Minnesota Duluth junior goaltender Ryan Fanti isn’t just bringing a three-game shutout streak and a run of over 185 minutes of scoreless hockey into this weekend’s NCHC series at North Dakota.
The Thunder Bay native enters the 7:07 p.m. game Friday and 6:07 p.m. rematch Saturday against the Fighting Hawks at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks oozing confidence, according to teammates.
“Even in practice, there's this aura about him and this confidence that he gives off,” said Bulldogs redshirt senior goaltender Ben Patt. “He's on top of saves, he's in front of pucks and that'll keep continuing through game in and game out, I believe.”
Patt has been the Bulldogs third-string goaltender for five seasons now, though with sophomore Zach Stejskal out long-term — the Bulldogs brought in UMD senior club goalie Brady Anderson last week — Patt has taken over the backup role.
Patt worked alongside Hunter Shepard — the last UMD goalie to post three consecutive shutouts — for three seasons and Fanti the last two. What he sees in Fanti is a goaltender with “a great head on his shoulders” who is watching for things before anyone else is, one who continues to look back at every game to find the little areas he can improve on.
And Fanti is as confident as ever right now, which goes a long, long way for a goaltender, Patt said.
“A lot of guys, I think, could agree that you take a confident goaltender over the most skilled goaltender in the world at any time,” Patt said. “And Ryan's both of those.”
Despite the fact the Bulldogs have not given up a goal in 185-plus minutes of hockey dating back to the late game-winner by Western Michigan on Nov. 5 at Lawson Ice Arena, coach Scott Sandelin said Wednesday he would like to see his team get better defensively. He does not want them to rely solely on Fanti to make a big save on every odd-man rush and breakaway.
If UMD can tighten up its defensive play, that should also create more offensive opportunities, which the team could have used last Saturday in the 0-0 overtime tie and shootout win over Colorado College.
“Obviously we need to rely on our structure first and foremost, but any little breakdown, we got him back there. It's huge,” UMD captain Noah Cates said after last Saturday’s scoreless tie. “We don't want to give up too many odd-man rushes, but he's been awesome on those and is just seeing everything. We're so happy for him. He's been working hard, playing well and we need him to continue this.”
Bulldogs celebrate Movember
Fanti may have finally surpassed Patt on UMD’s all-time shutout list with his first three collegiate shutouts over the last two weeks, however, Patt still leads Fanti in one all-time list.
Patt is the reigning NCHC Movember Champion, having won the mustache growing competition the last time it was held back in 2019. And while he’d love nothing more than to defend his title should the NCHC bring back the competition, the ultimate goal for Patt and his teammates is to reach their target of raising $1,000 for the Movember Foundation, which raises money and awareness for men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, as well as mental health and suicide awareness.
“I know some of those things run in my family and a lot of the guys I've talked to have experienced it, or their family members have experienced it,” Patt said. “So I think it's for a great cause.”
To participate in Movember is simple: Just grow a mustache and post photos online. The Bulldogs are taking donations for their “team” — listed as UMD Hockey Mo-Bros — on the Movember website at https://us.movember.com/team/2417505. As of Thursday afternoon, they had raised $485.
“It’s a good time, it promotes a great foundation,” said Patt, who is eligible to return to UMD for a sixth season in 2022-23 because of last year’s COVID-19 exemption. “I hope it sticks around when I’m done. It can be something I leave with the program. That’d be awesome.”
Scouting the Fighting Hawks
Eight months after playing the longest game in the history of the NCAA men’s or women’s ice hockey tournament the Bulldogs and Hawks will meet again in the state of North Dakota and one thing is for certain.
Even if both Friday and Saturday’s games go into overtime this weekend, there is no way UMD and North Dakota can come close to the 142 minutes, 13 seconds of hockey played in the NCAA regional final on the night of March 27 and early morning of March 28 at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota.
UMD returns 18 of the 22 players that dressed that night in the 3-2 five-overtime win for the Bulldogs while the Fighting Hawks have just 10 from that game.
None of the players from who scored in regulation — Jackson Cates and Cole Koepke for UMD early in the third, Collin Adams and Jordan Kawaguchi for UND with the extra attacker in the final 1:41 of the third — are back. They all signed NHL deals in the offseason.
Meanwhile, the hero of the night for the Bulldogs, freshman Luke Mylymok, who scored the game-winner in the fifth OT at 12:42 a.m. local time, is out long-term with an injury.
With the two rivals clashing this weekend at @TheREA, #TBT to their last meeting -- the Midwest Region Final at @ScheelsArena in March, when @UMDMensHockey and @UNDmhockey battled through the longest game in @NCAAIceHockey Tournament history, ending in FIVE overtimes! 🤯😱👀 pic.twitter.com/ibUz5vDl3e— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) November 18, 2021
Sandelin said he doesn’t foresee last year’s result having an impact on this weekend’s games. It’s in the past and this is a new year, he said.
“It was a great hockey game. There were no losers in the game,” Sandelin said. “We were fortunate to win and the good thing is we don’t have to look forward to playing a five overtime game this weekend.”
North Dakota enters this weekend’s series perfect in NCHC play at 4-0 after sweeping Denver at home and Miami on the road. UMD sits four points back in third at 2-1-1.
Sophomore defenseman Jake Sanderson, one of the 10 returnees, leads the team in scoring with six goals and nine assists following a six-point weekend versus the RedHawks last week. Right behind Sanderson is one of the Hawks’ five transfers, former Lake Superior State forward Ashton Calder, who has a team-high seven goals.
Sandelin said despite all the new faces, North Dakota still plays like North Dakota.
“They're deep. They've got a pretty good goalie in (Zach) Driscoll,” said Sandelin, referencing the former Bemidji State goalie. “They've got Sanderson, who's a special player, and a pretty good forward group. Some of the new guys have fit in well and are producing for them, especially Calder.”