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UND still searching for a goaltender to take the reins

The Fighting Hawks will take on the nation's top-scoring offense, Western Michigan, this weekend in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

NCAA Men's Hockey 2023: Lindenwood v North Dakota JAN 06
UND goaltenders Drew DeRidder (34) and Jakob Hellsten (32) give each other a fist bump on Jan. 6, 2023.
Russell Hons / UND athletics
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GRAND FORKS — In the final weekend of the first half, it appeared UND had solved the goaltending riddle.

Fifth-year senior transfer Drew DeRidder went back to his home state and held the nation's No. 1 scoring offense, Western Michigan, to a total of two goals in 165 minutes. That included a 3-0 shutout victory in the series finale.

But 5 minutes, 19 seconds into the second half of the season, DeRidder was back on the bench after allowing three goals on six shots to Lindenwood.

Sophomore Jakob Hellsten came in and finished the series.

It's back to Square One.

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UND will head into a rematch with Western Michigan, still the nation's top-scoring team, this weekend with a team save percentage of .873 — tied with Air Force for the worst mark in the country. It has been 20 years since UND finished a season with a team save percentage below .894.

The Fighting Hawks (9-8-4) are still waiting for a goaltender to take the reins.

"We're trying to find some consistency in our group here," UND coach Brad Berry said after his team swept Lindenwood. "We're going to try to ride a goaltender who can kind of consecutively win games for us consistently and go from there. Jakob Hellsten deserves another opportunity here and we'll keep moving forward."

DeRidder is 4-4-2 with a 3.10 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage. Hellsten is 5-4-2 with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .871 save percentage.

UND's third-string goalie, Grand Forks native Kaleb Johnson, has not yet played in a regular-season game, but remains an option for the Fighting Hawks.

"At the end of the day, even though it's the second half of the season and you'd like (to have a starter), it's just a different year," said Berry, who has been forced to pull his starting goalie four times in 21 games this season. "You know what, we have some NHL draft picks out of our lineup. We're just trying to find ways to win with guys we feel that can help us win games."

It was mid-January last season when Zach Driscoll took over as the clear-cut starter and posted a .935 save percentage for the final two months. Driscoll played a key role as UND ran to a third-straight Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season champions.

UND's 2020 Penrose Cup-winning team also shuffled goaltenders in the second half, but had a much higher team save percentage (.910).

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Berry thanks his team

Berry missed last weekend's exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team because of a family illness.

He returned Thursday and coached both games against Lindenwood.

"It's not about me, but I got back here on Thursday," Berry said. "I was gone for seven or eight days, dealing with a family emergency. I thanked them for letting me go. I ended the weekend by thanking them again. I told them, 'I went home to be with my family, but this is really where my family is.'

"North Dakota is my family. I love this place. I love them."

The Fighting Hawks won both games against the Lions to extend their unbeaten streak to four games.

"At the end of the day, it's about building and growing," Berry said. "I think we did this weekend. But we have a long way to go to get that consistency we talk about. But it was a good first step here in the second half."

Strinden, Kleven honored

The south side of Fargo is well represented in this week's NCHC awards.

UND junior Tyler Kleven is the NCHC defenseman of the week after scoring four goals, including two game-winners against Lindenwood. The former Fargo Davies blue liner has five goals and 11 points this season.

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"The puck's just finding my tape," Kleven said. "There were a lot of good opportunities out there. Everyone on that power-play (unit) helped me out and set me up for a good opportunity. I'm just glad I could help the team."

UND freshman Ben Strinden is the NCHC rookie of the week after a three-point weekend. Strinden had an assist in Friday's series opener and scored a goal and tallied an assist Saturday. The former Fargo South-Shanley player has six points on the season.

"It feels really good to get a sweep at home," Strinden said. "We haven't had as many of those as we would like to."

McLaughlin shooting more

Owen McLaughlin is pass-first setup man with excellent vision, as evidenced by his numbers so far.

The freshman center has nine assists in 19 games for the Fighting Hawks, but is still looking for his first collegiate goal.

He came close Saturday night, ringing a shot off the inside of the post on the power play. Kleven pounced on the rebound for the go-ahead goal.

Lately, it appears McLaughlin is making an effort to shoot more often.

McLaughlin attempted more shots in one night Saturday (eight) than he has in any entire weekend so far this season.

He attempted 13 shots during the two-game series against Lindenwood, nearly doubling his previous high of seven in a weekend (vs. Quinnipiac and at St. Cloud State).

Goal-scoring has been a part of McLaughlin's game in the past. He scored 28 goals last season for Sioux City in the United States Hockey League.

McLaughlin shot attempts by series

Holy Cross3
Quinnipiac7
Minnesota6
Arizona St.4
Omaha5
Denver6
Bemidji St.4
SCSU7
WMU5
Lindenwood13

Arizona State was a single game. McLaughlin missed UND's series against Miami due to injury.

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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