We sat down with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks head hockey coach Brad Berry, who has this year’s squad ranked No. 1 in the nation.
How does this team differ from last year’s team?
We’ve been playing pretty similar as far as structure and the way we play here at North Dakota but we’re finishing some plays now. We’re making plays, finishing plays and we’re not giving up a whole lot against us. I think it’s one of those things where guys have a little bit more confidence. We got off on the right foot scoring some goals. We’ve added some good young players and some of our upperclassmen have taken another step forward. We’re just more of a complete team this year.
How does your coaching style change to fit different teams in different years?
I think you have to change a little bit each and every year based on the group you have. In our organization, sometimes we lose players early to the pros because of their positive development here at North Dakota. You kind of have to adjust to the group that you have. We’ve got some guys that have grown together. We’ve managed to keep some players together now. Now, there’s some continuity in our game because we have players that have been around a while together.
What is it like coaching at your alma mater?
It’s probably the best feeling in the world. There are some things that you cherish in your life. Getting married is one, having kids is another and getting to come to work every day at something that I love to do and that’s been a big part of my life as a player and now as a coach is probably one of the top things in my life.
What is the strength of this year’s team?
The resilience and the swagger. This team has a little bit of swagger where if we’re leading a game, we know that we can try to score another goal or two and kind of close out games. The other thing is when we’re chasing a game. If another team scores a goal early on, we know that we have that confidence, that swagger, to come back.
What does it mean to have success at UND?
Expectations are high here on a year-to-year basis because of the tradition and the culture that we have here. Players that we recruit, know there are expectations when you come through that door that you have to fill every day. One of the things we talk about is the way that you have success and results is by doing the things you need to do on a daily basis. There are no shortcuts, you have to make sure you do everything to the fullest and make sure you attack each and every day.
What do you look for in a recruit?
There’s a number of things. Obviously, the skillset is one of them. We talk about checking boxes to try to get the ultimate recruit. Every program is different in terms of what they look for in a recruit, but you have to have a high skill set in terms of skating, shooting, and puckhandling. Then, there’s the intelligence as far as being a smart player and always knowing what the next play is. However, above all, one of the things we want most is compete level. We want a guy with a high compete level that is going to give it his all each and every shift and do whatever it takes to win a game. The fourth thing we look for is character. We want guys with high integrity, people that are team first every day.
What can the team improve on moving forward?
Making sure there’s no complacency in our game. I think everybody knows that they can get better each and every day. We need to keep working on our strengths but also need to work on our weaknesses to become better players and coaches.