Wednesday update

Quick update here before I have to catch my flight to Michigan.

All three goaltenders are fully participating in practice and will travel to Michigan. UND coach Brad Berry has not announced a starting goalie for Friday night yet, so this weekend could be interesting.

Berry said that everyone is going to be on this road trip as UND isn’t limited by conference legislation. He said it’s important for players who aren’t in the lineup to join team activities.

UND will have a team Thanksgiving dinner tonight at The Ralph. UND travels to Michigan tomorrow and will have a regular team meal on Thursday night as well, but the Thanksgiving feast is tonight.

The hot college hockey topic this week has been College Hockey News’ story on the Big Ten’s proposal to set a younger age limit in the sport.

Berry said he’s “not a fan at all” of the legislation.

I’ll also have some more on all of the ties in college hockey.

Also, you’ll want to check out my Q&A with Christian Wolanin in Friday’s paper. He’s from nearby Rochester, Mich., and he made it clear that none of the Michigan schools were interested in him. He has a chip on his shoulder, you could say.

UND is expecting to run into Jim and Darcy Greene, the parents of Matt Greene, who work at Michigan State. If you remember, Michigan State was Greene’s dream school. They offered him but later pulled that offer. Greene ended up at UND and winning a couple of Stanley Cups.

The Greenes frequently travel to watch UND play to this day.

Poolman nearing a return

Tucker Poolman was a full participate in practice Wednesday and has not missed a drill yet this week as he nears his return to the lineup for UND.

Poolman has missed the last four games (leg) and his absence has been noted on several fronts.

No. 1? UND is 1-for-17 on the power play without Poolman (it scored on the first power-play chance and has been blanked on 16 straight). Poolman led UND in power-play goals last season, despite being a defenseman and not even being on the power-play unit for about a month.

At this point in the week, all signs are trending toward Poolman being ready for Friday’s game against Miami.

We know that Matt Hrynkiw will start again on Friday night.

Coach Brad Berry said that it’s part of North Dakota’s culture that “whoever earns it, deserves it.” He said Hrynkiw has earned the call Friday.

Cam Johnson appears to be getting closer and closer to a return to the lineup. It may even be possible that he’ll be available if needed this weekend.

Matej Tomek, whose workload has steadily increased each week at practice for the last three or four weeks, was held out Wednesday, so I doubt that he’ll be available this weekend.

Last weekend, the coaching staff dressed Tomek for Friday’s game to try to get him a taste of the atmosphere and The Ralph as he became closer and closer to being ready to go.

I asked Berry whether Christian Wolanin would be moved back up front when Poolman returns to the lineup. Berry didn’t have a real definitive answer, which probably means that Wolanin will do whatever is needed for the time being. Wolanin was a forward until a couple of years ago.

UND practiced 3-on-3 for a couple of minutes Wednesday. There have been 12 conference games so far, but no 3-on-3s. With the conference season getting fired up, look for those to start popping up.

Pretty much every player on the team got some reps of 3-on-3. If UND does get into one, it will be interesting to see who the coaching staff picks to play it.

Also of note, the early signing period opened Wednesday and some North Dakota recruits started inking their letters of intent. Collin Adams posted a photo on Twitter of his signing (@collinadams98).


Gersich may be back for CC

UND continues to slowly progress in the injury department.

Shane Gersich and Joel Janatuinen were both back at practice today. Neither looked limited and there’s a good chance that Gersich will be back in the lineup Friday night against Colorado College. There’s a chance Janatuinen could be back, too.

If one or both of them come back, the coaching staff will have some tough decisions on what to do up front.

The first move would likely be to put Christian Wolanin back on defense. After that, it will be interesting to see what the staff will do.

Matt Hrynkiw will continue to be the starter in net for UND. He’ll be backed up by Ryan “Bob” Anderson, the same arrangement as the Vermont series.

The good news: Both Cam Johnson and Matej Tomek were on the ice for practice Tuesday. Tomek has been easing back into action. First, he was taking shots with goalie coach Karl Goehring. Last week, he started participating in practice with the team for short periods of time. Now, Tomek is seeing more and more time.

Johnson is closer to being ready for game action.

He has only been out a couple of weeks. Coach Brad Berry said getting his fitness level back to game shape shouldn’t be that much of a challenge.

Tomek, meanwhile, has barely had any practice time at the college level. As his health moves closer and closer to 100 percent, he’ll work on both getting up to speed at the D-I level as well as getting his playing shape back up to necessary levels.

In the meantime, it’s Hrynkiw’s net, and that hasn’t been a problem so far. Hrynkiw has won all three of his starts, and he’s the reigning NCHC goalie of the week.

The weekly update comes on Tuesday this week, because the media availability was held a day earlier than usual. The team will leave for Colorado Springs on Wednesday, a day earlier than other trips. They’ve done this the past several years when going to Colorado.

This is the first of two trips to Colorado this season for UND. North Dakota swept the Tigers 3-1 and 7-2 last season in World Arena.

Weekly Wednesday update

UND players and coach Brad Berry received their favorite questions today in the weekly press conference: How much does it mean to be ranked No. 1 in the college hockey polls?

Predictably, they said it didn’t mean a whole lot as North Dakota prepares for a home-and-home series against Bemidji State this weekend.

That’s always an appropriate response, especially when the opponent is the Beavers, who have turned polls on their heads in recent years. Three of the last five years, BSU opened the season with a win over a top-seven team.

In 2011, it was No. 2 Miami. Last season, it was No. 7 North Dakota (who could forget?). On Saturday night, it was No. 2 Minnesota Duluth.

UND began preparations for the Beavs with a full practice on Tuesday. Johnny Simonson was a part of that practice. The former Grand Forks Central standout sat out Saturday’s game against Maine after he was checked from behind the previous night against Lake Superior State. Simonson was a full go at practice.

Look for more to come on the UND-BSU doubleheaders (the women will play in the afternoon, the men at night on both Friday in Bemidji and Saturday in Grand Forks). I’ll also have a story on how UND ended up with Brock Boeser.

Hakstol reacts to No. 1 ranking

UND is the No. 1 team in both national polls. This means that I got to antagonize coach Dave Hakstol about it at the weekly press conference (for those who don’t know, Hakstol is known to disregard polls).

I asked him about the reaction of the coaching staff when they found out UND was atop the polls. He said: “Streamers and balloons.”

I also asked him whether the team had a big watch party where they stared at the computer until the rankings were updated. Apparently, they did not.

Hakstol did say he thinks polls are a good thing for generating conversation among fans, but he said it doesn’t change their preparation and that the team hasn’t talked about it at all this week.

On the injury front, both Brendan O’Donnell and Bryn Chyzyk are skating again. Hakstol sounded optimistic that O’Donnell would play this weekend, but said that as of now, Chyzyk is probably still out.

With the addition of O’Donnell and Chyzyk to practice up front, Tucker Poolman is back on defense, as expected.

Lake Superior State is scheduled to leave for Grand Forks tonight. They are taking a sleeper bus and the players will sleep as they go from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to Grand Forks. It’s about 12 hours. When they wake up in the morning, they will be in town and ready to practice.

O’Donnell out, Schmaltz skates

One step forward, one step back for UND on the injury front.

Nick Schmaltz returned to the ice Wednesday and skated in practice. His status is still up in the air for the weekend, but the fact that he’s out there with the team is a good sign. He did not skate at all with the team last week.

Brendan O’Donnell, however, will not play. O’Donnell took a big hit along the boards in St. Cloud, but played the rest of the game. I’m not sure if that’s the hit where the injury occurred or not. UND coach Dave Hakstol said he’s out for the Omaha series and he did not skate Wednesday.

Bryn Chyzyk also continues to be out indefinitely. He sustained what a teammate described as a shoulder injury on Friday at St. Cloud. Defenseman Paul LaDue also didn’t skate Wednesday, but Hakstol did not mention him as out for this weekend, and nothing appeared visibly wrong with him so it could be a maintenance day as he’s still coming back from his leg injury.

Hakstol also said he liked what Tucker Poolman brought at forward last week and that he would be confident in putting him back there this weekend. So, don’t be surprised if the East Sider plays at least one game at wing.

There was a special guest at practice today in Paul Chadwick, who played for UND from 1977-81 and helped the team win a national championship in 1980. He currently lives in Vail, Colo., but will attend Friday’s game.

Chadwick had an interesting piece of trivia for me, too. If UND does play Arizona State in hockey, it will not be the first time that the program has played a game in Phoenix.

During Chadwick’s sophomore season, UND traveled to play Northern Arizona on the road (Dec. 8-9, 1978). Game 1 of the series was played in Phoenix. UND won 10-2. They went up the mountain to Flagstaff, Ariz., home of NAU, for Game 2.

Chadwick said it was brutally cold in North Dakota when the team left. When they got to Phoenix, local residents were in a panic because it was 40 degrees there. But the team enjoyed the big temperature difference and sat at the pool with their shirts off.

Weekly Wednesday update

No more off weeks the rest of the season for the UND men’s hockey team unless it reaches the Frozen Four.

The mad dash to the finish in the NCHC is about to begin. The stretch run — five weeks of all conference games — starts with Nebraska Omaha this weekend at The Ralph.

I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see Zane Gothberg this weekend as he’s still not practicing with the team yet, but it’s entirely possible that Clarke Saunders would have received the call this weekend anyway with his history against Nebraska Omaha.

Saunders stole games for Alabama Huntsville against Omaha his freshman and sophomore years. He stole another one in November in a game where several members of the team were under the weather.

Omaha goaltender Ryan Massa is doubtful for the weekend, too, though Mav coach Dean Blais has never been predictable when it comes to goalies. Kirk Thompson has played 11 games this season for the Mavs.

UND has the best home record in the NCHC, as listed below, but Omaha has been better on the road than at home this season.

In Friday’s paper, I’ll have a story on Stephane Pattyn, who some teammates describe as a “man’s man.” You’ll find out why. You’ll also find out what teammates called him before he became “The General.”

This week’s Q&A is with Colten St. Clair.