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Let's play hockey: Five things to watch in UND's exhibition game

University of North Dakota's Matt Kierstad (3) and Grant Mismash celebrate Mismash's goal during the Fighting Hawks’ game against Manitoba last season. photo by Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

The Saturday, Oct. 5, exhibition game against the University of Manitoba (7:07 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena) doesn't mean anything in the standings or the Pairwise Rankings for the University of North Dakota. But there's quite a bit on the line for players who are trying to carve out their spots in the lineup before next week's regular-season opener.

Here are five storylines to watch:

1. Can Collin Adams emerge as a top-six winger?

Adams was a proven scorer in the United States Hockey League and showed his elite offensive abilities early last season. But in the second half of the season, his scoring dried up and he wasn't good enough defensively to stay in the lineup.

If Adams can round out his game, play with a higher energy level and improve defensively, he has a chance to be a big impact player on this year's team.

Expect him to get an opportunity to prove he's a top-six winger.

2. Who will be on the power play?

Last season, Christian Wolanin heavily dictated the power play's success.

Wolanin signed with the Ottawa Senators in the offseason, and there are a number of spots available on the power-play unit.

Five players are a lock to be on the power play: Nick Jones, Rhett Gardner, Jordan Kawaguchi, Grant Mismash and Colton Poolman.

That leaves five other spots.

There are numerous players who could get a look: Adams, Jasper Weatherby, Joel Janatuinen, Ludvig Hoff, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, Matt Kiersted, Hayden Shaw and Gabe Bast.

Bast is nursing a minor injury that popped up this week and may sit out the exhibition game.

3. Where do the rookie defensemen fit in?

Bernard-Docker and Tychonick were drafted in the top two rounds. They have elite abilities. But college hockey is a big jump.

How long will it take them to get adjusted to the college game? How much will they be able to handle early in their careers?

Bernard-Docker, a steady defender, appears to be in line to play bigger minutes to start this season.

4. Who could be a breakout player?

The most popular choice is Adams. If he can round out his game and earn a spot on a scoring line and the power play, he could significantly increase his point total.

Another player who has scored some highlight-reel goals this fall is East Grand Forks, Minn., product Dixon Bowen.

5. Who will take over in goal?

Cam Johnson, the go-to guy for the last three seasons, graduated.

That leaves the No. 1 goalie job up for grabs.

Peter Thome will start tonight's game. He has a body of work at the Division I level from last year—he won road starts at Wisconsin and Denver.

But freshman Adam Scheel, who played for the U.S. Under-17 and Under-18 teams, will be looking to push Thome. The third goalie, Ryan Anderson of Roseau, Minn., is expected to play, too.

Who: Manitoba at UND

When: 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5

Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks.

TV: Midco Sports Network

Of note: UND opens the regular season Friday, Oct. 11, at Bemidji State.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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