NCAA Frozen Four
Way to Maine
College hockey rosters and line charts almost always list a player's
hometown and previous team. Most of the names of previous teams
are familiar, whether it's a prep school or junior program. A
quick scan of Maine's roster reveals Dustin Penner's prior school
as MSU-Bottineau. What the heck is MSU-Bottineau?
is a small city in North Dakota, on the Canadian border. Population:
approximately 3,500. MSU-Bottineau is a junior college with an
enrollment of roughly 450 students and the Lumberjack hockey team
plays an independent schedule against Division III teams, junior
teams, and college junior varsity teams.
is a really small community, and the campus is small. It's a tight-knit
community, and they love the hockey team up there," Penner
said. "It's a really nice place to be and the team is really
close. We all live in the same wing and have a lot of fun together."
And when the
MSU-Bottineau Lumberjacks take the ice at the home barn they lovingly
refer to as the "Lumberdome" approximately 700 fans
pack the place.
Dustin Penner began his college hockey career. He was a standout
player and a late bloomer that caught the eye of Maine recruiting
genius Grant Standbrook at an MVP Discovery Event in Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan. In fact, Standbrook was at the event to see a defenseman
prospect. When Penner walked around this particular defenseman
three times, it grabbed Standbrook's attention.
him afterwards, 'Alright, you're 6-foot-4, 225 or 230, you're
19 ... you've either played Major A or you're not a good student,'
and he said, 'Neither one' and it progressed from there,"
What a find
it turned out to be. Penner has been one of Maine's best forwards
over the course of three NCAA Tournament games and his line with
Mike Hamilton and Jon Jankus has carried the scoring load. Standbrook's
keen eye and good luck have made it a win-win-win situation for
Penner, MSU-Bottineau, and the Black Bears.
a lot to him, pretty much everything I have in hockey, just for
finding me," Penner said of Standbrook. "He's helped
me out with a lot of little things in the game that will help
me get farther in hockey."
is quick to praise Travis Rybchinski, the MSU-Bottineau head coach
who was also a two-year captain of the Lumberjacks as a player.
did a great job with him, I know that Dustin speaks highly of
him because he got him on track and got him focused and working
off ice," Standbrook said.
opinion, Dustin Penner's emergence as a player might draw more
attention to his program in the northern reaches of North Dakota.
MSU-Bottineau has several national junior college championships,
and is avidly following its prized alumnus.
is merely a blip on the college hockey map, but they're a big
reason why Maine's having such a great playoff run, and that tight-knit
community will be pulling for the Black Bears on Saturday night.