Do you ever experience Déjà vu? It’s almost like you’ve seen this occurrence before.
That’s what the University of North Dakota hockey team experienced this past weekend, in their two-game non-conference series against Lindenwood University. Both games were very similar. UND would give up the first two goals of the game and then come from behind to win 4-3 and 4-2. Following Saturday’s come-from-behind win, UND head coach Brad Berry was asked what he was thinking on the bench when his team when down 2-0 to the Lions, two games in a row.
“Groundhog Day,” Berry said. “Same thing. They (Lindenwood) scored off the rush a couple of times yesterday, but today’s (goals) were coming from faceoff plays. Even though we give a couple of goals, I’m proud of the way our guys battled back. It was the same message in the second period.
“This weekend, I think our two best periods were the second periods of both nights to set us up for the third and having the belief to do that. We’re going to be dealing with something different here coming in this next weekend with Western (Michigan), a high offensive team. We’ve got to get better in a few different areas defensively, but just proud of the way the guys battled back.”
Groundhog’s Day? Maybe.
“We had to go through some adversity the first two periods and both games didn’t go the way we wanted, but I’m proud of the guys for battling back and obviously getting the job done,” said freshman forward Strinden who added a goal and an assist during Saturday’s game.
“They defended great this weekend,” Senden said. “They were helping their goaltender out a lot. We just kept shooting the puck and chipping away, and not getting frustrated, even though we were getting pucks blocked or the goalie was making outstanding saves. Just sticking with it. I think that’s huge going into the rest of the NCHC play here on the home stretch.”
Tyler Kleven Excels Offensively
During his three seasons at the University of North Dakota, defenseman Tyler Kleven has been known for his physical game and occasionally his name shows up on the score sheet, points-wise. Recently, his point production has picked up. In the last eight games, Kleven has scored (4g-5a—9pts), including three goals on the power play. In 20 games this season, Kleven is fourth in the team in points and has scored (5g-6a—11pts), he’s also a minus-four. As the season has progressed, Kleven has stepped up at the right time to help his team win games. Two of his goals have been game-winning goals. This past weekend, on Saturday night, Kleven achieved a career-best season points total of 11. When Kleven records a point, UND has a 6-0-2.
In the game on Friday night, Kleven scored two goals to lead UND pays Lindenwood. In the post-game press conference, he was asked when was the last time he had a multi-goal game.
“Maybe in high school, but never in juniors,” Kleven said.
Kleven has been doing extra work after practice to improve on his on-timer.
I’ve been working all year with KG (assistant coach Karl Goehring), and he’s been helping me out with I’m just getting comfortable in that position,” Kleven said. “I think I got a lot of opportunities and that’s fine.”
Kleven’s hard work has not gone unnoticed by his fellow teammates.
“His one-timer is probably one of the hardest in the league,” Senden said. It’s something when he gets that thing off. It’s great to see some goals coming for him this weekend. He’s a great playmaker. Obviously, he does lead with big hits and turns games around that way, but he’s a very skilled defenseman.”
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Talented Players Sitting Out
Even though UND hasn’t had the best season, the Fighting Hawks roster is full of talented players, many that have been drafted by NHL teams. As we found out earlier this season, it doesn’t matter where you were drafted or what class you belong to. You have to earn your spot in the lineup each and every day in practice. A few of these players were scratched from the lineup on Saturday night.
“Here at North Dakota, we play the guys that earn it every day,” Berry said in a post-game press conference earlier in the season. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a draft pick or a free agent. If you’re bringing it – you’re going to earn it – you’re going to play.
That has been the case this season.
“We have some NHL draft picks out of our lineup tonight, and we’re just trying to find ways to win with guys that we feel can help us win games,” coach Berry said following Saturday’s game.
You don’t have to be a math wiz to know that there are a lot of good players on the roster, and only so many spots (12 forwards, six defense, two or three goalies, and an extra forward or defenseman). Some of the players on the roster haven’t lived up to expectations. Sometimes, that has led to said players being scratched from the lineup. The players know what they’re getting into when they come here.
“They agreed to come to North Dakota because they’re all team first,” Berry said. “I think at the end of the day, I think they know that they have to probably get better in different areas as well as the rest of our team, but they have to be patient to know they are going to get another opportunity and that’s how we’ve had success here. Nobody’s bigger than the program. It’s when you get your opportunity. You have to do it. You just mentioned Ben Strinden, and he’s getting his opportunities and making the most of them. You can’t think about yourself. You have to think about the team. We’re very transparent when we recruit guys. (We tell them) it’s a tough place to play – you’re going to go through some hard times. You’ve got to be all in, and these guys are all in.”
One player who’s been in and out of the lineup had a pretty good weekend playing as UND’s 13th forward.
“Every time you can get some points on the board, it gives you a little confidence, but we just have such a deep team,” Strinden said. “I know that there are other players in the stands that can do that as well. So, I just got to take advantage of every opportunity I get, even if that means playing 13th forward, we just have such a deep team.”