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Eight takeaways from UND's exhibition victory over the U.S. Under-18 Team

The Fighting Hawks beat the U.S. Under-18 Team on a Matteo Costantini overtime goal.

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UND's Brent Johnson (6) tries to sneak the puck past USA Under-18 goaltender Michael Chambre (30) in the first period of an exhibition men's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — There were a lot of glimpses during UND's 4-3 overtime exhibition win over the U.S. Under-18 Team on Saturday of what the Fighting Hawks want to see in the second half of the season.

There were also some things for UND to clean up before it gets back into regular-season action next week.

Here are eight takeaways from Saturday's exhibition in Ralph Engelstad Arena:

1. UND found a way to win

UND played nine one-goal games in the first half of the season.

It won one. The Fighting Hawks lost four and tied four.

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In order to make a second-half push, the Fighting Hawks are going to need to find a way to win one-goal games and that's what happened in the exhibition when forward Matteo Costantini beat USA's Alex Weiermair wide on the right side and snapped a shot just inside the post on a rush in overtime.

It gave UND a 4-3 win over a team comprised of many of the best 2005-born players in the United States.

"We're trending in the right direction," Costantini said. "This is a really good start for the second half."

The U.S. Under-18 Team entered the week 10-1 against NCAA Division-I teams, but lost at Minnesota and UND. The Fighting Hawks outshot the American team 41-20. Only one other team has outshot the U.S. Under-18 team by 20 this season.

2. A big start

UND never had to play from behind.

Jake Schmaltz and Riese Gaber scored goals in the opening four minutes to stake UND to an early lead.

"I thought our first 10 minutes were pretty awesome and pretty relentless," forward Louis Jamernik V said. "That's the kind of hockey we need to play for a full 60 (minutes)."

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The Fighting Hawks also came out physical from the start.

Just 10 seconds in, Carson Albrecht levied a big hit on forward Oliver Moore, a potential first-round NHL Draft pick. Moore, who is committed to Minnesota, left the game and did not return.

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Fighting Hawks defenseman Tyler Kleven drops USA Under-18 forward Will Vote (22) to the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks during the first period of an exhibition men's hockey game on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

3. Key backchecking

UND's struggles in the first half of the season were often due to team defense — whether it was the forwards, defensemen or goaltenders.

When UND is on its game, the forwards are usually tracking back hard — and there was a prime example of that with the game tied 2-2 late in the second period.

The U.S. Under-18 Team had an odd-man rush, but rookie forward Owen McLaughlin came back hard and broke it up, swiping the puck from a U.S. Under-18 Team player. He then turned the play up ice, gained the offensive zone, hit UND defenseman Cooper Moore trailing the play and Moore fired it home.

"Owen's a great talent," UND associate coach Dane Jackson said. "But I didn't think he was very good in the first period for us. He had some high-risk plays and pucks went the other way. We obviously addressed it a little bit and I thought he had a really strong second and third. He made really good plays without having much risk to his game.

"That will be in the video for sure, when you see a guy like that take some tough love a little bit and respond to it and play the right way and play hard. We're really happy to show that to him and the rest of the team."

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Moore credited McLaughlin on the play.

"Owen sees the ice so well," Moore said. "He said he saw me from the far blue (line), so he made a really nice pass on that."

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UND's Louis Jamernik V (27) and USA Under-18 defenseman Nathan Tobey (20) chase the puck during an exhibition men's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

4. All three goalies see action

UND played all three goalies.

Drew DeRidder started the game and stopped eight of 10 shots in 29:58.

Jakob Hellsten entered at the midway point and stopped six of seven in 21:13.

Kaleb Johnson, who has yet to play a regular-season game, entered late in the third with the game tied 3-3. He stopped all three shots in 13:14 and was credited with the victory.

After the game, Jamernik picked up Johnson and carried him off the ice — a sign of the team's affection for the Grand Forks native.

"That guy's the hardest worker on our team," Moore said. "Every single day, he's outworking everyone. It's just so awesome to see him get a chance. Our bench goes nuts for him. Everyone would do anything for that kid. We love him so much. It was so good to see him get a win like that."

Jackson said: "They have so much respect for how he comes in and competes every day and takes so many extra shots in practice. He's a great, great teammate. The boys were dialed in and really wanted to play hard for him and try to have a good result for him."

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UND's Jakob Hellsten (32) speaks with fellow goaltender Drew DeRidder (34) prior to a home exhibition hockey game against the USA Under-18 team at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

5. UND keeps a few players out

The Fighting Hawks knew they'd be without forward Jackson Blake (World Juniors) and forward Dane Montgomery (upper-body injury), but they kept three others out.

Forward Gavin Hain, who battled an injury in the first half of the season, was kept out for precautionary reasons. Hain practiced in full all week.

Forward Ben Strinden was out with an illness.

Defenseman Ryan Sidorski also was kept out due to conditioning. Sidorski was stuck at home in Buffalo all week due to a blizzard and he was unable to skate. He arrived back in Grand Forks on Thursday and had just one day of practice.

Hain, Strinden and Sidorski are all expected to be available for next weekend's series against Lindenwood. Blake will travel back to Grand Forks on Friday and is questionable. Montgomery will remain out.

UND played the exhibition without head coach Brad Berry due to a family illness. Jackson took over the usual head-coaching duties and volunteer assistant Jason Ulmer was on the bench.

6. Still things to clean up

It wasn't a perfect outing by any means.

The U.S. Under-18 Team still scored three times, including twice in the span of 1:40 in the first period to erase the two-goal deficit. One goal was a missed defensive zone coverage and the other was the result of a turnover.

The Americans' top line of Gabe Perreault (two goals, one assist), Will Smith (one goal, two assists) and Ryan Leonard (three assists) all had three-point games. All three players are Boston College-bound and potential first-round NHL Draft picks this summer.

"They're just so dangerous transition-wise," Jackson said. "So, I thought when we were managing pucks and playing hard in their zone, we did a lot of good things. We had large chunks of the game where we really played the right way and were effective doing that. When we made some soft plays, those guys were pretty good at turning up and going the other way."

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USA Under-18 forward Austin Burnevik (21) fires a shot towards the Fighting Hawks goal as UND defenseman Tyler Kleven (25) looks on in the first period of an exhibition hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

7. Not much special teams

Blake is a key piece on UND's prolific first power-play unit.

If he's not back in time for Lindenwood, the Fighting Hawks will need to make adjustments.

The exhibition could have been a chance to test out the changes, but UND only had one full power-play opportunity. McLaughlin played in Blake's usual spot on the left flank.

The penalty kill got a lot more work after Griffin Ness was ejected for a contact to the head major and game misconduct late in the second period. But in 7:19 of power-play time, the Americans mustered just one power-play shot.

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The UND hockey figure skating team performs prior to a home exhibition game against the USA Under-18 team at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Saturday, December 31, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

8. The real thing next week

UND has work to do in the second half to climb out of a hole and get into position to make the NCAA tournament.

That work starts with a nonconference game against first-year program Lindenwood, coached by former UND defenseman Rick Zombo. Lindenwood won at Vermont on Saturday.

"We've dug a hole a little bit with an up-and-down first half," Jackson said. "We have a big belief in our group with how we have to play and the guys we have in that room. But no question, it's not easy. We know we have to play well all the time and be dialed in for a 60-minute game.

"Lindenwood's a good team. They've challenged some of the best teams in the country to real tough games — Denver, Minnesota, Michigan. We know they're well coached and play hard. There's no sitting back or thinking we're too good for them. We'll be ready to play and compete hard."

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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