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Four UND teammates suit up together in the NHL

Tyler Kleven, Jake Sanderson, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto, nicknamed the NoDak Sens, played together as NHL teammates for the first time Saturday night.

NoDakSens.jpg
Former UND hockey teammates (from left) Tyler Kleven, Jake Sanderson, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto pose for a photo before playing a game together for the Ottawa Senators against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 1, 2023.
Daniel Chisholm / Ottawa Senators

GRAND FORKS โ€” The NHL was on hiatus when the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod was played in December 2020.

So, the city of Ottawa was playing close attention.

UND trotted out a lineup featuring four Senators draft picks โ€” freshman Jake Sanderson, junior Jacob Bernard-Docker, sophomore Shane Pinto and freshman Tyler Kleven. The media in Canada's capital city covered UND's games from afar, anticipating some, or all, of them could be part of Ottawa's rebuild.

Pinto and Bernard-Docker turned pro in 2021, immediately jumping into the NHL.

Sanderson followed in the spring of 2022.

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Kleven joined them last week, signing with the Senators after three years at UND.

On Saturday night, the long-awaited moment arrived.

Pinto, Bernard-Docker, Sanderson and Kleven suited up for the Senators against the Toronto Maple Leafs, marking the rare occurrence of four college teammates playing together in the NHL.

"How many times does that happen?" Bernard-Docker said. "I don't know if it's ever happened in NHL history to be honest with you. Four guys off the same college team? It's pretty cool."

During warmups, the four UND players gathered for a photo.

UND plans to put it up somewhere in The Ralph.

The NoDak Sens โ€” a nicknamed coined by the Locked on Sens podcast in 2020 โ€” have played two games together.

They lost 3-0 to the Maple Leafs on Saturday, then fell in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Columbus on Sunday. Ottawa has five regular-season games remaining. The Senators are six points out of a playoff spot, unlikely to make up enough ground.

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Sanderson and Pinto have been mainstays with Ottawa this season.

Pinto hit the 20-goal mark in what is still classified as his rookie season. He's only one goal off the NHL lead among rookies.

Sanderson has 29 points, just two shy of the lead among rookie defensemen.

Bernard-Docker has gone back-and-forth between Ottawa and its top minor-league affiliate, Belleville. He's currently on his third stint this season with Ottawa.

Kleven has played in three NHL games since turning pro. He's the 21st UND player to play in college and the NHL in the same season. He's No. 110 overall.

The former Fighting Hawks said they've enjoyed seeing their old teammates in the NHL.

"It was nice having Shane and JBD in the Sens organization (when I turned pro)," Sanderson said. "It was easy for me to come up and know some names and some guys."

Pinto, Sanderson, Bernard-Docker and Kleven played one season together in 2020-21.

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UND went 22-6-1. It won both the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular-season champions and the NCHC Frozen Faceoff playoff title โ€” the only time that's been done in the 10-year history of the league.

The Fighting Hawks were knocked out of the NCAA tournament in five overtimes that year in the NCAA regional final.

Twenty former UND players have played in the NHL this season.

In addition to the four Ottawa Senators, the others are Brock Boeser (Vancouver), Drake Caggiula (Pittsburgh), Aaron Dell (San Jose), Derek Forbort (Boston), Tyson Jost (Minnesota, Buffalo), Matt Kiersted (Florida), Brad Malone (Edmonton), Brock Nelson (New York Islanders), T.J. Oshie (Washington), Zach Parise (Islanders), Tucker Poolman (Vancouver), Nick Schmaltz (Arizona), Cole Smith (Nashville), Troy Stecher (Arizona, Calgary), Jonathan Toews (Chicago) and Christian Wolanin (Vancouver).

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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