UND aims to take its best shot

Morden's Chay Genoway gets his final chance at NCAA title

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There are so many impressive storylines on the University of North Dakota men's hockey team and its road to this week's Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/04/2011 (4200 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There are so many impressive storylines on the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team and its road to this week’s Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn.

There’s a two-month unbeaten streak that pushed UND to the top ranking in the U.S., an impressive playoff run in March when upsets were all the rage and the dominance of Hobey Baker favourite Matt Frattin.

Puck fans above the North Dakota-Manitoba border will have a soft spot for some of the individual spotlights, in particular that Fighting Sioux captain Chay Genoway of Morden will get a chance to make right what went so badly wrong in the 2009-2010 season.

john stennes / grand forks herald Sioux captain Chay Genoway (5) would no doubt love to leave UND with a NCAA title under his belt.

More than a year ago, Genoway was bashed from behind by a malicious check, his head driven into the glass. He missed the rest of the year with post-concussion syndrome.

He was granted a special medical-hardship exemption to play again for UND this year and has not wasted his opportunity, recording 37 points as the team’s top-scoring defenceman and leading his mates to a 32-8-3 record.

So far.

UND plays Michigan on Thursday in St. Paul in one national semifinal. University of Minnesota-Duluth and Notre Dame play in the other, the winners to meet Saturday for the title.

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol told the Free Press about his captain. “He’s a special case because he’s coming back in a different situation. For Chay and all our seniors, this is a pretty special opportunity. They’re the ones driving the bus. They’re doing a great job.

“They’ve worked for everything, from Chay on down. They show no signs of losing focus.”

Genoway is one of four Manitobans on the Fighting Sioux. He’s joined by life-long Morden friend Brent Davidson, also a senior, Winnipeg’s Jason Gregoire, one of NCAA hockey’s best two-way players, and mid-season addition Taylor Dickin of Winnipeg.

As well, UND forward Brett Hextall is the son of former star NHL goalie Ron Hextall, the Brandon native who is now the L.A. Kings assistant GM.

In goal, the Fighting Sioux have watched sophomore Aaron Dell develop into a remarkable impact player. Taking over the starting job earlier this season, Dell won 30 games, breaking Eddie Belfour’s school record.

“I think goaltending has been a major factor for us,” Hakstol said. “I think Aaron has done it in a quiet fashion. I think some of his play gets overlooked from the outside, but it’s not overlooked from the inside.

“The one or two saves at critical times really has a way of strengthening your bench and putting confidence in your team.”

Dell has certainly been one of the reason’s for UND’s playoff success, including at the NCAA regionals in Green Bay, where wins of 6-0 over RPI and 6-1 over Denver were by no means easy.

And while Dell’s been stopping pucks, Frattin has been burying them. The Edmonton native has 36 goals and 60 points so far this season and is the only Hobey finalist left playing, a reality that should make him even more of a favourite to win the national MVP trophy.

And if you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you can cheer. Frattin is a 2007 Leafs pick.

“He’s a force for us day in and day out,” Hakstol said. “He hasn’t just done it over the last month or two. He’s done it all season. He’s improved his game and the completeness of his overall game.”

UND stumbled in the regional playoffs the last two seasons but is clearly deeper and stronger in 2010-11. This is the team’s fifth trip to the Frozen Four in the seven years of Hakstol’s tenure in Grand Forks.

What works and what doesn’t?

“Probably the simplest things for me are, or maybe the most apparent, are just do the work,” said Hakstol, the Alberta native who’s also up for the national coach-of-the-year award. “I don’t control today what’s going to happen a week from now. Our team doesn’t.

“But we control how we practise today. We control how we prepare today. You just have to keep doing the things that have given you success. And openly and consciously deal with the distractions. They go along with the excitement of all this. You don’t want to take away the excitement but you have to make sure you keep it all in perspective and deal with those distractions.”

UND’s most recent of its seven national titles came in 2000.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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