Q&A with UND junior defenseman Ethan Frisch

The blue liner from Moorhead talks about playing at Western Michigan and what he's learned by pairing with Jake Sanderson.

North Dakota defenseman Ethan Frisch (15) celebrates after scoring a goal against Minnesota Duluth on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — UND defenseman Ethan Frisch of Moorhead sat down with the Herald on Thursday to chat about this weekend's series at Western Michigan and his junior season.

Q. What do you think about being back on the road for the first time in more than a month?

A. We’re excited to be back on the road and back playing after, obviously, last week not being able to play and having a little stretch of COVID there. It’ll be good to be back on the road and in a barn like this. Western Michigan is a tough place to play. We had some success a couple years ago when I was a freshman and I think we’re all excited to get back and playing again.

Q. There’s almost nobody left on the roster from the team that swept Western Michigan here two seasons ago. Have you told the newer players what to expect?

A. The environment is one thing with the students. It’s a bit of a smaller rink with hard glass boards. It’s more about how we play — and how they play hard, heavy and fast — and how to combat that. That’s probably bigger than the environment itself. We’re all ready and excited to play this team. We know they’re a good team and it’ll be a challenge for us.


Q. With the hard boards and glass — and the style of game both teams like to play — do you always anticipate coming out of this building with some bumps and bruises?

A. Both programs like to play a hard, heavy game. Especially with these boards, it’s hard to come out of here without some bumps and bruises. But it’s something we’re ready for and it’s something you can expect in the NCHC. It won’t be a surprise for us, that’s for sure.

Q. As a right-handed defenseman, you’ve played both the left and right side during your career. Do you prefer one or the other?

A. It’s funny. I think at the point, it’s easier to play the left side. But breaking the puck out and pretty much everything else is easier on the right side. I’m comfortable all over the ice. Playing with (Jake) Sanderson, him and I are switching quite often, especially on the blue line. It’s something where you get comfortable playing on the ice, especially with a partner like Sanderson. As long as you’re talking and everyone is communicating out there, it makes it pretty easy no matter what side you’re on.

Q. What is something you had to learn while playing with Sanderson?

A. You’ve always got to be on your toes, for sure. He’s obviously a super dynamic player. Going off of him, if he’s going to make plays, we’ve always got to be in a supportive position. If he’s rolling on the blue line, I have to roll behind him or in front of him if that’s where the space is, and always trying to create that time and space for both of us to make a play. I’m on my toes playing with him, for sure.

Q. Offensively, what are some things you’ve tried to add to your game this year?

A. I think having some opportunities on the power play has been fun — on my one-timer side or I’ve played a few different spots on the power play. We’re mixing it around on the second unit and even a little bit on the first unit with my one-timer. I think just jumping up when I can as the fourth guy, I’ve been working on that a lot in practices. . . being the weak-side defenseman jumping up and making dynamic plays on the blue line. With Sanderson and I switching quite a bit, it opens up a lot of room. Just being comfortable having the puck up higher up in the zone, moving around with that and making plays from there is definitely something I’ve tried to add to my game.


Q. Do you guys look at this weekend as a prime opportunity to move up in the Pairwise Rankings?

A. For us, it’s really just another opportunity to play against a really good NCHC team. It’s a really good challenge. We try not to think about those Pairwise Rankings as much, just trying to be the best team in our league and being the best team we can be on any given night. We’re trying to take steps as a group here. Obviously, we’ve had a couple of rough patches. But taking strides as a team and growing as a unit is our biggest thing right now.

Q. Your last trip here, 2019-20, you guys swept right before Christmas. How big of a stepping stone was that to eventually get to the Penrose Cup as league champs?

A. Western Michigan was a really good team. We had a really good group. But coming here and beating them in their own barn was definitely something, as a group, where it’s a huge step and you know like, ‘We’re legit and when we’re playing our best, we can beat really good teams in really hard places to play.’ It’s a good opportunity for us. Hopefully, we can look back at that but know this is a different group and a new opportunity for us to take a step forward with our group.

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
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