Colton Poolman named UND hockey captain
GRAND FORKS—The last NCAA national championship team at the University of North Dakota was captained by a junior defenseman from East Grand Forks, Minn. That was Gage Ausmus, who wore the 'C' for the 2016 champs.
Next season, it will be another junior defenseman from East Grand Forks wearing the captain's 'C.'
Colton Poolman was named team captain for UND on Wednesday, earning a rare distinction for a non-senior.
He joins Ausmus as the only junior captains in the last decade.
"Everything he does on and off the ice—what he does when people are watching, what he does when people aren't watching—he does it to the highest degree," UND coach Brad Berry said. "He's focused. He's detailed. He's hard-working. He leads by example on the ice, in the locker room and in the weight room. He takes charge and that's what a leader does.
"To get to the level we want to get to, your leaders have to be your top guys on a daily basis. That's the bar they have. Whatever that level is, they have to get to that level, then the rest of the players follow. He has an extremely high bar and we're looking forward to him keep raising it this year."
Joining Poolman in the leadership group will be senior alternate captains Nick Jones, Rhett Gardner and Hayden Shaw.
After a solid freshman season at UND, Poolman developed into a dominant player as a sophomore. He was named a finalist for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's defensive defenseman of the year award, while posting seven goals, 29 points and a team-best plus-14 rating.
"It's a tremendous honor to be named captain," Poolman said. "That's a very humbling experience. Hopefully, we can get back to where things need to be."
UND's run of 15-straight NCAA tournament appearances—the second-longest in college hockey history—came to an end in March.
The Fighting Hawks lost four seniors and two juniors to NHL deals from that team, but retained several key pieces.
Poolman was one player who opted to return rather than entertain NHL free-agent offers.
Prior to Ausmus and Poolman, the last junior captains were Matt Smaby in 2005-06 and Matt Greene in 2004-05. Both teams reached the Frozen Four.
One of the keys to the 2016 national championship team, players said, was how the veterans instantly welcomed the younger players into the group without any initiations.
"That's what you need—to get guys into the fold and get guys comfortable, because when guys are comfortable and confident, that's when guys are playing their best hockey," Poolman said. "We're going to need that from some of our younger guys next year."