The final scrimmage of the week had an interesting start.
Senior Josh Rieger was camped out in the left circle, found a loose puck and hammered it into the net for a goal. His UND hockey teammates celebrated and there were more than a few of them yelling his nickname, "Reggie!"
The goal itself wasn't a highlight-reel play or one to remember.
But the spot was notable.
You have to wonder if Rieger will find himself in that position far more often this season.
Although he's a defenseman -- and he's spent this summer playing back like normal -- UND has an atypical roster balance heading into the 2020-21 season.
There are 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies on the roster. On a normal night, the lineup features 12 forwards, six defensemen and one extra skater.
UND's usual roster alignment has been 15 forwards and eight defensemen, giving the team three extra forwards and two extra defensemen. This season, it's only two extra forwards and three extra defenders.
Considering that Rieger (one goal, four points in 32 career games) probably won't be penciled into the top six of the defense this season -- and considering he's jumped into games at forward for UND in the past -- it seems likely that he will wind up being a utility man who could find himself at forward as much, if not more, than defense this season.
Rieger's performances at forward in the past have been successful. He's generally done what he's been asked: Keep it simple, don't turn the puck over, provide a physical presence and give the team a spark of energy.
UND coaches are not yet on the ice with the team and haven't had an opportunity to gauge where the four rookie defensemen -- Jake Sanderson, Tyler Kleven, Mitchell Miller and Cooper Moore -- fit in the depth chart. So no official decisions have been made yet. But Rieger might want to get used to shooting from the circles more often.
A sloppy start
After playing the last two weeks at four-on-four, UND opted to start today's scrimmage by going back to five-on-five.
The new format brought out the sloppiness (or, perhaps, better defending).
With far less room to maneuver, and more sticks in lanes to break up passes, the Fighting Hawks frequently turned the puck over and found it difficult to generate offense. Eventually, they moved back to four-on-four to open things up and finish off the final scrimmage of the week.
As fall nears, UND typically returns to five-on-five scrimmages and those can be a bit more telling. Who can generate offense when time and space gets taken away?
We will find out in less than a month.
- Sophomore forward Harrison Blaisdell scored for a third-straight day, re-directing a shot in the net.
- Senior forward Grant Mismash had his most active day of the summer. He scored one goal on a beautiful move, beating a defender wide, taking it to the net and scoring on a move on top of the crease. Outside of that, he had numerous other chances. He played fast Thursday.
- Sophomore forward Shane Pinto scored two more goals and he's nears Collin Adams for the goal lead this summer. He scored one on a nice move on a breakaway and another on a rocket of a shot from the slot.
- Sophomore defenseman Ethan Frisch had the nicest goal of the day, stickhandling his way between defenders and scoring from the top of the crease.
- The other impressive moment of the day came from freshman defenseman Tyler Kleven, who outmuscled junior forward Mark Senden for a loose puck at the bottom of the circle, used his strength to stay on his feet and gain body positioning inside Senden, then scored from the top of the crease.
- Junior goalie Adam Scheel had an excellent start to the day, making several stops on Grade-A chances, including ones on Mismash and senior Jackson Keane.
- Jordan Kawaguchi, the senior captain, had a ho-hum, two-goal, one-assist day.
- Jasper Weatherby, a junior forward, and Gabe Bast, a senior defenseman, both scored on nice one-timers.