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MEN'S HOCKEY: UND on a learning curve

UND sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi is better known for drawing penalties than taking penalties. Even he was a little surprised earlier in the Vermont series when the speedster went to the box for interference on Friday. "My penalty (Friday) I d...

UND sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi is better known for drawing penalties than taking penalties.

Even he was a little surprised earlier in the Vermont series when the speedster went to the box for interference on Friday.

"My penalty (Friday) I didn't think was a penalty," Grimaldi said following Saturday's 2-2 tie between UND and Vermont at Ralph Engelstad Arena. "But with the rules now, it is. It's all about learning. We'll learn and figure it out."

The latest emphasis for NCAA officials is on obstruction, something this weekend's UND-Vermont series saw plenty.

In Friday's 5-3 UND win over Vermont, UND was called for 12 penalties for 24 minutes, while Vermont received nine penalties for 18 minutes. Then Saturday, UND was tagged with seven penalties for 14 minutes and Vermont had six for 12 minutes.

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"We were better tonight," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "We had better realization to take care of our sticks. Our guys made a conscientious effort to skate with guys and not use their stick on them. It's about creating angles and back-pressuring, instead of using your stick."

It's a change that wasn't easy to adapt as players.

"There was lots of stuff that wasn't called last year called this year," Grimaldi said. "Mostly holding and hooking."

The long list of penalties meant ample opportunities for special teams. UND's penalty-kill unit was 1-for-11 on Friday and 0-for-6 on Saturday.

"Special teams will be a big part, especially early in the season as we transition to the new level of calls until they smooth out," Hakstol said. "Our penalty kill became more sound. It was a little hit and miss yesterday. We were better and more in sync today."

The change in emphasis is a welcome move for skilled players, such as Grimaldi.

"It gives offensive guys more space down low," Grimaldi said. "We're going to have to work on our power play a lot this week. We had some good chances on it, but we had a few power plays that weren't good. We didn't have good puck possession or zone entry."

Despite UND's penchant to pick up these penalties over the weekend, Hakstol agrees with the ideology.

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"I'm on board with the emphasis of the hooks and basically protecting the offensive players' hands," Hakstol said. "Those are real significant and good steps for our game."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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