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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published October 01 2013

UND needs to make up for loss of two Hobey Baker Award finalists

GRAND FORKS – For just the second time in program history, the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team had two Hobey Baker Award finalists at forward in the same season.

Danny Kristo finished second in the country in both goals and points with 26 and 52, respectively. Corban Knight was right on Kristo’s heels with 16 goals and 49 points, fueling the top line’s production.

The problem was that UND didn’t generate much offense outside of that duo last season.

In UND’s two NCAA tournament games, the only forwards to score were Kristo and Knight, ultimately leading to the team’s exit in the regional championship game against eventual national champ Yale.

Kristo and Knight are gone, and UND is unlikely to replace them right away, so there will have to be a new formula for offense this season.

UND will have to spread out the scoring and get production from each of its top three lines.

“We’re absolutely going to need to,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s why competitiveness and conditioning will be so important for us. I believe this team is going to have to play at a very high pace and be extremely tenacious and hard to play against for us to be successful consistently. A lot of that is based on competitiveness and conditioning. I don’t think we’ll have one or two guys we’ll count on to score. It will be through balance. That’s what I see.

“I don’t see one guy on our roster right now who can afford to take a practice off, because there will be somebody who catches them and bypasses them.”

Who are the top candidates to help chip in offensively?

• The usual suspects

UND sophomore Rocco Grimaldi may be the most dynamic player in the league. He had 36 points last season – a Western Collegiate Hockey Association best among rookies. And that’s only half of the story.

Grimaldi was snakebitten at the end of last season, failing to capitalize on numerous chances. He also hit the post as much as anyone in recent memory. If those start going in, he could put up huge numbers.

Mark MacMillan is another guy to watch. He’s coming off of a solid sophomore season and is the only guy who Hakstol is penciling in at center at the moment.

“Right now, I feel like Mark will be up the middle,” Hakstol said. “Beyond that, I don’t think we’re going to make any final decisions. I think we’ve got four or five other guys that are natural centermen. We’re going to let some of that sift out throughout practices and throughout the early part of our year to see who earns what specific role.”

• The breakout players

It seems almost every year there are breakout players who can add offense. UND has a couple of candidates.

Drake Caggiula showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie. He’s skilled and tenacious enough to be a dangerous college hockey player. He lacked consistency as a freshman. If he finds more consistency, his point total will increase.

Bryn Chyzyk also was a rarely used player as a rookie, appearing in just 13 games and playing minimal minutes. But by all accounts, Chyzyk has looked strong in fall camp and could be an unexpected threat to add some offense.

Derek Rodwell won a highly competitive Iron Man contest in preseason training. He won’t be looked to score a ton, but he will be looked at to be a consistent physical threat for UND.

“From top to bottom, we had a real small spread comparatively to other years,” Hakstol said of off-ice testing. “We had several freshmen in the top four, five, six. Those things were good signs for us.”

• The rookies

Speaking of freshmen, UND has three rookie forwards coming in and all of them have been selected in the NHL Draft.

Grand Forks’ Luke Johnson may be in position to add the most offense out of the gate, but Wade Murphy should chip in, too. Adam Tambellini, tall and skinny at the moment, will have to learn to battle physically, but he has the skills to be a big scorer.

Brad E. Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald