MEN'S HOCKEY: UND relies on balance this season in reaching the Frozen Four
The last time UND went to the NCAA Frozen Four, it had a player with 36 goals.
This time, its leading scorer has 39 points.
There is no Matt Frattin, T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews, Jeff Panzer or Lee Goren heading to Philadelphia on the team charter Tuesday afternoon.
This UND team will count on getting offensive production from all over the lineup when it takes on top-ranked University of Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Wells Fargo Center (ESPN2).
“That’s the way it has to be with this team,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s no other avenue for us. We’ve known that since Day 1. We’ve got to have everyone chipping in. That’s going to be someone different on any given night scoring a goal or two. That’s the makeup of this team. That’s kind of a personality trait that this group has embraced. That’s part of our formula for success on any given night.”
Rocco Grimaldi is UND’s leading scorer with 17 goals and 39 points. The 17 goals ties the lowest total for a leading goal-scorer that UND has ever had entering a Frozen Four. This is the team’s 20th appearance.
Only once — in 1968 — has UND had a leading scorer with fewer points heading into a Frozen Four than this one.
But this team’s balance has helped overcome the lack of a game-breaking individual.
UND’s top three lines have combined for 33, 32 and 20 goals, respectively. The team’s defensemen have combined for 30 goals.
“It’s been kind of funny in that way,” said UND forward Stephane Pattyn, who started the season on the fourth line but will play alongside the team’s leading scorer at the Frozen Four. “Every game has a different hero. That’s been a big part of our success. We have four lines that can play. We have four lines that can play every role also.
“I think our top line with Mark (MacMillan) and (Michael) Parks can definitely put in some grind shifts, not just skilled play. Our fourth line can make some good plays. It’s crucial. We have to keep it that way. We need all four lines to generate offense and play the pesky style that we like to play.”
UND has played seven postseason games this season. Its leading goal scorer, excluding empty-netters, is Connor Gaarder. Pattyn is among the players tied for second.
When UND reached the Frozen Four in 2011, it did so with five 40-point scorers — Frattin, Corban Knight, Jason Gregoire, Evan Trupp and Brad Malone. Grimaldi would have been sixth on that team in scoring.
That team reached the Frozen Four by outscoring its opponents 12-1 in the regionals. This team scored with less than two minutes to go to win its first regional game and got a double overtime goal to win the other.
“It’s definitely a different way that we went about getting to the Frozen Four,” UND captain Dillon Simpson said. “My freshman year, everything went right with a powerhouse team. It’s different the way we had to come through digging ourselves out of a hole and having ups and downs.
“But I think the confidence and motivation is very similar. We’re a team that believes in ourselves just like we did freshman year. We think we have what it takes. It’s just a matter of going out there and putting it all on the line.”
The 2011 team reached the Frozen Four by beating Denver 6-1. Eight point-scorers in that contest went on to sign NHL contracts.
This year, UND reached the Frozen Four by beating Ferris State 2-1. The goal scorers were Gaarder and Pattyn, two recruited walk-ons who were offered spots on the team just a few months before school was set to start.
“At that time, nobody would have believed it right?” Hakstol said.