Players chat with local media

The UND players had their final meeting with the local media of the season today, taking questions on their trip to the Frozen Four and the matchup with the University of Minnesota in the semifinals.

They are expected to depart Grand Forks on a charter flight to Philadelphia on Tuesday. They will hold a practice and a press conference on Wednesday, then, of course, the game is Thursday.

Among the players speaking at the press conference were Stephane Pattyn, Connor Gaarder, Rocco Grimaldi, Mark MacMillan and Dillon Simpson. Coach Dave Hakstol also spoke to the media.

The players seemed pretty excited about getting to play against the Gophers even though the matchup wasn’t on the regular-season schedule.

Hakstol said he understands that people won’t be picking them to win on Thursday, but says they are focused on trying to play their game.

At the Herald, we’re planning at least one special section to come out on game day and we’ll have stories leading up to then, so I won’t give too much away, but soon I’ll have one on the progress of the young defensive corps under the coaching of Brad Berry.

Also of note, UND defenseman Dillon Simpson was named first-team All-American by College Hockey News today. Nice honor for Simpson, who leads the nation in blocked shots with 107 (next closest shot block leader at the Frozen Four is BC’s Steve Santini with 62).

Big news in the NCHC today with Miami forwards Austin Czarnik and Blake Coleman both announcing that they will return for next season. Riley Barber was not included in the announcement, so I would assume he is still in the decision process.

Wisconsin lost standout defenseman Jake McCabe to the Buffalo Sabres today. The junior will report immediately to the NHL. It is also expected that the Badgers will lose Nic Kerdiles to the Anaheim Ducks this offseason.

Last note for now: The top four winning percentages in the nation since Nov. 30 are Union, Boston College, North Dakota and Minnesota. Seems fitting.

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