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Weekend rewind: With Jackson Kunz back, UND's fourth line turns into an advantage

The former Red River player had points both nights in St. Cloud, while linemate Griffin Ness had his first two-point game and Nick Portz set up a goal.

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UND forward Jackson Kunz (29) scores during the first period of UND's 5-3 win over St. Cloud State as Griffin Ness (11) looks on. Photo by Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
www.jasonwachter.com
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The injury came at a bad time for Jackson Kunz.

The former Grand Forks Red River player and his linemates Griffin Ness and Nick Portz had perhaps their best weekend of the year at Miami on Nov. 12-13. They didn't tally any points, but were dominant with puck possession, generated chances throughout the weekend and even hit the post.

But during the final period of the weekend, Kunz suffered an upper-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for four games.

Add in the arm injury to forward Ashton Calder and the illness that kept Matteo Costantini out for two weeks and the Fighting Hawks were forced to jumble their forward lines.

They never found the same effectiveness on the fourth line.

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But Kunz returned to the lineup this weekend, the coaching staff reunited him with Ness and Portz, and that line gave UND a huge boost during a weekend split at St. Cloud State.

Kunz, a freshman, had a point each night. He set up a goal Friday with a heavy shot that created a rebound for Connor Ford. On Saturday, after UND fell behind early, he scored a key goal on top of the crease to get the Fighting Hawks going.

Ness, a sophomore, ended his 22-game point drought Saturday with his first multi-point game in college.

"It feels good, but I'm happier with the win," Ness said after UND's 5-3 victory. "Credit to my linemates. We've been playing well the last few games. It feels good to get rewarded, but we're happy with the win and we're trending in the right direction. We've just got to finish off these last few games before break."

Portz, a freshman from St. Cloud, set up a goal on a backdoor feed to Ford on Saturday. It brought back memories of former UND captain Austin Poganski, also a St. Cloud native, who always seemed to get on the scoresheet back home.

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UND forward Nick Portz carries the puck during a game Dec. 4, 2021, against St. Cloud State in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Photo by Jason Wachter / The Rink Live
www.jasonwachter.com

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UND

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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