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Men's hockey: Gleason heading back home

None of the veterans need to tell freshman Joe Gleason what to expect this weekend when UND travels to Mariucci Arena for a rivalry series against Minnesota.

Gleason
Joe Gleason

None of the veterans need to tell freshman Joe Gleason what to expect this weekend when UND travels to Mariucci Arena for a rivalry series against Minnesota.

He watched games there growing up, practiced there as a bantam and competed in three section championships at the 10,000-seat arena.

"It's only about 10 minutes from my house," the Edina native said. "It's great that I get to go back home and play. But this is about North Dakota vs. Minnesota, not individuals."

Rivalry weekend begins at 7:07 p.m. Friday. It is the first game between the teams in Mariucci Arena in two seasons. Only seven healthy Sioux players have played a college game there.

But four Sioux youngsters -- Gleason, Corey Fienhage, Ben Blood and Danny Kristo -- grew up in the Twin Cities and are familiar with the arena, perhaps Gleason more than anybody.

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The smooth-skating defenseman captained a powerful Edina High School team to a pair of state tournaments. The road went through Mariucci both times.

Gleason hopes that this weekend he'll display some of the skills that he cultivated growing up in the Twin Cities.

His father, Bob, a former St. John's player, had Joe on skates by the age of 2. At age 4, Joe started taking skating lessons at Braemar Arena. Those classes, taught by figure skaters, were essential to Joe's development as a great skater, his dad says.

He played three sports -- football, baseball and hockey -- until his junior year of high school, when Joe realized that he had a future on the ice. He made recruiting visits to Minnesota, but committed to UND before the Gophers offered a scholarship.

"The coaching staff was probably the biggest reason," Gleason said of why he committed to the Sioux. "The way they go about business here. . . they bring a pro mentality to the college level. They produce NHL players. Hopefully people can see that in games."

That also means things aren't always easy.

Gleason worked out all summer to prepare for the college game. Then, he realized there's another level of working out in college. His fellow players were hard on him about conditioning at first.

"It was eye-opening in a lot of ways,"

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Gleason said. "Coming in, you hear that the Iron Man is incredibly hard. You hear all about it and think it can't be that bad, but it is that bad. The guys here really set the bar at a high level on the ice and off the ice. It's not just a game day thing.

"You don't get praise here for having a great practice. You don't get praise here for getting good grades. It's just expected."

Gleason said he's probably lost 15 pounds since arriving on campus and his body fat has gone down "a ton." His fellow teammates call him "The Lean Joe Gleason," now.

"I think I developed a lot of bad habits in juniors, I'm not going to lie," Gleason said. "You don't have to go to school and you're not practicing as long or hard. You think that's the way it is going to be. The first month I spent working on my conditioning more than my game."

Gleason has been an impact freshman for the Sioux.

He's played in all 22 games, tallying five assists. He leads the team in plus-minus rating with a plus-10 rating. That's second-best among WCHA rookie blue liners. Gleason also has earned some power-play time, a rarity for freshman defensemen.

"His skating ability is very evident, day in and day out," UND coach Dave Hakstol says. "To see the true offensive side of his game come to the forefront is going to take a little bit of time. We're seeing some of that. He's very good at jumping up into the play and turning even-numbered rushes into odd-numbered rushes.

"We're slowly seeing his offensive poise on the offensive blue line, slowing seeing that develop. That's probably a little bit of a result of him becoming more and more comfortable with this level."

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Gleason should be plenty comfortable going back to Mariucci, where in his last visit, his Edina Hornets beat Burnsville in overtime in the 2008 section championship.

Former Edina teammate Zach Budish, who Gleason's dad threatened to kick out of the house over Christmas break for entering with Gopher gear on, will lineup on the other side of the rivalry this time, though.

"It will be fun," Gleason said. "Hopefully, we can beat them in their back yard."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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