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Adam Scheel pushes to be a rare freshman starting goalie at UND

Adam Scheel makes a save against Wisconsin in Nov. 2018. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — Jonny Tychonick wasn’t worried.

Sure, he saw Minnesota forward Brent Gates Jr. on a breakaway with a chance to give the Gophers the lead in the third period of the Las Vegas showdown.

But he was familiar with this situation.

He played with University of North Dakota freshman goaltender Adam Scheel a year ago with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League and had taken plenty of shots at the netminder.

“He gives you an option, then takes it away really quickly,” Tychonick said. “He’s quick, especially on penalty shots or shootouts. He’s really good at reading fakes.”

Gates made deke, pulled the puck to his forehand and had nothing to shoot at. Scheel was right there. He made the save, UND soon scored the go-ahead goal and won the game 3-1.

“Definitely, flashbacks to last year,” Tychonick said.

Scheel has been locked in for No. 11 UND, making four consecutive starts and leading the 4-2-1 Fighting Hawks to four consecutive wins. During that stretch, Scheel has a .934 save percentage and a 1.50 goals-against average.

The Lakewood, Ohio, product is expected to, once again, be in the net Friday when UND plays against Miami University in Oxford, Ohio — a four-hour drive from his hometown.

It’s only a month into the regular season, but the fact that a freshman goalie is making a push to be the starter at UND is a rarity in itself.

In the last 20 years, only one freshman goalie has earned the majority of starts for UND. That was Brad Eidsness in the MacNaughton Cup season of 2008-09. Jordan Parise was one start shy of pulling off that feat in 2003-04.

But those who watched Scheel in Penticton last season say they’re not surprised to see him challenge sophomore Peter Thome for minutes right away.

“I thought he would be able to have success,” Penticton coach Fred Harbinson said. “He had a great year with us. He had a few hiccups in the playoffs, but he was an 18-year-old carrying the load here. At our level, you’re usually looking at 19-, 20-year-olds. I looked at that as part of his maturation process. I had no doubt he would go there and use all of the different experiences — from playing with the U.S. Program to playing in Penticton — to help him have success. I know it’s still early. There’s a long ways to go. But I knew he would string those experiences together as fuel for success at UND.”

What makes Scheel successful?

A number of things, coaches say.

“Goaltenders have to have the ability to shake one off and he had that ability of not letting things get to him,” Harbinson said. “I thought he had a good understanding of the game. He made sure he understood who the shooters were at certain times on the ice. He was educated in that way. He competed hard. So many times last year, he was down and out, and found a way to keep the puck out of the net with a desperation play.

“For me, the compete level is always something that’s non-negotiable, and he brought it every single day.”

UND coach Brad Berry has liked his game awareness.

“He’s playing calm,” Berry said. “He’s moving pucks to our defensemen. He’s doing all the little things that give you a chance to defend well and not play a whole lot of time in your own end of the rink. He’s bringing consistency in all aspects of the game over a short body of work. Now, it’s to try to continue that play.”

Scheel was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference goalie of the week after UND’s sweep of Wisconsin in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

He’s started his career with wins against No. 3 MSU-Mankato, No. 16 Minnesota and No. 20 Wisconsin.

But he’ll still have to earn his starts. Thome, who started his career with road wins at Wisconsin and Denver a year ago, is waiting to come in.

Scheel said he needs to push to improve.

“Things have been going pretty well, especially as a team, I think we’re finding our groove,” Scheel said. “It’s good to build off that. You can’t get complacent, myself included. I think everyone can be better, so we’ve just got to keep working.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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