UND finishes sweep of Niagara with 4-0 win
Freshman center Jake Schmaltz scored two more goals to lead the Fighting Hawks to Saturday night's victory.
Nick Schmaltz never finished in the top 10 on the University of North Dakota's roster in shots on goal.
During his two collegiate seasons, the first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks preferred to pass and set up his linemates for scoring chances.
His cousin, Jake, on the other hand, hasn't been shy about wiring the puck during his first two collegiate games.
Schmaltz scored two goals on Saturday night during UND's 4-0 win over Niagara in front of 11,689 fans in Ralph Engelstad Arena. He had three goals on the weekend as the Fighting Hawks earned their first two-game sweep of the season.
"My linemates are doing such a good job of setting me up right now that I really don't have an option to pass," Schmaltz said.
Schmaltz, of McFarland, Wis., became the first UND freshman to score in his first two games since Drew Stafford in 2003. Schmaltz was just 2 years old when that happened.
"That's super cool to have a stat like that, but he's a hell of a player," Schmaltz said of the longtime NHLer. "I don't think I should be compared to Drew Stafford."
Jake Sanderson and Riese Gaber also scored goals, while Connor Ford added two assists for the Fighting Hawks (2-0).
Saturday's game began with former UND All-American Brandon Bochenski skating his 'One Last Shift' prior to the national anthem. Bochenski, who was never shy to shoot the puck during his three years at UND, stood on the blue line with the team during the anthem.
Then, UND did its best Brandon Bochenski imitation by scoring on its first shot of the game.
Grand Forks native Judd Caulfield got the puck at the top of the left circle and made no-look spin pass across the zone to Schmaltz, who beat freshman goalie Jake Sibell over the shoulder from the right dot.
"I see it all the time in practice," Schmaltz said of Caulfield's highlight-reel pass. "He does that stuff every day. Having it happen that early was pretty crazy. No-look, behind-the-back pass right on my tape. . . that was pretty cool."
Schmaltz added to the lead on the power play in the second period.
The Fighting Hawks generated chaos around the crease and Sibell lost his glove. Before he could find it, UND moved the puck around until defenseman Chris Jandric fed Schmaltz for a one-timer. He blasted it by Sibell's gloveless hand.
"I didn't know (he lost his glove) until I saw the replay," he said. "Head down, taking a whack at it. Fortunately, he didn't. That was lucky."
UND goalie Zach Driscoll, who had an 18-save shutout, isn't surprised to see Schmaltz scoring goals.
"That one-timer he scored there. . . I've seen that a lot in practice, for sure," Driscoll said. "When he wound up and I saw that pass going across, I knew something good was going to happen. It helps that the goalie didn't have a glove on, I guess, but he's a good player. He can shoot the puck. It makes sense that he's scoring goals."
Another good sign for UND is the power play.
Despite losing 80 percent of last season's top unit to NHL contracts — Shane Pinto to the Ottawa Senators, Jordan Kawaguchi to the Dallas Stars, Collin Adams to the New York Islanders and Matt Kiersted to the Florida Panthers — the Fighting Hawks went 3-for-7 on the advantage this weekend, including 2-for-5 on Saturday.
"We have new guys, but they're experienced guys," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We're just trying to find spots for each of those guys on each unit and I think they're doing a good job. They've been bonding together since July here and getting to know each other. They really care about each other. When they're not on the ice, they're talking about the power play or they're working on it together. . . without the coaches, too."
UND outscored Niagara 10-2 on the weekend and never trailed, but the Purple Eagles gave a strong push in the first period Saturday, outshooting UND for most of it.
The Fighting Hawks eventually took control.
After Schmaltz gave UND a 2-0 lead early in the second, Sanderson seemingly put it out of reach by taking a pass in the left circle, dangling across the crease and finishing on his backhand at 11:43 of the second period.
Gaber tacked on a power-play goal late in the third, his fourth point of the weekend.
"In the first period, we had a little bit of adversity with a determined team coming at us," Berry said. "We weren't at our best in the first period and I think everybody would agree with that. Again, it's due to a very well-coached team and a team that played with relentlessness the whole weekend. They pushed us. They gave us a push. I think when we had some power plays, I think that's when we got some momentum. We happened to capitalize on one of them there. That got us going. I think it's a situation where special teams are going to be huge for us the rest of the year. The power play and penalty kill won us the game tonight."
Notes: UND played without Gavin Hain (lower body, day to day) and Brendan Budy (lower body, week to week) for both games this weekend. . . Grand Forks native Kaleb Johnson dressed for the first time as the third-string goalie.