There have been a lot of impressive statistics behind UND's 9-1-2 start to the season, but one might be flying under the radar.

UND has been remarkably efficient at icing games by scoring empty-net goals.

Opponents have pulled their goaltender at the end of the game five times this season, looking to tie up a close contest. UND has scored into the empty net four of those five times.

Cole Smith became the latest player to hit the empty net Friday night in a 4-2 win over St. Cloud State in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Westin Michaud, Colton Poolman and Gavin Hain also have done it this season.

UND is one empty-netter away from matching its second-highest total of empty-net goals in the seven years of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, only behind the nine it hit during the 2016 national championship season.

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More impressive than the total number of empty-netters is the percentage of open-net opportunities that UND is converting. As you can see in the chart below, the highest percentage UND has hit in the NCHC era is 45. Right now, UND is at 80.

Of course, that number will drop as the season progresses, but it shows how good UND has been at it to this point.

UND empty-net goals by season in NCHC era

NCAA seasonENGsChancesPercentage
2019-204580 percent
2018-1951145 percent
2017-182825 percent
2016-1751436 percent
2015-1692045 percent
2014-1541921 percent
2013-1451828 percent

One evolution over the past decade or so in hockey is that teams seem to be more willing to shoot for the empty net from their own zone. And UND practices it, too.

We saw Michaud do it successfully at Denver last weekend.

Good teams get more chances at empty nets (the only teams with more empty-netters than UND this season are UMass and Denver with five each), so this may be a trend to follow as the year progresses. And if UND can maintain anywhere near this pace, it will help the fans relax in the final moments of close games.

Friday's game coverage

Game story: There's an advantage to playing at home and Brad Berry is consistently deploying it

Sidebar: Judd Caulfield gets most prominent role yet, and shows his high-end skill

Sidebar: Brad Berry delivers pizza to students before the game

Video: UND scores power-play goal for fifth-straight game

Other notes and statistics

  • Shane Pinto (who was our pick to click this weekend) not only scored twice, he also went 10-2 in the faceoff circle. UND won the faceoff battle 32-18. All five players who took a draw were .500 or above.
  • There are a lot of statistics that show UND's dominance in the third period when protecting the one-goal lead. Shots on goal were 15-4, shot attempts were 25-9. Here's another one: UND had 10 shot attempts from the high-danger area; St. Cloud State had one.
  • Berry indicated that there were a number of players who he didn't feel played well, so we could see lineup changes for the series finale.
  • UND's power play is at 30 percent conversion rate in the last five games.
  • After going to Denver and having one of his busiest weekends, UND goalie Adam Scheel had a much smaller workload Friday. St. Cloud State had 19 shots on goal. The Fighting Hawks still lead the country in fewest shots allowed per game at 20.3. UMass is second at 21.5 and Cornell is third at 22.7.