April 11, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Staying or Going? More Questions for North Dakota After Loss

by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer

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DENVER — The next couple days. It's always the next couple of days.

It's never, "Yes, I plan on signing a professional contract," or, "No, I am coming back for another year of college hockey;" it's always "I will know more in the next couple of days."

And few are better at this art of dodging than North Dakota.

With a roster that is perennially amongst college hockey's most talented, each year at season's end, it seems almost a given for there to be a UND player or two whose future with the team is unknown.

In 2004, it was Brandon Bochenski; in 2005, it was Brady Murray and Matt Greene; in 2006 it was Drew Stafford and Travis Zajac; in 2007 it was Jonathan Toews and Brian Lee; and now, minutes after UND's 6-1 loss to Boston College at the 2008 Frozen Four, the question is: Who is it this year?

From greatest to least chance of leaving, four players come to mind: T.J. Oshie, Taylor Chorney, Joe Finley and Ryan Duncan.

Oddly enough, mum's the word between the four of them.

"I don't know if I want to start thinking about that [leaving UND] right now just coming off a loss like that," said Duncan.

"It's really tough to think about right now because everybody's kind of just focusing on our loss and being each other's teammates right now," agreed Chorney.

"I haven't thought about it [leaving UND] at all really, all I can think about is just the game and I'm more focused on being with the guys in this locker room here," Oshie said, rounding out the doubletalk.

But despite the cat-and-mouse game of getting players to give honest answers regarding their future, Duncan and Chorney were at least cognizant of the changing trend in college hockey — away from being simply about the game and towards more of a business model.

After all, one needs look no further than the rampant exodus of players to the NHL ranks in the past two weeks. And, unlike the past, departures are not just affecting powerhouse programs such as North Dakota, Michigan and Boston College, but all the ranks of college hockey, including, most recently, Miami and the departure of goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.

"I guess that's just the way hockey is now-a-days," said Duncan, of players coming and going. "You kind of get used to the business side of it and really doing what's best for that player. Whoever moves on we wish them the best of luck."

Chorney's view of the state of college hockey was perhaps telling of his current situation. He is a draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers and, in theory, could be called up to the professional ranks at any time.

"For a lot of us, it [leaving UND] could happen as early as tonight for some of us, or tomorrow, who knows," Chorney said. "It is a business, but at the same time the friendships with teammates I've developed here will be tough tings to walk out on."

Further complicating matters for the four players is the missed opportunity that was 2007-08. Before the season began, Duncan, Chorney, Finley and Oshie banded together and made a pact to return for their junior seasons in hopes of capturing a national championship that has eluded UND's storied program for nearly a decade.

But it was Boston College beating UND again on Thursday night — the third time in as many years in as many Frozen Fours — that left the ever-so-familiar taste in the mouths of UND's four premier players.

No more could this be true than for Oshie.

"I want to come back now [to UND] and win this thing," said Oshie, in reference to the national championship. "All three years it's been tough losses, especially against the same team every year is kind of getting old. I wanted to get a ring on my finger before leaving Grand Forks and it's unfortunate we lost."

For UND, time will only tell the sort of roster that will accompany the 2008-09 season: a roster jam-packed with veteran leadership and talent, perfect, perhaps, for yet another Frozen Four run; or, conversely, a roster void said veterans and instead comprised of new, young blood.

Just don't ask Oshie, Chorney, Finley or Duncan, because they don't know.

At least not until the next couple of days.

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