Q&A with UND sophomore forward Riese Gaber
The Gilbert Plains, Man., product says he prioritized lower-body strength during the offseason to prepare for a bigger role.
GRAND FORKS — UND sophomore forward Riese Gaber spoke to the Herald this week about how he prepared for this season, his success on the power play and going home for Christmas.
Q. How did you spend Christmas break?
A. I went home to Gilbert Plains (Man.) for eight or nine days. I saw some family, did a little (snowmobiling), hung out at the farm and hung out with family members who I haven’t been able to see for a while.
Q. With the border-crossing restrictions, have your family members been able to see you play a college hockey game in person yet?
A. My dad and sister came down for the Duluth series. They’ll be back for a couple more, too.
Q. Were they able to make it to any last season?
A. No, just this year.
Q. Was it nice to get a few days off and go back home then?
A. Yeah, it felt really good. It was nice seeing family who I haven’t seen since the summer. It was nice to catch up and share time with them. It was a good little reset for me, taking time off.
Q. Was there any area of your game you specifically worked on this summer to prepare for your sophomore season?
A. Coming into this year, knowing I was going to be heavily relied upon, I needed to do a lot of things. Definitely my power and explosiveness was my main focus. That started in the gym, trying to get more powerful in my lower body. I definitely think I gained a lot of strength there with the help of Pooly (athletic trainer Mark Poolman). I have noticed that on the ice.
Q. In what ways have you noticed it?
A. Feeling more powerful with my skating, stops and starts. . . being able to get out of corners quicker. . . having power to drive wide, shield off guys with my lower body and cut across the net the way I have a couple times. I’ve really noticed the improvement in upper-body strength as well.
Q. The way you can change the angle of your shot to get it around shot blockers has been very apparent this year. Is that an ability you’ve always had or did you develop that recently?
A. I worked on that a lot in Dubuque (in junior hockey). This year is the first time I’ve really gotten to show it off. Obviously, last year, I had a few goals like that. I think this year, being on that downhill flank (on the power play), I’ve had a ton of reps in practice and I've been working on it on my own. The more reps I do, the more confident I am. When I do get an opportunity, I feel like it should go in nine times out of 10.
Q. Have you played your current spot (right circle) on the power play before? Last year you were in the bumper spot between the hash marks.
A. I think I’ve played a few stints on the half wall, but definitely nothing for a consistent period of time. In my second year in Dubuque, I was in the bumper. It’s nice to feel trusted in that area and be able to show my shot, and obviously all of the other options we have on the power play.
Q. You were called for eight minor penalties in the first eight games of the season, but have only taken three in the last 11 games. Is that something you have been consciously trying to avoid?
A. For sure. I think a lot of the times, I maybe got a little aggressive with my stick. I had a minor penalty each of the first six or seven games this year. That was definitely something I was trying to tone down a bit. I was maybe too aggressive. I’ve kind of got that figured out so no worries in that sense now.
Q. How do you feel about playing a traditionally strong program like Cornell this weekend?
A. I think it’s pretty cool. Obviously, it’s something different than the NCHC. I think we’re expecting the same type of game, though. They’re a very good program year-to-year. It’s kind of neat. I don’t know too much about them. I don’t know anyone personally on their team. It will be good to see fresh eyes and different people. Obviously, it will be a really good weekend.
Q. How has practice been this week after the exhibition game last Saturday?
A. It has been a really good week of practice. I think we had a mindset coming in. We knew we didn’t show well on the weekend and it needed to be shown starting Monday. We needed to up our compete and battle level. I think energy all week has been tremendous and it’s going to continue into the weekend.
No. 14 Cornell at No. 5 UND
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Records: UND 13-6, Cornell 9-3-1.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).