Friday rewind: Matteo Costantini producing more than he did in the USHL
The UND rookie forward has provided an unexpected amount of offense during his first collegiate season.
GRAND FORKS — Matteo Costantini was supposed to play for the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League last season.
The Vees agreed to transfer him to the Sioux City Musketeers in the United States Hockey League after a hockey season appeared unlikely in Canada due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Costantini moved in mid-January. He played 37 games for Sioux City. He tallied a modest seven goals and 22 points. He wasn't flashy and often played more of a defensive role for a very good Musketeers team. Costantini scored just one goal in his final 20 USHL games.
That's what has made this year so surprising.
Costantini assisted on a first-period goal and scored the game-winner in the second during UND's 2-1 victory over Western Michigan on Friday night.
You rarely see players match their junior hockey point totals as first-year college players, but Costantini is doing just that. He now has the same number of goals (seven) that he scored in Sioux City in far fewer games (28).
Costantini is up to 19 points on the season and will likely pass his USHL point total as well.
The St. Catharines Ont., product is playing key minutes as left wing on UND's top line alongside Connor Ford and Judd Caulfield, while manning the left flank on the second power-play unit.
For a team that needed to replace Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist Jordan Kawaguchi, Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist Shane Pinto, Sharks draft pick Jasper Weatherby, Predators draft pick Grant Mismash, Islanders draft pick Collin Adams and a whole lot of offense, Costantini's emergence has been a blessing for the Fighting Hawks.
The Buffalo Sabres draft pick has showed a skill level that wasn't always apparent in the USHL last season. On Friday, he made two key plays that led to UND's goals.
In the first period, he made a perfect chip to send Jake Schmaltz into the offensive zone in space. Schmaltz, in turn, fed Ashton Calder for a goal.
In the second period, Ford forced a turnover and Caulfield made a beautiful pass to send Costantini in alone. Costantini made no mistake, beating Western Michigan goalie Brandon Bussi five-hole for the game-winning goal.
"I was just on the end of two guys working really hard," Costantini said. "Fordo poked that in and kept it in, then Judd just made a high-end play. I was on the end of it and did the easy part. I've definitely got to give that one to my linemates."
UND's penalty kill does the job
The last time UND and Western Michigan met, special teams were the difference.
In the January series opener, the Broncos scored three times on four power-play chances to get a 4-1 win.
On Friday night, UND held the Broncos scoreless on four opportunities. Western Michigan had its chances — 10 of the Broncos' 35 shots Friday came on the power play — but they were unable to capitalize.
"I thought we did a good job staying with the game and our kill did an outstanding job tonight against a very good power play," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We did a pretty good job limiting them to very few power plays, but at the end of the day, found a way to get those kills."
UND has a chance to win the Penrose Cup for a third-straight season Saturday night.
It seems unlikely because two things need to happen: 1. UND has to sweep a Western Michigan team that hasn't been swept since mid-November; 2. Omaha has to sweep a Denver team that hasn't been swept since early November.
But if both happen, UND will be presented the Penrose Cup on Saturday night.
The process could be a bit unconventional.
UND's game starts at 6:07 p.m. Omaha-Denver starts an hour later.
So, even if UND wins, it will need to wait until about an hour after its game to find out the Omaha-Denver result.
Part of that hour will be filled by Senior Night festivities and video on the scoreboard. After that, if UND wins, The Ralph will likely put the Omaha-DU game on the scoreboard until its over.
If both results break UND's way, the a Cup presentation would follow.
- Ashton Calder tallied career point No. 98 with his goal in the first period. He's two points shy of the Century Club.
- Ronnie Attard and Drew Worrad led Western Michigan in shots on goal with five each.
- Each team hit the post twice. Jason Polin had both of Western Michigan's posts (he also had the great look in the final second of the game). Mark Senden (outside of the post) and Carson Albrecht (inside of the post) drew iron for UND.
- How much has UND's confidence in Brent Johnson grown? The Fighting Hawks dressed seven defensemen, but still opted to give him a shift with less than five minutes left in a one-goal game. That would not have happened two months ago.
- Western Michigan goalie Brandon Bussi, who stymied UND earlier this season, stopped 17 of 19. He did leave some rebounds, but the Fighting Hawks didn't pressure him enough to capitalize on any of them.
- The Broncos, presumably, could add one key player to their roster for the series finale. Max Sasson is on the trip. He didn't play Friday, but Western Michigan probably isn't bringing him if the Broncos don't think he's really close.