Winning faceoffs is not a concern Dave Hakstol has had in a while. Thanks to players such as Corban Knight, Brad Malone, Chris VandeVelde, T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews, Travis Zajac and Zach Parise, UND has ranked near the top nationally in that category each year in the last decade. But this season, that dominant center is not there yet.
St. Louis Blues forward David Backes remembers fondly the games he played against T.J. Oshie while the two were Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals. Oshie and Backes are not only teammates now but also linemates for one of the NHL’s top teams.
When the national college hockey poll was released Monday afternoon, there was a rarity. The UND men’s hockey team was not ranked. It hasn’t happened often since the poll started in 1997, but UND did face a strikingly similar situation just two years ago.
Top-ranked Minnesota had its 10-game home unbeaten streak snapped by in-state foe Minnesota Duluth on Sunday afternoon at Mariucci Arena. The loss dropped the Gophers to 9-2-1 on the season and improved the No. 19 Bulldogs’ record to 6-5-1.
The UND men’s hockey team admits that there’s some frustration creeping in.
“Absolutely,” forward Rocco Grimaldi said. “It’s tough, I’m not going to lie,” defenseman Nick Mattson said. “It wears on you.” Things didn’t get any better on Friday night, either.
In a formal press conference in Agganis Arena on Friday night, a typically stern Dave Hakstol refused to look past this weekend and worry about the implications of a rough start to his UND men’s hockey season.
I arrived at my cabin late Wednesday afternoon with darkness about to descend. But before heading back to Grand Forks last weekend to take in the UND-Duluth hockey games, I’d stacked my fireplace with kindling. I had it ready for a strike of the match to bring instant warmth flowing through the cabin.
If the UND men’s hockey team is to get momentum going this season, it will have to start on the defensive end. Through the first month and a half of the college hockey season, UND (4-5-1) is allowing an average of 3.30 goals per game, which ranks last among eight National Collegiate Hockey Conference teams and 44th nationally.
UND won’t have enough forwards to fill out four lines this weekend.
Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Colten St. Clair and Derek Rodwell have all been ruled out for UND’s nonconference series at Boston University, leaving the team with 11 available forwards.
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