UMD men's hockey: Olson thriving for Bulldogs playing on bigger line, with bigger role
Junior wing Quinn Olson, a 2019 third-round pick of the Boston Bruins, is making a major impact on the Bulldogs this season, providing leadership to the one of the team's top lines.
DULUTH — With his offense struggling to score goals and get pucks on net, Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin shook up his forward lines a week ago against Miami.
Sandelin did keep the trio of Quinn Olson, Dominic James and Blake Biondi together, but he also challenged them before Friday’s game against the RedHawks.
“I told them (Friday) morning, ‘We kept you together because I think you’ve been one of our best lines,’” Sandelin said last Friday night. “‘So go play like it.’”
That line produced last Friday, combining for two goals, two assists and 11 shots on goal. They didn’t get a point on Saturday — those were tough to come by against Miami goaltender Ludvig Persson — but they did pour 10 more shots on goal.
Of the 21 shots on goal that line posted a week ago, 11 came off the stick of Olson, a junior wing from Calgary, Alberta. He’s been challenged by Sandelin in recent weeks to take more shots. It’s the only fault Sandelin said he’s been able to find in Olson’s game this season.
Sandelin said Olson came into this year a faster, quicker player. The 2019 third-round pick of the Boston Bruins is a consistent, intelligent player whose compete level is “off the charts’ right now, Sandelin said.
“Since Day 1, he's been very focused, very dialed into what he needs to do. I think you've seen that in the way he's playing, his production, and I think he's getting better,” Sandelin said Wednesday. “He's such a competitor. He's got a great stick, and it's not just with the puck. He's good in tight areas, whether it's stripping pucks, stealing pucks, those types of things.”
Twenty-two games into his third season as a Bulldog, Olson has already matched his collegiate high of 15 points scored during his freshman season. This season’s 15 points — off four goals and 11 assists — have him tied with Biondi for the team high going into this weekend’s NCHC series at Nebraska Omaha.
Olson had a goal and an assist on Friday against the RedHawks — and put five shots on net — prompting Sandelin to use the words “great” and “outstanding” to describe the play of he and Biondi.
Biondi said Olson was as emotionally engaged in that game as he’s seen him this season.
“He was in it all night,” Biondi said last Friday. “He was going, he was moving his feet. He does such a great job protecting pucks. Like I said, he was emotionally engaged tonight, more than usual. He was a force for all of us.”
Olson, 20, said he’s embraced the larger role he’s taken on the Bulldogs this season, as well as his role leading a pair of younger players — James the freshman and Biondi the sophomore, who are both 19 — on one of UMD’s top lines.
And while coach wants him to take more shots, Olson said it's also important for him to continue to be the puck mover on that line, who makes sure a couple of great skaters get their shots at the net.
But he’ll take his shots as well, when they are there, as coach said to do.
“I got to move my feet, get open and move them the puck, get them to shoot,” Olson said. “I want to get it in their hands to shoot, but also coach has been harping on (shooting the puck) a lot, so I do have to start shooting more.”
Scouting the Mavericks
Talking with a couple reporters near the end of NCHC Media Day this fall in St. Paul, Sandelin gave them a little grief for where Nebraska Omaha was slotted in the NCHC preseason media poll. Sandelin thought the Mavericks, who were picked to finish fifth, should have been slotted higher.
Four months later, the Mavericks sit sixth in the NCHC following a pair of losses over the weekend to Denver. They’ve also fallen on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble, ranked 18th in the Pairwise going into the 7:07 p.m. games Friday and Saturday against the Bulldogs at Baxter Arena in Omaha.
Sandelin said his opinion of the Mavericks hasn’t changed since September. He likes their experience, especially in goal with third-year starter junior Isaiah Saville, and the scoring punch that senior forward Taylor Ward has provided.
Ward’s 14 goals rank second in the NCHC, while his 25 points have him sitting fourth in the league scoring race. Saville’s .914 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average has him fourth among the league’s goaltenders who have appeared in 10 or more games.
“Their team has matured over the last couple years,” said Sandelin, whose Bulldogs are tied for third in the NCHC and tied for seventh in the Pairwise. “They play a heavy style, they can skate and get to the net hard. Their special teams are good. I just think they're a team that's continually grown and gotten better over the last year and a half.”