In the opening period of Friday night's game, UND sophomore Riese Gaber picked up a pass from defenseman Brent Johnson near the center line.
Gaber skated it toward the offensive blue line with speed.
Niagara senior defenseman Zac Herrmann cut toward Gaber, looking to angle him off his rush up the left wing. But Gaber was not where Herrmann thought he'd be.
The UND forward was already a step past him. Gaber got inside position on Herrmann, created an odd-man opportunity and left a feed for Jake Schmaltz to tap in for the first goal of his career.
That was the first time it became apparent Gaber's speed was going to be a problem for Niagara. It continued to be a theme throughout the night.
By the end of the regular-season opener, Gaber had three assists and UND won 6-2.
"I thought it was a good win," said Gaber, who also drew a penalty with his speed in the second period. "Obviously, we got off to a good start. That was our main focus: come out early and get a lead and build off that. There's obviously a little room for improvement in the second period, but overall, I thought it was a pretty good game."
It marked the third three-point game of Gaber's college career.
He had a two-goal, one-assist performance against Miami to end the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod last December, and he had another two-goal, one-assist night against St. Cloud State in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff title game in March.
It was Gaber's first three-assist game since Oct. 27, 2018, his first year playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League. Gaber had four assists that night against a U.S. Under-17 Team that had Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven on the blue line.
- Ashton Calder had two goals and one assist in his UND debut. He became the first UND player to score twice in his UND debut since Darcy Zajac on Oct. 6, 2006 against Quinnipiac. Calder had a game-high seven shots on goal. Gaber was second with four shots on goal.
- UND's freshmen had strong games. Matteo Costantini and Jackson Kunz both made terrific passes to get primary assists on goals. Costantini set up Ethan Frisch. Kunz set up Calder. Johnson, who finished with one assist, nearly had a highlight-reel primary assist of his own in the first period. The rookie blue liner walked a Niagara defender at the point and made a tremendous cross-ice pass to Gaber, who hit the post.
- As promised, UND kept the top power-play unit together from the exhibition (Calder, Gaber, Jake Sanderson, Connor Ford and Judd Caulfield) but shuffled things on the second unit. Notably, Kunz was on the second unit. Last season in Green Bay, Kunz played the goal line/net front role and was outstanding, so perhaps it's not a surprise to see him get a shot there. Kunz has a knack for being able to finish in tight and score Zach Parise-like goals.
- Half of UND's goals were scored by defensemen — Tyler Kleven, Sanderson and Frisch.
- In the faceoff circle, Ford was the main guy, taking 19 draws (9-10), but Costantini had the best winning percentage (7-2).
- UND coach Brad Berry singled out Carson Albrecht in the postgame presser. Berry was happy with Albrecht, who jumped into the lineup for an injured Gavin Hain (lower body, day to day) and created a couple of scoring chances.
- Jakob Hellsten dressed for the first time and was listed as the No. 2 goalie behind Zach Driscoll.
- Niagara left goaltender Chad Veltri in the entire game, which could be a sign the Purple Eagles are planning to start freshman Jake Sibell tonight and didn't want to throw him into his NCAA debut in that game.
- Remember: the series finale is at 6:07 p.m., a new earlier time this season.