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Western Michigan hands UND third-straight loss

The Fighting Hawks gave up three power-play goals in dropping series opener at Lawson Ice Arena.

UND forward Nick Portz looks to enter the zone against Western Michigan defenseman Michael Joyaux on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Lawson Ice Arena.
Ashley Huss / Western Michigan athletics

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — There was only one player on the ice Friday night who had ever experienced a three-game losing streak at UND — captain Mark Senden.

It happened just over a month into his college career. He's now a senior.

But the entire team was put in that unfamiliar position late Friday after UND fell to Western Michigan 4-1 in Lawson Ice Arena.

The Broncos scored on three of their five power-play opportunities and used a starring performance from goaltender Brandon Bussi, who stopped 34 of 35 shots, to win the series opener.

The only UND player to get one past Bussi was junior Judd Caulfield, who picked a corner on a breakaway in the first period.


"Obviously, stuff's not coming easy right now," UND defenseman Ethan Frisch said. "We're not scoring like we were. We're having just slight breakdowns. But I thought we played a really good game. I thought we dominated 54 minutes of that game. So, it's frustrating to have little lapses like that and it ends up costing us again. But that's something we're going to have to figure out here with our group."

The Fighting Hawks, who were swept by Cornell two weeks ago, have lost three in a row for the first time since November 2018. Back then, they lost a game to Miami and got swept by Western Michigan the following weekend. That squad narrowly missed the NCAA tournament.

They've managed just five goals in the last three games including one in each of the last two. It's the first time they've been held under two goals in back-to-back games since February 2019.

UND outshot Western Michigan 35-23 on Friday but had little to show for it.

"I think we've just got to stick with it and trust our skill," said Caulfield, who snapped a career-long 12-game point drought. "We have that skill to finish the play. We've just got to stay with it. We're in a little bit of a drought scoring-wise. We've just got to stay on it and elevate some pucks and get it past the goalie and get to rebounds as well."

If there's a bit of solace for UND, it's that the Fighting Hawks are still in first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings with an 8-3 mark and 24 points.

But that spot could slip away if UND doesn't win the series finale at 6:05 p.m. Saturday because Western Michigan and Denver are both lurking.

"I think we'll make a couple of adjustments in a couple of areas," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It's tough scoring goals right now. It's not coming to us, whether it's five-on-five or the power play. You can't sell the farm defensively. I thought tonight was probably one of our better games defensively against a very good team in our own end of the rink. We have to continue to be strong without the puck because we'll get our chances and looks."


In a recurring theme this season, UND once again spoiled an otherwise solid performance by taking untimely penalties and being unable to kill them off.

Trailing 2-1 late with 8:13 to go in the third period, UND earned a power-play chance. But instead of using that opportunity to tie the game, the Fighting Hawks took back-to-back penalties and the Broncos ended up on a five-on-three power play.

Western Michigan scored twice on UND goalie Zach Driscoll (19 saves) during that power play to seal the game.

"Untimely penalties," Berry said. "This time of year, they're the difference. When you give opposing teams opportunities, especially late in the game in a one-goal game, it's not a good thing."

In his first game since being left off of the U.S. Olympic Team, Western Michigan defenseman Ronnie Attard scored two goals and tallied three points, while forward Josh Passolt added a goal and three points.

UND, meanwhile, is searching for offense.

"The message to our group here is that we have to stay tight together," Berry said. "There are times during seasons you go on winning streaks. Obviously, we're incurring a losing streak right now. You can't give up belief. You can't second-guess yourself. We were in position early in the season to get where we are. We just have to make sure we have some of our finer details, which are our special teams."

Notes: Western Michigan played without captain and fifth-year senior Paul Washe, who was suspended for a violation of team rules. The length of suspension has yet to be decided, according to a Western Michigan spokesperson.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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