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Known for his punishing hits, UND defenseman Tyler Kleven's reputation starting to include offensive prowess

Kleven's second-period blast stood as the game-winning goal -- his second in as many weekends.

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Fighting Hawks defenseman Tyler Kleven celebrates his goal with teammates Judd Caulfield (28), Mark Senden (19) and Chris Jandric (7) in the second period of an NCHC men's hockey quarterfinals matchup against Colorado College at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks on Friday, March 11, 2022
Nick Nelson / UND Athletics

GRAND FORKS — UND defenseman Tyler Kleven has a reputation as a physically imposing presence, a 6-foot-4, 213-pound bruiser who has toed the line with punishing hits and penalties.

Maybe it's time to start respecting his offense.

Kleven scored the game-winning goal for the second weekend in a row during UND's 2-1 win over Colorado College on Friday night in the first round National Collegiate Hockey Conference series at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

"He's so sound defensively that maybe people underestimate his offense, but his shot is probably the hardest I've ever seen," UND forward Jake Schmaltz said.

Kleven, who now has seven goals on the season, was one of the few UND players to get pucks through to Colorado College goalie Matt Vernon on Friday.

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Kleven had six of UND's 23 shots on goal. No other player had more than three shots on goal in the series opener against the Tigers.

For the season, Kleven is second on the Fighting Hawks with 80 shots on goal. Riese Gaber leads the team with 89 shots.

"It's explosive," UND coach Brad Berry said of Kleven's hard shot. "It jumps off his stick. He has a powerful blast with velocity and accuracy now.

"He's a guy who's matured in all different areas. He used to jump up and out a few times, but he's more discerning with his reads. He adds to the offense smartly, not high-risk in the offensive zone and that's part of maturity."

His goal against Colorado College came about 5 feet inside the blue line with no traffic in front — a shot too heavy for Vernon to catch. The shot hit the crossbar and into the net.

A week earlier, Kleven scored the overtime game-winning goal at Omaha to clinch UND's share of the Penrose Cup. Like Friday, Kleven scored with no traffic in front on a blast too hard to be caught.

"It's one of the hardest shots I've seen," UND defenseman Jake Sanderson said. "If he gets it off and through, 95 percent chance it's going in. You just have to keep shooting it and finding lanes."

Before coming to Grand Forks, Sanderson and Kleven played together at the National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Mich.

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"I always knew he could shoot the puck," Sanderson said. "He always spends time on it. For him, I think it's just building up his confidence and belief in himself. He has, and it shows."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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