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Duncan, Watkins lift UND to 6-2 exhibition win

Posted on: October 6, 2008 10:24 am
 

A little bit of old blood mixed with a transfusion from the new kids proved to be a healthy combination for the University of North Dakota men's hockey team tonight.

Senior captain Ryan Duncan (Calgary, Alberta) scored two goals and senior forwards Andrew Kozek (Sicamous, British Columbia) and Matt Watkins (Aylesbury, Saskatchewan) had a goal apiece as the Fighting Sioux opened the season with a 6-2 exhibition victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons.

The game at Ralph Engelstad Arena drew 11,571 fans, the largest attendance for an exhibition game in UND history.

While seniors accounted for two-thirds of UND's goals, freshmen served notice as well.

Jason Gregoire (Winnipeg, Manitoba), the Player of the Year in the United States Hockey League last season, scored UND's first goal on a power play at 11:41 of the opening period. He found a tiny opening on the short side of the net to beat Manitoba goalie Steve Christie cleanly with a wrist shot.

Freshman Brett Hextall (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), scored the other Sioux goal on a goal-mouth scramble at 18:36 of the second period to give the Sioux a 4-1 lead.

Coach Dave Hakstol used the exhibition to give ice time to 24 of the 25 players on his roster,with only freshman David Toews, nursing a slight injury, not dressed.

Most all contributed significantly in the victory as well. Twelve Sioux players picked up at least one point, led by a three-point game from Watkins with a goal and two assists. Duncan had two points with two goals and senior Brad Miller (Alpharetta, Ga.) contributed two assists.

Both of Miller's points came when he was playing the right point on the power play, a new role for him.

"We're just trying it out right now (his role on the point on the power play), but it worked out well tonight,'' Miller said. "We only have one right-handed defenseman, so I think they want to get a little more option with that.

He's no stranger to that role. "I played the point (on power play) in high school and a little bit in juniors (in the USHL),'' Miller said. "I really enjoy it. It's fun. It feel it's a good fit for me.''

The Sioux, playing their first game of the season, controlled play against Manitoba, playing its 10th game of year, and third in three nights. The Sioux carried a 51-22 edge in shots on goal led by eight shots from Miller and seven from Duncan.

Watkins led the offensive barrage. "It wasn't too bad, lots of shots on goal,'' Watkins said. "We created lots of offense, guys were going to the net hard and shooting the puck, that type of thing. We were able to bury a few.''

The win doesn't count on UND's record, but it was a good way to kick off the season. "It's a good start for the team, and it's a step in the right direction,'' Watkins said.

Watkins, who had 19 goals in 127 games in his first three seasons, served notice he may be poised for a big senior season. "I have the ability to do those type of things,'' Watkins said. "It's more of a mental thing than physical, but if I can work on that, become more efficient with the puck, I think I'll see some benefits from that.''

"We had a lot of guys who made good plays,'' Hakstol said. "I thought we played with tempo and I thought we played hard for 60 minutes.''

The move of Miller to point on the power play was a question the media asked Hakstol about at the post-game press conference.

"He told me he was good there,'' Hakstol said, laughing. "So we said we'd give it a try.''

Hakstol said they saw Miller man the point on the power play four years ago for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, when he had already given UND a verbal commitment. "He did a very good job,'' Hakstol said. "You see his puck poise when he has time and space with the puck. He makes a lot of things happen. I thought he made some plays happen up there.''

Whether Miller remains in that role is undecided. "We'll see where we go from here,'' Hakstol said.. "We've got a lot of decisions to make, but certainly he did a good job tonight.''

Hakstol liked that his seniors led the way. "Most importantly, the team played well, and that starts with leadership,'' Hakstol said. "That certainly starts with your captains and your seniors. Everybody else certainly followed their lead, I thought.''

The Sioux converted 3-of-7 power-play chances, generating 11 shots with the man advantage. Manitoba was 2-of-7 on the power play, its goals coming from Riley Dudar and Stephane Lenoski.

Hakstol used all three of his goalies with senior Aaron Walski (Fargo, N.D.) drawing the start and stopping all 10 shots he faced in nearly 28 minutes of playing time. He was followed in goal by freshmen Brad Eidsness (Chestermere, Alberta), who allowed two power-play goals and made eight saves in nearly 26 minutes, and Graeme Harrington (Glenside, Saskatchewan), who stopped both shots he faced in six minutes to close out the game.

The game featured two brothers from Grand Forks playing against each other and each hit the scoresheet. Freshman forward Mario Lamoureux had an assist and two penalties for UND and older brother Pierre-Paul Lamoureux had an assist and a penalty for Manitoba.

The Sioux open the regular season this weekend on the road in Boston at the IceBreaker Invitational. UND plays Boston University on Friday and Northeastern on Saturday in a pair of nonconference games.

Category: NCAA Hockey
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