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Winning one-goal games led UND to the Penrose last season. Can it turn its one-goal record this year?

The Fighting Hawks and Beavers have traditionally played down-to-the-wire games. They'll face off in a two-game set this weekend.

100321 S GFH UNDMHKY JakeSchmaltz TonyFollmer MichaelCarr01.jpg
UND's Jake Schmaltz (8) and Bemidji State defenseman Tony Follmer (2) vie for the puck in front of Beavers goalie Michael Carr in the first period of an exhibition hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. on Saturday, October 2, 2021.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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BEMIDJI, Minn. — UND has struggled to win one-goal games this season.

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

That's one win in seven.

If the Fighting Hawks are to turn around this season, figuring out a way to win those down-to-the-wire games will be paramount — and if recent history is any indicator, they'll get a chance to do just that this weekend against Bemidji State.

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

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The one hallmark of this series has been tight games.

Including last year's preseason exhibition game, seven of their last eight meetings have been decided by a single goal — or less. All three meetings last year — a 2-1 UND exhibition win, a 4-3 UND victory and a 4-3 Bemidji State overtime win — came down to the end.

"They've been outstanding games over the years," Beavers coach Tom Serratore said. "They're great games for both teams. They're competitive. We make each other better. I think the fans like it. They're fun games. They're fun for me to coach in."

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

"We play such similar styles," Serratore said. "I think we both want to be outstanding forechecking teams. We want to manage the puck very well. I think we play very similar and that probably helps add to the hardness of the games."

UND coach Brad Berry is expecting much of the same this season.

"They play fast; they play hard," Berry said. "They're hard on the forecheck and they come at you in waves. They're a typical Tom Serratore team that comes to work every day."

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

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In Corsi, a metric that measures puck possession by attempted shots, the Beavers rank No. 9 in the nation at 55.7 percent — slightly ahead of Michigan and Minnesota. Bemidji State is the only team in the top 10 of Corsi that's unranked in this week's USCHO poll.

"When we're on top of our forechecking, that helps," Serratore said. "We keep pucks low, cycle well. . . a lot of that is puck management. Our possession is pretty good. I wish our shooting percentage (7.5, 49th in NCAA) was a little bit better. But at the end of the day, when you're possessing pucks, at least you're not defending."

Defending and keeping pucks out of the net has been challenging for UND this season.

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

"I feel like we haven't been playing our best," UND rookie Jackson Blake said. "This is a good opportunity to show the nation how good we actually are."

Winning one-goal games was UND's recipe to winning a third-straight Penrose Cup last season.

The Fighting Hawks won seven consecutive one-goal games in February and March. Most of this year's roster — 20 of 27 players — played on that squad.

Now, they'll try to start winning those close games against a Bemidji State team that's produced plenty of them against the Fighting Hawks.

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"They're a really hard team to play against," UND forward Judd Caulfield said. "They're fighting for nonconference points like us and we're going to have to go out there and out-compete them."

UND vs. Bemidji State

When: 7:37 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Sanford Center in Bemidji on Friday, Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD) on Saturday only.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM) on Friday, Cat Country (100.3 FM) on Saturday.
Stream: Flohockey.tv on Friday, NCHChockey.com on Saturday.

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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