As the UND men's hockey team skates out for picture day, one thing stands out. Their largest class is the freshman.
"There's a lot of new things ahead of us but I think we've gone through most of the transition," says head men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol. "Now it's just down to the business at hand."
He's referring to a big transition for both the fans and players of course. Because after collecting a league leading 15 WCHA regular season titles and 11 league playoff titles, UND has left the WCHA to join the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
"It's going to be definitely different," says junior forward Mark MacMillan. "A little sad to leave but you have to look forward to the NCHC and what it has to offer."
It offers some of the top ranked teams in the nation, as well as some new rules for the college game. The new rules include a shoot out for games resulting in a tie, which makes getting the win all that more important each and every night.
This inaugural season will build new traditions and rivalries for the North Dakota fans.
For the team the league and rivalries will come and go but their goal remains the same each year.
"We wanna win a national championship. That's it right there," sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi puts simply.
"I think we have the pieces to the puzzle that we need it's just a matter of working towards that and putting it all together," adds senior captain Dillon Simpson.
In order to reach their ultimate goal north Dakota needs to replace leading scorers Danny Kristo and Corban Knight. The two combined for 42 goals and over a hundred points last year.
"They added to the tradition here but now it's time for the new guys to step up and add to the tradition themselves," explains sophomore forward Drake Caggiula.
"Just like we lost a lot of our top players we lost a lot of our core leadership group," adds MacMillan. "But we have another great group of leaders. And Dillon's going to be our captain this year and he's got a good head on his shoulders."
Dillon Simpson was named UND's Most Improved Player last year after leading the team's defensemen with a career-high five goals and 19 assists in 42 games. In his three years as a collegian, Simpson has helped lead UND to three straight NCAA regional championship game appearances and a 2010-11 berth in the NCAA Frozen Four.
"We have a group of guys who really want it and are buying in this year," said Simpson. "Losing to Yale last year, we still have a pretty bitter taste in our mouth's but you have to use that in the right way and use it as motivation."
While you can evaluate the large group of freshman or the need to find that next top goal scorer. The facts remain the same. UND is never short on talent or confidence and this year will be no different.