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Riese Gaber finishes off six-point weekend as UND sweeps Alaska

Jan. 6—GRAND FORKS — UND entered the new year having lost three-straight overtime games.

Captain Riese Gaber made sure none would get that far this weekend.

Gaber delivered a three-point Saturday night and a six-point weekend as UND swept Alaska in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The senior winger scored the game's opening goal Saturday and assisted on the next two to push the Fighting Hawks to a 6-2 victory over the Nanooks.

"Just domination from our leader," said Hunter Johannes, who was moved onto Gaber's line this weekend. "What more can you say about a guy? He just has that mentality when we get back to the bench that it never stops. We want the next one."

Owen McLaughlin added a goal and an assist for a five-point weekend. Johannes scored twice. Cameron Berg buried his seventh goal in the last eight games and Jayden Perron snapped a seven-game goal drought.

But Gaber led the way.

He finished the first half on a three-game point drought. That's something Gaber hasn't experienced in five years. It's never happened to him at UND. The last time he went three games without a point was midway through his rookie season in the United States Hockey League.

Gaber snapped out of that in a big way during UND's 6-4 series-opening victory against the Nanooks. He scored twice and tallied an assist in that game.

"I thought the break was good to kind of reset and recharge," Gaber said. "I think I found my game again, got my confidence back up. That's huge for a player. It was an awesome weekend and I'll just look to build off that."

Gaber is now tied with Jackson Blake for the team lead in goals with 11.

This weekend, he became the 12th player in program history to hit the 10-goal mark in four-straight years. The last to do it was Ryan Duncan (2005-09). They're the only two to do it since Ralph Engelstad Arena opened in 2001.

The others to achieve the feat are Jeff Panzer, David Hoogsteen, Greg Johnson, Lee Davidson, Brian Williams, Cary Eades, Rick Zaparniuk, Mark Taylor, Brad Becker and Earl Anderson.

"He's got such a great shot," UND defenseman Garrett Pyke said. "It's an elite shot. But what really impressed me, and I don't think a lot of people see it, is his leadership on the bench. They were tight games but the whole time he got our group to come together and I think that's what really made the difference."

UND coach Brad Berry also praised Gaber's leadership.

"It's the players' team now in the second half of the season," Berry said. "The locker room takes over. Part of that leadership is saying the right things at the right time and he did an amazing job on the bench talking about the right things to do and keeping it even-keeled and staying positive. I can't say enough about him on and off the ice as a person and a player."

UND played a second-straight game without starting goaltender Ludvig Persson, who woke up ill Friday morning.

Freshman Hobie Hedquist filled in, winning his first two starts.

"You come in, and you don't know you're going to play, and you step up to the plate as a freshman at the biggest program in college hockey. . . you can't ask for more from a guy," Johannes said.

Hedquist stopped 17 of 19 shots in the series finale, including one on Alaska's leading scorer Brady Risk, who had a clean breakaway.

"I was super happy for him," Gaber said of Hedquist. "Growing up, he was a big UND fan. I can't imagine how he felt getting these two wins. Obviously, we wanted to play really well for him. We're super happy for him and obviously, it was huge for his confidence."

Saturday was a unique night for two UND transfers.

Pyke

earned a series sweep against the team

he captained last season.

Johannes, meanwhile, scored twice on the one-year anniversary of his first game in Ralph Engelstad Arena. He was playing for Lindenwood at the time and he scored a goal.

"If somebody had told me a year ago, I'd have been standing here and wearing this color and playing amongst these guys, I'd be like, 'Well, I'd hope so, but you might be crazy,'" Johannes said. "It's just a blessing. I can't wait for the rest of the season and every day with these guys. It's just special."

UND, which hasn't lost a regulation game since Nov. 3, finished nonconference play with a 9-2-1 record. It's UND's best nonconference mark since the Penrose Cup-winning 2019-20 team went 9-1-1.

The Fighting Hawks, No. 6 in the Pairwise Rankings, will host Omaha next week in a two-game National Collegiate Hockey Conference series.

"I'm telling you what, we're excited about going forward here now," Berry said. "We finished our body of work in nonconference, going 9-2-1. That will help us in the Pairwise. But now it's on to the NCHC. What better way to play a hard team like Alaska, then play the remaining 16 games in the chase for the Penrose. Our guys are excited about getting after it."