Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 10 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate.
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With UND's offensive firepower going silent in the Fighting Hawks' latest rough patch, goaltender Cam Johnson's return to the lineup went relatively under the radar. It wasn't the defense causing the most angst, so a lot of eyes have been on the return of star freshman Tyson Jost. But make no mistake, Johnson's availability is just as important as UND's need to find scoring. Johnson's return—a necessity for UND's hopes to making a postseason run—was vital in the Fighting Hawks' 2-1 win over St. Cloud State on Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
St. Cloud State sophomore forward Jacob Benson's return home to Ralph Engelstad Arena got off to a rocky start Friday night. In warmups, Benson stepped on St. Cloud defenseman Jimmy Schuldt's skate and wiped out. "You don't want to screw up or embarrass yourself," Benson said. "That gassed everything." That was no omen, however, for the former Grand Forks Red River star, who will instead be remembered for scoring the tone-setting goal in a 3-1 win over UND in the series opener.
GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota assistant football coach Shawn Kostich woke up at 3:30 a.m. one day last spring and drove to Caledonia, Minn., to watch Zeke Ott lift weights. Ott, still recovering from an ACL surgery, lifted 300 pounds over his head. Kostich didn't waste any time calling back to Memorial Stadium. "You watch that and know this isn't an average high school player," Kostich said. "I immediately called our coordinator and said this is a guy we have to move on now."
About a week before National Signing Day, the UND football program announced a big change. The Fighting Hawks will be changing conferences from the Big Sky Conference to the Missouri Valley Football Conference beginning in 2020. How did that change the recruiting game? "It didn't really change anything," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We're committed to being the best team we can be. The Big Sky plays a little different style as a whole but we know who we want to be. Our philosophy stayed the same. Our focus right now is to continue to be the best we can be."
For the first time since 2011, Grand Forks Central reclaimed the Gambucci Cup and the Knights made no doubt Tuesday night where the Greater Grand Forks traveling trophy belonged this season. Central routed Grand Forks Red River for the second time this season with a 7-2 victory at Purpur Arena. The Knights, who improved to 17-0, swept both Red River and East Grand Forks Senior High this season and outscored the two 22-4. Central senior forward Grant Johnson had three shorthanded goals and added two assists.
When the UND football program announces its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday, the National Signing Day, a few players from the area will be classified under a distinct heading of preferred walk-on. Fighting Hawks football coach Bubba Schweigert said those non-scholarship players annually have a big role in the success of the program.
UND's athletic programs are back on the chopping block, according to a joint statement Tuesday from UND President Mark Kennedy and his Executive Council. "It is likely that we regrettably will need to consider again the number of sports we sponsor if we are to support competitive efforts of the remaining teams," the statement said. According to the statement, UND athletics will be given a target budget savings goal on Feb. 10 and will be asked to submit a budget reflecting those goals by March 15.
In East Grand Forks Senior High's two meetings with Grand Forks Central this season, the Green Wave have only surrendered one goal during the second and third periods. That's still been easily enough offense for the Knights. Central scored four first-period goals Saturday en route to a 5-0 win over Senior High at Purpur Arena.
At UND's press conference Thursday afternoon to announce a move to the Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference, UND President Mark Kennedy thanked North Dakota State President Dean Bresciani for his assistance in the transition. Emails, obtained by the Herald through an open records request, support the assertion that Bresciani aided UND's chances of landing in its new leagues. On the morning of Jan. 6, Bresciani emailed the presidents of the Summit League schools to address the formal request from UND to join the conference.
UND officially will have new homes for its athletic programs in the upcoming seasons. On Thursday, UND announced it will leave the Big Sky Conference and move most of its athletic programs to the Midwest-based Summit League. Also, school officials said UND football will become a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020. The move realigns UND athletics with its regional rivals—North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State.