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NCAA West Regional notebook: Olson keys North Dakota's progression

FARGO, N.D. -- When North Dakota, qualifiers of every NCAA tournament since 2003, is scheduled to host a regional, it's a pretty safe bet the team will be there.

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University of North Dakota's Trevor Olson talks with his teammates Thursday, March 23, 2017, before practice for the NCAA West Regional hockey tournament at Scheels Arena in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO, N.D. - When North Dakota, qualifiers of every NCAA tournament since 2003, is scheduled to host a regional, it’s a pretty safe bet the team will be there.

After all, NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament protocol dictates that should the host of a regional make the national tournament, it gets to play in the regional it hosts.

The Fighting Hawks’ presence at the West Regional in Fargo was in doubt three weeks ago, however, and it wasn’t even solidified until last weekend in Minneapolis at the Frozen Faceoff.

Thankfully for the Hawks, they’ve had a number of unsung heroes step up in recent weeks, specifically Duluth native Trevor Olson. The junior forward from Duluth East High School has recorded four goals and three assists in the last three weeks to get North Dakota to its 15th straight NCAA tournament.

Olson’s teammates will tell you the former Greyhound is a big reason the Hawks are playing Boston University at 2 p.m. today at Scheels Arena.

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"It's nice to have him scoring goals this year and as of late,” Hawks senior defenseman and captain Gage Ausmus said. “He's a skilled player and he's always had that touch, and it's great to see him finally finding the back of the net in games. He's been a huge part of our team recently here and he will be going forward."

Three of Olson’s four goals the past three weeks have been game-winners. He scored a short-handed game-winner March 3 at Miami with 1:40 remaining for the 3-2 win. The next night he was credited with the game-winning goal in a 5-2 win that gave the Hawks their first weekend sweep since the beginning of January.

A week later, Olson clinched the Hawks’ NCHC quarterfinal series over St. Cloud State by scoring 7:38 into overtime for a 6-5 win and sweep of the Huskies in Grand Forks.

Olson would’ve had a game-tying goal a week ago against his hometown Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in the Frozen Faceoff championship at Target Center, but freshman wing Joey Anderson squeaked in a final score for the Bulldogs to give them the NCHC postseason title.

"He played in the USHL, he played on a line with Jake Guentzel (now with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins) and he put the puck in the net on that line so he has that in his game, that offensive ability,” North Dakota coach Brad Berry said. “He's grown his game tremendously from his freshman year to his junior year right now and he's earned every bit of it.”

Olson, who had 26 goals and 45 assists in two United States Hockey League seasons, is having a career year with the Hawks. After scoring three goals in 19 games as a freshman and tallying just four assists in 36 games a year ago, the 23-year-old has six goals and eight assists in 37 games this season.

Olson said it was tough his first two years in Grand Forks, but the increased ice time he’s seen this season playing on the third line alongside freshman wing Cole Smith and junior forward Johnny Simonson has given him a big boost of confidence.

The goals he’s scored lately have felt good, he said, especially since they helped the team advance to where it is today.

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“The first two years goals didn’t come with ease,” Olson said. “The last few weeks, I’ve been able to put a few in the back of the net and they’ve been big goals for our team. A lot of guys have scored huge goals for our team the last two years, I figured it’s about time I returned the favor there a little bit.”

Miska a Richter finalist Bulldogs freshman goaltender Hunter Miska has been named one of five finalists for the Mike Richter Award, which is given to the top NCAA Division I goalie in a given season.

Miska enters today’s West Regional semifinal at 5:30 p.m. against Ohio State with a .917 save percentage (22nd nationally) and 2.23 goals-against average (19th). He’s 24-4-5 (.803 win percentage is second nationally) in 35 starts with five shutouts (tied for fourth). Miska still needs one more shutout to break UMD’s single-season record.

Other finalists include Bemidji State junior Michael Bitzer, Denver junior Tanner Jaillet, Notre Dame junior Cal Peterson and Canisius senior Charles Williams. The winner will be announced at the Frozen Four in Chicago.

Soucy remains out for UMD UMD senior defenseman Carson Soucy was on the ice Thursday at Scheels Arena practicing with his teammates, but when coach Scott Sandelin was asked if there was any chance Soucy played this weekend in Fargo, the response was “probably not.”

Soucy - who remains week-to-week, according to Sandelin - suffered a lower-body injury during the third period of a 7-4 loss March 3 at Western Michigan. He’s missed the last five games. The 2013 Minnesota Wild fifth-round draft pick has three goals and 12 assists this year.

Related Topics: COLLEGE HOCKEY
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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