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A look at the effectiveness of UND forward Griffin Ness

The junior center has been generating a lot of scoring chances during his minutes played this season.

UND hockey vs. Manitoba - Oct. 1, 2022
Fighting Hawks forward Griffin Ness (14) stuffs the puck past Manitoba Bisons goaltender Brett Murphy (35) in the first period of an exhibition men's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Griffin Ness has become a fixture centering the fourth line for the UND hockey team this season.

As you'd expect with a fourth-liner, Ness' minutes aren't sky high.

He's averaging modest 9 minutes, 48 seconds of ice time per game, ranking 11th among the 15 UND forwards who have played this season.

But underlying numbers show the junior forward has been particularly effective in his minutes during the first half of the season.

Ness ranks second on UND's team in goals per minute of ice time, only behind Riese Gaber. He's slightly ahead of rookie Jackson Blake.


Outside of Gaber, only 10 other National Collegiate Hockey Conference players are scoring more goals per minute than Ness — Minnesota Duluth's Ben Steeves, Omaha's Jack Randl, Western Michigan's Jamie Rome, Denver's Carter Mazur, Colorado College's Hunter McKown, St. Cloud State's Zach Okabe, St. Cloud State's Grant Cruikshank, Western Michigan's Jason Polin, Miami's John Waldron and St. Cloud State's Jami Krannila.

All of those players are regulars on the power play, averaging more than two minutes per game with the man advantage. All of them are all-NCHC candidates.

Ness is not.

How is the junior from Wayzata, Minn., doing it?

It's not with a Gaber-like release or a Rome-like one-timer. Ness is getting to the prime-scoring area more than anyone else.

Ness leads UND in shots from the inner-slot area per minute played according to InStat Hockey. Behind him are Gaber, Mark Senden, Gavin Hain and Carson Albrecht.

That's also probably why Ness has the third-highest shooting percentage on the team, only behind Albrecht and Judd Caulfield.

"He's going to those hard areas and being predictable to his teammates," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We always look for guys who have consistent habits and details and are not erratic with their play. He's been the mainstay as a centerman on that line and they've become very effective.


"Any time that line can go out there and sustain play in the offensive zone, eliminate time in your end of the rink, it's momentum. He's capitalized offensively in the time he's been on the ice. He's been very much a positive for our group in the first half of the season."

The total numbers themselves may not pop out at you — Ness has four goals and 18 shots on goal in 16 games this season — but he's been highly effective in the minutes he's played.

The coaching staff has taken notice.

In UND's first 10 games of the season, Ness was a healthy scratch three times and never eclipsed 11 minutes in a game.

In UND's last nine games, Ness has played all of them and has eclipsed the 11-minute mark six times.

"We're a four-line team," Berry said. "But sometimes, you roll the lines and you go 1, 2, 3, then you go on a power play or the other team does, and the special teams break up the cadence of the lines. He stays mentally engaged and focused for whenever that next shift is. That's tough, because if the game gets broken up with specialty teams, it can get players out of sorts. I don't see that in Griffin. He's effective and ready to go for that next shift. . . whenever it is."

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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