By Brad Schlossman
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Adam Scheel was one of the last University of North Dakota players to leave the locker room Saturday night, Feb. 16, in Lawson Ice Arena.
He was hobbling slowly on crutches with a brace on his knee — an unwelcome sight for a UND team that lost 4-2 to Western Michigan in the series finale and may now have to deal with the loss of yet another key player.
Scheel was injured during Hugh McGing’s game-clinching shorthanded goal with 3:09 to play. Western Michigan forward Jade McMullen and UND senior Rhett Gardner trailed the play, got tangled up and crashed into Scheel.
The freshman from Lakewood, Ohio, who had family members at the game, remained down on the ice for several minutes, at times, reaching for his knee. UND athletic trainer Mark Poolman and team doctor Greg Greek attended to him and carried him off the ice.
“I’m not sure,” Scheel said of his injury. “You never want to get carried off the ice, but I’m sure I’m fine and I’ll be back in no time.”
UND, which is already playing without injured goalie Peter Thome, finished Saturday’s game with senior walk-on Ryan Anderson of Roseau in net. It was Anderson’s first appearance in a regular-season game.
There’s no timetable yet for Scheel’s possible return, UND coach Brad Berry said..
“We’ll evaluate him when we get back to Grand Forks,” Berry said. “He’s a battler. Hopefully he’s it’s not too long before he’s back.”
Does that rule out a longterm injury?
“No, that’s going to be something, when we get back, we’ll get diagnostically done with an MRI or X-ray,” Berry said. “The severity will come from that. We’ll let you know when we find out. I don’t want to come to any conclusions until we do that.”
UND (14-13-2 overall, 8-9-1 National Collegiate Hockey Conference), which received third-period goals from Gavin Hain and Jordan Kawaguchi, dropped to No. 21 in the Pairwise Rankings and fifth in NCHC standings. The Fighting Hawks are now three points back of fourth-place Denver in the chase for the final spot of home-ice advantage in the first round of the league playoffs.
UND hosts defending NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth next weekend with a big question mark about who will be starting in goal.
If there’s some good news, it’s that Thome began taking pucks in practice again this week and is nearing a return.
“I think he’s right around the corner,” Berry said. “He probably could have come on the road trip. He just came in the last couple of practices. He stayed home to get some shots and conditioning. He should be ready to be available by next weekend.”
UND was looking for its first road sweep since March 3-4, 2017 at Miami, but was done in by special teams.
Western Michigan scored power-play goals on its first two chances of the game — the first two career goals for freshman defenseman Michael Joyaux — to take the lead. Prior to that, UND had killed 18-straight opponent power plays.
On the other side, the Broncos held UND to just a single goal on seven power-play chances, while getting a shorthanded goal.
“That’s the story of the night,” Berry said. “We talked about it before the weekend. You have to check every box. Games are so tight that you have to check every box, every game to win. Last night, we scored a power-play goal. We were clean on the kill. Five-on-five, we got some goals and looks. Tonight, we squandered our first four power plays. We didn’t get momentum off the power plays and we gave up two PK goals right away.
“We had a chance to tie it and we gave up a shorty. It’s a learning lesson tonight.”
The Broncos were up 3-0 before UND started a charge in the third period. Hain and Kawaguchi scored two goals in the span of 1:59 to pull UND within one. Hain put home a rebound of a Cole Smith shot and Kawaguchi sniped his eighth goal of the season on the power play.
“One thing is that our compete and battle were always there,” Berry said. “We were positive on the bench. Guys never gave up. That’s a trademark of our team the whole year. We have the character. We just have to execute a little better on a regular basis.”
Western Michigan ended UND’s comeback bid with McGing’s shorthanded goal — the play where Scheel sustained his injury.
UND has dealt with injuries to nearly every top player this season — senior Nick Jones missed a month with a lower-body injury; junior captain Colton Poolman recently missed the first games of his college career with an injury; second-round draft pick Jonny Tychonick missed seven weeks with a lower-body injury; second-round draft pick Grant Mismash might be out for the rest of the season with a knee injury; and both scholarship goalies have gone down with injuries.
“I think we’re becoming numb to this now,” Berry said. “We’re hardened and calloused. Normally, maybe you’d go ‘Oh man, that’s devastating.’ But we just get back up again. We dust ourselves off and get back up again and get going.”