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Friday rewind: Riese Gaber beginning to rack up the points

The sophomore forward scored once and added two assists in the series opener against Omaha.

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Fighting Hawks forward Riese Gaber celebrates his goal in the first period of an NCHC home hockey matchup against Omaha at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Friday, February 4, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — On the first shift of the game, Riese Gaber blocked a shot in the defensive zone.

Then, Gaber picked up the puck along the right-side boards, skated it through the neutral zone, cut all the way across to the left-wing side, beat defenseman Jason Smallidge wide and centered a pass to Connor Ford.

The pass might have been a little bit out of Ford's reach, but UND coach Brad Berry knew right then it might be a big night for Gaber.

"When Gabes gets out of the chute and has a couple of shifts, you know he's going to have a really good game all night," Berry said.

That was the case Friday.


Gaber scored a highlight-reel goal on his second shift of the game, then added two assists in the second period for a three-point night. He helped will UND to a 4-1 victory over Omaha on a night the Fighting Hawks otherwise didn't have their best.

"He's a stud," UND goalie Zach Driscoll said. "He's so quick, so powerful. His shot is, you know, you've seen what his shot can do. And he plays the game the right way all over the ice. He's known for scoring goals and his offensive talent, but if you spend some time watching him in the defensive zone and watching him win wall battles and getting pucks out, he's an all-around player for sure."

Gaber now has seven points during UND's last two Friday night games.

He tallied four points in UND's 7-1 win over St. Cloud State a week earlier and three against the Mavericks. The sophomore from Manitoba now has 29 points this season — 10 more than any other forward on the team.

"He's been playing outstanding," UND captain Mark Senden said. "Seeing him get that first one, too, it was a really good play by him. The guy has a lot of poise. He knows how to find the back of the net and he plays the right way all the time. He's an outstanding player."

UND's first goal of the game was on a brilliant individual effort by Gaber.

He picked up the puck in the defensive zone, chipped it around Omaha's top defenseman Brandon Scanlin, entered the zone on an odd-man rush, toe-dragged the puck past a diving Victor Mancini and snapped a shot past goalie Isaiah Saville's glove.

"I knew right after my first shift that I wasn't going to be denied," Gaber said. "I felt really good off the start and I've got to keep bringing that every game."


In addition to scoring goals and tallying points, Gaber's discipline has been excellent recently. He has now gone four games without taking a penalty — the longest stretch of his college career.

"It pushes our team," Berry said of Gaber's performance. "He's one of our best players and when he pushes that bar up, it pushes the bar for the rest of the team."

UND tightens up at even strength

After the Cornell series to open the 2022 calendar year, the Fighting Hawks lamented defensive breakdowns and said they needed to tighten up.

That's happened in a big way since Cornell.

UND has now allowed just two even-strength goals in the last five games.

They allowed one in two games at Western Michigan — a rebound in front. They allowed one in two games against St. Cloud State last weekend — U.S. Olympian Nick Perbix got behind the defense coming out of the penalty box and buried a breakaway.

On Friday night against Omaha, UND did not allow any even-strength goals. The lone Mavericks tally came on the power play from Scanlin.

"It just shows how we've improved defensively as a team," said Driscoll, who has stopped 46 of the last 47 shots. "Our box-outs (Friday) by our defensemen in front were really good. They had a couple of huge blocked shots. So, they're helping me out. It's not just me back there."


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UND goaltender Zach Driscoll watches as an Omaha shot goes wide in the first period of an NCHC men's hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Friday, February 4, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Quick hits

  • Friday night marked the 18th-straight game between UND and Omaha where the scorer of the game's first goal went on to win.
  • This marks the 22nd series all-time between the teams. Omaha has yet to win one and won't this weekend. In the previous 21 series, there have been 14 splits, six UND sweeps and one UND victory and tie.
  • Omaha forward Ty Mueller suffered an injury on a devastating body check by UND defenseman Tyler Kleven in the first period. Mueller never returned.
  • Louis Jamernik was the hot hand in the faceoff circle for UND in the series opener. He went 13-4.
  • Ethan Frisch has scored goals in three straight games with his right-handed shot on the left side of the ice, just as Alexander Ovechkin does on the power play for the Washington Capitals. Senden joked after the game: "I call him the next Ovy the way he's ripping those shots."
  • Berry on managing the defense without Jake Sanderson and Brady Ferner: "Sanderson and Ferner are out. That's a big hit. . . a third of your D-core out. But I thought our young guys (rookies Luke Bast and Brent Johnson) came in and did a pretty good job. I think there's a big learning curve there, too. We're playing against a big, hard, heavy team, a good team in Omaha. You've got to make sure you play a good management game and move pucks early. If you hang onto pucks, sometimes their forecheck overwhelms you a little bit. I think it's a situation where you learn on the fly a little bit."

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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