Zach Driscoll answers the call for UND
The fifth-year senior was perfect in 45 minutes of work Saturday night for the Fighting Hawks.
GRAND FORKS — On Saturday morning, UND players who didn't suit up Friday night held a skate in Ralph Engelstad Arena to do some work and stay sharp.
Goaltender Zach Driscoll joined them.
"He looked at me right away and goes, 'Coach, I'm going out there. I've got to get out there and get some work in,'" UND coach Brad Berry said.
When Driscoll's name was unexpectedly called during the first intermission of UND's series finale against St. Cloud State, he was prepared.
Driscoll, making his first relief appearance since Dec. 30, 2018, entered the game and blanked one of the nation's top-five offenses for 45 minutes. He stopped all 20 shots — 10 in the second period, seven in the third and three in overtime. Then, he turned aside all four of St. Cloud State's attempts in a shootout.
It allowed the Fighting Hawks to rally from down two goals and come away with a 3-3 tie and a shootout victory, claiming five of the six available points on the weekend.
"Stepping in like that, cold, and shutting them down, that's huge for us," UND defenseman Chris Jandric said. "We definitely needed that and it was awesome for him to do that for us."
The Fighting Hawks started rookie Jakob Hellsten on back-to-back nights for the first time in his career.
Hellsten was excellent on Friday, turning aside 19 of 20 shots in a 7-1 UND win.
On Saturday, he allowed three goals in the first period, though none of them were bad goals. The Huskies scored on two clean breakaways and once on their nation-leading power play.
"Jakob Hellsten played outstanding (Friday) night," said Berry. "I just wanted to say, it wasn't his fault (Saturday) night for getting yanked. Obviously, maybe he wants to make a save on one of those three or whatever, just to keep your team in the game. But at the end of the day, he's been outstanding as a young guy.
"I've got to tip my hat to Zach Driscoll, because it's not easy when you're a fifth-year guy and you don't have the net right now. He came in and he had to be ready. He was."
Driscoll, a fifth-year senior, said there are ways to stay ready when you're not starting.
"It's just kind of talking on the bench, being a good teammate and staying active any way you can," Driscoll said. "You've kind of got to be ready for that situation. Then once you get out there, find ways to get in the game right away, whether it's talking a lot or playing a puck."
In his postgame press conference, Driscoll said he didn't think his fellow goaltender, Hellsten, was to blame for St. Cloud State's three first-period goals. Driscoll said he thought Hellsten played "a really good weekend" for the Fighting Hawks.
"It's just that team-first mentality of supporting Jakob Hellsten when he has his starts, and then also doing the work to be ready," Berry said of Driscoll. "If he didn't do that, I don't think he would have played the game he did. There's no reason we would have won that game if not for Zach coming in and solidifying the net."
It was an important moment for Driscoll, who started UND's first 18 games of the season but has backed up Hellsten in five of the last seven.
"Obviously, individually, it means a lot, but for us, that's a huge weekend as a team," Driscoll said. "A win on Friday and the two points on Saturday, that's really big for our group."
It also marked Driscoll's first collegiate shootout victory. He lost his other four — one as a freshman at St. Cloud State in 2016-17 and three as a fourth-year senior at Bemidji State last season.
On Saturday, Driscoll shut the door on St. Cloud State's four shooters — Easton Brodzinski, Jami Krannila, Veeti Miettinen and Kevin Fitzgerald.
"He was amazing," UND captain Mark Senden said. "He was very solid for us. You know, he was a brick wall back there. Coming in like he did, it's tough at times, but he did his job and he did it tremendously. He was a rock star in the shootout."
Jandric gets first UND goal
Defenseman Chris Jandric started UND's rally by threading a point shot in the second period for his first goal as a Fighting Hawk.
"It's awesome," Jandric said. "I've got to give credit to Jammer (Louis Jamernik) and Sendo (Senden). They were boxing out in front of the net and causing some traffic. I've got to give them some credit. It was awesome."
It was Jandric's first goal since Feb. 14, 2020, when he was playing for Alaska (Fairbanks). The goal came against Bowling Green (and his current UND teammate, Bowling Green transfer Connor Ford, was on the ice for it).
Jandric didn't play last season as the Nanooks shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. He transferred in the summer.
UND's fourth line stays dominant
UND's fourth line of Nick Portz, Griffin Ness and Carson Albrecht had yet another dominant game.
Portz, Ness and Albrecht were on the ice for two of UND's three goals Saturday night and generated scoring chances throughout the weekend.
As UND pushed for the game-tying goal, Berry repeatedly threw them on the ice. He was rewarded for that decision as Portz set up Jake Sanderson for the tying goal.
"It was an outstanding goal," Berry said of Sanderson's move and finish. "But the line that was out there — Ness, Albrecht and Portz — were drivers all weekend. They created an identity at Western (Michigan). They're creating an identity right now."
Berry said UND disregarded their pregame line matchups to get them on the ice more often.
"I thought when they played the other line across there (SCSU's fourth line), they were dominating every shift to the point where, you know, we had our matches tonight, our matching lines, but it was one of those things where we wanted the juice and they brought the juice," Berry said. "We wanted to put them out there as much as we could."
On Friday, Ness scored his first collegiate goal and Albrecht had his first collegiate point. On Saturday, Portz had two assists, his first two-point game at UND.
"Somebody asked me earlier about having a fourth line that can play in all situations," Berry said. "The last two minutes of the game, they were out there. You need that in college hockey when the game is so fast-paced and physical. You can't roll three lines. You have to have four lines. When you have a line like that that's bringing an identity, it's pretty easy to throw them over the boards."
Albrecht, who has yet to score at UND, also made a highlight-reel play, dangling St. Cloud State defenseman Jack Peart for a scoring chance.
"Our group played confident this weekend," Berry said. "But Carson Albrecht really exponentially played with confidence. I think it's one of those things when you don't get a lot of playing time, you're in and out of the lineup, you get very low minutes in a game, it's tough to gain your confidence.
"But when you're playing a regular shift, and you're contributing, and you have positive shifts time and time again, it builds your confidence. He was a top scorer in the Saskatchewan junior league when he played and you're seeing some of that ability come back to him now."
- Berry's selections for the shootout were Sanderson, Riese Gaber, Jackson Kunz and Ashton Calder. It may seem like Kunz is an odd pick, but UND tracks statistics on its weekly shootout competition to know who are the most effective shooters. Kunz nearly scored, slipping a puck five-hole on Husky goalie David Hrenak, but it trickled wide.
- Referee Geno Binda is retiring at the end of this season. Although he will officiate at least one more weekend, the UND-St. Cloud State series was considered his retirement series. His father, Eugene, flew in from Boston for the series.
- Since returning from injury, St. Cloud State forward Sam Hentges, a U.S. Olympian, scored goals and had two points in all four games. Hentges, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, was held off the scoresheet all weekend against UND. It was his first pointless weekend all season.