WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published March 25, 2011, 02:39 PM

UND Hockey Has Morden, Manitoba Connection

When the University of North Dakota men's hockey coaching staff became interested in recruiting Brent Davidson, they went to Chay Genoway to get information.

By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Forum Communications

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — When the University of North Dakota men's hockey coaching staff became interested in recruiting Brent Davidson, they went to Chay Genoway to get information.

Who would know any better?

The Morden, Manitoba, natives have known each other since birth. Literally. Their mothers were in the same Morden hospital as Davidson and Genoway were born three days apart. They grew up together in Morden, playing on the same hockey teams and golfing against each other.

"The coaches were asking me about him, what kind of guy he was," said Genoway, a fifth-year senior who arrived one year before Davidson. "I was just excited that they were asking me about him and that they were going to go up and see him. I knew what kind of character guy he was and what he could bring to the program."

Davidson has been everything Genoway promised for the No. 1-ranked Sioux, who take on Rensselaer on Saturday in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Green Bay, Wis.

Although he was only in the lineup five times as a freshman and 10 times as a sophomore, the 6-foot-4, 218-pound forward never stopped pushing. And during his final two years at UND, he's found himself playing a key role down the stretch.

Last year, coach Dave Hakstol asked Davidson to move to defense as UND became short of bodies at that position. He did it and earned a consistent spot in the lineup. He played the last nine games of the season on the back end, helping UND win the Broadmoor Trophy as Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champs.

After playing in eight of the first 26 games, Davidson is a fixture again on UND's fourth line. He's been in the lineup every night since Jan. 22 and the Sioux have benefitted. UND is 20-2-1 when Davidson is in the lineup this season.

Davidson scored a goal in both games at the WCHA Final Five last weekend, and if not for a brilliant save by Denver goalie Sam Brittain in overtime, he might have potted a third and been named tournament MVP.

"Brent is what you want to see in a player," Hakstol said. "He's a guy who came here with nothing promised to him. He probably had the door slammed in his face several times in terms of being in the lineup. But he kept pushing, he kept working hard, he kept improving, and all of the sudden he finds himself in a regular lineup spot and playing a very important role. It's no surprise.

"His opportunity is met with preparation," Hakstol said. "He prepares himself extremely well. When his opportunity comes, he's ready to go in and do the job."

Davidson, who frequently showed up to Ralph Engelstad Arena in the early morning to work on his skills, is one of the most respected players on the team, Genoway said.

"I don't think anyone, in my five years here, has put in more time and effort than that kid," Genoway said. "Nobody comes in during the mornings or stays after practice as much as him. He has more respect in that locker room than maybe anybody, and I think it is because of how hard he works. Nobody is more deserving of success than him. He's helped us win hockey games (lately), but he's been helping to push players for the last four years he's been here."

Davidson was not recruited by any NCAA Division I schools other than UND. He had some interest from Division III teams as well as some Canadian colleges. In the end, he decided to walk on at UND and join his childhood friend, Genoway.

"North Dakota has such great tradition and history," Davidson said. "Even if you aren't an everyday, go-to guy, there are a lot of connections you can make and there could be opportunities after your college career is done. I took my chances coming here as a walk-on. I put all my eggs in this basket.

"I owe Chay a lot of thanks for helping to get me here," he said. "I think Chay was very nice in talking with the coaches about me."

Davidson and Genoway have stuck together in Grand Forks, too.

Not only are they both key players for the league-champion Sioux, they are the two most community-involved players on the squad. Both spent countless hours volunteering. Their favorite activity might be Special Olympics.

"They are one of our families here," Genoway said. "It's fun. We've had the chance to go to state events and take all of that in. It's the highlight of my week."

Hakstol said: "They are good people. Those are the kind of things where they don't seek any thanks or fanfare. They do so many things. It not only helps the community, it helps them. I think they'd tell you that there are greater rewards coming back to them. It's a pretty special thing."

Volleyball season is coming up with the Special Olympics, but Davidson and Genoway hope it's not for a few more weeks. They still have some work to do for the Sioux.

"You've got to take your opportunities and run with them," Davidson said. "Last year, I was playing defense, and I had a lot of fun with it. I saw some success with our team winning the Broadmoor. Hopefully, I can help my team win another banner this year."