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Jordan Kawaguchi scores between-the-legs goal on his old teammate

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UND's Jordan Kawaguchi flips a backhander past Huntsville's Lucas Bahn and goalie Mark Sinclair in the second period at Ralph Engelstad Arena Saturday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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Alabama Huntsville goalie Mark Sinclair knows all about Jordan Kawaguchi's abilities.

The two were junior hockey teammates in Chilliwack, B.C., where Kawaguchi once pulled off a between-the-legs assist.

But if Sinclair was hoping for a little reprieve or charity from his old friend, he didn't get it.

Kawaguchi scored a stunning goal during UND's 5-2 win over Huntsville on Saturday night, pulling the puck between his legs from behind the end line and shooting it past Sinclair for the go-ahead goal. It stood as the game-winner.

"I think it's something that just happens," Kawaguchi said. "You think about it for that split second and it's just kind of a reaction."

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In the handshake line, Sinclair said to Kawaguchi: "You had to do that, hey?"

He did.

On the play, UND forward Grant Mismash hammered a one-timer that Sinclair stopped with his toe. The rebound trickled behind him, but just wide of the net. It continued below the end line, so Kawaguchi didn't have an angle to shoot it straight in.

But the junior from Abbotsford, B.C., quickly picked up the puck, slid it between his legs to get it back on the correct side of the end line and shot it in the net.

"That guy's a special player," Kiersted said. "He did it in Chilliwack. He had an assist between the legs. So, it's just another day for him, I guess."

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UND coach Brad Berry said: "High, high end. Those are tough plays, those tight plays when a guy's on your back and you have to make a split-second decision to make that. Not many guys can make that play. His high skill level allowed him to do that."

A Hobey contender?

Kawaguchi may just work his way into the Hobey Baker Award conversation. His resume is piling up.

He's got the team success: UND is 16-1-2 and ranked No. 1 in the country.

He's got the numbers: He's the country's third-leading scorer with 28 points in 18 games, trailing only the Providence duo of Jack Dugan (36 points) and Tyce Thompson (30). He ranks second in the nation in plus-minus (plus-19), trailing only linemate Collin Adams (plus-20). Perhaps his most stunning stat is that he's scored (five times) or tallied the primary assist (five times) on 10 game-winning goals this season.

He's got the character that Hobey voters look for: Kawaguchi was voted an alternate captain by his teammates this season.

And now he's got the signature clip for his highlight reel.

"It's kind of ironic, I was going back and thinking about the last time Huntsville was in here," Berry said. "Drake Caggiula made an unbelievable play to go around a defender and put it around a goaltender. (Kawaguchi) reminds me a little bit of Drake Caggiula as far as how he's making an impact in our program here like Drake did his third and fourth year. I commend Jordan on doing that and hopefully he has some more of that in his bag."

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Both Berry and his teammates said they've never even seen Kawaguchi try the move in practice.

"He wouldn't dare," Kiersted said.

But he did it in a game against his old teammate. In fact, Kawaguchi scored three times on Sinclair during the two-game series as UND extended its unbeaten streak to an NCAA-leading 15 games.

"He's a good goalie and a really good guy off the ice," Kawaguchi said. "He's probably one of my better friends from Chilliwack. So, it's nice to get one like that on him, for sure."

On the bench, his teammates and coaches appreciated it.

"You know what's funny about it?" Berry said. "Westin Michaud tried to do it, too, right after, without the success of Jordan. So, we'll make sure both of those go on our video session on Monday."

Kawaguchi now has had three consecutive multi-point games, though none of them came with the attention of Saturday night's performance.

"That kind of stuff," Kawaguchi said, "you just find spots to do it."

UND 5, Huntsville 2

First period -- 1. UND, Westin Michaud 8 (Matt Kiersted 11) 4:54; 2. UND, Collin Adams 6 (Jordan Kawaguchi 18, Kiersted 12) 9:08 (pp); 3. UAH, Connor Merkley 3 (Jack Jeffers 5, Peyton Francis 2) 13:02

Second period -- 4. UAH, Austin Beaulieu 2 (Josh Latta 9) 1:05; 5. UND, Kawaguchi 10 (Grant Mismash 8, Jonny Tychonick 5) 3:51

Third period -- 6. UND, Ethan Frisch 1 (Adams 12, Tychonick 6) 3:10; 7. UND, Shane Pinto 9 (Cole Smith 3, Gavin Hain 4) 19:40 (en)

Penalties -- Austin Beaulieu, UAH, tripping, 8:33 first; Connor James, UAH, cross-checking, 17:18 first; Connor Wood, UAH, tripping, 18:07 first

Goalie saves -- UND: Adam Scheel 4-1-6 -- 11; UAH: Mark Sinclair 11-12-10 -- 33

Penalties-minutes -- UND 1-2, UAH 5-10

Power plays -- UND 1-5, UAH 0-1

Attendance -- 11,760

Referees -- Scott Bokal and Tom Sterns

Linesmen -- Andy Dokken and Tyler Liffrig

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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