OMAHA, Neb. -- National Collegiate Hockey Conference commissioner Josh Fenton flew from Colorado to Minnesota on Saturday morning, March 7.
He picked up the Penrose Cup and brought it to AmsOil Arena in case Minnesota Duluth earned a share of it.
But UND was in no mood to share.
The Fighting Hawks ended the regular season the exact same way it started it -- by throwing on their black jerseys -- their business suits -- going to work and winning a 5-0 game in impressive fashion.
The opponent was Canisius on a Friday night in October, launching a five-month run to the NCHC title.
The opponent was Omaha on a Saturday night in March, a game that ended Minnesota Duluth’s hopes of sharing the title, which would have been the Bulldogs’ first since 1993.
Instead, UND’s 5-0 win over the Mavericks in Baxter Arena gave the Fighting Hawks an outright league championship -- three points ahead of Minnesota Duluth -- and clinched the No. 1 seed for the NCHC tournament, which begins next weekend.
"Huge," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Obviously, last night we left a little bit on the table. I thought our effort was good right from the drop of the puck. It means a lot to win the Penrose, especially outright. It's a special thing. It took until the last game of the season, but that's our league. That's how hard and heavy it is. I'm really proud of our guys battling up. We were undermanned a little tonight in a few different areas. I thought our guys did a good job pulling the rope hard -- each and every one of them."
UND will host Colorado College in a best-of-three series beginning at 7:37 p.m. Friday in Ralph Engelstad Arena. It marks the fourth time in seven years of the NCHC that UND has hosted the Tigers in the first round.
UND finished the regular season at 26-5-4 overall and 17-4-3 in NCHC play. Omaha, which has yet to win a series against UND in program history in 18 tries, fell to 14-17-5 overall and 8-13-3 in NCHC play.
"It was a good bounce-back game for us," UND captain Colton Poolman said. "We took a good step in the right direction. To win it outright is another good feather in the cap, but it's onto the next series and next games now."
Playing without Hobey Baker Award candidate and leading scorer Jordan Kawaguchi, who was injured in the first period of Friday’s game, UND used two goals and an assist from defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker and goals by Westin Michaud, Poolman and Cole Smith to seal the victory.
There's better news yet: Berry said Kawaguchi will definitely be back this season.
"One-hundred percent," Berry said. "I wouldn't rule him out for next weekend here. He made tremendous improvements over the last 24 hours."
Junior goalie Peter Thome continued his outstanding second half of the season by posting a 17-save shutout as he played with the lead from the start.
Playing with the lead
One night after scoring just a single goal, the Fighting Hawks got on the board just 63 seconds into the game.
After a neutral zone faceoff, UND rookie forward Shane Pinto chipped the puck behind a Maverick defenseman to spring Michaud on a three-on-one rush. Michaud took the shot himself from the left circle and beat Omaha goalie Austin Roden high glove.
"I think it started from the first shift," Poolman said. "We were more physical than last night. That was a big key the coaches wanted to see from us -- just to hit the body and cause some turnovers and hopefully play a little more behind their D-men. I thought we did that tonight."
The Fighting Hawks added to their lead in the final minute of the opening period with their third shorthanded goal of the season.
Dixon Bowen made a play in the defensive zone to chip a puck to Smith, who beat an Omaha defender in the neutral zone, starting a three-on-two rush. Smith took the shot from the left circle. Roden made the save, but Smith picked up the rebound, circled the net and threw a puck to the top of the crease, where it went off of Poolman’s skate and past Roden.
UND made it 3-0 early in the second period when Harrison Blaisdell dug a puck out of the slot, wheeled around the left circle and fed Bernard-Docker at the point. The sophomore defenseman blasted a shot through screens by Dixon Bowen and Gabe Bast and between the legs of Roden.
The Fighting Hawks tacked on two late power-play goals to finish the scoring.
One was a Smith tip of a Grant Mismash shot and the other a Bernard-Docker snipe.
Omaha played the game without starting goalie Isaiah Saville, who was injured in the first period Friday. In his place, Roden stopped 23 of 28 shots.
Notes: In addition to Kawaguchi’s absence, Ethan Frisch also was held out with an injury he suffered Friday. . . UND wore its black jerseys for the eighth time this season.They are 7-1 in them. . . it was Senior Night for Teemu Pulkkinen, Zach Jordan, Tristan Keck, Dean Stewart and Ryan Jones.
UND 5, Omaha 0
First period -- 1. UND, Westin Michaud 8 (Shane Pinto 12) 1:03; 2. UND, Colton Poolman 4 (Cole Smith 7, Dixon Bowen 10) 19:12 (sh)
Second period -- 3. UND, Jacob Bernard-Docker 8 (Harrison Blaisdell 10, Gabe Bast 3) 2:48
Third period -- 4. UND, Cole Smith 11 (Grant Mismash 12, Bernard-Docker 18) 13:23 (pp)
Penalties -- Nate Knoepke, OMA, roughing, 1:21 first; Mark Senden, UND, high sticking, 4:42 first; Noah Prokop, OMA, hooking, 7:28 first; Jonny Tychonick, UND, roughing, 17:14 first; Tyler Weiss, OMA, roughing, 7:35 second; Casey Johnson, UND, roughing, 7:35 second; Ryan Jones, UND, roughing, 7:35 second; Collin Adams, UND, holding, 9:03 second; Zach Jordan, OMA, indirect contact to the head, 15:51 second; Grant Mismash, UND, checking from behind minor, 5:28 third; Joey Abate, OMA, unsportsmanlike conduct, 5:28 third; Jason Smallidge, OMA, roughing, 11:27 third; Noah Prokop, OMA, holding, 14:24 third; Martin Sundberg, OMA, slashing, 15:15 third
Goalie saves -- UND: Peter Thome 6-5-6 -- 17; OMA: Austin Roden 7-9-7 -- 23
Penalties-minutes -- UND 5-10, OMA 9-18
Power plays -- UND 2-8, OMA 0-4
Referees -- Dan Dreger and Tom Sterns
Linesmen -- Scott Fitzpatrick and Nate Stanton