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Daily Skate: Six former UND players advance in Calder Cup Playoffs

Rhett Gardner is leading the Texas Stars in scoring in the playoffs with five points in three games.

22 - Rhett Gardner
Texas Stars forward Rhett Gardner skates in a game against the Chicago Wolves on Friday, December 9, 2022 at H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, Texas. The Stars defeated the Wolves 5-2.
Andy Nietupski / TTL Sports Media via Texas Stars

GRAND FORKS โ€” Six former UND players are still chasing the Calder Cup as American Hockey League champions.

East Grand Forks Senior High graduate Colton Poolman (Calgary Wranglers), Devils Lake's Keaton Thompson (Milwaukee Admirals), Rhett Gardner (Texas Stars), Shane Gersich (Hershey Bears), Austin Poganski (Coachella Valley Firebirds) and Chris Jandric (Rochester Americans) have all reached the quarterfinals.

Those best-of-five series begin Thursday and Friday.

Hershey takes on Hartford and Rochester plays Toronto in the East. Texas plays Milwaukee and Calgary takes on Coachella Valley in the other series.

Gardner is leading Texas in scoring in the playoffs.

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The former UND center has five points in three games. He had a goal and an assist in the Game 3 clincher against Rockford.

Jandric, who played at UND this season, is with Rochester but has not played in the playoffs. He suited up for one game in the regular season and tallied an assist.

UND has a great chance to end a Calder Cup drought this season. The last UND player to win one was Derek Forbort with the Manchester Monarchs in 2015.

Fargo advances to final

The Fargo Force have reached the United States Hockey League's Clark Cup Final for the sixth time in franchise history.

Fargo beat Lincoln 8-4 on Monday night in Game 4 to solidify the spot.

UND commit Mac Swanson has carried his tremendous rookie season into the playoffs, where he has eight points in six games. Swanson is the third-leading scorer in the playoffs โ€” an impressive feat considering he's one of the youngest players in the USHL.

The Force will play either Chicago or Youngstown in the final.

Notably, Fargo's one Clark Cup came in 2018, when it beat Youngstown in the final. Its last Clark Cup Finals appearance, it lost to Chicago in 2021.

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Fargo has several local ties in addition to Swanson. Former UND player and assistant Cary Eades is the team's general manager. Roseau's Nick Oliver is the head coach, Grafton's Chad Demers is the assistant head coach and East Grand Forks' Carter Krier is the goalie coach.

Strathmann producing in playoffs

UND defenseman commit Andrew Strathmann has been a key offensive producer in the playoffs for Youngstown.

Strathmann had a goal and an assist Monday night โ€” the second-straight game he's produced that stat line โ€” as the Phantoms grabbed a 2-1 series lead.

Strathmann now has 6 points in 5 playoff games. He's the second-leading defenseman scorer in the playoffs, only behind Lincoln's Boston Buckberger.

Right now, it's looking more and more like Strathmann will be a 2024 UND recruit, which means he should be an impact player from the start of his college career.

The potential headliners of that 2024 class: Swanson, Sacha Boisvert, Cody Croal, Strathmann and Jayden Jubenvill. Other commits like David Klee, Jaksen Panzer, Grayden Slipec and Keith McInnis could come in 2024, too, depending on development tracks.

Quick hits

  • The IIHF Men's World Championship begins Friday in Finland and Latvia. The U.S. is playing with an exhibition game in Munich, Germany, on Tuesday. Former UND forward Rocco Grimaldi is playing right wing on USA's third line in the exhibition. Grimaldi is playing with two Ivy Leaguers โ€” former Dartmouth center Drew O'Connor and former Harvard forward Sean Farrell.
  • According to the Mankato Free Press, the Mavericks have let three former Mike Hastings recruits out of their National Letters of Intent โ€” forward Graham Gamache, who has now committed to Providence, forward Gavin Morrissey, who will follow Hastings to Wisconsin, and defenseman Aaron Pionk. Pionk has not yet committed, but all signs point toward him going to Minnesota Duluth, where his brother, Neal, played.
  • Bemidji State commit Eric Pohlkamp is the USHL's defenseman of the year. The list of previous winners of the award is full of college superstars. Among them: Ohio State's Mason Lohrei, Michigan's Owen Power, Western Michigan's Ronnie Attard, UMass' Brandon Montour and UND's Paul LaDue.

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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