Riese Gaber's off-the-ice push helps UND secure a 4-2 victory over Bemidji State
The Fighting Hawks junior scored his 10th goal of the season and helped will his teammates across the finish line to get a series victory.
GRAND FORKS — Riese Gaber's name was continually mentioned in the press room Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
None of it had to do with the second-period goal he batted out of midair en route to UND's 4-2 victory over Bemidji State.
The talk was about the behind-the-scenes things he did to spark his team.
First, junior forward Louis Jamernik V stepped to the podium.
Jamernik V described his second-period goal, which he wired from the outside of the right circle past Bemidji State netminder Gavin Enright. It broke a 20-game goal drought dating back to February of last season.
"The first guy I want to mention is Riese Gaber," Jamernik V said. "That guy is not only an unreal teammate, but an unreal friend."
Jamernik V recalled a conversation he had with Gaber on Friday before the series opener in Bemidji.
"We had a good chat," Jamernik V said. "I was kind of getting down on myself a little bit. It's tough when it's not going in. But he just said it's all mindset. He gave me a lot of pointers on mental (things), 'I'm going to score. I'm going to score.' And he was telling me that all throughout the first period and the second period."
After Jamernik V scored, he immediately turned and pointed at Gaber.
"That's why I was pointing at him," Jamernik V said. "He was that guy."
UND coach Brad Berry was next at the podium.
Berry described the way Gaber tried to keep the team on track after Jamernik V's goal put the Fighting Hawks ahead 3-0 in the second period. In all six of UND's losses this season, it either held a lead or was tied in the second or third period. Gaber didn't want this one getting away.
"You know your team is coming and you know your team is doing the right thing when the leaders step up and talk about doing the right things," Berry said. "Riese Gaber says close to the end of the second period, 'Keep playing simple, we've got to keep playing simple.' Then, they talk about it in the locker room.
"When you deviate from it just a little bit in the third period, you call a timeout and go back to the things the players said out of their mouths. I think guys are coming. They're talking about the right things and they're believing in themselves to try to preserve these wins that have gone the other way a few times."
Although Bemidji State (5-4-3) scored twice in the span of 62 seconds to make it a one-goal game in the third, UND did lock it down.
While trying to preserve that one-goal lead, the Fighting Hawks did not allow a single shot on goal for the final 6 minutes, 22 seconds of the game.
"It was a huge win tonight," said goaltender Jakob Hellsten, who made 18 saves. "Closing this one out was a huge confidence boost for sure."
UND (6-6-3) was finally rewarded for its puck possession and scoring-chance advantages, which hasn't always been the case recently.
In Friday's 3-3 tie against Bemidji State in the Sanford Center, UND outshot the Beavers by 10 and puck possession time in the offensive zone was 17:17 for UND and 8:59 for the Beavers. A week earlier, UND lost a game to Miami in which it had a 20-shot advantage and a 16:41 to 7:57 edge in offensive zone possession time.
But on Saturday night, the reward arrived thanks to a first-period goal by Dylan James, second-period goals from Gaber and Jamernik V, and an empty-netter from Judd Caulfield.
"We just stacked shifts," Jamernik V said. "I think when we get buzzing, we get all four lines rolling and everybody gets the rhythm and flow. We change (lines) out of the O-zone, hem them in. . . there were a few times even last night, too, where we had them trapped in their zone and they couldn't even get it out of their zone. When we do that, it drains their energy and that invests later into the game, because that drains their batteries."
The Fighting Hawks will now close the first half of the season with back-to-back difficult road trips.
First, they play at 11-3 St. Cloud State in Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Then, they go to Western Michigan to take on the nation's top-scoring offense.
"I think we took a step forward," said defenseman Tyler Kleven, who tallied two assists after being unable to finish Friday night's game due to a lower-body injury. "Hopefully, we can continue that in the first half."
Notes: UND played without injured defenseman Ethan Frisch, ill defenseman Brent Johnson, injured forward Dane Montgomery and injured forward Nick Portz. Cooper Moore returned to the lineup after missing the last three games. . . UND had scored a power-play goal every game heading into the weekend, but went scoreless on four chances against the Beavers.