Last season, University of North Dakota freshman forward Johnny Simonson had a season he’d probably like to forget. After a successful junior career, Simonson’s first season at UND saw him sitting in the stands as a spectator more times than not.
The Grand Forks, North Dakota, native was a healthy scratch in half of UND’s games and only played in 22 of 42 games.
With a big senior class, Simonson was a victim of the numbers game. After the first of the year, Simonson only played in six more games.
Coming into the 2015-16 season, Simonson appears energized and looks to stay in the UND lineup this season.
Zero Goals in 2014-15
During the 2014-15 season, Simonson never dented the twine, not once. However, the forward did record (0g-5a—5pts) during his freshman season.
On Saturday night, during the first exhibition game of the 2015-16 season, Simonson dented the twine three times, leading UND to an 8-3 win against the Manitoba Bisons. Maybe, just maybe, Simonson has turned the corner.
“I think the baseline of my game deals with my effort and tenacity,” Simonson said. “So, I have to start there and try to get as many goals to the net as I can and make some plays with my linemates.”
Simonson Hopes to Play Bigger Role
If last season did anything, it probably motivated Simonson to strive for more playing time this season. Simonson hopes to play a bigger role in 2015-16.
“I am definitely anxious to maybe get some more ice time this season and want to help the team out in a bigger role than I did last year,” Simonson said. “Definitely yeah.”
With a large amount of talented players on UND’s roster, there will be good players sitting in the stands as healthy scratches.
“The guys coming in have high-end skill,” Simonson said. “So you have to find you niche in the lineup and help the team any way you can.”
With that large talented group of newcomers, there’s going to be a lot of competition for playing time. Putting up a good effort in practice is going to be very important. Intense competition for playing time should amp up everyone’s level of play.
“Practice is very competitive,” Simonson said. “Obviously guys are fighting for ice time and the season. With those 10 guys coming in it makes for a competitive practice.”
Simonson’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by the UND coaching staff either.
“I just see a focus and a mentality from a guy that just wants to be in the lineup every single night,” head coach Brad Berry said. “He’s just a humble, hardworking guy. Not a guy with a lot of words coming out of his mouth. He says what he has to say on the ice when he gets out there. He does that every single day in practice and it emulates what we’re about and what we do.”
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.