Gregoire a prime-time player

Winnipegger coming up big during UND's playoff run


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It matters not the shape or size or even speed -- any hockey team has room for big-game players.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/03/2010 (4762 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It matters not the shape or size or even speed — any hockey team has room for big-game players.

Winnipegger Jason Gregoire is earning just such a label with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

The 21-year-old second-year left-winger had a three-point night, including his team-leading sixth game-winning goal of the season, as UND bounced the University of Minnesota Gophers from the playoffs last Sunday in a 4-1 decision at sold-out Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D.

Gregoire set up an important ice-breaker goal with patience early in the game and deflected home the eventual winner in the second period as the Sioux won the best-of-three first-round WCHA series 2-1.

"That was pretty indicative of his play over the last month," Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said. "Jason’s got a knack, the bigger the game the better he plays. The more critical the situation, the higher he rises to the occasion. He’s one of those guys, a big-game player."

Gregoire, a 2007 third-round draft pick of the New York Islanders, has elevated his game at UND this season, now second in team scoring with 19 goals and 35 points in 39 games.

"He’s got a real hockey sense about him," Hakstol said.

Gregoire’s arrival as a prime-time player for the Sioux has been important. The team, which also includes Manitobans Darcy Zajac, David Toews and Brent Davidson, has had to find a way to cope with the absence of captain Chay Genoway of Morden.

Genoway, a talented offensive defenceman, has been out since the ninth game of the season because of a concussion. He was checked from behind and had his head brutally driven into the glass by St. Cloud’s Aaron Marvin, a disgraceful incident in that he had already gotten rid of the puck and been bumped into the boards by another St. Cloud player before Marvin even arrived.

A one-game suspension for Marvin’s shot to the head is pretty damning proof that the WCHA isn’t too concerned with the recent rash of head shots and concussions in the hockey world.

"In my time here, it’s been the toughest single incident, or single loss for one of our teams to overcome," Hakstol said this week. "Chay was not only our most dynamic player, one of the top impact players in the country, he was also unquestionably our leader in the locker-room.

"All of a sudden, we had to fill some holes on the ice and most importantly for a young team, figure out a whole new leadership structure inside the locker-room."

The Sioux are clearly a different team without Genoway, less explosive, but they have figured out some of those things. They have won nine of their last 10 games heading into this weekend’s WCHA Final Five tournament in Saint Paul, Minn.

"It took a couple of months for those guys to gel and step forward but we’ve got a lot of good people here and a lot of strong, leader personalities," Hakstol said.

Genoway is still not symptom-free, but is feeling better, the coach said. Still, his return seems a long shot with only three weeks left in the college hockey season. The Sioux, fifth in the national rankings, will participate in the NCAA playoffs regardless of this weekend’s league results.

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