TOM MILLER: UND senior Rodwell earns praise
UND senior Derek Rodwell's role isn't typically flashy. He's a big, fast forward who can grind in the corners and be miserable to play against.
But he isn't a top power-play option or called on to carry a team on the scoresheet. It's the kind of job that mostly skates under the radar from fanfare.
The fact that conversations about Rodwell have dominated recent press conferences is telltale of the kind of impact the Alberta native has had for North Dakota of late.
Rodwell scored a goal and continued to play his game to a tee Saturday as UND beat Bemidji State 4-2 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
A telling stat? UND's record this season with Rodwell in the lineup is 10-2-1. UND is 2-5-2 without Rodwell.
"Rods is playing extremely well," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "He was taking care of pucks in tight spaces. On 50-50 pucks, it hasn't been much of a contest. He's winning about 90 percent of those."
Earlier in the week, UND forward Rocco Grimaldi turned some heads during the team's press conference with some heavy praise of Rodwell.
What does Rocco think of Rodwell's speed?
"That guy could outskate me from goal line to goal line," said Grimaldi, a well-known speedster himself. "His legs are the size of my torso."
How about his toughness?
"If I was a defenseman in the corner, and I saw that truck coming at me, I'd get out of the way, too," Grimaldi said.
Rodwell's big frame -- 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds -- eats up space quickly on the ice. His long strides can win races to pucks even when opponents have a healthy jump start.
This week, along with his linemates of Steph Pattyn and Connor Gaarder, Rodwell has continued to gain the trust of Hakstol, playing him in critical situations. Not coincidentally, this line was put together at the beginning of UND's current nine-game unbeaten streak.
Rodwell scored his fourth goal of the year against the Beavers, a skilled play that surprised some fans and probably BSU goalie Andrew Walsh.
Three of those four goals for Rodwell have come during this unbeaten stretch for UND.
Rodwell has come a long way from missing the first six games of the year as a healthy scratch.
"We put him in, and we couldn't take him out," Hakstol said. "That's a credit to him. That's great mental toughness to stick with it. He's a great role model for our guys in the program ... how he's handled the tough times and taken advantage of the opportunities in front of him."
Rodwell, who has 12 career goals, said it was tough to sit out games early in the year, but the time off allowed him to focus on personal improvement.
"Everyone wants to play," Rodwell said. "But I was able to work on the things I needed to do to get back in the lineup."