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UND sweeps Lindenwood behind Tyler Kleven's four-goal weekend

The Fighting Hawks junior defender scored two more goals Saturday as his team extended its unbeaten streak to four games.

NCAA Men's Hockey 2023: Lindenwood v North Dakota JAN 07
UND defenseman Tyler Kleven (25) scores a second-period goal against Lindenwood on Jan. 7, 2023, in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Russell Hons / UND athletics

GRAND FORKS — When UND coach Brad Berry looked at the scoreboard and saw his team trailing 2-0 to Lindenwood in the first period, one thing went through his mind.

"Bill Murray," Berry said. "Groundhog's Day."

And when defenseman Tyler Kleven hammered home two goals, including the game-winner on the power play in the third period?

"Groundhog's Day again," Berry said.

In a game with a lot of parallels to Friday night's series opener, UND rallied from an early deficit on the strength of Kleven's booming shot. The blue liner from Fargo scored once at even strength and once on the power play to complete a four-goal weekend and give the Fighting Hawks a 4-2 victory over the Lions.

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The win solidified UND's first two-game sweep since the season-opening series against Holy Cross. It also pushed the Fighting Hawks above .500 at 9-8-4 overall as their unbeaten streak reached four games.

"Even though we gave up a couple goals, I'm proud of the way our guys battled back," Berry said. "This weekend, I think our two best periods were the second periods both nights. They set us up for the third and just having the belief to do that."

Ben Strinden and Mark Senden each scored a goal and tallied an assist, while defenseman Ethan Frisch had a pair of assists for the Fighting Hawks. Jakob Hellsten, who made a relief appearance Friday, got the start and stopped 23 of 25 shots.

But Kleven was the centerpiece this weekend.

At 6-foot-5, 213 pounds, Kleven is an imposing figure on the back end who is noted for delivering big hits. Because of that, the offensive side of his game has often been overlooked.

"I think it's always been there," Kleven said. "I always try to help contribute to my team in that form. I think that's an aspect of my game that kind of gets overlooked. They look at me as a big shutdown defenseman, but I know, myself, that I have some skill to my game. I'm glad I could show that tonight."

Kleven now has nine points in the last eight games. He's tied as the fourth-leading scorer on the team.

"I think he's growing," Berry said of Kleven's offensive side. "Since he first came here, I think it's grown exponentially — five-on-five and on the power play. It's just confidence. I think when you have a big, physical body and a presence on the ice, you always think of a guy that's a stay-at-home defenseman and a guy that just brings that physical element and moves pucks. He's a lot more than that — and he's showing that now.

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"He's feeling it right now. He's on the power play. He's a threat. We're using him and it was a big part of the weekend for us."

Lindenwood, which entered the game as the second-worst faceoff team in Division-I men's hockey, scored twice off of draws in the opening 12:47. David Gagnon got a point shot through traffic and Caige Sterzer scored from the top of the crease to put the Lions ahead 2-0.

UND's rally started in the second, when Strinden scored from the slot at 1:48 and Kleven hammered a shot from the left circle at 6:11.

"I skate with him in the summer every day," Strinden said of Kleven. "And the stuff he does is just ridiculous for a 6-5 defenseman. He's got a lot of skill and he showed it, obviously, this weekend."

UND scored the winner with 8:04 left in the third period, taking advantage of its fourth power play of the night.

Freshman forward Owen McLaughlin hit the inside of the post from the left circle, but the rebound kicked out to Kleven in the right circle. He one-timed it home, turned around and gave a fist pump, just as he did a night earlier when scoring the winner.

Senden iced the game in the final two minutes, chipping a puck around a Lions defender in the defensive zone, chipping it around another Lindenwood player in the neutral zone and snapping a shot five-hole on Lions goalie Trent Burnham (39 saves) from the left circle.

"I thought overall, we played a really strong game," Senden said. "Obviously, there at the start, it wasn't the start we wanted again. But we stuck to our systems. We didn't deviate from our game plan and it paid off in the end."

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That hasn't always been the case this season.

Several times in the first half, UND deviated from its structure late in games and ended up losing them.

Now, the tide seems to be turning in that department.

UND efficiently closed out a win against Western Michigan in its final game before Christmas break. It won its Christmas exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team in overtime. And the Fighting Hawks scored the winner against Lindenwood in the final 10 minutes both nights.

"We had to go through some adversity in the first two periods of both games," Strinden said. "They didn't go the way we wanted. But I'm proud of the guys for battling back and getting the job done."

NCAA Men's Hockey 2023: Lindenwood v North Dakota JAN 07
UND goalie Jakob Hellsten follows the puck during a game against Lindenwood on Jan. 7, 2023, in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Russell Hons / UND athletics

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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