Just by looking at their results from last season, one might think that North Dakota did its same old song and dance — start slow-ish, surge late and end up in the mix at the end of the season.
Results, though, don’t tell the whole story.
The Fighting Sioux started off well, but then lost arguably their best player in senior Chay Genoway to a concussion in first game of an early November series against St. Cloud State. After that, the team went into a bit of a tailspin, going 6-10-4 through early February.
However, against the same SCSU that sent the Sioux reeling, the Sioux stormed back in the second game of the second series of the season, winning 8-1 and starting a seven-game winning streak that would take them through the end of the regular season.
The momentum carried them through a Final Five victory, but it died out in the first round of the NCAAs.
This year, Genoway is back — thanks to a medical hardship waiver — as is almost the rest of the team, poising the Sioux for what should be a great year on top of the league and perhaps a bit more.
“We have a focused group of players that would like to achieve something as a team, and when you look that far down the road, I think you have to have an end point and an end goal in mind and I know our group does,” coach Dave Hakstol said.
“I’m not going to say exactly what that is or what those goals are, but the goal for this season in respects as I look at it as a coach are to really build off of what we had started last year.”
The Sioux lost their leading scorer in Chris VandeVelde as well as a team leader in Darcy Zajac. But beyond that, they return the core of their offense with players such as Jason Gregoire, Brett Hextall, Danny Kristo, Brad Malone and Evan Trupp.
Another interesting player to watch out for is Matt Frattin. Kicked off the team after his sophomore year due to repeated violations of team rules, he rejoined the Sioux roster in the beginning of 2010 and performed fairly well, putting up 19 points in 24 games.
On the blue line
The main story for the Sioux’s defensive corps is the return of Genoway to the team. Even with 10 months off from hockey, he’s still thought of as one of the most complete players around.
“Chay’s doing well,” Hakstol said. “Right now he looks good. Other than playing games and getting that game timing back, I think he’s done everything that is humanly possible to get himself ready for the season.”
Beyond Genoway, the Sioux still have solid defensemen in players such as Derrick LaPoint and Jake Marto.
In the crease
Returning in nets for the Sioux is workhorse junior Brad Eidsness, who has continued to grow into a competent netminder. Behind him is sophomore Aaron Dell, who can perform admirably in spot duty every now and then to give Eidsness a rest.