Jasper Weatherby had some concerns right away.
His power-play experience at UND had been limited to two spots: the front/side of the net and the middle or bumper spot, located between the circles.
Weatherby had never played in the left circle, so when the coaches told the junior from Ashland, Ore., they wanted him there to fill in for an injured Grant Mismash, he immediately did a crash course.
Weatherby went home and pulled up YouTube clips, watching pro players who succeeded in that role.
"I feel like you can learn a lot through video," Weatherby said. "So, I'm trying to do that."
He consulted three UND teammates who had played that position: Mismash, Jordan Kawaguchi and Shane Pinto, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's leader in power-play goals.
"All of them gave me some really good advice," Weatherby said. "That means a lot when you're going in there for the first time.
"Honestly, I was a little nervous."
Just three weeks into that role, Weatherby is on the longest goal streak at UND in a decade and the dormant second power-play unit is so hot that head coach Brad Berry might have to consider putting it on the ice first the next time the Fighting Hawks get an advantage.
While the first power-play unit of Pinto, Kawaguchi, Matt Kiersted, Collin Adams and Riese Gaber has pretty much clicked from the start of the season, the second power-play unit had disappeared after leaving the NCHC Pod in December.
The second unit of Jake Sanderson, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Weatherby, Mismash and Brendan Budy did not score a five-on-four goal for the first 10 games of the second half of the season.
The coaching staff -- assistant Karl Goehring is in charge of the power play -- made a couple of key changes to the unit, some players got hot, and all of the sudden, the new-look group, now with Judd Caulfield and Mark Senden on it, is on a major scoring run.
"No. 1: They're very good players," Berry said. "No. 2: They're feeling it right now. They're getting pucks on net, making good plays and making good reads at the right time. It's nice to see. The other power-play unit is pretty good, too."
Changes to the unit
The UND coaching staff believed one big reason the power play improved from 14.2 percent in 2018-19 to 21.2 percent in 2019-20 is because it left the units together for much of the season and allowed them to build chemistry, rather than constantly change them.
They have done the same for most of this season, however, an injury to Mismash on Feb. 12 agianst Denver forced the staff to make a change.
Prior to the injury, the power play setup was: Weatherby in front/side of the net, Budy in the middle, Sanderson at the top, Bernard-Docker in the right circle and Mismash in the left circle.
The coaching staff moved Weatherby to the left circle and asked Caulfield to fill in at the front/side of the net. They used that setup for one game, Dec. 13, against Denver.
The next week, they made one more change -- putting Senden between the circles instead of Budy.
In the three games they've had that unit together, the Fighting Hawks have scored seven power-play goals. The second unit has five of them.
Four of the second unit's five have come against Omaha, which entered last weekend with the fifth-best penalty kill in the nation, best in the NCHC and one that successfully killed off 50 consecutive opponent power plays at one point this season.
"I think it's a combination of things," Sanderson said. "We've been working really hard, especially after practice. When guys normally get off the ice, the five of us stay on together and zip it around, kind of like a game situation. I also think coach Goehring has done a great job showing us video and we've learned a lot from the video as well. He's been really flexible for our unit. I think that's why we have success right now."
Starting with Sanderson
Sanderson, a freshman, runs the unit from the top.
"To be truthful, I think that's his natural spot," Berry said. "We had him on the flank at the beginning of the year. I think him running the middle top of the power play, he commands a lot of confidence and runs it."
In UND's most frequently run play, Sanderson holds the puck and makes a split-second decision. If there's a lane to shoot, he takes it. If the lane is occupied by defenders, he dishes it either to Bernard-Docker in the right circle or Weatherby in the left circle.
"Sanderson runs it," Weatherby said. "You guys watch him out there. Sometimes I'm sitting there like, 'Who the hell is this guy? How did he get this good?'
"Same with Jacob Bernard-Docker. It's a unique group of five guys who just work together and try to play the right way. If we stick to doing our job, hopefully more pucks will go in for us. We're just going to keep working and keep having fun out there."
On Friday night, Sanderson showed his high-end skill by walking an Omaha defender and sniping the corner of the net on Maverick goalie Isaiah Saville.
"Big-time evasive play with patience," Berry said. "When you're at the middle top, with guys barreling down on you with pressure, he showed a lot of moxie and poise and confidence to make an evasive play and pick a corner all in one motion."
Weatherby in the circle
Weatherby has been a revelation on the power play.
On his last two power-play goals, he has started near the blue line, gained speed coming through the circle, hauled in a pass from Sanderson and fired a shot through a Caulfield screen.
That play led to the game-winning goal Friday night with less than two minutes remaining.
"Jasper has been on fire for us," Senden said. "He's really been a great threat coming on the downhill attack."
Berry said Weatherby has picked up his new role quickly.
"I think he just plays fast," Berry said. "When you go downhill on that attack, you can't be slow. You have to have some pace to you. He sometimes changes the angle on it and the goalie has to find it.
"If they guard against him, then the top's open or the other flank with Jacob Bernard-Docker is open, or Juddy Caulfield on the goal line. It's one of those things where, he's smart enough, that if he gets closed off, there are other options."
Adding Senden to the unit
The addition of Senden may initially raise an eyebrow.
Entering last weekend, Senden had scored one power-play goal in the last seven-and-a-half years of hockey.
He had zero in his first 93 college games. He had zero in 140 junior hockey games, spanning two full seasons and parts of two others in the United States Hockey League. And he had just one in three years of high school hockey at Wayzata as a sophomore, junior and senior.
That lone power-play goal since joining Wayzata's varsity team as a sophomore in the fall of 2013 came on Dec. 17, 2015 against Holy Family in a 6-4 win.
But the decision to add him has been brilliant.
Senden scored on the power play Friday night, matching his total from the previous seven-plus years, and he's added two assists on that unit.
"I think puck retrievals get overlooked on power plays," Weatherby said. "If you're not going to score the first time, you might score the second or third. And having a guy like that, who you know is going to work so hard, same with Judd, those guys down there and myself and Jacob and Sandy always talk about, 'Hey let's get that puck back.' There's a lot of trust, a lot of communication. Sendo and Judd, they do an unbelievable job."
Senden said his mindset doesn't change on the power play.
"I was excited about having the opportunity to be on the power play," Senden said. "I guess my mindset about it was stick to my strengths. I thought I'd do well at puck retrievals and help get the puck back to our guys at top, just getting hard to the net and get to those rebounds. That was my mindset: Play hard hockey, play like it's five-on-five still.
"We all have a mindset of getting the puck to the net, get the rebounds, get the rebounds back on net or just puck retrievals and getting it back up top, then get it going again."
Senden has some sneaky skill, too.
In his first game on the unit, not only did he make some key puck retrievals, he also drew two defenders to him near the blue line before slipping a backhand pass to Bernard-Docker in space, starting an outnumbered situation for UND. It led to a Weatherby goal.
His power-play goal Friday night in Omaha came on a rebound.
All of the sudden, Senden has more power-play goals and points than Denver star Bobby Brink, a second-round NHL draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, and he's one power-play point shy of Minnesota Duluth's Cole Koepke, an All-American last season.
"He does all the right things, habits and details in the game that give him success, and now to try to give him a little more (of a role)," Berry said. "I think Mark is a guy who can physically handle it. He's a strong body with strong hands that keeps himself in very good condition, so we're not worried about the ice time part of it. I think he can handle it. We were just trying to see if there's another element to Mark Senden. I think it's helped us a little bit on that unit."
Caulfield and JBD heating up
The other two players on the second power play are heating up.
Caulfield, a sophomore from Grand Forks, had zero goals and one assist in his first 12 games of the season. He now has eight points in his last eight games. He's also plus-10 in that span, best of any forward on the team.
"Judd does a great job screening the goalie," Weatherby said. "Goalies are so good in this league. If they can see it, they're going to stop it. Having a big body like that, who isn't afraid to get in front of the net and mix it up, I have so much respect for that kid and Sendo and all the guys on our team."
Bernard-Docker, meanwhile, had six points in the first 17 games of the season. He now has nine points in the last six games, including power-play points in three-straight.
In the last six games, only Weatherby has more points than Bernard-Docker's nine.
Berry has two power-play units that are clicking right now.
But Mismash will be coming back into the lineup soon, and he's been one of the top goal-scorers in the NCHC this season. What does Berry do? Does he fit Mismash back in? Or does he keep the units together as long as they're clicking?
"I'd rather have it that way, thinking about what we do, than trying to grasp for straws and be in that position," Berry said. "It's one of those things we'll deal with that when it comes and maybe it's finding another spot or trying to get him in some way."