UND HOCKEY: Rocco shows his skills in debut as UND wins exhibitionRocco Grimaldi’s name did not end up on the scoresheet Saturday night. Judging by the way the redshirt freshman played in UND’s 5-3 exhibition win over the University of Manitoba, that may not happen often this season.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
Rocco Grimaldi’s name did not end up on the scoresheet Saturday night.
Judging by the way the redshirt freshman played in UND’s 5-3 exhibition win over the University of Manitoba, that may not happen often this season.
The highly touted rookie who missed basically all of last season due to a knee injury had twice as many shots on goal than anyone else in the game (six), hit two posts and was a dynamic threat throughout for UND, which managed a victory in a sloppy contest in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Grimaldi rang a blast off the post on his first shift, nearly scored on a steal and partial breakaway a few minutes later and twice had the 10,477 buzzing about his play.
“I felt good, the knee felt good,” Grimaldi said. “I was just happy to get back out there and be with the guys again. I thought I started pretty well and I was getting my chances, but I kind of slowed down a bit. So, I’m kind of upset right now.”
The 5-foot-6, 170-pounder from Los Angeles centered the third line. Brendan O’Donnell, who played in his first game since suffering a season-ending injury last January, was on the left wing. Connor Gaarder played on the right wing. Grimaldi also was on the top power-play unit.
“He’s a fun player to play with out there,” said UND forward Danny Kristo, the game’s No. 1 star with a goal and an assist. “He’s so explosive. He’s a competitor and he has all the talent in the world. It was fun to go out there with him and play on the power play together. For the first game, I thought we were clicking pretty well.”
Kristo, Carter Rowney, Mark MacMillan, Corban Knight and Derek Forbort scored the goals for a UND team that was sharper offensively than defensively.
“I thought there was a lot of rust, a lot of good effort, and probably as you’d expect, the sharpest part of our game was offensively and making plays,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Not a lot of cohesion defensively, whether it be in the neutral zone or the defensive zone. But those are things we haven’t had a chance to work on, so probably what you would expect.”
Manitoba scored three times on 20 shots – the third goal making it a one-goal game with 8:17 to go. The tightness of the finish prevented UND from getting third-string goaltender Tate Maris some playing time.
Instead, it was Alabama-Huntsville junior transfer Clarke Saunders and freshman Zane Gothberg in net for UND. Saunders started and stopped seven of eight shots. Gothberg played 33:44 and stopped 10 of 12.
“I thought they both got some good minutes,” Hakstol said. “Obviously the workload wasn’t consistent, but just to get on the ice, get into game action and make some saves and feel the puck in this environment was good for both of them. Like the rest of the lineup, now they have a basis to work forward from.”
The biggest concern to come out of the game was a leg injury to second-line winger Michael Parks in the third period. Parks crashed into a Manitoba player in the neutral zone and was unable to leave the ice on his own power.
Hakstol said he didn’t have any immediate updates on Parks, but if he has to miss some time, it could put UND deeper in a hole for the season-opening game Oct. 19 against Alaska Anchorage. UND already has suspended five players for that game. If Parks can’t go, the team would be down to just 16 available skaters.
Two of those available skaters would be Grimaldi and Colten St. Clair, though. And in the first 60 minutes of the year, both showed ability to add offense.
“It was kind of what I expected,” Hakstol said. “(Grimaldi) and Colten, although they are different players, I kind of expected them to be shot out of a cannon, and I thought they were. I thought they both had a lot of energy.
“Rocco played a pretty good hockey game. I thought his first 30 minutes were pretty dynamic. Maybe he was a little fatigued in the second half of the game. But overall, it’s a good first step.”
Notes: UND dressed 20 skaters for the exhibition. The only scratches were captain Andrew MacWilliam, who is recovering from offseason surgery, and defenseman-forward Dan Senkbeil. MacWilliam is expected to be ready for the season-opening tournament in Fairbanks in two weeks. . . Former UND forward Taylor Dickin transferred to Manitoba but has to sit out due to transfer rules. Dickin did attend the game.