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Where does Shane Pinto's season rank among the NCHC's all-time best goal-scorers?

The Fighting Hawks sophomore leads the league with 15 goals.

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Fighting Hawks forward Shane Pinto tosses a puck to a young fan after warming up prior to Saturday's home hockey matchup versus Omaha. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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Shane Pinto had numerous scoring chances Saturday night, but was unable to finish.

He hit the post on one. He missed wide on another.

"I'll tell you what," UND coach Brad Berry said, "when he comes back to the bench, there's no guy harder on himself than him, knowing that he had those two glorious chances to score. That's what you love about him and the rest of our group that love to finish plays and create offense. They're hard on themselves and that's what makes you better."

So, when UND got a power play in the third period and Collin Adams flipped a pass in Pinto's direction, he leaned into it with all the power he can generate and ripped a one-timer, a weapon he uses as well as any UND player in the last two decades, past Omaha goalie Austin Roden.

It was Goal No. 15 of the season, expanding his lead on the rest of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

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Pinto, with goals in seven of UND's last eight games, is positioning himself to be a big individual award winner at the end of the season.

He's likely going to be the NCHC's forward of the year, player of the year and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

It isn't hard to stack up Pinto's numbers against the rest of the league this season. But looking at Pinto's numbers in a historical context is a little more challenging because of the coronavirus pandemic-impacted schedule.

UND did not play a nonconference schedule this season, so that erased 11 games where Pinto would have had a chance to accumulate statistics. Considering the Fighting Hawks were supposed to play three of this year's 13 worst defensive teams -- Niagara, Penn State and Northern Michigan -- opportunities would have been aplenty.

Taking that into consideration, perhaps the best way to look at Pinto's numbers historically is to compare goals in conference games to what players did in past years.

If you do that, the second-round Ottawa Senators draft pick from Franklin Square, N.Y., stacks up quite well.

Right now, Pinto is scoring at a rate better than any NCHC player since former UND star Brock Boeser five years ago. Boeser, who now plays for the Vancouver Canucks, is currently second in the NHL in goals, tied with Edmonton's Connor McDavid and only behind Toronto's Auston Matthews.

Pinto is currently averaging 0.68 goals per game. Boeser averaged 0.83 goals per game as a freshman in 2015-16. UND went on to win the NCAA national championship that season.

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The only other player ahead of Pinto's clip in NCHC history is former Omaha forward Josh Archibald, who had 0.88 goals per game in the league's inaugural season, 2013-14.

The overall total of 15 goals might not blow you away, but when you match that against what others have done against NCHC opponents, Pinto is having one of the best goal-scoring seasons in league history.

Pinto has scored seven even-strength goals, seven on the power play and one shorthanded. On the power play, he's a threat to one-time the puck from the left circle, where he frequently receives feeds from seniors Matt Kiersted, Jordan Kawaguchi or Adams. That's how he tallied No. 15 on Saturday night against Omaha.

Berry said he's not surprised to see the jump in Pinto's game after the centerman had 16 goals and 11 in NCHC play as a rookie.

"When you have very good players in your lineup who invest in their time at the rink and away from the rink on a daily basis, it doesn't help but get better," Berry said. "And that's what he's done. When you have players that try to hone in on specific details that can help to score on a daily basis, that's what you get. It's when you don't do that or follow through and you're loose in your day to day, then it becomes a chance whether you score or don't score. He wants to make sure it's a situation where, when he's on the ice, he takes advantage of every opportunity."

Highest goals per NCHC game in league history

0.88 -- Josh Archibald, Omaha (2013-14)

0.83 -- Brock Boeser, UND (2015-16)

0.68 -- Shane Pinto, UND (2020-21)

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0.62 -- Jarid Lukosevicius, Denver (2017-18)

0.62 -- Joey Benik, St. Cloud State (2015-16)

0.61 -- David Pope, Omaha (2017-18)

0.60 -- Henrik Borgstrom, Denver (2016-17)

0.59 -- Mark MacMillan, UND (2014-15)

0.58 -- Shane Gersich, UND (2016-17)

0.58 -- Henrik Borgstrom, Denver (2017-18)

0.57 -- Grant Cruikshank, Colorado College (2020-21)

0.57 -- Trevor Moore, Denver (2014-15)

0.57 -- Riley Barber, Miami (2014-15)

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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