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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published March 21 2012

Freshmen bring fun to UND locker room

GRAND FORKS – Ask University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol to describe the personalities of his freshman class.

He will laugh.

That says it all about the 10 rookies, who have provided light moments around the locker room and excitement on the ice this season for a Sioux team that has made a remarkable charge down the stretch.

UND, which sat in 11th place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings in November, finished fourth, won the league playoff title and will be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament begins Saturday in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

“They span such a wide range,” Hakstol said. “They’re a fun class. That’s a way to talk about our freshmen. There are so many different personalities there. We’ve got it all the way from Mark MacMillan, who like Brad Eidsness, probably has his entire year planned out before he steps foot on campus, all the way down to somebody who stepped on campus late and has become best known as ‘Jim’ – and everything in between.”

UND signed arguably the top two recruits in college hockey last spring in forwards J.T. Miller and Rocco Grimaldi. Miller bolted for Canada before showing up on campus and Grimaldi has missed almost the entire season with an injury.

But the other guys have stepped in to make big impacts – especially down the stretch.

Michael Parks had four points in the first 20 games of the season. He has 17 in the last 20.

MacMillan had eight points in the first half of the season and has 14 points in the second half, including nine in the last six games.

Walk-on forwards Connor Gaarder and Stephane Pattyn have combined for 17 points and have been reliable players, while Dan “Jim” Senkbeil has transitioned from defense to forward, where he has tallied a point in three straight weekends.

On the back end, Nick Mattson has six goals and 19 points. He’s been a key cog on the power play, while Andrew Panzarella has played in 38 of 40 games.

Grimaldi and Brendan O’Donnell are sitting out with injuries, while Colten St. Clair was not cleared by the NCAA.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald