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Tyler Kleven tallies an assist in NHL debut

The former Fargo Davies and UND defender helped the Ottawa Senators hold the Philadelphia Flyers to 11 shots on goal, lowest of any NHL team this season.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators defenseman Tyler Kleven (43) steps onto the ice prior to game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Canadian Tire Centre on March 30, 2023. It was the NHL debut for Kleven, who played at Fargo Davies and UND.
Marc DesRosiers / USA TODAY Sports

GRAND FORKS โ€” Tyler Kleven didn't ease into the NHL on Thursday night.

The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Travis Hamonic to injury early in the first period, meaning Kleven had to play a lot more than initially planned.

It worked out just fine for the former Fargo Davies and UND defender.

Kleven played 17 minutes, 33 seconds, tallied an assist in the third period, registered a plus-1 rating and helped the Ottawa Senators limit the Philadelphia Flyers to just 11 shots on goal โ€” the lowest of any NHL team in a game this season.

Ottawa won the game 5-4 in overtime.

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"I felt calm out there," Kleven said. "I felt like I played my game. I have to learn the systems a little bit better, but for a first game, I thought I did pretty well.

"When opportunity comes in the NHL, you try to make the most of it. With five 'D,' you get a little more ice time. I tried to showcase my game a little bit more. I just tried to get a little more experience. Obviously, it sucks when injuries happen, but it leaves opportunity for other players."

Kleven had three shots on goal in the game.

His assist came early in the third. Kleven had the puck along the wall in the defensive zone. He shielded it from a forechecking Flyers forward and passed it to Tim Stutzle, who hit Claude Giroux on a stretch pass. Giroux snapped the puck past Flyers goalie Felix Sandstrom for the goal.

Kleven's teammates saved the puck for him.

"I thought he was great," Senators coach D.J. Smith said. "Big guy, long, rangy, shoots it. It is his first game, so you've got to be careful. But I was really impressed, just at the size and his ability to move pucks and get pucks to the net."

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators defenseman Tyler Kleven (43) warms up prior to game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Canadian Tire Centre on March 30, 2023. It was the NHL debut for the former Fargo Davies and UND defender.
Marc DesRosiers / USA TODAY Sports

Smith said after the game that the injury to Hamonic "didn't look good." With the Senators already without injured defensemen Thomas Chabot and Jacob Chychrun, it could mean continued minutes for Kleven.

Ottawa is scheduled to host Toronto on Saturday before departing on a three-game road trip at Columbus, Carolina and Florida.

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In Ottawa, Kleven was reunited with two of his former UND teammates โ€” Jake Sanderson and Shane Pinto.

The trio of former UND players all had notable games.

Pinto scored in the game โ€” his 20th goal of the season.

"You just try to go into every year and just try to do your best," Pinto said. "Obviously, I wanted to score some goals. Luckily, I got 20. But the job's not finished. We have seven (games) left. We just have to keep on winning games. That's all that matters, honestly."

Sanderson played 27:49, the most minutes of his NHL career.

Kleven, meanwhile, became UND's 110th all-time NHL player.

He's just the second Fargo high school player to suit up in an NHL game. The other was Danny Irmen (Fargo North), who played two games for the Minnesota Wild in 2009-10.

"Great game," Pinto said of Kleven. "He had to step up when Hammer went down and I thought he did a great job. He got his first point and we won. I'm just really happy for him."

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After the game, Kleven's teammates recognized him in the locker room and made him give a short speech.

"Thanks for bringing me in boys and making me feel welcome," Kleven said. "Good win. Let's keep it going."

Kleven is the 20th former UND player to suit up in the NHL this season.

The others are Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa), 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), Pinto (Ottawa), Tucker Poolman (Vancouver), Sanderson (Ottawa), Nick Schmaltz (Arizona), Cole Smith (Nashville), Troy Stecher (Arizona, Calgary), Jonathan Toews (Chicago) and Christian Wolanin (Vancouver).

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators defenseman Tyler Kleven (43) warms up prior to game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Canadian Tire Centre on March 30, 2023. It marked Kleven's first NHL game.
Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports

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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