UMD freshmen adjust to playing with 'Dogs

Watching the Alaska Fairbanks Ice Dogs meant some serious traveling for Bob and Kris Schmidt of Hermantown -- Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, Texas and, of course, Alaska.

Watching the Alaska Fairbanks Ice Dogs meant some serious traveling for Bob and Kris Schmidt of Hermantown -- Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, Texas and, of course, Alaska.

Their son, Kyle, played for the North American Hockey League team for two years before joining Minnesota Duluth this season. Trips to the rink, at least for home games, are now considerably shorter, including today's series opener against Minnesota State-Mankato.

UMD freshman right winger Justin Fontaine's experience has been the reverse. After two years with his hometown Bonnyville Pontiacs in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, he's now living away for the first time.

"You come in not knowing how hard it is to go to school, go to practice, do homework and play games all in the same week,'' Fontaine said. "You're constantly doing something and it takes a lot of effort. But I think all of the freshmen have adapted well because this has been a very welcoming team.''

Fontaine and Schmidt, both 20, are adjusting to Division I competition and a return to the classroom after two years in junior hockey. They're part of an eight-member UMD freshman class with forwards Rob Bordson of Duluth; Cody Danberg of Canwood, Saskatchewan; and Mike Montgomery of Lino Lakes, Minn., defensemen Chad Huttel of Hermantown and Evan Oberg of Forestburg, Alberta, and goalie Kenny Reiter of Pittsburgh.


All have played, Reiter was in an exhibition against the United States Under 18 team, and all have at least one point (except Reiter and Oberg, injured since Nov. 1). Fontaine leads the first-year players with two goals and five assists for seven points in 18 games. Schmidt has a goal and two assists.

"In the first half of the season, it was a matter of getting your feet wet, getting used to the game, learning and developing,'' Schmidt said. "In the second half you want to be a factor in the lineup.''

Coach Scott Sandelin is thinking along the same lines as the No. 14-ranked Bulldogs (7-7-4) resume Western Collegiate Hockey Association play.

"Our freshmen have shown some good signs and done some good things, and at other times looked like freshmen,'' Sandelin said. "I'd like to see them step up in the next two months and be a little more consistent. Most of them have come here after having already played quite a few games in junior hockey.''

While living at home, Fontaine led Bonnyville in scoring for two years and was a two-time Alberta Junior Hockey League all-star. He had 71 points (including 30 goals) in 52 regular-season games in 2006-07.

Schmidt lived with Fairbanks families in his two years with the Ice Dogs, which was almost like being at home, he said. He led the North American Hockey League in goal-scoring last season with 46 and had 79 points in 62 games.

In the first semester at UMD, Fontaine, majoring in business finance, had a 3.5 grade-point average and Schmidt, majoring in statistics and actuarial science, was at 3.8.

Both are living at the on-campus Stadium Apartments, a requirement for freshman hockey players. Fontaine rooms with Danberg, Montgomery and Oberg, while Schmidt is with Bordson, Huttel and Reiter.


"I'm happy with what I've done so far, but I know we'd all like to contribute more offensively,'' said Fontaine, whose father, Denis, is a Bonnyville assistant coach.

Schmidt's line, with center Bordson and left winger Danberg, was among UMD's best lines last week in a split of games with Bemidji State. Schmidt knows he will be buoyed the next four games, all at the DECC.

"I have an aunt and uncle [Brian and Betsy Thun of Hermantown] with UMD season tickets and my grandpa [Bernie Young of Silver Bay] comes to our games," Schmidt said. "After two years away, it's nice to be able to play in front of so many people that I know."

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