GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- On media day for UND hockey earlier this week, head coach Brad Berry said that if this team is to have success this season, the depth of the roster has to be a strong suit following key player losses after last season to NHL teams.
Chalk one up to the depth chart for the Fighting Hawks after they downed the University of Manitoba 6-2 Saturday night in the season-opening exhibition game in front of 10,682 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Players from all four lines scored goals and all six freshmen skaters in the lineup had at least a goal or an assist in a win over the Bisons (4-5), playing their ninth game this season but outshot 35-17 overall by the speedier Hawks.
This marks the 14th straight win for UND over the Bisons since moving into the current rink beginning with the 2001 season.
So the win wasn't unexpcted, but the contributions of rookie forwards Grant Mismash (goal, assist), Collin Adams (2 assists), Jordan Kawaguchi (goal), Nick Jones (assist) and defenseman Josh Rieger (assist) were noticeable.
They combined to score 33 percent of UND's goals (2 of 6) with the goals by Mismash and Kawaguchi featuring both assists on the goals from fellow freshmen.
"It was pretty surreal,'' Mismash said of his first game at REA in front of a large crowd. "Obviously the first period I was a little nervous, kind of getting into it. Once the team started settling down, it was like playing good-old hockey.'
In this case, good-old UND hockey, with a high tempo, some pretty goals and a promsing start by rookies to excite the fan base going forward.
"Overall it was awesome,'' said Mishmash, an Edina, Minn., native who came to UND highly-touted from the U.S. National Under-18 Team. "I've never experienced a crowd like this, and it was just an exhibition game. It was pretty crazy.''
UND blew the game open with a four-goal second period, with goals by Wolanin, Hoff, Kawaguchi and Johnny Simonson turning a 2-1 game into a 6-2 cushion before a scoreless third period.
Adams, who played right wing on a line with Mismash on the left side and Rhett Gardner at center, chipped in with two assists and some strong playmaking.
He also chipped in by creating a new word for Webster's Dictionary in describing his linemates, Mismash and Gardner.
"My line is great,'' Adams said. "We've got a lot of skill, a lot of smart, 'IQ-ness' from our line.''
Hoff, moved into the center spot on the top line for this game with Shane Gersich and team captain Austin Poganski on the wings, led the way with two goals. It's a promising sign for the Oslo, Norway, native, who had four goals in 36 games all of last season as a rookie.
"That made it a lot more fun for me,'' Hoff said of being paired with veterans Poganski and Gersich. "They're two very talented players.''
Hoff played more at wing last season, but relishes the move to center.
"I talked to Bubs (coach Berry) about it, and he thinks I look pretty comfortable at center,'' Hoff said. "We're just going to keep trying that now.''
Berry always talks about how building the team through the season is a process, one block at a time.
"I learned we're not a one-line team,'' Berry said of Saturday's showing. "We've got a little bit of depth. The way we're going to have success is with everybody pulling the rope.''
Berry also saw parts of the game that need more work, including play in the defensive zone. A defensive turnover at the UND blue line set up Ryan Laurencelle for a breakaway goal for Manitoba's first goal less than five minutes into the game.
"There were a lot of good efforts tonight,'' Berry said, "but there's lots of things to work on. We were not as sharp as we could have been, but that's to be expected because of the first game.
"But now it's game-on, and we've got to be sure we're ready for Alaska (Anchorage) next week,'' Berry added.
UND officially opens the season next Friday and Saturday with a non-conference series against the Seawolves.
Game notes: Long-time UND booster Al Pearson, who has organized bus trips to out-of-town games for UND fans for years, was ackowldged over the public address system on his 80th birthday tonight ... Wolanin led UND with a plus-4 rating with his defensive partner Colton Poolman and forward Adams checking in with plus-3s ... Gersich led UND in shots on goal with six, followed by Mismash with four ... UND was 0-for-5 on the power play with seven shots, Manitoba 0-3 with two shots ... Senior Cam Johnson started in goal for UND and made 10 saves in the two periods he played while allowing both Manitoba goals ... Freshman Peter Thome played the third period, stopping all five shots he faced.
Virg Foss is in his 13th season of reporting on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com. He covered UND hockey for 35 seasons for the Grand Forks Herald until his retirement from newspapers.