Winning games by one goal led AND to the Penrose last season. Can it set its one-goal record this year? – Herald of Grand Forks

BEMIDJI, Minn. – AND has struggled to win games by one goal this season.

In games decided by a goal or fewer, the Fighting Hawks are 1-4-2.

That’s one of seven wins.

If the Fighting Hawks are to turn back this season, finding a way to win those down-to-the-wire games will be of paramount importance – and if recent history is any indicator, this weekend they will Get a chance to do just that against Bemidji State.

AND will play the series opener at 7:37 p.m. at Bemidji’s Sanford Center. The teams will then head west on US Highway 2 to play the series finale on Saturday at 6:07 p.m. at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The only hallmark of this series was close games.

Including last year’s pre-season exhibition game, seven of their last eight meetings have been decided by a single goal – or fewer. All three encounters over the past year — a 2-1 AND exhibition win, a 4-3 AND win and a 4-3 overtime win by Bemidji State — ended.

“These have been excellent games over the years,” said Beavers coach Tom Serratore. “They’re great games for both teams. They’re competitive. We improve each other. I think the fans like it. They’re fun games. I enjoy coaching them.”

Since March 2013, seven of the 17 games have gone into overtime.

“We play such similar styles,” Serratore said. “I think we both want to be great forechecking teams. We want to be very good at managing the puck. I think we play very similarly and that probably helps add some toughness to the games.”

UND coach Brad Berry expects something similar this season.

“They play fast, they play hard,” Berry said. “They’re tough on the forecheck and they come at you in waves. They’re a typical Tom Serratore team that come to work every day.”

Bemidji State (5-3-2) has been a terrific puck possession team this season.

In Corsi, a metric that measures puck possession through attempted shots, the Beavers rank 9th in the nation with 55.7 percent — just ahead of Michigan and Minnesota. Bemidji State is the only team in Corsi’s top 10 not ranked in this week’s USCHO poll.

“If we’re up to speed with our pre-screening, that helps,” Serratore said. “We keep the pucks low, we ride well… a lot of that is puck management. Our ball possession is pretty good. I wish our shot rate (7.5, 49 in the NCAA) was a little better. But at the end of the day, when you’ve got pucks, at least you’re not defending.”

Defending pucks and keeping them off the net has been a challenge for UND this season.

The Fighting Hawks are giving up more than three goals per game and are 41st defensively despite having one top-10 penalty. They gave 11 in a two-game streak to Quinnipiac, nine to Denver and seven to Minnesota. Last Saturday night, AND gave up four goals to a Miami team that went into the weekend with seven goals in six league games this season.

“I feel like we didn’t do our best,” said AND rookie Jackson Blake. “It’s a good opportunity to show the nation how good we actually are.”

Winning games by one goal was AND’s recipe for winning their third straight Penrose Cup last season.

The Fighting Hawks won seven straight games by one goal in February and March. Most of this year’s squads – 20 out of 27 players – played in this squad.

Now they will be looking to win those close games against a Bemidji State team that has produced many of those against the Fighting Hawks.

“They’re really tough to play against,” said AND striker Judd Caulfield. “They’re fighting for non-conference points like we are and we’ve got to go out there and outsmart them.”

When: 19:37 Friday, 18:07 Saturday.
Where: Sanford Center in Bemidji on Friday, Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD) only on Saturday.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM) on Friday, Cat Country (100.3 FM) on Saturday.
Electricity: Flohockey.tv on Friday, NCHChockey.com on Saturday.



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