In a season that looked like we were going to be where Miami ended up this season, this group of guys showed the NCAA you don't need an explosive goal scorer to have success.
Even though the season ended in a heartbreaking fashion, this UND team has a solid base for the future ahead.
Now for my team awards. I will be giving out awards for my team MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and this years Unsung Hero.
So here we go. For my team MVP, I give it to a kid who has battled in every single game he has played this season. I consider him the backbone of this very hard working team. My MVP is goaltender Zane Gothberg. Gothberg ended his season with a 1.99 goals against average after going on one of the most impressive runs a UND goaltender has put on in quite some time. He always seemed to be there to answer the bell whenever he was called upon to do so. I have a feeling many people will be agreeing with me on this one that Zane Gothberg is the most deserving for team MVP this season.
My Offensive Player of the Year isn't going to be quite as easy to pick out. There are a couple of deserving players on this team to earn this title. However, I am giving this award to Michael Parks. Parks has proven himself in every single game and has very few flaws to his game. He always goes hard on the forecheck and battles hard in the corners. It is also very hard to knock Parks off of the puck and especially inside the offensive zone. The master of the wrap around tallied up 30 points this season, and looks to be a team leader next season. Michael Parks is my Offensive Player of the Year.
For my Defensive Player of the Year I go with the obvious choice in Dillon Simpson. He was the Ryan Suter comparison for UND this year playing the big minutes and in important situations for this team. Along with his ability to block shots better than almost anyone in the NCAA, Simpson is also one of the best puck movers on the blue line as well, which is why coach Hakstol had him running things there on the power play. Dillon Simpson is the easy choice, for me, for Defensive Player of the Year.
For my ROY I go to another defenseman, and Grand Forks native, Paul LaDue. LaDue's highlight game of the season probably came in their 9-2 victory over Miami when he was an outstanding +6 on the game. LaDue also would be one of the top freshman in +/- this season, and his opponents would find it hard to score whenever he was on the ice. LaDue is looking to be a leader on the blue line for UND for the years to come making it easy for me to pick him as ROY.
Finally for my Unsung Hero. I'm sure you all can guess where this one is going. This walk-on laid it out on the line for every shift he was able to play giving it 110%. He would always make a play that seemed to get the guys fired up at key times, and either set up, or score, goals at key times in games. I give this to Edina, Minnesota's Connor Gaarder. The junior was on fire down the stretch run and into the playoffs. Gaarder would score the game winner against Western Michigan in the NCHC third place game, which ultimately sent them to the NCAA tournament. Gaarder would also score the 2OT winner against Ferris State to send UND to their 20th Frozen Four and 6th in their last 10 seasons. Gaarder could have been the poster child for this team because his play is North Dakota Hockey to a tee.
Well another season gone and another season of a lot of success, but still no big one for coach Hakstol. I see nothing but bright things in the future for this program and next season should be a fun one that's for sure.