UND exits the NCHC Pod in first place after decisive win over Miami

The Fighting Hawks use two goals from rookie Riese Gaber to finish a 21-day trip to Omaha with a 7-2-1 record.

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North Dakota forward Collin Adams (18) scores on Miami goaltender Ben Kraws (33) in the second period Sunday, Dec. 20, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. Tyler Schank / Forum News Service

OMAHA, Neb. -- UND spent three weeks in Omaha going back-and-forth between Baxter Arena and Aloft Hotel.

They created new rivalries on pool table in the hotel lobby. They learned about 1980s video games on an arcade machine. They played some Xbox, took final exams in their rooms, ate meals together and experienced this unprecedented event of a 21-day road trip to play 10 games behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic.

They didn't forget to take care of business on the ice, either.

For the 10th and final game in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod, UND threw on its Sunday best -- its special-event black jerseys -- and issued a convincing beating of Miami, 6-2, in Baxter Arena.

Rookie Riese Gaber scored twice and now has a NCAA-high seven goals, while Jasper Weatherby, Shane Pinto, Collin Adams and Ethan Frisch each had one.


Senior captain Jordan Kawaguchi tallied an assist to extend his point streak. He had at least one point in every game of the NCHC Pod, the only player in the league to do so.

The Fighting Hawks finished the Pod 7-2-1 and will go to Christmas in first no matter what happens in the Pod's final game Monday afternoon between Omaha and Colorado College.

"Going through something that nobody's ever experienced -- and by the way, the NCHC and Josh Fenton and Michael Weisman did an outstanding job here putting on a controlled environment, professionally done, everybody adhered to the protocol and it was a great experience -- but our guys handled it well," UND coach Brad Berry said. "They tried to maximize their energy from day-to-day to give them the best chance to play. I thought, for the most part, we played a consistent game, game-in and game-out in the Pod.

"It's one of those things where now we have a good start underneath us, but now we've got to get healthy, get everybody back and make a push in the second half."

UND won't play again until Dec. 31, when it is right back in Baxter Arena to take on Omaha in a two-game series.

The Fighting Hawks were picked to win the NCHC, so it might not be a shock that they're sitting in first, but the route to get there was not conventional.

UND had to play seven games without standout rookie defenders Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven, who left after Game 3 to join the U.S. World Junior Championship squad. And because of injuries to Harrison Blaisdell, Judd Caulfield and Frisch, the Fighting Hawks played two-and-a-half games with 17 skaters, two less than a full college hockey lineup.

Caulfield and Frisch returned for the Pod's final two games.


"When we hit our bump in the road there, we had a few guys leave and a couple injuries catch up with us," Kawaguchi said. "That's not an excuse, but we just kind of saw it as, 'We've got to battle up and put our heads down and go to work.'

"After we had a little hitch in the road, we decided, 'Let's go to work, win some games and have fun doing it.'"

UND won its last four games to surge into first, two points ahead of Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State. The Fighting Hawks scored the game's first goal in all four of those games, including Sunday night, to improve to 6-0 when tallying the first goal.

It was Weatherby who broke the ice Sunday with a power-play goal at 4:54 of the first period. He became the ninth different UND player to score a power-play goal this season.

But it was the second period when UND blew the game open against a Miami team playing its third game in four days. Gaber scored twice in the period, while Pinto tipped a Gaber shot and Adams buried a Grant Mismash feed to make it 5-2.

The RedHawks became the latest Pod team to struggle winning on their third game in four days. UND and Western Michigan did it, but Miami (0-2), Denver (0-2), Colorado College (0-1), Minnesota Duluth (0-1) and Omaha (0-1) all were winless in that situation.

Did it catch up to the RedHawks?

"What caught up with us was the North Dakota team," Miami coach Chris Bergeron said. "They played like they're playing for something, because I think they were tired, too. I'm not sure their schedule the last few days exactly, but man, oh man, they came in waves at us tonight.


"(Three games in four days) affected it, it affected it, but there's no excuse. They were in the same boat we were. We couldn't find away to garner up any momentum or energy. (Matthew) Barbolini's goal, 2-2, everything's fine, right? Then, we stopped playing. They upped their level like a championship team does. They're a model of what we want to be. There are three or four teams in this league that are exactly what we want to be as far as how they play the game and the look of the team. We saw that firsthand tonight."

In the third period, Frisch tacked on a shorthanded goal, burying a Mark Senden drop pass to make it 6-2 and put the game out of reach.

Feeney makes debut

With 3:33 left in the third, UND replaced starting goalie Adam Scheel (18 saves)with third-string goalie Harrison Feeney -- while shorthanded, no less -- meaning everyone on the roster played in the Pod.

UND's bench roared loudly when the third-year sophomore entered the game.

"We said, 'Everybody is going to get a piece of it. Keep your mind open and make sure you're ready, mentally and physically, to go here, because everybody is going to play,'" Berry said. "Through World Juniors, through injuries and also through the way the game played out tonight, it was an opportunity for Harrison to go in. Harrison has worked his tail off at North Dakota for the last couple years here, being a good teammate, a hard worker in practice on and off the ice.

"Our guys were cheering for him. When we got that penalty called against us, there was no hesitation (to put him in to start a penalty kill). Guys said, 'Absolutely, let's put him in.' It was thought about a little beforehand, but there was no ambivalence in our mind when the penalty was called. He did a good job in the penalty kill and it was great for his first minutes of college hockey."

Feeney made three saves in short stint.

Pinto leaves game injured

The lone concern was the health of Pinto, who took a hit and went hard into the boards. He attempted to play one shift after the hit, but immediately turned around and went to the bench holding his right arm.


After a few minutes on the bench, Pinto skated to the locker room and never returned.

"We're going to do an evaluation of him here tonight," Berry said. "But I don't think it's as bad as you'd expect it to be. It's one of those things where maybe he probably could have played the rest of the game, but just because the way the game was, it wasn't really necessary for him to finish it, so we'll get an evaluation and hopefully we'll go from there."

Pinto left the Pod tied with Kawaguchi and Arizona State's Matthew Kopperud as the NCAA leaders in scoring.

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
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