Last April, the University of North Dakota hockey team’s season ended abruptly in the semifinals of the Frozen Four.
UND played their game plan to perfection, but still came up short. The loss didn’t sit well with the UND hockey team. UND head coach Dave Hakstol explained.
“Last year left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth,” Hakstol said. “More importantly, we left a goal out there – we left that on the table. That doesn’t have a direct effect today, or on this season, but there’s a residual effect. I like what I am seeing in this group, is real steady, focused group that has a goal in mind. More importantly, I think they understand that they just have to work every day in order to make steps towards a goal.”
Fast forward to this season: there’s a lot to get excited about, UND returns a majority of their players from last season’s squad that went (25-14-3, .630). Also, UND brings in one of the better recruiting classes in the country. The UND hockey team is primed for a big season.
Players will need to buy into their roles on team
The 2014-15 UND is a talented hockey team, however, this isn’t a team loaded with a lot of explosive fire power through the forward lines. If this team is going to be successful, it’s going to be as a result of everyone buying into their roles.
Don’t be surprised if the d-core leads the nation in points per game again this season.
“It’s making sure that everyone understands that they have a job to do and a role to play for us to be successful, Hakstol said. “We’re going need everyone doing their part. I think we’re going to have to win games that probably have a fairly close margin to them.”
He continued, “If we have to win 2-1, 3-2 or 5-4, I think we have the kind of team that can do that. But we’re going to have to be very balanced offensively. We’re going to have to have our blueline chipping in an awful lot on the offensive side and were going to have to be a good team without the puck and getting it back.”
Last season, the NCHC was a very tough league. I don’t see any reason why this season will be any different. Every game is a war, and there are no off nights. Take a couple of nights off and your team drops from first to fourth.
NCHC grind prepared team for NCAA Playoffs
Last season’s NCHC schedule appeared to prepare UND for the 2014 NCAA playoffs.
“You look at the playoffs series, I think that’s probably a really good indication,” Hakstol said. “We went three games, and we had to scratch and claw just to get to the Target Center. Miami comes in and upsets St. Cloud, but different series, that’s just how tight and close everything was.”
In the past, Coach Hakstol has been frank about the NCHC’s competitiveness. Moreover, the UND coach seems to relish the fact that the NCHC is such a tough league.
“When you look at our league schedule, and how close and tight all of those games are, then you add in a pretty significant non-conference schedule,” Hakstol said. “An extremely competitive non-conference schedule, the value of wins becomes pretty apparent and how hard it is to get enough wins to get in that national tournament. Let’s be very honest, that’s goal number one, to build a season that gives us an opportunity to be involved in the national tournament.”
Hakstol broke it down further, “When you look at last season, we had 23 wins and we had to sneak into the national tournament. Yeah, I love being part of a competitive league. That’s why we worked to develop this league, to make it developmentally and extremely competitive for the fans. I think we got what we wanted.”
In conclusion, if last season taught us anything, you can expect the unexpected this season. With that being said, there’s a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the UND hockey program this season. This team could go a long ways if everyone buys into their role.
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.