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Six notes from UND's Frozen Faceoff semifinal overtime win against Denver

The Fighting Hawks reached the league championship game for the first time since 2017.

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Gavin Hain is celebrated by his teammates after his game winner in overtime against Denver Monday in the Frozen Faceoff semi-final. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND beat Denver 2-1 in overtime in Monday night's National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff semifinal game to earn a trip to Tuesday's championship against St. Cloud State. Here are six notes from the Fighting Hawks' semifinal victory:

Fans make their presence known

College hockey teams have become accustomed to playing without fans this season.

UND's first 14 games of the year were played behind closed doors. Not even family members were permitted to attend.

Fans were re-introduced on a limited basis in mid-January -- UND is allowing 25 percent capacity or roughly 3,000 people -- but no crowd has been as loud as Monday night's.

Although the Fighting Hawks didn't score until 58 minutes, 27 seconds into the game, the fans were constantly trying to will the team into the game, chanting and giving standing ovations for any sustained offensive pressure.

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When the game went to overtime, most of the 2,509 stood until Gavin Hain buried the winner.

"I thought North Dakota let everyone come. I thought it was a full arena," UND forward Jasper Weatherby said. "You could have fooled me. Those guys are unbelievable. My mom was able to come up. Great to have her in the stands, too. I know she's doing her best."

After the game, Ralph Engelstad Arena left its box office open for fans to purchase tickets to Tuesday night's championship. The line wrapped around the lobby.

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UND goalie Adam Scheel stops a point-blank shot by Denver's Slava Demin in the second period Monday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Hain joins multiple OT-winner club

Hain, a junior forward from Grand Rapids, Minn., joined rare company at UND by scoring his second overtime winner.

The first came last season at Western Michigan, when he snapped a shot from the right circle past goaltender Brandon Bussi to give UND a 1-0 win. On Monday night, he got another one by hammering a one-timer past Denver goaltender Magnus Chrona.

Only two players in program history have scored more than two overtime winners -- UND senior forward Jordan Kawaguchi (five) and the program's all-time leading scorer, Greg Johnson (three).

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Hain joined some pretty good company with two overtime winners.

That group includes Drake Caggiula, Matt Frattin, Drew Stafford, Brandon Bochenski, Lee Goren, Justin Duberman, Dean Barsness, Phil Sykes, Glen White, Bob Duncan and Roger Bamburak.

"Obviously, it was long-awaited," Hain said of his goal Monday night. "We battled the whole game. We believed and we knew it was coming our way."

Hain was moved onto the second power-play unit Monday due to an injury to forward Mark Senden, but Hain already had some chemistry with Weatherby because they recently played on a five-on-five line together.

"We've been getting chances as a line when we've been together," Hain said. "(Weatherby) said the curse is broken between our line and me and him, so it felt good."

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UND players swarm Gavin Hain after his game-winner in overtime to defeat Denver 2-1 to advance to Tuesday's NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND finally finishes a comeback

The first goal has often decided UND games this season.

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The Fighting Hawks entered Monday night's semifinal 18-0-0 when scoring first, 1-5-1 when allowing the first goal of the game.

But for just the second time this season, UND rallied for a win. The other time was Dec. 4 against Denver in the NCHC Pod. That game also went to overtime.

"It's one of those things where, analytically, things weren't going right as far as scoring goals," UND coach Brad Berry said. "I thought we did a lot of good things. We didn't play in our end a whole lot other than parts of the second period. But that's the game of hockey. It all evens out in the end sometimes.

"It was a little bit of ups and downs, a little bit of adversity in that game, but the guys found a way to band together and bring it home."

Monday marked the first time this season UND won when trailing after two periods.

"The biggest thing that resonated in that locker room is the belief that we can do it," Weatherby said. "We'll take that experience into the tournament, into the next game if we need to. It's not over until it's over. We're really confident in our locker room that we have a great team from top to bottom. It means a lot to play in a championship game tomorrow. It's great for us.

"We've got St. Cloud, an unbelievable team. You can't draw it up any better. It's just going to lead to more experience for us playing meaningful games."

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UND's Jasper Weatherby reacts to his tying goal late in the third period to send the game to overtime against Denver Monday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Scheel and Chrona shine

Chrona, Denver's 6-foot-6 sophomore goaltender, had been up-and-down this season, but turned in perhaps his best performance of 2020-21 in the loss.

Chrona stopped 30 of 32 shots, only allowing Hain's one-timer and Weatherby's re-direct in front.

He was particularly excellent in the third period, robbing Jordan Kawaguchi and Shane Pinto at different points. He also stopped UND's Judd Caulfield on a point-blank shot in overtime.

"Magnus was a stud tonight," Denver coach David Carle said. "He had to be really good early and then he had to be really good in the third. I thought his explosiveness, his urgency, his battle to find and fight for pucks. . . and listen, they had some great chances in the third that they didn't score on. Obviously, he was a big part of it. Pucks were sticking to him. He was competing on second- and third-effort pucks around him.

"To me, he was good early when North Dakota typically has a push and he was really good late when I felt like their legs and their directness started to take the game over a little bit."

Although UND junior goalie Adam Scheel only made 17 saves for the game, he was particularly sharp in the second period, keeping it a one-goal game as Denver controlled the 20-minute stretch.

Scheel stopped two breakaways for Denver in the second period -- one by forward Ryan Barrow and another by defenseman Slava Demin.

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Denver goalie Magnus Chrona stops a Fighting Hawks as Riese Gaber skates in Monday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Senden leaves with an injury

UND lost another player to injury Monday night.

Senden, who has three goals and 14 points this season, left the ice in the second period with an apparent upper-body injury and did not return.

"He's getting evaluated now," Berry said moments after the game. "Hopefully we can have him (for the championship). But the beauty of it is we had a lot of guys out tonight. The other guys stepped up tonight to pick up the slack with some key guys out."

Senden has been a key player in all situations for UND this season. He has long played a regular role on UND's third line and is one of the team's top penalty-killing forwards. But in the second half of this season, he also became a key player on UND's second power-play unit.

The Fighting Hawks already were playing without two key players.

Junior alternate captain Jacob Bernard-Docker, the league's defensive defenseman of the year, was held out after sustaining an injury in the third period of Friday's quarterfinal win over Miami. Grant Mismash, who has averaged a point per game this season, missed his seventh-straight game. He has not played since Feb. 12 against Denver.

Forward Brendan Budy, who scored a goal in UND's quarterfinal win, also was scratched.

When asked whether Budy was a healthy scratch or if it was a coach's decision, Berry said: "Both. He was not feeling well and it's a situation where we wanted to make sure we put someone fully healthy in the lineup."

Denver played without nine players: Brett Stapley (season-ending surgery), McKade Webster (COVID-19 protocol), Steven Jandric (COVID-19 protocol), Brett Edwards (COVID-19 protocol), Jake Durflinger (COVID-19 protocol), Carter King (COVID-19 protocol), Jack Works (COVID-19 protocol), Reid Irwin (COVID-19 protocol) and Lane Krenzen (COVID-19 protocol).

"I want to commend David Carle and his Denver Pioneers this weekend," Berry said. "They played an outstanding weekend with a decimated lineup. It was a gritty, gutsy win against Omaha and they pushed us to the brink again tonight. I just want to commend them for what they did this weekend here."

Weatherby echoed Berry's sentiment.

"Denver played a hell of a game," Weatherby said. "I give so much credit to those guys. They were down a bunch of guys. I know some of them personally being a West Coast kid. . . some great guys on that team. They battled hard."

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UND's Jordan Kawaguchi skates between Denver defenders Kyle Mayhew and Griffin Mendel in the semi-finals of the Frozen Face-off tournament at the Ralph Engelstad Arena Monday, March 15, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Could energy become an issue?

Energy could become an issue for Tuesday's championship game.

Not only did UND play the late game Monday -- the Fighting Hawks played until 11:09 p.m., while their opponent, St. Cloud State, was done at 5:49 p.m. -- UND also used just three lines at the end of the game, taking Harrison Blaisdell, Griffin Ness and Carson Albrecht out of the forward rotation.

"We're used to it," Hain said of playing taxing minutes. "We practice hard. We were ready for the challenge then and we'll be ready (Tuesday)."

Berry said his players will need to be smart against the Huskies, who finished second in the NCHC's regular season.

"It's going to be adrenaline tomorrow, right?" Berry said after Monday's win. "It's going to be one of those things where you have to play a smart, sound game. You can't give up anything defensively high-risk. It's going to be one of those things where you play with attack mentality, but play very responsible and structured with our five guys on the ice. Hopefully, we can make a couple more plays tomorrow than we did tonight."

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UND's Shane Pinto stretches for a backhander as Denver goalie Magnus Chrona defends in the first period of the semi-finals of the Frozen Face-off tournament at the Ralph Engelstad Arena Monday, March 15, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Briefly

  • Denver's lone goal came on the power play, ending a drought of 36:15 of power-play time without a power-play goal against UND this season.
  • UND's Caulfield was called for cross-checking in the second period. It marked his first penalty all season.
  • After going 6-for-9 on the power play in a two-game stretch against Omaha, UND has now been blanked on its last 11 chances.

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UND's Judd Caulfield looks as Denver's Justin Lee loses his stick in the second period of the semi-finals of the Frozen Face-off tournament at the Ralph Engelstad Arena Monday, March 15, 2021. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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