Berry excited for Gardner’s return from injury
After netting a goal and two assists in a 7-0 home win over Omaha on Jan. 6, North Dakota alternate captain Rhett Gardner picked up a lower-body injury in the Fighting Hawks’ next game six days later at Bemidji State.UND won 5-1 that night. The Hawks are 0-2-3 since then.They’ll get Gardner back this weekend, though, for an important home series against Colorado College. UND head coach Brad Berry confirmed during a press conference Wednesday that Gardner has participated in each day of practice so far this week and is set to go for CC.Berry wasn’t short on praise for a junior forward who has five goals and 15 points to his name so far this season, although Gardner’s presence extends much further than the score sheet.“Rhett’s a big part of our team,” Berry said. “He was a big part of our team two years ago as a freshman and progressively is an even bigger part now, and when you look on the penalty-kill side of it now, he’s a huge guy winning the initial draw trying to get a clear on that side of it, (and on) five-on-five and power play, too.“He plays all situations, he plays heavy minutes. He’s a big-body center that nullifies the other team’s usual top line, so he does a lot of things for us and, saying that, we haven’t won since he’s been out of the lineup, and I’m not saying it’s because he’s been out of the lineup, but he’s a direct influence on our positive result in games.”Fresh off a bye week after getting a win and a tie over Miami, Colorado College will be a tough out for UND, just as the Tigers during a series split near the start of the season. Gardner will remember it, having assisted on two UND goals in the Hawks’ 6-4 win on Oct. 28.There’s more riding on this series than there was in Colorado Springs, however. Two wins this weekend could catapult the Tigers from their seventh-place spot (20 points) above UND (24).As ever in the NCHC, but especially at this point in the season, there’s only a small margin of error.“The biggest thing is taking care of business and making sure you know everybody’s on the same level right now,” Berry said. “You look at Colorado College, we don’t consider them behind us. They’re right with us right there, and this is a huge weekend as far as standings and PairWise.”
Players of the week
Offensive player of the week: Mikey Eyssimont, St. Cloud State: The junior forward had a four-point weekend as SCSU completed a weekend sweep at home against Omaha. Eyssimont finished with two goals and as many assists against the Mavericks.Defensive player of the week: Louie Belpedio, Miami: Belpedio was a big reason the RedHawks managed a split last weekend against Western Michigan. The senior defenseman had a goal and three assists while helping limit Western to five goals in the series.Rookie of the week: Ethen Frank, Western Michigan: The freshman forward had just two goals on the season entering last weekend’s series with Miami but recorded three more against the RedHawks. His two goals in Saturday’s 3-2 WMU victory marked the first multi-goal game of Frank’s collegiate career.Goaltender of the week: Tanner Jaillet, Denver: Jaillet allowed just three goals last weekend against Minnesota Duluth and pitched his ninth career shutout Friday in a 1-0 win over the Bulldogs. This is now the 10th time the senior netminder has won the NCHC goaltender of the week award and his third this season.