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Glass-breaking shots just part of Herbert's skills for UMD

Minnesota Duluth center Caleb Herbert moves the puck up the ice during Saturday's game against Michigan Tech at Amsoil Arena. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Caleb Herbert has some bite to his shot. Ask maintenance workers at Amsoil Arena and Magness Arena in Denver. They've had to replace glass panes in both rinks after being hit by pucks coming off Herbert's stick at practice, including a week ago in Duluth.

And ask University of Maine goalie Dan Sullivan. In the 2012 NCAA tournament's opening round, Herbert smacked a shot high off the glass behind Sullivan and the puck then bounced off the goalie and into the net. UMD rallied to win 5-2.

Yet it took nearly a third of 2012-13 for the Minnesota Duluth sophomore forward to regain his touch. He had just four assists in the first 12 games, going scoreless in nine straight games.

During the last 14 he has six goals and five assists for 11 points entering today's 7:37 p.m. Western Collegiate Hockey Association home game with No. 11-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato.

"You come in with high expectations and when those don't work out, it's tough," Herbert said this week. "What I needed to do was clear my head of self-pressure and self-doubts, and just start thinking positively.

"What I have to do, to be effective, is bring some tenacity and have an edge to my game. I need to be strong over pucks and be aggressive on the forecheck."

UMD's coaches won't argue with that. They saw plenty of positive play in his freshman season as a left winger (his off side) on a line with All-WCHA picks Travis Oleksuk and J.T. Brown. Herbert had 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points in 41 games. That represented the most points by a UMD freshman since Tim Stapleton had 42 in 2002-03.

Herbert, from Bloomington, Minn., was named the team's rookie of the year coming just a season after leading Sioux City (Iowa) with 50 points in 51 games in the U.S. Hockey League. He was taken in the fifth round, 142nd overall, by Washington in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

"He's as strong as a bull and has NHL skills," says UMD assistant coach Derek Plante, tied for No. 2 in school career scoring. "But there's always a growing process and you have to find your way. Sometimes, after early success, it takes adjusting to get back there."

In the season opener, a 6-2 home win over Ohio State, Herbert had three assists. The Bulldogs didn't score more than four goals again until 12 games later, on Nov. 30, in a 7-3 win at Michigan Tech as Herbert had a goal and two assists.

He's played some wing this season but has been primarily at center, his natural position, and today will be between sophomore Justin Crandall and senior Mike Seidel. In last Saturday's 4-3 home loss to Denver, Herbert had a goal and an assist.

"Caleb is good enough to play any position but playing center brings a lot of responsibility, especially defensive responsibilities," said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. "He's gotten better defensively and has played much better lately. He can be dynamic.

"He's good on face-offs, he can skate, he can shoot and he can shoot hard."

Hard enough to break 400 pounds of seamless, tempered safety glass at Amsoil Arena worth about $1,000.

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