North Dakota's Gleason adapts to role on offense
ST. PAUL -- University of North Dakota junior hockey player 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 who have molded into different roles for UND 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."
UND had a similar situation last year in which senior defenseman Jake Marto was asked to play forward due to injuries.
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."
Gleason, who credited assistant coach Dane Jackson for improving his forward play, is still looking for his first goal this season, but the right winger has a career-high 14 points.
His line, along with captain Mario Lamoureux and freshman Stephane Pattyn, has given the team increasingly quality shifts -- an important momentum-booster as UND prepares for Saturday's NCAA West Regional game against Western Michigan at the Xcel Energy Center.
"(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."
Lamoureux, who scored twice at the Final Five last weekend, said the line is starting to jell.
"We've been together about a month," he said. "We know what each other is going to do with the puck in certain situations. We're building chemistry over time. That's been a big part of our success, and we know we have to keep getting better, too."
The third line is a unique grouping.
"We've got a D-man on right wing and (Pattyn) was a big fighter in the MJ (junior hockey league)," Gleason said. "Our motto is just go to the net. We don't have a lot of green line talent, but that's not stopping us from being fast and making plays and mucking it up. If we go hard and to the net, that's where we'll have success."