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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published October 06 2013

UND defeats Manitoba in exhibition hockey game

GRAND FORKS – Luke Johnson grew up in Grand Forks, dreaming of someday playing hockey for the University of North Dakota.

When the opportunity finally came on Sunday, Johnson made the most of it.

The freshman forward scored a goal and was one of the top all-around players during UND’s 3-0 exhibition victory over the University of Manitoba in front of 9,851 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

“It was incredible,” Johnson said. “Growing up here, I always dreamed of being on the ice with that caliber of play. It was nice to get out there and get the first win.”

Johnson’s shorthanded tally early in the third period put the icing on UND’s solid-but-not-flashy performance against a Bisons team that was playing its third game in three nights.

Sophomore Drake Caggiula and junior Michael Parks also scored for UND, while goaltenders Clarke Saunders and Zane Gothberg combined for the shutout. UND outshot Manitoba 39-17.

“I thought we did a lot of good things,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought we started out the game trying to play with some structure. The flow of our five-on-five game improved throughout the game.”

There were several positives coming out of the exhibition, led by Johnson’s performance. Other highlights include the play of Michael Parks, the steadiness of the goaltenders and the way UND limited Manitoba’s offensive chances. The Bisons had just two shots from the prime scoring area in the first two periods.

The biggest negative was UND’s power play, which went 0-for-8, including a missed five-minute opportunity. UND did register 14 shots during the power plays, though. Part of the reason for the struggle was UND’s adjustment to a new setup on the power play and a lot of new personnel on the unit..

“As expected, I thought we were a little rocky on special teams,” Hakstol said. “We scored the shorthanded goal, but we were a little out of sync on the penalty kill and a little out of sync on the power play.”

UND took control of the game early with back-to-back goals by Caggiula and Parks midway through the first period. Caggiula, playing on the left wing of the top line with Mark MacMillan and Rocco Grimaldi, converted a MacMillan pass for a two-on-one goal at 10 minutes, 23 seconds.

UND extended its lead to 2-0 when Parks got behind the defenders, moved a puck to his forehand as he reached the top of the crease, and slipped the puck five-hole.

The final goal came when a puck jumped over a Manitoba defender’s stick and allowed Johnson to go on a partial breakaway. Johnson moved the puck to his forehand on top of the crease and shot back across the goalie to the short side.

Manitoba’s best scoring chance came on a penalty shot for forward Jordan DePape, who was hauled down by freshman defender Troy Stecher on a clean breakaway. Saunders turned it aside with the pad, though.

“I think we had a real strong game as a team,” Parks said. “It’s good that we got the first one out of the way. It seems like we’ve had a long preseason here and we’ve been working hard in practice.”

Parks said he spent the summer trying to get his body to 100 percent health. It appears to have paid off.

“He had an excellent night tonight,” Hakstol said. “He played a power play, he took pucks to the net and he protected pucks well.”

Next up for UND is the regular-season opener Friday against the University of Vermont.

“I think we might have a little bit to work on this week,” Parks said. “I don’t know what we were on the power play. . . even though we got the win and it feels good, we know we have our work cut out for us this week. We have very important games coming up. We’re less than a week away from those, so we’ve got our work cut out.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, UND, Caggiula (MacMillan, Grimaldi), 10:23. 2, UND, Parks, 11:38.

SECOND PERIOD: No scoring.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, UND, Johnson, 3:26 (sh).

SAVES: M, Caliguri 11-11-x–22, Dubyk x-3-11–14. UND, Saunders 5-2-x–7, Gothberg x-3-7–10.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald