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How UND is managing seven defensemen on the bench

North Dakota's Andrew Peski skates the puck up the ice in front of Bemidji State's Ian Janco during the 2018-19 season. Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — Andrew Peski has been listed as the seventh defenseman on the line chart.

He’s the 19th skater, the extra player that is being allowed to dress thanks to a new rule in college hockey this season. In past years, only 18 could dress each game.

But he’s probably not the typical 19th skater.

Peski is playing more than you may think as the extra defenseman, regularly logging ice time at five-on-five and on the penalty kill.

The UND coaching staff has managed to weave him into a regular shift, and he’s been especially used in defensive situations.

Last weekend at Miami, Peski played 29 shifts — 15 on Friday night and 14 on Saturday. That’s a substantial workload for a seventh defenseman.

His heaviest workload came in the third period Friday night with UND holding a one-goal lead. Peski played six shifts in the third, taking ice time from the more offensive-minded rookie Jonny Tychonick, who played nine shifts in the first and second periods and was held out in the third.

“You have to have a guy who is very open to it, someone who is hard-working and a team-first guy,” UND coach Brad Berry said of playing Peski’s role. “He checks all those boxes. Bench management with seven ‘D’ isn’t easy, but having good people who are buying into it, that’s a big deal.”

Peski has showed an ability to play with nearly everyone. Last weekend, most of his shifts were with either the right-handed Gabe Bast (12) or the left-handed Matt Kiersted (eight). He also played five with Tychonick, three with Hayden Shaw and one with Colton Poolman.

The only defenseman he didn’t play with was Jacob Bernard-Docker.

“It’s interesting,” Peski said of consistently rotating defensive partners. “I think that’s why we’re testing things out right now. Each guy has certainly preferences on the ice. I think we’re working it out so when it comes down the stretch and tournament time, we have solid pairs that we feel comfortable with.

“I think it goes to show how deep of a program we are, even up front -- we were sometimes skating with the extra forward early in the year. It’s a testament to how strong of a team we are. I think that’s going to be really important down the stretch when we’re making a push.”

Gardner staying out of box

Rhett Gardner has ranked first, second and third on the team in most penalties during his first three seasons at UND -- a product of his physical style of game.

That appeared like it could be an issue during his senior season after he took four minor penalties during the team’s lone preseason exhibition game against Manitoba.

But since then, Gardner has barely visited the penalty box.

He was notably called for a five-minute major for checking from behind against Minnesota State-Mankato, but outside of that, he’s only been called for one minor penalty in the other eight games.

That’s a welcome development for UND, which hasn’t had much success the last two years without Gardner.

The opponent has scored on both power plays that followed Gardner’s two infractions this season. MSU-Mankato won the game that Gardner was ejected for his checking-from-behind major. And UND hasn’t won a single game when Gardner has been out of the lineup in the last two years (0-3-4).

Gardner’s 123 faceoff wins this season ranks just three behind the national leader, RIT’s Gabe Valenzuela.

Allison on the trip

Western Michigan forward Wade Allison, a preseason candidate for National Collegiate Hockey Conference player of the year, has been slow in recovering from a lower-body injury that he sustained in January.

The Broncos were hoping to have Allison by the start of the season, but he didn’t return to the lineup until last Friday against Omaha. Allison scored a goal in the game and Western won 7-2.

But Allison, a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, didn’t feel well enough to go again Saturday and sat out in a 4-2 Bronco loss.

Allison, who is from Myrtle, Man., made the trip to Grand Forks and is expected to play in the series opener tonight.

Western Michigan coach Andy Murray, also a Manitoban, said UND is a good opponent for the Broncos at this time in the season.

“I think North Dakota is a great team for us to play right now, because we haven’t played a strong enough team game yet this year,” Murray said. “We talked to our players about it. That’s always been North Dakota’s trump card. Besides quality players, it’s always been their team game, their culture and their work ethic. So, if you don’t have it, it’s awful tough in here. We hope that it brings the best out in our team game.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th 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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