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Preview: Can UND slow down Minnesota Duluth's Ben Steeves?

Feb. 23—GRAND FORKS — If recent history is any indication, UND coach Brad Berry will give one of the most important jobs this weekend to players like Dylan James, Jake Schmaltz, Louis Jamernik V or Ben Strinden.

Their job will not necessarily be to score goals.

It will be to keep Ben Steeves off the scoreboard.

Steeves, a sophomore, has 22 goals this season, ranking third in the country. He's only behind Boston College's Cutter Gauthier (26), the No. 5 overall NHL Draft pick, and Boston University's Macklin Celebrini (23), the likely No. 1 overall pick this summer.

Steeves has scored a higher percentage of his team's goals (25.6) than any other player in the country — and it's not even close.

Minnesota State's Sam Morton is second with 21.5 percent of the Mavericks' goals, followed by Gauther (20.6), Dartmouth's Luke Haymes (20.6), Western Michigan's Dylan Wendt (19.6), Celebrini (19.5), Alaska's Harrison Isreals (19.4), Notre Dame's Landon Slaggert (19.4) and Harvard's Joe Miller (20).

When Steeves hasn't produced, the Bulldogs have struggled.

They're 1-11-1 when he doesn't score a goal this season. They're 0-11 in the last 11.

In November, UND held Steeves off the scoreboard (he had one power-play assist) and the Fighting Hawks swept the two-game series in AmsOil Arena.

"Whether it's a checking line, whether it's one of the other lines, whether it's the D-men, you have to recognize who you're playing against," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Steeves is one of their best players. He's a shooter. In open space, he can create, whether it's passing or shooting. You've got to recognize when the better players are on the ice."

A large number of Steeves' goals have come on the power play.

He's scored 12 of Minnesota Duluth's 26 power-play goals this season (46.2 percent).

The 5-foot-8, 165-pound winger plays in the right circle, where his one-timer is open to the center of the ice. He'll move high in the zone at times to avoid pressure from defenders and he'll shoot from anywhere.

Here's a look at where his goals have come from this season:

Notice 12 of his goals have come from above the faceoff dot, which is highly unusual in today's era of hockey.

Being the home team, UND will have last line change and be able to better dictate line matchups against Steeves at even strength.

The other key will be staying out of the penalty box and defending Steeves when the Bulldogs do get power plays.

UND has been the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's most disciplined team this season, but that discipline has waned in the last couple weeks.

UND allowed Colorado College nine power plays last weekend. That's the most UND has allowed in any two-game series this season. The Tigers converted four of them.

Two weeks earlier, UND allowed Miami eight power plays, the second-highest total in a two-game series.

Prior to that, UND gave up just four power plays to Denver, four to St. Cloud State and four to Omaha in those series. The Fighting Hawks came away with 14 of 18 possible points those weekends.

UND DUL

3.73 (8th) Off 2.97 (31st)

2.70 (19th) Def 3.21 (46th)

25.5 (10th) PP 28.6 (4th)

80.0 (34th) PK 84.0 (13th)

51.9 (20th) FO 43.4 (63rd)

.896 (41st) SP .900 (32nd)

National rank in parenthesis. Categories are offense (goals per game), defense (goals against per game), power play percentage, penalty kill percentage, faceoff percentage and team save percentage.

UND — F Hunter Johannes questionable (lower body), D Keaton Pehrson questionable (upper body)

Minnesota Duluth — F Dominic James out (shoulder), D Will Francis out (cancer treatment), F Cole Spicer out (academically ineligible), F Connor McMenamin probably (undisclosed)

See above.

This is a series where UND needs to win fourth-line shifts. The Fighting Hawks have veteran players on that unit, including seniors Carson Albrecht and Griffin Ness. Albrecht hasn't scored or tallied a point since Nov. 17 against Miami, a nine-game drought. He now has one weekend under his belt after coming back from injury and he's a player who could make a different against the Bulldogs.

UND took all six points from Minnesota Duluth in AmsOil Arena in November. That's a difficult task in the NCHC. The only other times UND has taken all six in NCHC series this season: Miami at home, Denver at home. Repeating the November feat won't be easy.

Friday: UND 4, Minnesota Duluth 1

Saturday: Minnesota Duluth 3, UND 2, OT

GFH:

UND closely monitoring Ludvig Persson's workload as season progresses

GFH:

Jake Schmaltz working to break through offensively

GFH:

UND's home-road splits evident on defensive end

GFH:

Hunter Johannes returns to practice, nearing his comeback to lineup

Podcast:

Review of the CC weekend; preview of Minnesota Duluth

Scoring

9 Jackson Blake (CAR), so, f, 17-23—40

14 Cameron Berg (NYI), jr, f, 16-14—30

22 Owen McLaughlin (PHI), so, f, 9-20—29

17 Riese Gaber, sr, f, 15-13—28

7 Garrett Pyke, 5th, d, 3-20—23

4 Jake Livanavage, fr, d, 3-16—19

28 Hunter Johannes, 5th, f, 9-6—15

27 Louis Jamernik V, sr, f, 6-9—15

18 Jayden Perron (CAR), fr, f, 8-5—13

26 Dylan James (DET), so, f, 6-7—13

6 Logan Britt, 5th, d, 5-5—10

29 Jackson Kunz (VAN), jr, f, 4-6—10

21 Ben Strinden (NSH), so, f, 5-4—9

8 Jake Schmaltz (BOS), jr, f, 0-8—8

11 Griffin Ness, sr, f, 3-3—6

2 Bennett Zmolek, so, d, 0-5—5

20 Keaton Pehrson, 5th, d, 0-5—5

25 Abram Wiebe (VGK), fr, d, 1-3—4

13 Carson Albrecht, sr, f, 1-1—2

5 Dane Montgomery, so, f, 1-1—2

32 Ludvig Persson, sr, g, 0-2—2

15 Nate Benoit (MIN), fr, d, 0-1—1

10 Tanner Komzak, fr, d, 0-0—0

30 Hobie Hedquist, fr, g, 0-0—0

1 Kaleb Johnson, so, g, dnp

Goaltending

32 Ludvig Persson, sr, 17-8-2, 2.61, .899

30 Hobie Hedquist, fr, 3-0, 2.65, .890

1 Kaleb Johnson, so, dnp

Scoring

6 Ben Steeves, so, f, 22-8—30

20 Owen Gallatin, jr, d, 5-20—25

27 Blake Biondi (MTL), sr, f, 8-10—18

15 Quinn Olson (BOS), 5th, f, 4-14—18

39 Connor McMenamin, 5th, f, 4-13—17

16 Luke Loheit (OTT), 5th, f, 7-8—15

8 Aaron Pionk (MIN), fr, d, 2-13—15

24 Kyle Bettens, so, f, 4-10—14

34 Matthew Perkins (VAN), fr, f, 5-8—13

28 Aiden Dubinsky, so, d, 1-10—11

12 Jack Smith (MTL), so, f, 2-8—10

26 Anthony Menghini, fr, f, 7-2—9

11 Cole Spicer (BOS), so, f, 5-4—9

38 Luke Bast, jr, d, 2-6—8

33 Carter Loney, jr, f, 3-2—5

19 Riley Bodnarchuk, so, d, 2-2—4

2 Darian Gotz, sr, d, 0-4—4

18 Joey Pierce, so, d, 0-4—4

22 Kyler Kleven, so, f, 1-2—3

21 Braden Fischer, fr, f, 1-2—3

37 Luke Johnson, so, f, 1-1—2

17 Dominic James (CHI), 0-1—1

35 Zach Stejskal, sr, g, 0-0—0

36 Matthew Thiessen (VAN), 5th, g, 0-0—0

23 Will Francis (ANA), jr, d, dnp

31 Zach Sandy, so, g, dnp

Goaltending

35 Zach Stejskal, sr, 8-8-3, 2.83, .904

36 Matthew Thiessen (VAN), 5th, 2-7-1, 3.28, .906

31 Zach Sandy, so, dnp