GRAND FORKS — After two successful seasons at the University of North Dakota, Moorhead graduate Ethan Frisch is gearing up for his junior hockey season after being named an assistant captain.
Frisch spent a couple of months this summer back home in Moorhead seeing his family and doing some off-season training. But now he’s back on campus in Grand Forks working with his teammates and participating in captains’ practices.
“(Being named an assistant captain by his teammates) was super exciting to me, very humbling,” Frisch said. “That’s something I don’t take lightly. It’s an absolute honor to be named an assistant captain for such a special organization. It’s hard to put into words, it’s pretty special. It’s pretty incredible to know that those guys that I hang around have that trust in me and trust me to do a good job and represent our team in that way.”
The Fighting Hawks defenseman doubled his point production in his sophomore season, up to 10 from the five he put up his freshman season. He had three goals and seven assists and finished at plus-17. He helped UND to a 22-6-1 record and a run to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, where they fell to Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 in five overtimes.
Frisch said that all anybody wanted to talk to him about while he was in Moorhead was the five-overtime game. Every time he would meet up with somebody he hadn’t seen in awhile, without fail, it would be one of the first topics of conversation.
“When you get to that part of the game — the third or fourth overtime, there’s so much mutual respect from those rivals,” Frisch said. “It’s special to see the respect of the game and to see it played the right way.”
At 142 minutes, 13 seconds, the game timed in as the longest in the history of the NCAA men’s hockey tournament. It finally concluded at 12:42 a.m., 6 hours and 12 minutes after puck drop. Even though Frisch and the Fighting Hawks came out on the losing side, he says taking part in such a historic game is something he will never forget.
“You can’t even blame the other team,” Frisch said. “You want to be on the winning team but you know the other team is going through that grueling grind as well. That was a cool almost half-day at the rink.”
Frisch said his entire family was at the game, which took place at Scheels Arena in Fargo. He was surprised his dad, who he says normally goes to bed around 9 p.m., was able to stay awake to see the end.
Having his family within an easy drive was a major benefit to playing at UND. He likes being able to just call up his mom and have lunch whenever they feel like it — which he says happens often. Either she’ll make the trip up I-29 or he’ll head down, or they’ll meet somewhere in the middle.
“The location of where UND is, not to mention the coaching staff, facilities, is a big deal for me,” Frisch said. “Being able to be so close to family members and friends has been incredible for me and really enhanced my time here.”
Frisch didn’t have the luxury of seeing his family or having them at his games when last season started. The Fighting Hawks and the rest of the members of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference started the season playing in a bubble atmosphere in Omaha, Neb.
The Fighting Hawks first game in the pod was Dec. 2 and they played 10 games over the next 18 days, closing with a game against Miami on Dec. 20. During that time, Frisch says they were restricted to spending their time either at the rink or at the hotel unless there was a team-organized event. But Frisch said he and his teammates didn’t mind. They were just happy to be back on the ice.
“The pod was a crazy experience and I was very thankful for it,” he said. “We were so excited to be back on the ice. It had been eight months since we had all been on the ice (due to the COVID pandemic). Playing organized hockey again was incredible. I ran into some troubles with injury, not playing for eight months, it was hard to prepare for that. But it went smoothly.”
This upcoming school year will start with a much more familial atmosphere than the pod. Frisch’s brother Grant is set to join him at UND and major in business.
“It’ll be really cool to have him here even closer,” Ethan said.
The younger Frisch was a captain on the Moorhead hockey team that went to state this past winter. Ethan said he didn’t get a chance to attend many of his brothers’ games due to his busy schedule and COVID restrictions. But he said he followed his brother’s high school season closely and was proud of what his alma mater accomplished on the ice.
“You look at (the Spuds) at the beginning of the year — they lost to Fargo Davies (which) wasn’t awesome, and they played a couple of other close games that they lost. It was cool to see them bounce back and win their section and go to state,” Frisch said. “I was happy for my brother and how he led his team and how they battled.”