Brad E. Schlossman/Forum Communications Co., Published April 04 2011
Freshman Forbort becoming a mainstay for Sioux defense
“I met him in the locker room,” Blood said. “I was like, ‘Why is this guy in the locker room? He needs to be in the gym.’ He was so skinny.
“When I first met him, I thought he was kind of a pushover. So, I think the biggest thing with him is getting him to be more assertive as a person and project himself when he talks. . . just to grow up a little bit and be more of a man and play more aggressive. I don’t think he played as aggressive at the beginning of the year as he does now.”
Whether it was the tough love from Blood, the move to left defenseman or just the normal freshman learning curve, Forbort has reached the top of his game during the stretch run.
The freshman defenseman from Duluth, Minn., has become a mainstay alongside Blood on UND’s top defensive pairing.
The duo of Forbort and Blood started the year together, but were moved apart during the middle of the season.
The coaches, sensing that Forbort was more comfortable on the left side, placed the two back together for the Jan. 22 series finale against Nebraska-Omaha. The Sioux are 16-1-1 since that game.
Both Blood and Forbort are a combined plus-34 in that 18-game span. Blood leads the country with a plus-33 rating for the year.
“They both move the puck well and they communicate well,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “They cover a lot of space out there. They are big bodies and positionally, they play very well. They are tough to play against. They are intelligent players who read off of each other very well and they efficiently move the puck out of the zone.”
Blood, who stands at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, brings more of a physical presence than Forbort, who is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds. Forbort, a great skater with outstanding vision, has provided a little bit more offense than his defensive partner.
Forbort has tallied 15 assists in 37 games. He missed a few games due to mononucleosis earlier in the season and missed another one because he was at the World Juniors.
“He was just starting to get back to full speed physically and mentally,” Hakstol said about Forbort’s stretch run. “Derek was most comfortable on the left. Ben Blood does a great job on the right side. There was instantaneous chemistry between those two. Ben showed great leadership working with Derek as a younger player. The two meshed.”
Forbort’s comfort on the left side has showed in his production. In 23 games at left defense, he has 11 points. He his 14 games at right defense, he had just four points.
“He’s being more aggressive out on the ice and in the D-zone,” Blood said of Forbort. “He’s a big guy. He can move guys around. He’s more aggressive in the D-zone, winning battles. He has more of an edge and is more gritty.”
The Sioux are expected to use Forbort and Blood as the top unit in the NCAA Frozen Four, which begins Thursday. That means they will likely match up against Michigan’s top players.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” Blood said. “We like that role. We talk about it during the week like, ‘These are the guys we’re going to be playing against this weekend. Let’s do it. Let’s be really hard on them.’ For us, it’s fun to shut them down and see them get frustrated and come out of games with their top line not getting anything going against us.”
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Schlossman is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald