UND looking to help out its goaltenders
The Fighting Hawks host Minnesota Duluth in a two-game series beginning at 7:07 p.m. Friday.
GRAND FORKS — UND coach Brad Berry was asked this week how the coaching staff can help the team's goaltenders remain confident in the face of adversity this season.
The Fighting Hawks have tried all three of their netminders — Drew DeRidder, Jakob Hellsten and Kaleb Johnson — hoping for one to get on a roll. None have yet, and UND ranks dead last in college hockey in team save percentage at .867.
Berry said the best way to give the goaltenders confidence is by helping them out defensively.
"We talked a lot this week about D-zone coverage and eliminating playing on the inside," Berry said. "I think that's No. 1, knowing that we're in this together. The three words we go out to the rink with are 'we,' 'us,' and 'our.' It's not just the goaltenders or just the defense. It's 'we, us and our.' It's collectively as a group. Part of that is being on our toes and communicative and being alert.
"When things go bad with a little bit of adversity, when a team's pressing a little bit or they score a couple goals, we have to dig our heels in. We have to make sure we're assertive and we play with swagger. . . it's got to be next-shift mentality. That goes into our practices here. We've had three really good practices here."
UND hosts Minnesota Duluth in a two-game series at 7:07 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
At the midway point of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference schedule, both teams are going through uncharacteristic struggles and have hills to climb to get into the top four and earn home ice for the NCHC quarterfinals.
UND, 9-10-4 overall, is seventh in the NCHC and No. 23 in the Pairwise Rankings. Minnesota Duluth, 9-12-1 overall, is sixth in the NCHC and No. 37 in the Pairwise.
"What's behind us, we can't control," Berry said. "We can control what's in front of us. We have to make sure we control it with some swagger and some bite."
Berry is planning to juggle the forward line combinations this weekend.
He said that's being done to spark five-on-five offense and improve defensive play.
In UND's last seven games, it has scored 22 goals — more than three per game — but exactly half have come on the power play.
"I think we're scoring some goals, especially on the power play," Berry said. "We're getting very good production there. Five-on-five, our goal production is coming from some of our depth players or our guys in those situations. Some of our top-six forwards are probably not consistent enough offensively, but I think our biggest thing is making sure we're very good defensively with all four lines and having a blend on each of the four lines. So, we've kind of mixed things up."
UND's even-strength goals in the last seven games have largely come from the checking lines or defensemen — Nick Portz has two, while Louis Jamernik V, Mark Senden, Matteo Costantini, Ben Strinden, Jackson Kunz, Ty Farmer, Tyler Kleven and Chris Jandric each have one.
"I think the coaches are just looking for something that's going to win," Portz said about the line changes. "At the end of the day, you just try to build as much confidence as you can with each other through practice. We're all good buddies off the ice, too, so that helps. We know each other. It's just something they want to do to find a spark and get guys going."
A year ago, the teams split in Grand Forks and UND swept the Bulldogs in AmsOil Arena.
"No mater what, Duluth-North Dakota series are always tough, always hard," Portz said. "(It's) two teams that play very similar, two very good teams. The rivalry is still going to be there."
Minnesota Duluth at UND
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).