UND young, untested as it opens seasonFAIRBANKS, Alaska — Tonight, the University of North Dakota’s most accomplished goal-scorer will be Mark MacMillan.
By: Brad Schlossman, The Dickinson Press
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Tonight, the University of North Dakota’s most accomplished goal-scorer will be Mark MacMillan.
He has seven career goals.
This will not be the high-flying squad that led the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in scoring two years ago and boasted one of the league’s top attacks down the stretch last season.
Instead, UND will not dress a full lineup in the season opener. It will have just three lines and more walk-ons than NHL draft picks among the forwards.
It’s all the result of suspensions for a preseason team party and injuries that have once again returned to bite a UND team that was plagued by them a season ago.
“Last year we were short quite a bit,” UND junior defenseman Dillon Simpson said. “Going through that and how well we played will give us some confidence going into this weekend.
“It’s a different mindset than usual. Guys will be asked to do more than they usually do. With the kind of guys we have on our team, everyone will step up.”
In tonight’s opener of the Brice Alaska Goal Rush against Alaska Anchorage, UND will be without forwards Danny Kristo, Corban Knight, Carter Rowney, Brendan O’Donnell and Michael Parks, as well as defenseman Andrew MacWilliam.
The five forwards out of the lineup have 117 career goals. The 10 forwards in the lineup have a combined 22 career goals.
By contrast, Anchorage junior Matt Bailey has 21 career goals himself.
UND will have no seniors and just one junior (Derek Rodwell, who missed half of last season with a shoulder injury) playing forward against the Seawolves, who opened their season a week ago by winning the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage.
By contrast, Anchorage is expected to suit up six seniors.
That’s why UND coach Dave Hakstol is calling the season-opening weekend a “major challenge.”
“We’re going to have to mentally get ready for it,” said defenseman Joe Gleason, the lone senior that will play for UND tonight. “That’s especially the case for the young guys. Not only is it their first road trip, we’re only going to have three lines of forwards, so that will be a hard adjustment playing against a couple of really good teams. We just have to mentally prepare really well.
“It’s the first road trip of the year. It’s fun to get away for a while, but we need four points coming out of (the weekend). It’s something we’re going to have to deal with right now and prepare for.”
UND will play tournament host Alaska (Fairbanks) on Saturday night. Kristo (suspension) and Parks (injury) will remain out for that game. Sophomores Connor Gaarder, Stephane Pattyn and Andrew Panzarella will serve a one-game suspension that night, but UND will regain the services of Knight, Rowney, O’Donnell and MacWilliam.
Both nights, UND will plan to play short, as it did the last 14 games of last season.
“It’s a new year and a new team,” Gleason said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
And a group of freshman forwards could go a long way in deciding the outcome.
“It will be good to get them a lot of minutes this weekend,” Simpson said. “They will be asked to play a lot more. For them, they just have to go out and play their games and not worry. For me as a freshman, panic set in the first couple of games. But they just have to be themselves and everything will take care of itself.”