As difficult as it had to be for a loaded North Dakota team to see this spring’s postseason canceled, almost all of the cogs from last season will dress for the Fighting Hawks again in 2020-21.
Add to that a small-but-talented freshman class, headed by a pair of U.S. National Development defensemen drafted by Ottawa, and UND has an outstanding chance of hoisting a national championship trophy for the ninth time in its history.
Part IV of our seven-part, NCHC opponent snapshot series focuses on the Fighting Hawks.
NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
NCAA TITLES: 8 (1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2016).
COACH: Brad Berry (sixth season, 116-57-23, .651).
2019-20 RECORD: 26-5-4 (17-4-3 NCHC, first place).
RINK (capacity): Ralph Engelstad Arena (11,634), Grand Forks, N.D.
MIAMI VS. NORTH DAKOTA LAST SEASON: 0-3-1.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Dakota leads, 17-7-4.
2020-21 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Two bubble games in Omaha, Dec. 2 (4:35 p.m.) and Dec. 20 (5:05 p.m.).
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: F Jordan Kawaguchi (C), F Shane Pinto, F Collin Adams, F Grant Mismash, D Matt Kierstad, D Jacob Bernard-Docker, G Adam Scheel, G Peter Thome.
KEY NEW FACES: F Riese Gaber, D Tyler Kleven, D Jake Sanderson, D Cooper Moore.
KEY LOSSES: F Westin Michaud, F Cole Smith, D Colton Poolman, D Jonny Tychonick.
NOTES: North Dakota was third in college hockey in goals scored, averaging 3.86 per contest, and the Fighting Sioux welcome back the core of that 2019-20 team this season.
Jordan Kawaguchi was second in the NCAA with 45 points, including 30 in conference play.
Ottawa draftee Shane Pinto tied for the team lead in goals with 16, and his 28 points were the most of any UND freshman.
Islanders selection Collin Adams also recorded 28 points and led the team in game-winning goals (6) and plus-minus (plus-25).
Nashville product Grant Mismash reached 20 points, and Jasper Weatherby (San Jose) chipped in 18.
Judd Caulfield could make a major move this season after the Pittsburgh fifth-rounder went 4-8-12 as a freshman.
On defense, Matt Kierstad led the team in blueliner points with 29, including 23 in 22 conference games.
Jacob Bernard-Docker, an Ottawa first-rounder, went 7-18-15 including four power play goals.
North Dakota added two more Senators draftees on the blueline in Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven.
Sanderson, son of long-time NHLer Geoff Sanderson, was taken fifth overall by Ottawa this off-season, and the 6-feet, 4-inch Kleven was picked in the second round.
Ethan Frisch and Gabe Bast were both regulars in the UND lineup last season and will also compete for ice time in 2020-21.
Peter Thome has a Columbus logo next to his bio, but undrafted Adam Scheel logged 71 percent of the minutes in net last season.
Scheel went 19-4-2 with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. In limited action, Thome posted a 7-1-2 record, a 1.37 GAA and .935 save percentage.
North Dakota won the NCHC in 2019-20, and with the amount of returning talent on this season’s roster, the Fighting Hawks have to be considered the favorite to repeat as regular season champions.
Miami got slaughtered in Grand Forks last season but played much better a couple of months later in Oxford, earning a 4-4 tie in the opener.
These teams won’t play in either rink this regular season, with their only two meetings slated for the bubble next month.
Parts I-III of our NCHC Snapshot series can be found here: Colorado College | Denver | Minn.-Duluth.
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