Apr. 17—These days, college hockey teams usually have nonconference schedules set a couple of years out.
But the elimination of all nonconference games for the 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus pandemic threw future schedules into a loop, and UND has spent the last few months trying to reschedule some of those games and put the puzzle pieces of future schedules back together.
The nonconference slate for 2021-22 has now been set.
UND will play 11 nonconference games — seven at home, three on the road and one at a neutral site.
The Fighting Hawks will play two-game home series against Minnesota, Cornell and Niagara. They'll play a home-and-away series against Bemidji State. They will play a road series at Quinnipiac in Hamden, Conn., and they'll play a single game against Penn State in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
The marquee slate features six games against teams that were in the 2021 NCAA tournament and two against Cornell, which didn't play the 2020-21 season, but was the No. 1-ranked team in the USCHO poll at the end of 2020.
The two-time defending Penrose Cup champions will open the regular season Oct. 8-9 against Niagara. Then, they'll take on Bemidji State in a showdown that will feature Beaver transfer goalie Zach Driscoll facing his old team.
UND will travel to Quinnipiac on Oct. 22-23 and close the month with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game against Penn State in Nashville on Oct. 30. The Gopher series will be played Thanksgiving weekend and the Cornell series at the end of Christmas break.
The full NCHC schedule is expected to be announced next week.
UND is anticipating it will have full crowds for next season's games.
Quinnipiac active in portal
One of UND's opponents next season has been taking advantage of the transfer portal to reshape its roster.
Quinnipiac received a commitment Friday from forward Oliver Chau, the second-leading scorer on NCAA national champion UMass. Chau had five goals and 27 points for the Minutemen.
The Bobcats also dipped into the portal to grab goaltender Dylan St. Cyr from Notre Dame and defenseman Brendan Less from Dartmouth.
UND, meanwhile, has grabbed four players from the portal in forward Connor Ford of Bowling Green, defenseman Chris Jandric of Alaska Fairbanks, defenseman Brady Ferner of RPI and Driscoll.
Lake State leading scorer to transfer
Lake Superior State's leading scorer Ashton Calder, who tied Bowling Green-to-UND transfer Connor Ford for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's goal title, has entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Calder scored 16 goals and had 29 points in leading Lake Superior State to its first NCAA tournament since 1996.
Calder, a 6-foot-1, right winger, figures to be one of the top forwards in the portal.
Other top forwards available include Colorado College's Grant Cruikshank, UMass Lowell's Matt Brown, Denver's Kohen Olischefski, Union's Jack Adams, Bowling Green's Cameron Wright, Miami's Phil Knies, Lake Superior State's second-leading scorer Pete Veillette.
For a full list of transfers and players currently in the portal, go here.
Pinto set to make NHL debut
Ottawa Senators coach D.J. Smith confirmed that Shane Pinto will make his NHL debut Saturday night in Montreal.
"To play my first NHL game there is going to be pretty cool," Pinto said. "I'm just going to soak up the moment."
Pinto turned pro on April 1 after two years at UND. He flew out to Ottawa and quarantined for a week before joining Ottawa's practices for the first time Tuesday.
"It's been crazy, honestly," Pinto said. "It's been a bit of a whirlwind, but I'm just trying to take in as much as I can each day. You only get to play in your first NHL game once, so I'm going to step back and enjoy it, but also try to play my best."
Pinto is expected to play center between Alex Formenton and Connor Brown.
"There are a whole bunch of guys his age here that are rooting for him, that are helping him," Smith said. "It's a really good feel around here. Good players find a way to get things done. This will be good to get him in some games here and see how he does."
Pinto's former UND teammate and current Ottawa Senators teammate Jacob Bernard-Docker made his NHL debut Wednesday for Ottawa. Bernard-Docker, who was a late add to the starting lineup because of an injury to defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, became the 106th former UND player to play in the NHL.
"That was awesome," Pinto said. "I had a feeling he was going to play for some reason. He got in and it was obviously a special moment just to see him out there. He played really well. He looked solid. He looked really calm out there. He's a cool customer. I don't expect anything less from him. It was definitely cool to see him."
Scheel gets first pro win
UND goalie Adam Scheel has been thrown into the fire since signing a free-agent deal with the Dallas Stars.
Scheel, playing with the Stars' American Hockey League affiliate in Austin, has started three of the last four games and has faced more than 30 shots in every pro start. That's a major change from his college season, where he faced more than 30 shots just six times in 25 starts.
Scheel earned his first pro victory Tuesday night at San Jose, stopping 30 of 32 shots in a 7-2 victory over the Barracuda.
The Lakewood, Ohio, product has started four pro games, posting a .908 save percentage.
Stecher scores twice for Red Wings
Former UND defenseman Troy Stecher scored two goals Thursday night for the Detroit Red Wings in their 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
It was Stecher's first two-goal game since Jan. 5, 2013, when he was a member of the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League. He scored twice against Surrey that night.
Stecher didn't have any two-goal games in college.
O'Donnell scores highlight-reel winner
Former UND forward Brendan O'Donnell scored a highlight-reel overtime winner in the Slovakian semifinals this week.
O'Donnell, who played for UND from 2011-15, put the puck between his legs — and between the defenseman's legs — for the game-winner with just four seconds left in overtime.
See the goal here.
O'Donnell was Bratislava's leading scorer during the regular season, tallying 22 goals and 41 points in 47 games. He has six points in five games during the playoffs.