UND played four-on-four hockey during its informal, voluntary scrimmage Monday morning in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
With the three incoming forwards not on campus yet -- sophomore transfer Brendan Budy, rookie Riese Gaber and rookie Griffin Ness -- the four-on-four format helped solve the issue of having an over-abundance of defensemen.
The open ice also showcased the ability UND has to generate offense from the back end.
The Fighting Hawks, who have more points by defensemen than any college program in the last decade, appear to have another blue line loaded with offensively gifted players.
The Green Team beat the Black Team 9-4 on Monday morning. Of the 13 goals, six were scored by five different defensemen.
Rookie Jake Sanderson, who could be picked in the top 10 of the NHL Draft in October, scored twice. Rookie Tyler Kleven scored once, as did freshman Mitchell Miller, junior alternate captain Jacob Bernard-Docker and senior alternate captain Matt Kiersted.
Kiersted was particularly dynamic Monday.
Not only did he score a goal from in front of the crease, he showed off several other elements to his game. He frequently stickhandled his way through traffic, especially in the offensive zone to create room. He made a couple of nice stretch passes. He showed good vision to set up teammates, too.
Sanderson, who has been outstanding thus far, not only scored two goals but also set up his classmate, Miller, for a goal. He continues to look like someone who will provide an instant impact.
Pinto shines in scrimmage
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference's reigning rookie of the year, UND forward Shane Pinto, took over for parts of the four-on-four scrimmage.
His team scored four goals. Pinto buried two of them and had the primary assist on another.
The sophomore from Franklin Square, N.Y., opened the scoring on a breakaway, making a deke and putting the puck underneath goalie Harrison Feeney. His second goal came on a wrist shot off the rush.
Pinto also made a nice setup to Kleven for a goal, circling the net and pulling the goalie to one post, before dishing the puck backdoor for Kleven. The rookie from Fargo had half the net to look at and finished it.
Pinto wasn't just engaged offensively. Near the end of the scrimmage, with his team trailing 7-4, Miller had an open look from the slot, but Pinto dove in front of him and blocked the shot. That play got the attention of his teammates, who banged their sticks on the boards in approval.
You don't often see players diving in front of pucks in summer pickup hockey games.
- The forwards goals were scored by: Pinto (2), Judd Caulfield (2), Mark Senden, Jasper Weatherby and Jackson Keane.
- Keep in mind, the defensemen still did play occasional shifts at forward, and they had opportunities you won't often see in a regular-season game. Both Sanderson and Bernard-Docker scored on breakaways. How often do you see defenseman breakaways?
- Peter Thome had the save of the day. Miller received a cross-crease pass on the right side of the crease for a Grade-A scoring chance. Thome slid over quickly to get in position, but Miller showed off some great vision and playmaking ability by dropping it to Weatherby, who was wide open in the slot. Weatherby got the shot off, but Thome reached back and made the save with the paddle of his stick.
- It wasn't just that play, Miller displayed some excellent vision on multiple instances Monday, finding teammates you didn't expect him to.
- Weatherby figured into the action quite a bit today. In addition to the goal he scored from the top of the crease, he also set up Caulfield for one.
- Both of Caulfield's goals were from the area you would expect: on top of the crease.