UND's fourth line comes alive
Griffin Ness, Nick Portz and Carson Albrecht have been dominant in puck possession and the points are starting to come
GRAND FORKS — Carson Albrecht toe-dragged the puck around St. Cloud State defenseman Jack Peart on Saturday night.
The UND forward took a step and left Peart, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, behind. Albrecht got to the top of the crease and lifted a backhand on net, but it was stopped by St. Cloud State goalie David Hrenak.
When Albrecht got back to the bench, he told linemate Griffin Ness: "Wow, that goalie has a quick chest."
UND's fourth line is having some fun these days — even when they don't score — and understandably so.
They've dominated puck possession the last four games and now they're starting to put points on the board for the 14-10-1 Fighting Hawks.
During last weekend's win and tie against St. Cloud State, Ness scored his first collegiate goal, Albrecht had his first college point and rookie Nick Portz had his first multi-point game.
"We have a job and our job is to create energy for our team, whether that's hitting someone behind the net or having a good shift in the offensive zone, sustaining pressure," Ness said. "It's been clicking. We have some good chemistry right now and we're just going to roll with it."
Ness' first goal came in his 39th career game Friday. Albrecht fed the Wayzata, Minn., product between the circles and Ness ripped it just inside the post.
It was his first goal since March 6, 2020, when he was playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League.
"It felt really good, actually," Ness said. "It was a long time coming. I'm really excited. It was a great play by Carson and Matteo (Costantini). It was a weight off my shoulders."
All three players have been scorers at other levels.
Ness had 20 goals and 44 points in 45 games for Waterloo. Portz had 15 goals and 37 points last season in the USHL. In Albrecht's last year of junior hockey, he racked up 33 goals and 89 points in 56 games in Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Albrecht, a junior, is still looking for his first collegiate goal, though.
"He's actually so skilled," Ness said. "It will come for him."
The offense has added confidence for the fourth line.
"Even before I scored, just the way we've been playing, we built our confidence together as a line," Ness said. "Then, we started to make more offensive plays because of that. I definitely think there's kind of a weight off my shoulders, which helps with playing and moving the puck."
UND coach Brad Berry initially matched UND's fourth line against St. Cloud State's fourth line, but as the weekend progressed, he ditched that matchup in order to get Ness, Portz and Albrecht more ice time.
"It's very evident they play with tenacity and speed," Berry said. "When they don't have the puck, there's not a lot of time for the other team to make plays. Taking away that time and space is a big deal. When they have the puck, they play a simple, hard brand of hockey of retrieving pucks, knowing where each other are. Those guys are performing at a high, high level right now."
Omaha at UND
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 26/722 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).