.
"It was a hard game," Canisius coach Trevor Large said. "There are no moral victories with how we want to play. I thought our effort, how we stayed connected and our competitiveness was solid tonight. It wasn't enough. We need to find a way to find some more space to break the puck out and get it through the neutral zone and find some more O-zone time and generate more shots on net. and try to find some offense."
Berry said the coaching staff decided a couple of weeks ago to break out the black jerseys for the game to show the home fans the new threads -- the new Adidas ones are slightly different than the version of the past few years -- and to try to set the tone for the season.
"We call them the business suits," Berry said. "And we needed a business-like mentality tonight."
Notes: UND used the same lines as it did during the exhibition game against Manitoba. . . Canisius played without former Fargo Force forward Grant Meyer, who scored in both games against UND last season in Buffalo. . . Minot products Brandon Schmitt and Nick Krebsbach are officiating the game. Linesman Mike Eslinger also is from Minot. Schmitt, the son of longtime Western Collegiate Hockey Association official Mike Schmitt, previously worked as a linesman, but is working some games as a referee this season.