All season long, UND coach Dave Hakstol has touted the depth of this year's Fighting Sioux team. Fortunately, they have gone through most of the season without serious injuries. But now with sophomore defenseman Chay Genoway and freshman forward Evan Trupp out indefinitely, the team's depth will be tested this coming weekend against St. Cloud State and probably beyond during the playoffs.
It's a terrible time of year to lose players such as Genoway (6 goals and 16 assists) and Trupp (8 goals, 5 assists and 5 game-winning goals) who have contributed so much to UND's 15-game unbeaten streak. They're key parts of the second power play unit, which clearly suffered in their absence during Sunday's game at Duluth. They also play on UND's penalty kill.
Hakstol has been through this before. The 04-05 Sioux lost Rylan Kaip at mid-season and a number of players were in and out of the lineup with injuries. To make matters worse, Robbie Bina, Brady Murray and Mike Prpich went down during the WCHA Final Five. Prpich returned and played hurt for the NCAA tournament. A cobbled-together line of Erik Fabian, Brian Canady and James Massen helped carry that team all the way to the Frozen Four championship.
The 05-06 team lost Fabian in the last game of the regular season against Michigan Tech. In the first game of the best-of-three series against Minnesota State, leading scorer Drew Stafford went down with an injury in an overtime loss to the Mavericks. Stafford sat out the Final Five, but Kaip picked a good time to score the first two goals of his career in a 3-2 win over Wisconsin. The Sioux went on to win their fourth Broadmoor Trophy by beating SCSU 5-3.
Last season, the team struggled through injuries to T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews and Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, but rebounded in time to make a third straight appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four.
So although the Sioux will certainly miss Genoway and Trupp, all is not lost. The wisdom of Hakstol's decision to give playing time to freshmen defensemen Derrick LaPoint and Jake Marto now becomes obvious. Both of them have strong offensive upsides. Can one or both of them combined make up for Genoway's absence? Can they limit rookie mistakes? We will soon find out.
Trupp's absence might be somewhat easier to cover. Brad Miller has shown occasional flashes of brilliance during his three years at UND. He could certainly help fill the void, and his playoff experience is a definite plus. And what of Matt Frattin? He began the season playing on the top line with Ryan Duncan and Oshie. Now would be a good time for him to break out of his scoring slump.
Kaip has demonstrated a knack for scoring big goals in the playoffs. Junior forward Matt Watkins has also shown scoring ability. Ryan Martens has gotten better as the season progressed. It could be his time to shine.
The good news is that the Sioux are virtually assured a spot in the NCAA tournament. That means there's time for players to step up their games and fill roles they haven't needed to fill during the season.
As Desaix told Napoleon at the Battle of Marengo: "There is yet time to win another battle!"