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Finding his niche

GRAND FORKS -- Derrick LaPoint claims he doesn't have the longest hockey stick on the UND team. "It's my monkey arms that help me out," he says with a laugh. Whatever it is, LaPoint has become one of the most reliable defensive players on the No....

Derrick LaPoint
AP File Photo University of North Dakota defenseman Derrick LaPoint, right, and Minnesota's Mike Carman collide after battling for the puck during a game Jan. 15 at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

GRAND FORKS -- Derrick LaPoint claims he doesn't have the longest hockey stick on the UND team.

"It's my monkey arms that help me out," he says with a laugh.

Whatever it is, LaPoint has become one of the most reliable defensive players on the No. 2 Sioux in large part due to his ability to break up plays with his stick.

"He gets his stick on more plays than almost any player at this level," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's a real good weapon for him and that all comes back to hockey sense."

This wasn't the scouting report on LaPoint as he was dominating Wisconsin high school hockey and putting up monster numbers in the United States Hockey League. He came to UND in 2007 with a reputation as an offensive defenseman.

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The numbers have started to come -- LaPoint was UND's top defenseman scorer last year with 22 points in 43 games -- but that's not what stands out about his game. The Eau Claire, Wis., product does not see much power-play time, but has been one of the team's top penalty killers for three years.

"He's not a flashy guy," Malone said. "He's not the type of player that's going to stand out on a five-on-five rush. But at the end, he's always on the scoresheet and involved in the little plays. He's one of those guys who doesn't get the credit he deserves within the media. He had a great year last year. He does it in his own, quiet way. He's a leader back there."

LaPoint's teammates and coaches say that the defenseman is impressive off the ice.

He's nearly a 4.0 student and a Western Collegiate Hockey Association scholar athlete. He'll graduate with a degree in geography and may get a teaching certificate later on.

"If you're going to compare him with someone, it would be Knighter (Corban Knight)," Malone said. "He's got a good bunch of core values. He's someone a lot of the guys take after."

That's one of the reasons he was voted an alternate captain by his teammates this season.

"If you ask any of his teammates, they'll tell you he's a guy they can count on in any situation -- on or off the ice," Hakstol said. "He's a consistent personality off the ice. He has accountability off the ice. He's a guy you can count on, on a day-to-day basis. He's a reliable person away from the rink and he carries that over to his play on the rink. That's how he lives his life."

Feeling good

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LaPoint had to battle classmate Jake Marto for a roster spot as a freshman. Ironically, those guys would become an inseparable duo for the next three seasons -- a defensive pair that doesn't give the coaching staff many headaches.

LaPoint missed 11 games to end the 2008-09 season after a gruesome tibia-fibula fracture against Minnesota State-Mankato. But he returned by last fall's opener and didn't miss a game last year.

This fall, LaPoint says he feels better than ever.

"This is the first year where I feel totally healthy coming in, which is a major help for the confidence," he said. "I'm coming in with a lot of confidence. I feel good, I feel strong and it has translated on the ice fairly well so far."

Schlossman is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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