Family connection: Schmaltz stays at UND for junior season to play with his younger brother
GRAND FORKS — Mike Schmaltz had the opportunity to play college football alongside his brother, Marc, at the University of North Dakota.
His sons will have a chance to do the same on the hockey rink.
Sophomore defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, a first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, confirmed Wednesday that he will return to UND for his junior season, where he will be able to play alongside his brother, Nick, a highly touted recruit.
Goaltender Zane Gothberg also confirmed that he will return for his junior season instead of signing with the Boston Bruins, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2010.
With their pledges, UND is expected to return everyone from the back end that played in the NCAA Frozen Four except for senior Dillon Simpson.
“You don’t know what the final roster will be at this time of year,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Guys have to work through their own processes. Some take shorter. Some take longer. To know that our core in goal and on the back end are solidified and looking forward to returning, to know that key members in our forward groups are looking forward to returning, we can get down to work.
“We can start pushing forward and taking advantage of every day as a group to try to get a little bit better. We can try to improve and put ourselves in as strong of a position as possible as we can going into the 2014-15 year.”
It appears the only key player left to make a decision on next season is sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi, a second-round pick of the Florida Panthers. Grimaldi led UND in scoring with 39 points last season.
Whether Grimaldi stays or goes, the strength of next season’s team figures to be on the back end, where UND returns Schmaltz, Paul LaDue, Keaton Thompson, Nick Mattson, Troy Stecher and Gage Ausmus, while bringing in East Grand Forks’ Tucker Poolman, who is having a big season in the United States Hockey League. Andrew Panzarella has the flexibility to play both up front and on defense.
In goal, Gothberg finished the season by going 18-5-1 with a .933 save percentage and a 1.72 goals-against average since Nov. 30. During his career, Gothberg has allowed five goals in four NCAA tournament games.
“He’s a guy that really enjoys playing the game,” Hakstol said. “He’s really motivated to get better every day. I don’t know if we have any guys who take more advantage of every day, trying to improve and really enjoying what they are doing. Those are pretty good traits.
“He’s able to stay loose. He relishes the challenge. He wants to be the guy that’s in that spotlight when the game and your season is on the line.”
- ESPN says that viewership was up 56 percent in this year’s Frozen Four from last year’s event. Having three traditional powers in the event — North Dakota, Minnesota and Boston College — made a big impact.
- The Minnesota Wild practiced at Denver’s Magness Arena on Wednesday in preparation for today’s first-round NHL playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche. Wild alternate captain Zach Parise last played at Magness Arena when he was a sophomore at UND. Parise had three assists as UND swept the Pioneers in that series.