Common theme for hockey team

UND skaters celebrate a goal last weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena against Lake Superior State. Photo by Jennifer Friese/The Dakota Student.

Falling into a 4-1 deficit during Friday night’s game against Lake Superior State wasn’t how the UND men’s hockey team planned to start the series.

Watching Troy Stecher crash into the boards and painfully try and make his way to the bench before stopping halfway wasn’t how the team hoped to end the weekend.

But six unanswered goals on Friday and a resilient lineup capable of stepping up and filling gaps were enough for North Dakota to notch a sweep of Lake Superior State with 7-4 and 3-1 victories.

In what has become all too familiar this season, adjustments were made throughout the game as Drake Caggiula and Colten St. Clair remained out for a portion of Friday’s game — Caggiula stepping back in Saturday — while Tucker Poolman once again moved up to forward for part of Saturday’s game from his regular defensive position. Bryn Chyzyk also was out of the lineup for both games due to an injury.

North Dakota knows its track record for injuries as Mark MacMillan, Paul LaDue and Nick Schmaltz all have suffered setbacks that kept them out of the game.

For Stecher, though, the extent of his injury is unknown as of Sunday afternoon.

“That’s been a common theme for us over the last month,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Guys have been resilient, and we’ll try to get him healthy as soon as we possibly can. And in the meantime, other guys will step in and play a role and do the job.”

While the focus is on rising to the occasion and overcoming critical absences, Stecher’s teammates know his role is a large one to fill.

“It’s tough, it’s scary,” Zane McIntyre said. “You kind of hold your breath. You don’t really know what’s going on. A little collision happened behind me, and I had no clue.

“And all of a sudden you hear the guy yelling in pain and stuff, and you feel just absolutely brutal inside for your teammate. That’s where team depth comes into play. We’ll see what happens with the injury and go from there. Obviously guys will step up and fill the void, but heck of a player No. 2 is.

Stecher has tallied one goal and seven assists this season.

With two other defenseman to call upon in Nick Mattson and Andrew Panzerella to fill the potential gap, the duo provides more than a convenient reassurance.

“I think it’s a necessity,” Hakstol said. “It’s not just those two guys, it’s the group.”

North Dakota has strung together a 13-3-2 record this season to solidify itself as the No. 1 ranked team in the country, while facing just one non-conference loss in early October against Bemidji.

A roadtrip to Denver this weekend will resume conference play for UND and its expedition to grind out a full 60-minute game, especially after a slow start on Friday.

North Dakota was down 4-1 by the middle of the second period, but six goals excited fans, and the Lakers never responded.

Freshman goaltender Cam Johnson also made his first collegiate start Friday evening. It didn’t go as planned for the rookie, but his veteran teammate is reassured by UND’s resiliency.

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