Today, I attended the UND Hockey media luncheon and press event that followed. I was able to interview a few of the UND’s players today and get some great quotes.
There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm surrounding this season’s UND hockey team, based on who is returning from last season’s squad and with who is coming in this season.
Head coach Dave Hakstol was asked about his team’s goaltending situation.
“I expect it to be highly competitive,” Hakstol said.
“Clarke Saunders has the most experience under his belt he has played a lot of minutes at this level but I expect it to be a very competitive position for us and we’ll let that competition play out in different levels the first ten days will tell us something – but also, throughout the season there will be a high level of competition at that position.”
Coach Hakstol was asked about what position defenseman/forward Joe Gleason will play this season.
“He’s is going to be a defenseman,” Hakstol said. “I expect him to be a defenseman solely a defenseman and I expect him to be a guy that gives us real quality minutes back there.”
Here is what coach Hakstol had to say about second year freshman forward Rocco Grimaldi’s health.
“I think he is very close to approaching that level of being 100 percent healthy, Hakstol said. “I don’t think he is there yet – I think it’s something he is going to have to play his way into during the early part of the season to this point everything has been going well.”
I was able to get a chance to interview Clarke Saunders individually. Saunder is a junior goalie; who transferred from University of Alabama Huntsville to North Dakota during the off-season.
I asked Saunders about his expectations coming into this season.
“My expectations are, obviously if I play; to play well,” Saunders said. “If not to be the best teammate that I can… obviously we have a pretty good team this year – whatever my role might be – to do the best as I can.”
Clarke Saunders was asked what he thought about Ralph Englestad Arena.
“It is absolutely beautiful,” Saunders said. “I almost have to pinch myself every time I walk in here. All of us are truly grateful to be a part of this program and the Ralph is a specular piece of a long historic program that UND has.”
I asked Saunders about his style of play – in other words – what kind of a goaltender is he.
“I am a butterfly goalie,” Saunders said. “I feel I am decently strong positionally but also I have a bit of athleticism as well.”
Saunders was asked about his fellow goaltenders Zane Gothberg and Tate Maris.
“Zane’s a great kid, he works really hard and pushes me every day and not to forget Tate as well he an awesome guy; an older guy like me, he [Maris] brings a lot of maturity to the room I really, really get along well with both of the goalie partners and I think we have a really good group some of the guys poke fun at how close we are so that complements how well we work together.”
Senior Forward Danny Kristo was asked about his decision to come back for his senior year.
“It was a long process, it was stressful there for a while, it was kind of a different process than some kids have had to go through,” Kristo said.
“Montreal where I got drafted was going through a different time. They fired their general manager during the midst of my decision. Which made it a lot harder. With the thoughts of an NHL lockout; obviously I think I would rather be playing, if I could be playing AHL or playing college. I would much rather be playing college with my friends, which I still feel like with our coaching staff and with our team this year I can still get better in practice and get better in games. I can still do that stuff ultimately that is what your goal is year-by-year is to get better and if I can still do that here, I don’t see… why not come back for a great senior year and hopefully go on a run at the end of the season to put up a banner. “
Here is Danny Kristo’s comments on UND’s scoring depth this season.
“This year is going to be different that last year,” Kristo said. “Last year we had a lot of scoring on our first line but I think if you look at how deep we are this year we’re going to have three scoring lines that are going to be able to score night in and night out and a really solid fourth line that can grind it out down low, so it’s going to be different that last year I think.”
I asked Danny Kristo if he had some unfinished business coming into the season.
“Definitely a sour taste in my mouth,” Kristo Said. “ I definitely didn’t want my last college hockey game… to be a loss against Minnesota, so I think a little bit sour taste but I think that year is over with it’s a new year were just looking forward to start the season off right, starting the season off with the excitement a lot energy on the ice, we got a healthy line up compared to the end of last year, so I think that everyone is excited to get out there.
Danny Kristo had this to say about the prospects of having a full roster.
“I think we have more competition in the locker room,” Kristo said. “I think that might be a little bit of a challenge for our team – at the end of last year we didn’t have a choice – the guys that were healthy – were the guys that were playing, there’s going to be a good battle for guys – they’re going to be battling for spots. I think that practice is going to be more competitive, cause if you’re not working hard in practice someone is going to take your spot.”
Rocco Grimaldi was asked what he thought about Danny Kristo not signing with the Montreal Canadians and coming back for his senior season.
I was excited I wasn’t sure if he was going to come back or not. I was excited obviously he made a good choice … not sure what’s going on with the lockout and everything. I think he is happy about the decision and it should be a good year for him.
Rocco Grimaldi on whether he will be playing this weekend.
Yeah I will be playing this weekend, Grimaldi said. I am feeling a lot better and that’s a good thing.
Rocco Grimaldi was asked if he is a little rusty after missing most of last season with a knee injury.
“I hope not,” Grimaldi said. I got a little bit of the rust out in preseason here with the practices and everything but I am feeling a lot better just about my game in general and getting my smarts back so it will be good to test it [knee] out in a game and get another game under my belt.
Rocco Grimaldi was asked, if he is going to play wing or center.
“We will see,” Grimaldi said. “I am not sure, I am not sure where I will be playing this weekend. Will see, I can do either it doesn’t matter.”