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College Hockey:
With Genoway Back, is North Dakota the Favorite?

We probably shouldn’t be surprised that Chay Genoway is coming back to North Dakota, like he announced Thursday afternoon.

He said at a news conference that he hasn’t yet been cleared to play competitively after his bout with post-concussion syndrome, an injury that cost him all but nine games of last season. Genoway is a special talent, but you can understand why pro teams would be hesitant to commit (or maybe commit enough) to the free agent at this point.

There also has to be a little of the unfinished business angle to the decision. Genoway had the kind of start to the season that, had it continued on that path, would have launched him into Hobey Baker Award consideration and launched his team into more solid ground.

With his decision to return for a fifth season on a medical redshirt, he has to be considered among the top handful of contenders for the 2011 Hobey, and the Fighting Sioux may be among the handful of favorites for the 2011 national championship.

Even without Genoway in the lineup, North Dakota was considered one of the most dangerous teams in the nation toward the end of last season — until that first-round NCAA flameout against Yale.

From that group, the Sioux lost leading scorer Chris VandeVelde and third-liner Darcy Zajac, for a total of 24 goals and 60 points. With a good freshman class coming in, the incoming team looks stronger than the last.

We’re a long way out from seeing which teams will look like contenders, let alone from deciding which ones will be in the title hunt down the stretch in 2011. And there have been some good-looking teams that haven’t lived up to their potential.

In his news conference Thursday, Genoway talked of the high level of motivation for the Sioux this offseason. Many other teams could say the same. I tend to think, though, that with Genoway, it’s off the charts, and that’s why you have to think he and the Sioux will be right in the mix next season.

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