UND's new shutdown line rises to challenge in beating Denver
Gavin Hain, Louis Jamernik and Mark Senden scored twice and kept the prolific top line of the Pioneers off the scoresheet.
The UND men's hockey coaching staff put together a new line this week.
It featured Gavin Hain at left wing, Louis Jamernik at center and Mark Senden at right wing.
Playing against a Denver team with a loaded top line, UND coach Brad Berry wanted to counter with a trio of tenacious forwards to try to shut them down.
They did more than that in leading UND to a 3-1 win over Denver on Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Jamernik scored twice, Senden set up a goal and UND's third line kept Denver's prolific top line of Carter Savoie, Cole Guttman and Bobby Brink off the scoresheet after they piled up a combined 30 points in the first six games of the season.
"That was the key," Berry said. "Analytically, we look at their team and they've got some really skilled forwards, but it seems like they put all those three guys together that do damage five-on-five and power play.
"When you're at home and you have last line change, I think it's good to have guys who are experienced and heavy and possess pucks and defend really well against a really good line. That was a key to the game tonight, having that matchup."
UND improved to 5-3 overall and the two-time defending Penrose Cup champions opened National Collegiate Hockey Conference play with a victory.
Denver, which started the season 4-0, dropped a third-straight game.
Fighting Hawks goalie Zach Driscoll bounced back after allowing five goals last weekend against Penn State in Nashville to stop 22 of 23 shots, including point-blank chances for Cameron Wright in the second period and Savoie in the third. Driscoll was named the game's first star.
"That wasn't the game we wanted last week in Nashville, so coming into this week with NCHC play starting, we wanted to get back on track," Driscoll said. "To get that first Friday win, three points under our belt, is a step in the right direction for sure."
UND continued its home dominance. It is now 32-3 in its last 35 games in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Denver, meanwhile, has just two wins in its last 18 games in Grand Forks against the Fighting Hawks, including six-straight losses.
If there was one concern for UND, it was the loss of fifth-year senior center Connor Ford, who missed the second and third periods with an undisclosed injury.
"I just saw him in the hallway and he looked pretty good to me," Berry said. "Tomorrow, I guess, we'll see where it's at. We usually wait the night and see what happens in the morning. I was probably expecting a little bit worse from him as far as what he looked like, but he was moving around and he looked good. We'll evaluate him tomorrow and see where he's at.
"He's an important part of our team — faceoffs, five on five, power play, penalty kill — all of it. He starts on all those units. It was tough with him being out, but it gave an opportunity for other guys."
The key for the Fighting Hawks (5-3) was the third line.
Berry deployed them in the same way he used Hain, Senden and Cole Smith during UND's 2019-20 Penrose Cup championship season. That trio matched up against every opponent's top line whenever the Fighting Hawks were at home and had last line change. UND went 18-1 at home this season.
"That was definitely a focus for our line," Senden said, "just to make sure we shut them down and just be hard and heavy on them all night."
Ford entered the game taking more 42.5 percent of UND's faceoffs this season. Once he left with an injury, Jamernik and Senden were asked to take a lot of key draws. They combined to go 15-11 in the circle.
"I think one good thing, too, is you have two centermen on that line," Berry said. "You've got Sendo, who is a natural centerman and you've got Jammer, too, so whichever faceoff dot, we were using them tonight on left and right."
UND had allowed the first goal in four of the last five games, but played from the lead Friday.
UND got on the board first at 7:02 of the second period after Denver defenseman Kyle Mayhew got tangled with a UND player and crashed hard into the end wall. Mayhew was slow getting up as the puck went the other way. UND defenseman Brady Ferner got the puck and sent it back down to Judd Caulfield, who started a two-on-one rush with Matteo Costantini. Mayhew attempted to dive back in the play, but Caulfield's pass got through to Costantini, who buried it.
UND tacked on another goal just 49 seconds later, when Senden won a puck battle with Denver defenseman Antti Tuomisto along the end wall and fed Jamernik out front. Jamernik beat Denver goalie Magnus Chrona (20 saves) five-hole.
Denver's lone goal came at the end of the second period, when Fighting Hawks defenseman Chris Jandric tried a stretch pass, but it was intercepted by Massimo Rizzo coming out of the penalty box. Rizzo fed Wright, who was alone in the slot and snapped one past Driscoll.
Denver outshot UND 11-6 in the third period and had two power-play chances to tie the game, but couldn't convert. Jamernik eventually iced the game with a power-play, empty-net goal.
The game was a big bounce back after last weekend's loss to Penn State in Nashville.
"I think there's pride in our locker room," Berry said. "I think details and habits, we always stress that as far as being sharp in those areas. I love those guys. There's a lot of care in that locker room, but it was almost too much. Guys were trying to do too much out of their own game instead of just doing your job, playing your position, moving pucks and just playing your role. I thought the guys played their roles very well tonight."