Riese Gaber was in the neutral zone when he hauled in a pass from Shane Pinto.
With some open space in front of him, Gaber showed a set of skills that will make him one of the top rookies in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, if not the country, this season.
Gaber, who appears just a touch taller than Rocco Grimaldi on the ice, turned on the jets and pulled away from defenders to create more space. When he got to the right circle, the right-hander rifled a wrist shot past netminder Peter Thome for his first goal of the summer.
A little later, he did it again.
Gaber carried the puck up the right side on a rush and snapped a wrist shot home for a second goal.
It was a nice introduction by Gaber, skating for the first time this summer, to his new teammates.
Gaber became UND's first recruit to win the United States Hockey League MVP award since Jason Greoigre in 2007-08. Like Gregoire, Gaber will be wearing No. 17 at UND.
The three things that stood out about Gaber on Day 1 were:
- He's small. He's somewhere in the neighborhood between Grimaldi and Westin Michaud as far as size. He was listed at 5-foot-8, 164 pounds while playing for Dubuque in the USHL last season.
- He's an excellent skater. There were a few times when you could see his straight-away speed, but he's also strong on his edges.
- He can finish. Gaber didn't have a lot of Grade-A chances, but when he did, he finished. Last summer, he spent a lot of time working on his shot and it paid off. He led the USHL with 34 goals.
Time will tell where he fits in the lineup, but for an hour Monday, he looked like someone who could challenge for top-six ice time and a spot on the power-play unit.
Pinto dominates scrimmage
Gaber may wind up being a candidate for 2021 NCHC rookie of the year. But it was the 2020 NCHC rookie of the year who really dominated the scrimmage Monday.
Pinto, now a sophomore, scored three goals and added at least two primary assists.
The Ottawa Senators second-round pick buried one in the slot, finished off a feed from Harrison Blaisdell and ended the scrimmage by walking the puck through the right circle, into the slot and picking the corner of the net.
Pinto also sent Gaber on a rush, resulting in a goal, and made a perfect pass to Jordan Kawaguchi for another.
Big things should be in store for Pinto in 2020-21.
Mismash, Blaisdell turn it up
Two forwards are starting to turn things up a little bit the past two scrimmages -- senior Grant Mismash and Blaisdell, a sophomore.
Mismash didn't score any goals Monday, but he started showing how effective he can be in generating offense. He also made two nice feeds for goals.
Mismash set up 2019-20 linemate Collin Adams for a goal and made a nice feed to freshman Griffin Ness for another.
The last two scrimmages have been the two best for Mismash. The same could be argued for Blaisdell.
Blaisdell, who sat out a few weeks this summer due to a lower-body injury, is starting to show more encouraging signs, and sometimes, even gamebreaking ability.
Blaisdell dangled a defenseman early in the scrimmage with an impressive move, but had his shot denied by Thome. Later, he finished off a feed by Jacob Bernard-Docker for a goal, while setting up Pinto for one.
If Blaisdell can continue this momentum, he may be able to compete for a spot on the second power-play unit this season.
- Some old chemistry between former linemates was back Monday. Mismash set up Adams for a goal, while Mark Senden set up Gavin Hain for one. Senden and Hain have been linemates for the past two seasons.
- Tyler Kleven keeps scoring goals. The rookie defenseman buried a wrist shot from the left circle early in the scrimmage. Sophomore Carson Albrecht also got one from the slot.
- Jackson Keane had a nice day and was rewarded with a goal. Keane had the puck in the right circle. It didn't appear he had much to shoot at, but he picked the corner of the net. Keane has been in and out of the lineup during his first two seasons at UND, but this could be a year where he sees a lot more ice time.