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UND will be without Gavin Hain for the near future

The Fighting Hawks aren't ruling out a return this season, but they're preparing to be without their alternate captain in the coming weeks.

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Gavin Hain is celebrated by his teammates after his game-winning goal in overtime against Denver in the 2021 NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — UND's leading goal-scorer over the last two months won't be in the lineup again any time soon.

Senior winger Gavin Hain's leg injury, sustained during the series opener against Cornell on Jan. 7, will keep him out for at least several weeks.

UND is still hoping the Grand Rapids, Minn., product will be able to return at some point this season, but no exact timetable has been set for his recovery.

When asked if Hain could be available again this season, UND coach Brad Berry said: "Not in the short term. That's all I can give you right now. We are hopeful he will be in our lineup before the playoffs come, but right now, he's out short term and hopeful longterm to be back in."

Hain's absence will be a blow to UND on a few levels.

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First, he's one of the league's best defensive forwards. During the last four seasons, Hain has often teamed with classmate Mark Senden to form a shutdown line that's tasked with matching up against each opponent's best offensive unit.

Lately, Hain has emerged as an offensive threat, too.

Heading into Christmas break, he tallied eight points in eight games, good for second on the team in scoring during that timeframe (only behind Senden's nine).

He's scored five goals since Nov. 15, most on the team — one ahead of Louis Jamernik and Riese Gaber. Hain scored in four of five games before his injury. Three of those goals broke a tie and gave UND the lead for good.

"It's got to be tough on him," Berry said. "He's been a big part of our group here and he's not in our lineup. But he's always asking if he can do more. That's a big thing. We're going to lean on him a little bit here — his leadership, but also maybe help us a little bit analytically until he gets back in the lineup."

Berry said he expects Hain, an alternate captain, to continue to provide leadership while out of the lineup.

"It's funny how players transform from their first year to their fourth year," Berry said. "He's no different. He was a humble, hard-working kid who didn't say a whole lot coming in. Now, he's very vocal. When he was playing in the lineup and things were going great, it's keeping the pedal on the metal and keeping the foot on the gas.

"But when there was a little bit of adversity, he was one of the first guys to step up and say the right things and try to get his teammates playing on the same page. Him being out of the lineup, he hasn't changed."

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The Hain, Senden and Jamernik line has been UND's most productive in the last two months.

Assuming the coaching staff leaves Senden and Jamernik together, it will need to find a compatible third. Last Saturday night, junior Judd Caulfield played on that unit.

"It's trying to replicate what they did with another player," Berry said. "It's about the other lines, too, trying to get some chemistry and continuity with these lines that can not only try to score goals but defend very well. I think what you're going to see now in the NCHC is defending is going to be at a premium. Teams that defend very well are the teams that are going to do well in a 60-minute game."

A Caulfield breakthrough at WMU?

Caulfield is one player UND hopes will add production with Hain out.

The Grand Forks Central product started the season by tallying eight points in nine games, but he's on a career-long 12-game point drought since picking up an assist against Denver on Nov. 6.

"By the way," Berry said, "he had a really good week of practice. I think it's simplifying his game and getting back to early in the year what gave him success — a north brand of hockey and being simple."

Berry said he'd like to see Caulfield shoot the puck more often instead of look to pass.

"Judd's an outstanding young man," Berry said. "He's a team-first guy. He's a great teammate — sometimes to a point where he probably wants to see his teammate do well before him, meaning that when he has the puck, he's got to shoot the puck a little more."

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Perhaps a trip to Lawson Ice Arena is just what Caulfield needs.

As a freshman, he went without a goal in his first 13 collegiate games. Then, he scored his first two college goals in the same period at Lawson. Three of his first four UND goals came against Western Michigan.

"He's such a big body that possess the puck and I think, whether it's in a Grade-A scoring area or it's off in a corner, it's whipping a puck to the net," Berry said. "Then, it's getting to the net and getting his stick on a puck. I think it's simplifying his game. I think once that happens, it will come."

UND at Western Michigan

When: 6:05 p.m. Friday, 6:05 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Lawson Ice Arena, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Records: UND 13-8 (8-2 NCHC); Western Michigan 14-5 (6-4).
TV: None.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).
Stream: NCHC.tv.
Of note: This will be UND's first trip to Lawson Ice Arena since December 2019.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
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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