Most of scoring gone, but expectations high as always for North Dakota

The fan base in Grand Forks always holds expectations high for North Dakota. But no one sets the bar higher than the Fighting Sioux themselves.

“We set our own expectations,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “We have the great opportunity to be part of a great atmosphere in North Dakota where everyone is excited about hockey, but that’s also a big responsibility.”

The Sioux has to replace 72 percent of its goal scoring from last year, with 128 of the 177 UND goals scored by players who parted with the team. This season’s scoring has to start with Corban Knight, who scored 14 goals with 30 assists in 2010-11.

“We expect Corban to take a big step forward for us this year,” Hakstol said. “He’s ready to step into that prime-time role, and we’re going to rely on him in a lot of situations. We need him to be a strong two-way centerman for us and take on a strong leadership role.”

Defense is another key concern for the Sioux, which lost key blueliners like Chay Genoway, Derrick LaPoint and Jake Marto.

“Not only did we lose a lot of minutes and quality players back there but we lost quality people,” Hakstol said. “We have to develop a new group. With everything we lost, there’s still depth on the blue line.”

Andrew MacWilliam, Ben Blood and Derek Forbort have all made their presence felt on defense for UND. Dillon Simpson and Joe Gleason are ready to take bigger roles.

“We’ve been given some respect in the polls but I can tell you right now, performance-wise, we’re not a top-two team in the WCHA right now,” Hakstol said. “We have a lot of work to do to get to that level but we will get there.”

About the Fighting Sioux

2010-11 overall record: 32-9-3

2010-11 WCHA record: 21-6-1 (first)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Second

Key losses: F Matt Frattin, D Chay Genoway, F Evan Trupp, F Brad Malone, D Derrick LaPoint, D Jake Marto

Players to watch: F Corban Knight, F Danny Kristo, F Rocco Grimaldi

Impact rookie: Grimaldi

Why the Sioux will finish higher than the coaches poll: The Sioux will find new ways to produce offensively.

Why the Sioux will finish lower than the coaches poll: The losses of Frattin, Gregoire, Trupp and Co. will be too much for UND to overcome on the offensive end of the rink.