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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published December 26 2009

Potent potential: UND men's hockey has endured ups and downs in first half of season

Grand Forks, N.D. - The big preseason storyline for the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team was its youth.

And that was before anybody knew that all three of UND’s seniors would be injured at some point during the first half of the season.

The youngest team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association became younger. They showed their potential and their inexperience. They cruised to a 7-1-1 start – their best under sixth-year coach Dave Hakstol – then slid into Christmas break with 2-5-2 mark.

They’ve had success (a five-game unbeaten streak and a win over a rival), and they’ve faced adversity (injuries to captains, blown calls and gut-wrenching losses).

“I thought we showed our youth at times,” Hakstol said. “But in saying that, we’ve also continued to show good resiliency. I think we’ve had a lot of individual players who have improved and can hopefully come back and have more of an impact on the second half of our season.”

The second half, as it has every year under Hakstol, will define this season for the Sioux. They currently sit in sixth place in the WCHA and tied for 12th in the PairWise Rankings, which mimic the NCAA tournament selection formula.

They are in position to make a run at a top-five finish and an NCAA tournament berth for the eighth year in a row. If that is to happen, UND will need to continue playing tight defensively and get more production out of the third and fourth lines.

Darcy Zajac and Mario Lamoureux, fixtures on the third line, combined for 13 points in the first nine games. They have three in the last nine.

Freshmen Corban Knight and Mike Cichy, fixtures on the fourth line, had four points on opening weekend, but are without a point since.

“Early on, our strength was certainly guys contributing from all different parts of the lineup,” Hakstol said. “That’s been a little tougher to come by in the last month. All of our losses have been by one goal, so that’s been a big change for us.”

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Brad Schlossman is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.