It has been almost a month and a half since UND has made a change to any of its forward lines. They have stuck for the last nine games as UND has gone 7-1-1, clinching a share of the Penrose Cup as NCHC champs.
But they will have to change soon.
Mark MacMillan, the team’s top-line center and leading goal scorer, was injured Saturday night blocking a Jonny Brodzinski shot. The school has not yet commented on whether MacMillan is done for the season, but all signs are pointing that way.
Regardless, he’s certainly not playing any time soon and UND has to try to fill the shoes of its leading goal scorer, top penalty killing forward, top defensive forward and top faceoff man.
What do you do?
My first thought is that you DO NOT want to break up the Brendan O’Donnell, Connor Gaarder, Austin Poganski line. That has arguably been UND’s best and most consistent unit during the last month. You leave that one together.
I’m thinking that it makes sense to move Nick Schmaltz from third-line center up to the top line. He was very good last weekend and may be ready for more responsibility. We’ll see if he can handle the defensive side.
Plus, then you have a pass-first guy in Schmaltz with two pretty good finishers in Tucker Poolman and Michael Parks. I also think MacMillan’s injury solidifies that Poolman stays up front for the rest of the year (if that wasn’t solidified already).
If you move Schmaltz up, that leaves a hole up the middle on the third line between Stephane Pattyn and Colten St. Clair. Here’s where the coaches could get creative.
Option No. 1: Move Jonny Simonson to center on the third line. Coach Dave Hakstol said a couple weeks ago that Simonson was pushing hard to get in the lineup. Simonson was solid on draws earlier this season. He could jump in there.
Option No. 2: Move Pattyn from wing to center on that line and bring in a winger like Trevor Olson or Andrew Panzarella. I don’t see Wade Murphy coming back in the lineup. I think they’d go with a more physical body for that spot and make it an all-out grind line. Olson hasn’t played in a long time. Panzarella has practiced at D almost all season, so he would have an adjustment to make, but UND reached the Frozen Four a year ago with Panzarella playing forward. Both Olson and Panzarella are right-handed shots, though, and one would have to play off wing.
It’s probably wrong, but here’s my best guess for Friday’s lines:
Poolman – NSchmaltz – Parks
Chyzyk – Caggiula – Johnson
Pattyn – Simonson – St. Clair
O’Donnell – Gaarder – Poganski
Mattson – LaDue
Thompson – JSchmaltz
Ausmus – Stecher
Let’s see your lines, couch coaches….