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Newcomers light up scoreboard in UND's exhibition win

UND's Dixon Bowen pokes at a puck as Manitoba goalie Byron Spriggs blocks the shot in the second period of their game Saturday at Ralph Engelstad by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 4
UND and Manitoba players mix it up during Saturday's exhibition game at the by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 4
UND's Matt Kierstad (3) and Grant Mismash celebrate Mismash's goal in the first period by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
UND's Josh Rieger checks Manitoba's Liam Bilton in the second period of their exhibition game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

Before Saturday's exhibition game, a couple of UND freshmen started asking Ludvig Hoff questions in the locker room.

What should they expect? How good is Manitoba? Are they physical? Are they going to hit a lot?

"They were kind of nervous," Hoff said. "I was just telling them, 'It's just another hockey game, you've played hundreds beforehand.' I don't know if it helped them or not, but they looked pretty comfortable."

If there was any insight gleaned from UND's 6-2 win over the University of Manitoba in front of 10,682 on Saturday night, it was that the new guys have the ability to contribute offensively right away and help fill the voids left by the early NHL signings of Tyson Jost, Brock Boeser and Tucker Poolman.

They won't be expected to do it themselves, but they all showed some offensive touch in their first game in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

All six of newcomers got on the scoresheet against the Bisons.

Second-round NHL draft pick Grant Mismash scored a goal and had an assist, Collin Adams had two assists and Jordan Kawaguchi scored a goal, while Matt Kiersted, Josh Reiger and Ohio State transfer Nick Jones, a junior, all tallied one assist.

In goal, rookie Peter Thome stopped all five shots in the third period after replacing Cam Johnson (10 saves in two periods).

"It was pretty surreal," Mismash said. "Obviously, the first period, there was a little bit of nerves, kind of just getting into it. Once the team started to settle down, it was just like playing good old hockey. Overall, it was awesome. I've never experienced before a crowd like this. It was an exhibition game, so that's pretty crazy."

Adams said he hasn't played in front of a crowd larger than about 3,000 people.

"It was nice. The crowd was into it," Adams said. "It was definitely different and I enjoyed every bit of it.

"The first shift, I was a little nervous. Guys were a lot bigger.After a bit, you get into it, get your reps and it worked out for us."

UND's veterans did their part, too.

Shane Gersich was electric all night, putting a game-high six shots on net and registering an assist. His centerman, Ludvig Hoff, scored two goals. Their right-winger, captain Austin Poganski, had an assist.

Christian Wolanin scored a goal and tallied an assist, while registering a plus-4 rating from the back end. And senior Johnny Simonson scored on a delayed penalty late in the second period for the game's final margin.

All four lines scored a goal for UND, which opens the regular season Friday at Alaska Anchorage.

When asked what he learned from the exhibition game, UND coach Brad Berry said: "Learned that we're not a one-line team. We have a little bit of depth. The way we're going to have success is with everyone pulling on the rope. I thought there were a lot of good efforts tonight. There's a lot we have to work on. We weren't as sharp as we could have been, but that's to be expected because it's the first game. But now it's game on. We have to make sure we're ready for Alaska next week."

One area Berry would like to see cleaned up is the defensive zone.

Manitoba had several Grade A looks because of defensive breakdowns. The first goal of the game was scored on a clean breakaway by Remi Laurencelle, who stole the puck from Hayden Shaw.

"That's one area we have to make sure we're a lot tighter in," Berry said. "We have to try to get to that, making sure everyone gets on the same page defending our house. That doesn't come overnight. Those are things we have to instill on a constant basis over the first month here. In saying that, we have to make sure we're ready right away."

But overall, Berry was pleased with the exhibition win—and to see the newcomers contributing.

"They had a good start," Berry said. "Early in the game, I think the speed and heaviness was kind of an eye-opener to a lot of first-year players. I thought we got better as the first period went along."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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