At the end of a skate this week, Jordan Kawaguchi found a loose puck at the side of the net. The goaltender gave him virtually nothing to shoot at, but Kawaguchi still threaded the puck into the top corner of the net for a goal.
The play drew a buzz from his teammates who were present at the skate, and perhaps, a sigh of relief, too.
Kawaguchi, who has been skating on his own for much of the month after having offseason shoulder surgery, was back on the ice this week playing a pickup game with his teammates and showing some of the same offensive abilities that helped him lead UND in goals, assists and points last season.
Kawaguchi, now a junior, is expected to be one of UND's top offensive threats this season.
From his freshman to sophomore season, the Abbotsford, B.C., product doubled his goal total from five to 10 and increased his point production from 19 to 26 points.
UND coach Brad Berry doesn't expect the offseason operation to slow down Kawaguchi.
"Coming in his first year, conditioning was a big thing for him," Berry said. "I thought he did a pretty good job of recognizing that and addressing that. Unfortunately, he needed some maintenance work done. He's healthy now and we're looking forward to his last couple of years here."
It was a big week for Kawaguchi on another front. He also was voted as an alternate captain by his teammates.
"His peers have recognized him as a leader on and off the ice," Berry said.
Pinto, JBD and Tychonick aim at WJC
While most of UND's players have been present at the pick-up games in July, a few are out of town trying to work toward World Junior Championship roster spot.
Incoming freshman forward Shane Pinto is with the Americans in Plymouth, Mich., while sophomore defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick are with the Canadians.
Bernard-Docker may be the best positioned to make a World Junior team. He made the initial Canadian World Junior roster a year ago, but was one of the final cuts. Bernard-Docker has frequently been listed on Canada's top defensive pairing this summer. Tychonick has been in-and-out of the lineup with the Canadians.
Pinto has been playing center with Team USA, a spot he manned in the United States Hockey League last season and could as a UND rookie as well.
The World Juniors will be held in the Czech Republic from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Players who make the World Juniors will miss UND's exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team in Plymouth, Mich., on Dec. 28 as well as a nonconference series against Alabama Huntsville in Ralph Engelstad Arena on Jan. 3-4.