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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published March 14 2013

UND players partake in beard-growing tradition through hockey playoffs

GRAND FORKS – Joe Gleason showed up to practice this week looking neat with a fresh haircut.

It won’t last long.

The postseason begins today with a best-of-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Michigan Tech, and the University of North Dakota players are once again embracing the longtime men’s hockey tradition of growing beards.

Players started growing them after last weekend’s regular-season finale at Minnesota State-Mankato and will keep them to the end of the playoffs.

They are also adding a new twist to the tradition this year: No more haircuts.

“It’s going to get greasy here,” said Gleason, a senior defenseman.

Matt Watkins and Brad Eidsness previously had the most dominant beards on the team, but both have graduated now, opening the door for a newcomer to claim the title of the best beard on the team.

The early front-runner is junior goaltender Clarke Saunders, who already has started his beard to go along with a shaved head.

“Clarkie’s got a good one going,” Gleason said. “He has more hair on his face than he does on his head. It will be good to see how long that gets.”

UND alternate captain Corban Knight agreed: “Honestly, I think Clarkie might be pushing Eids for that.”

The players aren’t just excited to see who has the best beards. They also are looking forward to seeing the worst.

“(Dillon) Simpson’s always sucks,” Gleason said. “Tate’s (Maris) is always brutal. Fratty (Matt Frattin) always used to be the worst, but Simpson and Tate will be the top two.”

Knight also guessed that Maris, a senior, would be the worst.

“Tate always brings an embarrassing beard to the table,” he said. “I don’t think Drake (Caggiula) can grow a hair on his body at all. It’s always interesting to see what the younger guys bring to the table in that aspect. But I’m looking forward to seeing how ugly Tate’s beard is.”

In past years, UND has usually went with the beards.

During the 2008 Frozen Four run to Denver, they went with mustaches. A couple of players on that team had fathers who had mustaches when they played during the 1980s.

Brad Schlossman is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald