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UND men's hockey: Stats say little for Blood

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Ben Blood's stat line last weekend read: no goals, no assists, no points, a minus-1 rating and one shot on goal. The story that unfolded before a pair of sellout crowds in Ralph Engelstad Arena was much different. The Ben Bloo...

Ben Blood

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Ben Blood's stat line last weekend read: no goals, no assists, no points, a minus-1 rating and one shot on goal.

The story that unfolded before a pair of sellout crowds in Ralph Engelstad Arena was much different.

The Ben Blood Factor usually doesn't show up in a box score. Sometimes, it will be noticed through a big hit, other times it is a little play that's easy to forget about. Such was the case last weekend against Minnesota.

On five or six occasions, Blood knocked a Minnesota player off his skates with a big hit. One time, it directly led to an odd-man rush for the Sioux.

Another time, Blood and Minnesota forward Taylor Matson were racing for a loose puck in the corner and they were going to arrive at the same time. Before reaching the puck, Matson turned up ice and let Blood just have it, rather than taking another big hit.

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"It's mentality," University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said when asked how a player works on being physical. "It really comes down to that. I'll add one other area to that: your environment. Our older guys certainly have that mentality, whether they came in with it initially or they developed it over time.

"There's no question it appears to have rubbed off on the young guys coming into the program so far. That's something we have to work hard to maintain. It's going to be a big part of our game. It always has been. We have a good skill level, we have a lot of ability, but we have to bring that lunch-pail, physical mentality night in and night out."

Blood should help the Sioux do that. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Plymouth, Minn., native has taken major steps in his game during the offseason. He went from a sixth defenseman a year ago to being paired with Chay Genoway as UND's top group. They will often get the assignment of opponent's best forwards.

"Ben has been a huge part of the team this year," forward Darcy Zajac said.

From the midseason point last season, Blood has showed that he may be UND's most physical defenseman since Matt Smaby, who is now in the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Ben is a big boy," Genoway said. "He had a good summer, put on some weight, and he likes that style of game. He's come a long ways and he's doing a lot for us right now."

Infor

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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