UND's center depth bolstered ahead of series at Miami

Jan. 25—GRAND FORKS — UND will be bolstered at center heading into this weekend's series against Miami University.

Sophomore Jake Schmaltz, who suffered an upper-body injury in practice last week and missed the series against Minnesota Duluth, is expected to return to the lineup Friday night in Oxford, Ohio.

Schmaltz has practiced in full this week.

"He's back on a line," UND coach Brad Berry said. "He's playing."

Schmaltz has been a fixture in UND's lineup the past two seasons, playing in 62 consecutive games to start his college career.

In fact, last weekend marked the first time Schmaltz missed a game since Nov. 22, 2019, when he played for the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League.

Schmaltz's overall consecutive games streak was at 145.

"It gives us a little more depth," Berry said. "One thing we've been kind of inconsistent compared to previous years is our faceoff percentage. When you're 50 percent, you win half your draws, but it seems like a lot of times in our D-zone, we lose faceoffs, whether it's on our penalty kill or five-on-five. It really magnifies it when that happens. To have a guy like Jake Schmaltz back in, it helps solidify us to be more consistent in the dot."

UND has relied heavily on Schmaltz and Louis Jamernik V for defensive zone faceoffs this season.

Jamernik V has taken 188. Schmaltz has taken 163. Nobody else on the team has taken more than 70.

Without Schmaltz, UND moved captain Mark Senden to center and he took 15 defensive zone draws against the Bulldogs. With Schmaltz coming back, Berry has the option to return Senden to wing.

Faceoffs could be an area of strength for the Fighting Hawks against Miami.

UND is winning 53 percent as a team, No. 15 in the nation. Miami, at 44.9 percent, has one of the worst marks in the country. Only Lindenwood (43.1), Brown (43.0) and Alaska Anchorage (41.3) are worse.

Schmaltz takes an average of 21 faceoffs per game, most on the team.

Schmaltz, a seventh-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins, has three goals and eight points in 23 games this season.

Points haven't been as easy to come by this season for the 6-foot-2, 186-pound forward from McFarland, Wis. He will enter this weekend on a 16-game goal drought going back to the Oct. 29 game in Las Vegas against Arizona State.

The lone player expected to miss this weekend's series due to injury is sophomore forward Dane Montgomery, who has yet to practice with the team this season due to a nagging upper-body injury.

"Dane is an unreal person," Berry said. "I thought last year, he gained some traction. He scored a big goal in Duluth for us as a first-year guy coming into our lineup here. I feel for him. He's battled an injury issue, a problem here, and he's handled it the right way."

Montgomery, who played high school hockey at Grand Forks Red River, still attends every practice and watches from either the stands or the bench.

"I know it's killing him," Berry said. "But at the end of the day, getting through adversity is something I know he can deal with and we're going to help him deal with that side of it."

Montgomery played 16 games as a rookie, scoring one goal and tallying three points.

"Even though he isn't part of our group on the ice in practices or games, he's still with us every day through meetings and different scheduled things we go through," Berry said. "We'll keep grinding away and hopefully he can be available for us one day to play."

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Goggin Ice Center, Oxford, Ohio.

TV: CBS Sports on Friday only.

Stream: NCHChockey.com on Saturday only.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).