Second-half success in full swing

UND men’s hockey team rides 7-game winning streak into weekend series.

Senior captain Dillon Simpson skates in front of the UND bench. Simpson  leads all NCHC defensemen in scoring during league play with 11 points. File photo.

It seems to happen every year.

After a bitter first half of the season filled with splits and an injury and illness stricken lineup, the UND men’s hockey team is riding the all too familiar second half surge with a seven-game winning streak that stretches back to late November.

UND coach Dave Hakstol attributes the success to the mindset of the team that is focused on constant improvement.

“I really think just the mentality of getting better,” he said. “We’re finding different ways to win games. I think we’ve got a real clear picture of how we’re winning games. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves by any stretch of the imagination … It’s different parts of our game each night that are helping us get over the hump.”

UND has shown a significantly higher winning percentage in the second half of each season since 2005-06.

In recent weeks, UND has received contributions from all over the lineup — with senior defenseman captain Dillon Simpson leading all National Collegiate Hockey Conference defensemen in scoring during league play with 11 points, three goals and eight assists.

Simpson produced the game-winning goal and an assist Friday in last weekend’s home matchup against Colorado College and added another assist Saturday to help the team climb to its third sweep of the season.

While he said the streak started with carrying over good practices into games, Simpson also sees the success as a product of depth within the lineup.

“I think more than anything, it’s just we don’t have one line going or two going,” Simpson said. “I think everyone’s going, and everyone understands what they need to do to get the win. We’ve got some scoring depth lately, which has been great. And the defensemen are chipping in too, which helps.”

UND also has the most productive group of defensemen in the NCHC with an average of 2.70 points per game.

“It’s been a real common theme for us,” Hakstol said. “That’s what we’ve talked about from day one — we need to have some scoring contributions from throughout our lineup. All of our forwards have to chip in, and our D-core has to chip in … I think it’s an area of the game that we continue to improve.”

“We’re still not quite scoring three goals a game, but we’re getting there,” Hakstol said. “We’re bringing that average up. That’s been a real focus for us as we’ve been on a push over the last month.”

This weekend, the home-and-home series against Bemidji State will offer North Dakota a chance to faceoff against an old WCHA foe in a non-conference series.

The Beavers trail the series history as UND carries the 25-2-2 record dating back to the 1969-70 season.

But with Bemidji State sophomore forward Cory Wald tied as the WCHA leading goal-scorer and defenseman Matt Prapavessis tied for WCHA scoring among defensemen with 17 points, the Green and White won’t overlook their competition.

The two teams are not in the same league anymore with UND‘s recent switch into the NCHC and Bemidji State remaining in the WCHA, but Hakstol said he is familiar with the Beavers’ effort.

“I think obviously when you’re in the same league you get to know each other pretty well,” Hakstol said. “What we’ve come to know is they’re a program and a team that competes hard. They’ve got some good veteran players in their lineup that are playing well … We expect a real tough matchup this weekend.”

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].