About two minutes into the third period Friday night against St. Cloud State, UND freshman forward Judd Caulfield used his 6-foot-4 frame and danced around Huskies defender Jack Ahcan, an all-NCHC selection a year ago.
The Grand Forks native created a lane for a shot and just missed his first career goal.
"That was nasty," UND linemate Shane Pinto said. "That was gross. I wish he scored on it, but he's a good player."
Caulfield's play was an example of the skill set and high potential of the rookie, who was playing up in the lineup for the first time in his college career during UND's 4-2 win over St. Cloud State at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"I think he's so strong and moves his feet," Pinto said of Caulfield. "He's a smart player and makes space for me and Mitch."
Through UND's first 11 games, Caulfield was either a healthy scratch, UND's extra skater or playing on the Fighting Hawks' fourth line. In the series opener against the Huskies, UND coach Brad Berry moved Caulfield up to the second line to play with dynamic forwards Westin Michaud and Pinto.
"His body of work has gotten stronger as the season has went on," Berry said. "He's a big guy that has some poise to his game. He has a heavy game. In the third period, he hung unto a puck, drug around a guy and had a great opportunity."
Caulfield, a fifth round NHL draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, didn't register any points against St. Cloud, but he had one standout play that led to a goal. Midway through the first period, Caulfield's physical play separated the puck from a St. Cloud player in the neutral zone and Caulfield carried it into the offensive zone.
During that zone entry, Pinto scored his first of the game to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
"It's fun playing with Michaud and Pinto," Caulfield said. "They're good players, so it's easy playing with them."
Caulfield, who played for the U.S. Under 18 National Team Development Program a year ago, earned the opportunity on the second line with a pair of impressive assists in some of his limited action this season.
In an 8-1 win over Canisius in UND's second regular-season game, Caulfield made a perfect backdoor feed to Michaud for the game's final goal.
Then last weekend in Denver, Caulfield found UND defenseman Josh Reiger with a no-look pass for the game-winning goal in a 4-1 win Saturday night.
"His game is building and growing," Berry said. "What we want to do, especially with young players is we want to give him a little bit more if they're showing they can play. I thought he did a good job tonight."