Exhibition game shows UND's rookies won't be eased into the lineup
Dylan James, Ben Strinden, Jackson Blake and Owen McLaughlin all played on special teams during their first game in a North Dakota uniform.
GRAND FORKS — On his first shift in a UND jersey, Jackson Blake set up a teammate for a scoring chance.
Then, he tracked down a Manitoba player, stole the puck from him and sent a pass to another teammate for another chance. When that didn't go, he circled around the offensive zone, got the puck in the slot and snapped it on net.
That didn't go in, either.
But it didn't take long to figure out Saturday night that UND's rookie class is not going to be eased into things.
The entire freshman class played on special teams during their first competition in a UND uniform — a 5-1 victory over the University of Manitoba in a preseason exhibition game in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Blake and Owen McLaughlin both played on the power play, manning the flanks. Dylan James and Ben Strinden both killed penalties and each tallied a five-on-five point. Strinden set up a James goal in the second period.
"They're pretty crafty in practice, so you've got to watch them," said UND defenseman Chris Jandric, who had a goal and an assist. "They're very skilled. I think this was a good warmup game for them."
Part of their big roles might have been due to an illness that ran through the team this week. Five players missed the game due to illness — forward Jackson Kunz, forward Carson Albrecht, defenseman Ty Farmer, defenseman Cooper Moore and goalie Jakob Hellsten. Two more players missed due to lingering injuries — forward Dane Montgomery and defenseman Luke Bast.
"We did have some guys out who have some experience, which presented opportunity for some younger guys to probably get more minutes than they were probably thinking about," UND coach Brad Berry said. "I thought it was good for them to get in that game.
"I remember talking to JBD (Jacob Bernard-Docker) a few years ago when he was a freshman. He said it took a couple periods to feel his hands and his feet because they were numb because he was so nervous playing in front of 12,000 fans. But I thought our guys did a pretty good job of playing the game in front of a packed house."
All four come in with high acclaim.
They're all NHL Draft picks who thrived in the United States Hockey League last season. James is a Detroit Red Wings second-rounder. Blake is a Carolina Hurricanes fourth-rounder. McLaughlin is a Philadelphia Flyers seventh-rounder. Strinden is a Nashville Predators seventh-rounder.
"Those guys are going to keep growing and growing and growing, too," Berry said. "Obviously, they're going to get used to the pace. It's going to get exponentially tougher as the weeks go on here, too, with nonconference play."
Despite the shorthanded lineup, UND still showcased its depth.
Its first goal was scored by the 13th forward — junior Griffin Ness. Jake Schmaltz, James, Tyler Kleven and Jandric also scored for the Fighting Hawks, who open the regular-season Friday against Holy Cross.
Jandric, Strinden, Matteo Costantini, Louis Jamernik V, Judd Caulfield and Gavin Hain all registered assists. Jandric was the only player with multiple points.
"We had that secondary scoring," Jandric said. "I think we're going to have a depth team and it's going to be a fun year."
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Michigan State fifth-year senior transfer Drew DeRidder started the game and played 40 minutes. He allowed a goal on the first shot on net — a Mitch Dyck point shot through traffic 9 minutes, 25 seconds into the opening period — then stopped the next six shots during 40 minutes of work.
Grand Forks native Kaleb Johnson played the third period and stopped all five shots. UND played nine of the 20 minutes in the third shorthanded.
UND outshot Manitoba 42-12.
"I thought it was a good overall performance for us, being the first game we've played together as a group," Ness said. "We got a little undisciplined in the third, but that's something easy we can clean up for the next weekend. I thought it was positive and a great way to start our season."
UND 5, Manitoba 1
First period — 1. MAN, Mitch Dyck (Colton Veloso, Devon Skoleski) 9:25; 2. UND, Griffin Ness (Chris Jandric) 12:59
Second period — 3. UND, Jake Schmaltz (Matteo Costantini) :21; 4. UND, Dylan James (Ben Strinden) 13:25; 5. UND, Tyler Kleven (Louis Jamernik V, Judd Caulfield) 14:16; 6. UND, Jandric (Gavin Hain) 17:58
Third period — No scoring
Goalie saves — UND: Drew DeRidder 1-5-x — 6, Kaleb Johnson x-x-5 — 5; MAN: Brett Murphy 15-11-x — 26, Ross Hawryluk x-x-11 — 11