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UMD men's hockey: Bulldogs add goaltender from Maine to bolster depth in net

With Ben Patt electing not to return for a sixth season and Ryan Fanti signing an NHL contract, Zach Stejskal will be the only returning goaltender for UMD in 2022-23. The Bulldogs will bring in Zach Sandy from the NAHL and Maine junior Matthew Thiesen.

Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey prepares for NCAA Regional game against Michigan Tech
Minnesota Duluth goaltenders Ben Patt (36) and Brady Anderson (34) sit on the boards during a practice session on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, at Budwieser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Maine junior goaltender and 2018 Vancouver Canucks seventh-round draft pick Matthew Thiessen announced Tuesday he will transfer to Minnesota Duluth for 2022-23, filling out what had become a thinned-out goaltending room at UMD this spring following the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.

Sophomore Zach Stejskal of Cohasset will be the only returning goaltender back for the Bulldogs in 2022-23 after junior Ryan Fanti signed with the Edmonton Oilers and redshirt senior Ben Patt elected not to return for what would be his sixth season of eligibility.

Stejskal — who posted an .880 save percentage and 3.29 goals against average in just four games — is in line to be the Bulldogs’ starter in 2022-23, despite missing much of the season due to a battle with testicular cancer. Stejskal received his cancer diagnosis in October after making two starts. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy before returning to the net in a victorious relief appearance for an ill Fanti on Feb. 12.

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Stejskal played just one more game, on Feb. 19 at Amsoil Arena, and Fanti kept the net after that, backstopping the Bulldogs to an NCHC Frozen Faceoff title and the NCAA regional final in Loveland.

As a freshman, Stejskal posted a .929 save percentage and 1.89 GAA in nine games, getting the start in both the five-overtime NCAA regional final win over North Dakota in Fargo and overtime loss to Massachusetts in the NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.

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Thiessen has spent the last three seasons as a backup for the Black Bears, accumulating a .879 save percentage and 3.65 GAA in 21 games. He played in a collegiate-high 12 games in 2021-22 as the No. 2, going 1-8-3 with a .888 save percentage and 3.11 GAA.

A native of Altona, Manitoba, Thiessen was taken No. 192 overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft after leading the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in goaltending in 2017-18 and backstopping the Steinbach Pistons to the 2018 MJHL championship. Thiessen finished with a .923 save percentage and 2.06 GAA during the 2017-18 regular season, then a .944 save percentage and 1.58 GAA in the postseason.

Thiessen struggled when he moved to the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League the following year, finishing with an .889 save percentage and 3.01 GAA in 47 regular season games. He was stronger in his six postseason contests, with a .925 save percentage and 2.48 GAA.

In addition to Thiessen, the Bulldogs are also bringing in 19-year-old Zach Sandy of Fargo, North Dakota . Sandy is currently in his first season of junior hockey, playing for the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League. He has a .929 save percentage and 2.47 GAA in 26 games this year.

Three Bulldogs in transfer portal

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Jake Rosenbaum (27) of Minnesota Duluth attempts to block a shot from Patrick Cozzi (10) of Colorado College during a game Friday Nov. 22, 2019 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

A trio of Bulldogs who combined to play in just 35 total games in 2021-22 have entered the transfer portal, according to reports.

Senior defenseman Jake Rosenbaum, senior forward Jarrett Lee and junior forward Ben Almquist are reportedly seeking new teams for 2022-23. Rosenbaum and Lee have one season of eligibility remaining while Almquist has two.

Almquist, who joined the Bulldogs midway through the 2019-20 season to bolster the team’s depth at center, played in 18 games this past year, scoring two goals and three assists. He had three goals and four assists total in 43 games as a Bulldog.

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Lee, of Hibbing, transferred to UMD in 2020 after one and a half seasons at Northern Michigan. He appeared in 21 games over two seasons, registering a single assist this year.

Rosenbaum, a notably well-liked teammate in the locker room, was part of the Bulldogs' 2018-19 national championship team as a freshman, though he dressed for just two games that year. He played in 27 as a sophomore before suiting up for a combined 15 games the past two years. He had two career assists.

Who is coming back for a fifth year?

College Men's hockey players compete on Olympic size ice sheet
Minnesota Duluth players celebrate with Minnesota Duluth forward Tanner Laderoute (13) after he scored the first goal of the game against St. Cloud State on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Senior center Jesse Jacques, senior wing Tanner Laderoute and senior defenseman Hunter Lellig — who all won a national championship in 2018-19 as freshmen — are eligible to return for a fifth season in 2022-23, but none has indicated publicly yet whether they will do so or not.

Jacques and Laderoute have both played in over 100 career games for the Bulldogs. Jacques, a center from Hermantown, has 10 goals and 15 assists in his career while Laderoute — an alternate captain in 2021-22 and a possible candidate for captain in 2022-23 — has 28 goals and 23 assists in his career at wing.

Lellig, a defensive defenseman with two goals and 10 assists in his career, has played in 98 career games on the blue line, including all 41 this year.

A look at incoming recruits

Sandy is one of seven recruits who are projected — as of now — to join the Bulldogs in 2022-23 along with four forwards and two defensemen.

Forwards Jack Smith, Ben Steeves and Issac Howard, as well as defenseman Aiden Dubinsky, signed a National Letter of Intent in the fall, while recent verbal commitments Kyle Bettens and Riley Bodnarchuk are both aging out of junior hockey after this season.

Dubinsky, an 18-year-old playing for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, and Howard, an 18-year-old wing in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, are both prospects for the upcoming NHL Draft. Howard is a potential first- or second-round pick.

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Steeves, a wing who will be 20 in the fall, is 13th in the USHL in scoring with 61 points for the Sioux City Musketeers.

Bettens, who will be 21 in the fall, and Smith, a St. Cloud native turning 20, are both centers. Both have spent the last two seasons in the USHL, though Smith — a Montreal Canadiens draft pick — has dealt with injuries and played only 10 games this year.

Bodnarchuk, turning 21, will bring size back to the Bulldogs blue line at 6-foot-3, 194 pounds. He’s currently with the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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