Dell Takes It and Runs
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
DULUTH, Minn. When the 2010-11 season began, North Dakota was set in goal with a guy they expected to be an All-WCHA guy.
As 2011 dawns, that statement still rings true.
Only now, instead of Brad Eidsness, that man is sophomore Aaron Dell.
If you haven't heard of Dell, you're probably not alone. Last season as a freshman, Dell played in just five games. And playing behind Eidsness, his hopes of additional playing time didn't look too promising this season.
That changed in early October. After Eidsness struggled in a 5-5 tie against Anchorage, UND head coach Dave Hakstol played Dell in the Saturday game against Fairbanks.
The result was a 3-1 win. Home victories over nationally-ranked Denver and Minnesota Duluth followed. Then came a shutout at the Kohl Center and 4-2 win the following night to secure a sweep in Madison.
Thursday, Dell was again in goal as the Fighting Sioux traveled to Duluth for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game and opened Amsoil Arena with a 5-0 win — his third career shutout. All of Dell's shutouts have come on the road.
"I put in a lot of work this summer, and when I've played, they've had no reason not to play me," Dell said. "I'm just trying to give my team a chance to win."
Hakstol insists nothing was handed to Dell. In reality, Dell likely had to work extra hard to unseat Eidsness, who is a two-time all league performer.
"He's earned everything," Hakstol said. "The difference for him isn't so much physical as it is mental. He's really learned how to approach the game as a pro. He's learned to be prepared for every practice and that has helped him in games."
Dell's teammates have confidence in his ability too.
"He's getting better and better," said Sioux captain Chay Genoway. "The more we ride him here, the more confidence we get and the more he gets."
Now 12-4-1 on the season, Dell is allowing just over two goals a game and is stopping more than 90 percent of his shots. Both numbers are in the top 5 in the league. His winning percentage is best in the WCHA.
"He's such a quiet and laid back guy, it's sometimes tough to tell when he flashes that excitement," Hakstol said. "But I think he's excited about the opportunity he has earned for himself. He's hungry to keep getting better and he needs to do that."