For many, October 6 may just be the start of another North Dakota hockey season, but for five seniors this marks the beginning of their final season playing for North Dakota. These five seniors plan to continue the tradition of showing the young players how to play North Dakota hockey by working every other player on the ice. They have shown the North Dakota faithful what they can do in their previous seasons but now it’s time to leave their final impression.
Nick Jones was welcomed to North Dakota at the start of his junior season in 2017-2018, transferring from Ohio State University to better his game here in North Dakota. The change of scenery was exactly what Jones needed after putting up only one goal and five assists in 29 games for Ohio State.
In just his first year at North Dakota, Jones led the team in goals with 15 goals in 34 games. Jones had the highest shot percentage on the team with 24.2%, almost 10% higher than Austin Poganski, who was second on the team with 15.1%. Jones was second in points with 30 on the year, behind Christian Wolanin who had five more points in 40 games. Jones was tied for second in power-play goals with Shane Gersich who both boasted five power-play goals. In major scoring categories across the board for UND, Jones either led the team or was barely behind players who are now making a name for themselves in the NHL. Needless to say, North Dakota quite possibly could be the best thing to happen to Jones’ hockey career.
The Remaining Four
Coming into the 2015-2016 season, North Dakota brought in an impressive 11 freshmen who were all looking to showcase their talents for the North Dakota fans. Those 11 freshmen all had a decent shot to play due to the vacant lineup spots left from the previous senior class and those who left to fulfill their dreams to play in the NHL.
Out of those 11 freshmen, only four are left here at UND playing in their senior season. Those four are Rhett Gardner, Hayden Shaw, Joel Janatuinen and Ryan Anderson; the other seven players left for various reasons such as transferring schools or playing in the NHL. The remaining four can only wish the other seven from their class the best in their endeavors as they look to win North Dakota its ninth NCAA National Championship and the second NCAA National Championship of their careers.
The Canadian forward has been a staple in the North Dakota lineup since his freshman year. He has learned from his older teammates, such as former captain Austin Poganski, about doing whatever is necessary for the team to win. Gardner had plenty of games his freshman year to showcase his skill, not only to the North Dakota fanbase but to NHL scouts as well. Gardner had a pretty good 2016 some would say, putting up 11 goals and seven assists for 18 points en route to a National Championship. He was then drafted by the Dallas Stars 116th overall in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Gardner has rounded out his game over his time at North Dakota by putting up a total of 26 goals and 33 assists for 59 points in his 112 career games.
Gardner’s style of play has caused injuries for himself due to his willingness to sacrifice himself for the betterment of the team. However, that relentlessness to play for his teammates is a major reason he will be wearing an “A” this season once again.
The defenseman from Woodbury, Minnesota has been a part of a deep defensive core during his time at North Dakota and now gets to be the one to show the younger defensemen the correct way to play North Dakota defense.
Shaw has learned a lot during his time at North Dakota from great defensemen such as now NHL players, Troy Stecher and Paul LaDue. His father, Matt Shaw, is also the coach of the power-play and defensive core. Shaw has had every tool at his disposal to become the defenseman he is today. In Shaw’s 100 career games, he has put seven pucks in the back of the net and 20 helpers for 27 points for North Dakota. Shaw’s willingness to learn, and now to help teach is a major contributor to him wearing an “A” for the first time this season.
The “Fantastic Fin” was the first Finnish born player to play for North Dakota, showing the North Dakota faithful how recruiting overseas can payoff. Janatuinen has been the player to quietly do his job over his time at North Dakota. Janatuinen has played the game how it should be played, maybe too well at times. Janatuinen has almost gone under the radar at times over his career at North Dakota, always being in position and making very few errors. While some fans might not notice him at times, coaches do notice and appreciate a player who is always in position and can be relied on to make the simple plays. Janatuinen has scored 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points in his career at North Dakota. Janatuinen’s ability to always be in position will be a huge asset to North Dakota this season.