New Transfers to Join the UND Hockey Team

Maeve Hushman, Sports Reporter

The University of North Dakota’s hockey team has added three new players from the transfer portal. The team suffered from a tumultuous season that started lackluster, finished strong and ended in more disappointment, but with that came a mass exodus of current UND players. Many made the decision to go Pro while others decided to enter the transfer portal. It left UND with only 12 returning players, no defensemen, and one goalie. However, what the transfer portal takes, it also gives, and the University of North Dakota was able to attract three new transfers to the team for next year.  

Garrett Pyke is the former Captain of the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks, a rising senior left-shot defenseman and now the most tenured player on the UND Blueline. In the 2022-23 season, Pyke had four goals and 15 assists to combine for 19 points on the season. Three of those 4 goals came on the power play, which is important as UND lost both Chris Jandric and Tyler Kleven, who were some of their better defensemen scoring threats on the man advantage. Judging a defenseman on their ability to put up points is incredibly incomplete though since a defenseman’s primary job is not scoring but preventing the other team from doing so. Pyke was a plus 14 on the season this year as well, and while plus/minus is an admittedly very rudimentary statistic it does give a bigger picture into Pyke’s ability in his own zone. He was also third in blocked shots on the Nanooks, blocking 38 shots this season. When it comes to penalties, Pyke took 20 this season, but not a single one was a major penalty.  

Ludvig Persson is poised to become the next in a long line of portal acquired starting goaltenders for UND. The Swedish national played the past three seasons for University of Miami, Ohio and has two remaining years of NCAA eligibility. With the Red Hawks, Persson registered an average .899 save percentage which is just shy of the coveted .900 on a last place team. This season the Junior goaltender posted a .891 save percentage, which is not ideal, but it was also behind the worst team in the NCHC for 32 games. However, in his first-year season, Persson had a .925 save percentage in 18 games. While he has not replicated that success at a larger sample size since, the change of team and scenery will help to give Persson a fresh start at getting back to his first-year season numbers. He will join Kaleb Johnson as depth in net for the Hawks.  

Cameron Berg is an Islanders prospect who played forward for the Omaha Mavericks, a team that saw a lot of UND this season, and now he is coming home. The West Fargo native will be returning to North Dakota to play for UND. While the Fighting Hawks need more help on defense, the addition of the 6’5 195 lb. forward surely will not hurt.  Berg is a rising Junior giving him two more years of NCAA eligibility. Berg shoots left and with Omaha this season he played center specifically centering the third line in contests against UND this year. In the 2022-23 season, Berg had 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points. Berg is a sophomore with two more years of eligibility and will join the depleted, but still strong forward group.  

There are two more reported portal acquisitions in former Lindenwood forward Hunter Johannes and former Minnesota State University–Mankato defenseman Bennett Zmolek, but they have not been officially signed or announced like the prior three portal acquisitions.  

The disclaimer being made, Hunter Johannes was one of Lindenwood’s top goal scorers this season. The forward had 13 goals and 16 assists to combine for 29 points in 28 games. It was a great showing for Johannes, especially during the Lion’s first season being a division one hockey team. The left shot forward centered the third line for the Lions this year and at 6’3” and 209 lbs. Johannes is an imposing presence in both skill and stature. Johannes is a rising senior leaving him with one more season of NCAA eligibility after this one. He has potential and will add size and skill to UND’s current forward group.  

Bennett Zmolek is a right shot defenseman who played his first two seasons of college hockey with Mankato. In his first season, Zmolek tallied 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points in 28 games, which led to him being named to the CCHA all-rookie team that year. However, Zmolek was hit with unfortunate luck and missed his sophomore season due to injury. Looking at his first-year statistics, in the 2021-22 season, Zmolek had a season plus/minus of +12 and blocked 23 shots. He took only four minor penalties that season as well. There is a lot of promise in his game, and he is the only player on the current UND team to have played for an NCAA championship team.  

The new crop of transfers all has something particularly important in common that makes their movement to UND so fortuitous; they all have more than this coming season of NCAA eligibility left. It also will prevent UND from falling into the same predicament they fell into this year with their starting goaltender and three of their defensemen all aging out of the NCAA. With these new additions, UND added an experienced starting goaltender, veteran defenseman, and more talent up front. It is a good sign of a fresh start for UND.  


Maeve Hushman is a Dakota Student Sports Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected]