Poganski searches for first point
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Austin Poganski started the season with more career college hockey points than anyone on the University of North Dakota roster.
Three weeks in, he hasn’t been able to add to that total.
Poganski, UND’s senior captain, is oddly one of two skaters on the roster who has yet to tally a point this season, and the 6-foot-2, 210-pound right winger hopes to change that this weekend as UND takes on Colorado College at 8:37 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, and 7:07 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, in World Arena.
UND coach Brad Berry is not concerned by an early season point drought for Poganski.
He points out all of the other elements that his captain brings.
Poganski is a regular on the penalty kill, which is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation at 96.3 percent (26 for 27).
He’s a physical presence and can wear down opponents, which seemingly has happened early this season. UND is 1-1-1 on Friday nights this season and 3-0 on Saturdays.
And Poganski can play a shutdown role, which he might be asked to do this weekend against Colorado College’s prolific top line of Mason Bergh, Nick Halloran and Trey Bradley.
“I think he’s been playing hard, he’s been playing consistent,” Berry said. “Obviously, statistically, on the offensive side, him as well as us wish he would have more points. But we’ve had meetings with all of our players individually and as a team. And we said, ‘Don’t worry about the individual point side of it. That will take care of itself. It’s when you skip the process, the day-to-day things of working hard or the details in your game, (that problems happen). You have to make sure you cover all of that and the points will come eventually.’
“It’s just a part right now where it’s not coming for him. But he’s doing the right things and it will come for him eventually.”
Poganski, who tallied 25 points in each of the last two seasons, says he’s staying positive and is pleased about his team’s 4-1-1 start.
“I think it has been going all right,” said Poganski, who is tied as the NCAA’s active leader in games played with 128. “I definitely can be a lot better than I have been. Points have definitely been a little harder to come by, but at the end of the day, I feel that I’m doing the little things right like killing penalties well. Hopefully, if I keep doing the little things and staying positive and not getting frustrated, it will all play itself out at the end of the day.”
Poganski hopes this will be the breakout weekend.
He has nine career points against the Tigers — more than anyone on UND’s team — though none of them have come in World Arena.
“Hopefully, a bounce will come this weekend and I’m going to take it from there,” Poganski said. “But I’m not too worried about the points at this point. It’s just about how the team is doing. I think, as a whole, our team is improving every game. If we keep taking a step each weekend and improving, we’ll be fine.”
Berry won’t rush players back
UND senior center Johnny Simonson is nearing a return after missing last weekend’s series with an undisclosed injury, but Berry says he won’t press anyone to get back into the lineup too early.
Because of the team’s depth up front — and because there are no other forward injuries at this point — Berry is likely to give Simonson extra time to recover.
“I don’t think he’s too far off,” Berry said. “When you have players that can play in your lineup who are fully healthy, that’s a good thing to have. It’s when you’re down numbers and guys are trying to get in the lineup that are injured, then you’re going to press guys into the lineup.
“We’ll make sure we look after his best interest and in our best interest going forward here.”
This isn’t a new philosophy for Berry.
During UND’s 2015-16 NCAA national championship season, UND had a series of injuries, but with a deep team, Berry opted to let those injured players return to full health before rejoining the lineup.