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College men's hockey: Bulldogs new-look top line builds chemistry together in Colorado Springs

Noah Cates and Nick Swaney are adapting to their new linemate, Quinn Olson, and the intelligence the young freshman brings to UMD's top forward line

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Minnesota Duluth freshman wing Quinn Olson (15) of Minnesota Duluth, shown against Denver on Nov. 8 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, has two goals in three games now playing alongside sophomore center Noah Cates and junior wing Nick Swaney following the injury to sophomore center Jackson Cates. News Tribune file photo

Since an injury to sophomore center Jackson Cates, three-quarters of Minnesota Duluth’s forward lines have been reunions of trios used together at some point this season. Head coach Scott Sandelin’s top line of Quinn Olson, Noah Cates and Nick Swaney was a combination not used this year.

Not only had Olson yet to play alongside Swaney and Cates, but Noah was in a new position taking his older brother’s spot at center after playing wing.

Olson, Cates and Swaney produced just a single goal in their first two games together at Western Michigan on Feb. 22 and Friday at Colorado College. But they took over the scoresheet on Saturday against the Tigers in a 6-1 victory at Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Bulldogs’ new-look top line combined for six points, with all three putting a puck into the back of the net as part of a dominating four-goal second period Saturday.

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“It’s a change for sure when you play with somebody for so long," Swaney said. "It's different to mix lines up, but that's what happens when someone goes down. The more we play, the more chemistry we’ve got. That showed with each of us scoring (Saturday), moving pucks, knowing where we are going to be. That’s the one thing, the more you play with each other, the more that you know where to put pucks. It showed (Saturday).”

When asked what Olson brings to their line, both Swaney and Cates highlighted the intelligence of the Calgary native, who doesn’t turn 19 until May. Swaney said the 2019 third-round pick of the Boston Bruins plays like a much older player, that Olson knows where to go and he finishes pucks.

Cates said Olson has a good stick and forechecks extremely well.

“He breaks up a play and then makes a little play, a little cycle,” Cates said. “He’s so good down low cycling where he is elusive and can get some shots.”

Sandelin said after the sweep Saturday that Olson is most effective when he is engaged and that was the case Saturday. The young winger was physical and playing his game, the coach said.

Cates said continuing this upcoming weekend against St. Cloud State in the regular season finale — puck drop 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Amsoil Arena — it’s not Olson that needs to make any adjustments. It’s on Cates and Swaney to adapt to get the most out of Olson.

“Quinn is such a smart player and he’ll help us out a lot,” Noah Cates said. “He’s a bit different than Jackson. It’s not better or worse, it’s just how he plays. We need to figure out how he plays because he’s such a good player, such a smart player. We have to make him more useful and versatile.”

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Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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