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MILLER: Scoring depth makes UND dangerous

GRAND FORKS -- The North Dakota men's hockey team went an 11-game stretch this season in which the third and fourth forward lines combined for one goal.

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Colton Poolman (6) celebrates his first career goal with teammates Rhett Gardner (22), Christian Wolanin (24), and Joel Janatuinen against Western Michigan Friday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. photo by Eric Hylden/Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS - The North Dakota men's hockey team went an 11-game stretch this season in which the third and fourth forward lines combined for one goal.

It's no coincidence that span also featured the Fighting Hawks' winless streak.

But UND's depth scoring is back and that's a dangerous development for the defending national champion.

For the third-straight game - also a three-game unbeaten streak - UND received scoring from one of the bottom two lines. It helped fuel a 5-1 win over Western Michigan on Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Dixon Bowen, an East Grand Forks native, scored at 13 minutes, 26 seconds of the second period to make it 4-1 and reward a strong night from UND's third line of Bowen, Ludvig Hoff and Zach Yon.

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"I think we were playing the right way," said Bowen, who scored his second of the season. "We were keeping things simple and playing with speed. That's how we have to play the rest of the year."

In UND's win over Boston College at Madison Square Garden in New York, UND fourth-liner Trevor Olson scored. In a tie the previous weekend against Michigan State, Yon scored.

UND coach Brad Berry said it's a mix of those players gaining line chemistry and individual development.

"I think confidence is growing within that group," Berry said. "You see the confidence growing to make plays."

Berry pointed out Bowen's impressive finish but also Hoff's tenacity to force a turnover and spring Bowen earlier in the play.

"Guys are feeling more confident," Berry said.

Bowen said he likes how his line - of all three freshmen - is coming together.

"I think as you go on, you gain the experience of playing in big games and in different venues," Bowen said. "You keep working on your skills and focus on getting better. I've been working at it and gaining confidence. It felt nice for that one to go in."

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UND will need that production as star Brock Boeser missed his fourth-consecutive game when he was out of the lineup in the series opener with Western Michigan.

"That just means other guys have to step up a little bit," Bowen said. "It's a team game. North Dakota takes pride in our whole team playing the way we can."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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