ST. PAUL - University of North Dakota junior Joe Gleason, a natural defenseman, will admit how much time he spent this offseason honing his skills at forward.

"I'd be lying if I said I did," said Gleason, an Edina, Minn., native. "I didn't plan to play forward at all."

Gleason finds himself mostly at forward this season, and he says his flexibility in rotating positions isn't unlike any of the other 17 healthy skaters that have molded into different roles for the Sioux at this point in the season.

"It hasn't been just me," Gleason said. "Lots of our guys have stepped into bigger roles and done a good job. I'm doing what I can to help. If that's forward, that's forward. If that's defense, that's defense."

The Sioux had a similar situation last year in which defenseman Jake Marto was asked to play forward due to injuries.

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But Gleason has taken the switch to a new level. He's been asked to rotate between the two positions within games and even within periods.

"It was interesting at first," Gleason said. "It's not what I was planning on ever doing when coming here. I adjust day by day. I can learn from everyone."

His line, along with Mario Lamoureux and Stephane Pattyn, has given the Sioux increasingly quality shifts - an important momentum-booster as UND prepares for Saturday's NCAA West Regional game.

"(That line) epitomizes our team," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "As a group, they're not the flashiest guys on the ice. They're not getting the spotlight throughout the season, but they're a huge part of the engine that gives us a chance for success."

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald