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Blood 'n' guts Pattyn

Ste. Anne centre a 'natural-born leader' for UND

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- After wins and contract extensions, there is one thing that makes hockey coaches sleep well at night.

Players they can trust.

University of North Dakota men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol has found just such a gem in second-year centre Stephane Pattyn, who's currently anchoring his fourth/energy line.

"He's a natural-born leader," Hakstol said of the 21-year-old native of Ste. Anne, Man. "There's no pomp or circumstance to him. What you see is what you get.

"Maybe the most important thing? That's what we get every night. Steph's been one of our most consistent players. He's been on the plus side of our ratings every game this year. He's only one of three players that's the case with. Tremendous consistency. I think he's a guy who knows what he is and he really takes pride in providing that role to our team every single night."

Pattyn did not figure anywhere in the scoring over the weekend, but the high-emotion rivalry weekend that brought a 2-2 tie and a 6-3 victory over the Denver Pioneers at Ralph Engelstad Arena was right up his alley.

When hits should not be shied away from and when bodies are required to be in the way, Pattyn was able to take his regular minutes and inject his kind of charge to a game.

"I think the biggest difference is just confidence," said Pattyn, who was the captain of the MJHL's Portage Terriers in 2010-11, when the team went all the way to the RBC Cup national championship tournament. "On the ice and off the ice, I feel more of a leadership role this year.

"It's a lot of fun. I'm enjoying every minute of it. And the main thing is the confidence, making more plays with the puck. And getting more opportunities."

Pattyn is no dangler. He has just one goal in 15 UND games this season.

But the numbers are not the gauge on a player who some say could be captain material when his third or fourth years roll around.

As a freshman in 2011-12, he was one of the uncertain commodities. UND knew of his character but the transition to the NCAA Division 1 game is not always assured.

Pattyn put up four goals and seven points in 42 games, a season that fell just one game short of a Frozen Four appearance.

The season yielded a critical development opportunity as Pattyn gained more and more responsibility when UND's roster was depleted with injuries to the point where the team played with less than a full complement of skaters in 18 games late in the season.

"Some games with 16 (skaters)," Pattyn said, his team now 9-5-2 on the season. "Especially after Christmas. We had even more injuries. I played on the third line, saw a lot more ice and played with a couple of really good players. I think that's where my confidence mainly came from, the end of last year playing with better players and with more ice (time)."

Hakstol isn't so sure that Pattyn wouldn't have been a regular, injuries or not.

"It's hard to know the real answer to that but did it get him in the lineup early? Or maybe more often than he would have? I can't say," the coach said. "Maybe he would have gone in and stayed regardless. But certainly the opportunity to play early last year and to build his role was important.

"He immediately provided that role and made an impact on us as staff -- this guy provides something that's very important to our hockey team."

Pattyn said the biggest on-ice hurdle for him last season was game pace.

"Transferring from junior to college hockey, the speed of the game and the size of the players, that was a completely different game," he said. "There's no stopping. There's no gliding, ever."

So while you won't see his name in a lot of UND summaries, the pre-entrepreneurship student is thriving as he lets Hakstol spend his worry elsewhere.

"I think Dave's an excellent coach," Pattyn said. "He understands the game so well. He lets us know our role on the team. You're not coming in here blind on what role you have. If you play your role, you'll stay in the lineup. That's the reason he's had such a successful coaching career."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2012 C1

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