UND looking forward to playing with a full deckUniversity of North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol couldn’t answer the question. He paused, thought for a few seconds and eventually gave up.
By: By Brad Schlossman, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol couldn’t answer the question. He paused, thought for a few seconds and eventually gave up.
When is the last time his team has had a full lineup?
“It’s been a while,” Hakstol said after his team dropped a 2-1 decision to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in the championship game of the Brice Alaska Goal Rush late Saturday.
UND had just 15 skaters in the lineup during Friday’s 5-0 win over Alaska Anchorage and just 16 in the lineup for the game against the Nanooks — both unheard-of numbers for an NCAA Division I college hockey team.
This has become routine for UND, which did the same drill at the end of last season because of injuries that piled up. Last weekend, suspensions were to blame.
But Hakstol learned a lot about his team during the weekend, and for the most part, he likes what he saw.
“This group of guys sticks together, whatever the numbers are,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, there’s a reason you have the ability to dress 20 players. On back-to-back nights, especially against two good teams on a big ice sheet, you’ve got to play with energy. But this team is strong-willed. That’s probably the biggest thing I learned about our team ... that we’ve got a lot of will. We’ve got a pretty tight group in that locker room. It was a hard loss (Saturday) night, but a good building week for our team.”
UND now will move forward with nearly an entire roster of players. Forward Michael Parks still will be sidelined this weekend when the team hosts Alaska Anchorage in Ralph Engelstad Arena, but the team is expected to dress a full 18 skaters for the first time since last February.
UND hasn’t had a healthy scratch in any game since Dec. 9 of last season — a span of 27 straight games. That also is expected to change Friday night.
“That’s critical,” Hakstol said.
By missing seven players last Friday and six on Saturday, Hakstol was able to get extended looks at many of the rookies and role players, including Bryn Chyzyk and Drake Caggiula. They both logged a bunch of minutes in the Carlson Center.
“Saw a lot of good things,” Hakstol said. “I liked the poise, I liked the presence of a lot of our young guys. Hopefully, that’s a building block a few months down the road that will be a benefit to us.”
UND tested itself early in the season with the travel and the competition and learned some good things about the team. Players say it’s time to look to the future.
“With all of the stuff that’s gone on, it will be nice to put that behind us and have our lineup full and ready to go,” alternate captain Corban Knight said.
Schlossman is a sports writer at the Grand Forks Herald