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How Connor Ford quickly became an invaluable piece for UND

The transfer from Bowling Green earned a captain's letter in his first season with the program.

University of North Dakota forward Connor Ford looks to get past Quinnipiac defenseman Marcus Chorney on Friday in the People's United Center.
Rob Rasmussen / Quinnipiac athletics

GRAND FORKS — Connor Ford walked into UND's locker room this summer with some credibility.

He had played four years of college hockey at Bowling Green. He already had piled up more than 100-career points, the only player on the team to do so. He had served as the Falcons' team captain.

It took him almost no time to gain the respect of his new teammates.

"It's definitely through his actions," sophomore Griffin Ness said. "He works so hard and has that veteran attitude and character. He's already played four years of college and he's been through everything. With his attitude and character and the way he acts every day, it's an automatic thing to respect him."

UND added an 'A' to his jersey last month and made him an alternate captain — an almost unheard of step for a first-year player at UND.


According to school records and Herald interviews, he is believed to be the first since Ernest Dyda in 1961 to do so and the third overall. The other was Bob Murray in 1948.

On the ice, Ford has become irreplaceable for the Fighting Hawks.

He's the first-line center. He's on the top power-play unit. He often starts penalty kills. He starts overtimes. He's the team's best faceoff man.

"The better question is what doesn't he do?" Ness said. "There's not much he doesn't. He can do everything. He kills penalties. He's on the power play. He wins faceoffs. He's a leader. He was a leader even before he got the 'A' on his chest. He deserved to be a captain before that."

Prior to Bowling Green, Ford played at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep School under coach Tom Ward. It's the same program that has produced so many UND captains and alternates in the last 20 years — Matt Smaby, Chris Porter, Ryan Duncan, Chay Genoway, Jonathan Toews, Taylor Chorney and Ben Blood.

"He does a little bit of everything and he does it so well, so professionally," Ness said. "He brings so much of the culture that North Dakota is. He brings that every day. It's cool to have met him and be teammates with him for this year and it's a friendship I'll have forever."

UND coach Brad Berry had a tough time explaining Ford's value.

"Words can't describe it," Berry said. "You're seeing the on-ice product as far as what he brings to the table in all situations. But the off-ice side. . . we gave him a letter here due to Gavin Hain being out of the lineup. He's embracing that, too.


"Any time you get a guy coming into lineup for only one year, sometimes you try to find your role or your spot. You don't want to overstep things. But he's been taking whatever he gets and embracing it and maximizing everything. Now, he's helping out on the leadership side, too. Just having a guy who constantly does it on and off the ice is a big thing, especially going through a time that we are missing guys."

UND lost two forwards during Saturday's game against Omaha — captain Mark Senden and sophomore Louis Jamernik. In their absence, Ford played between 22 and 23 minutes.

"That's unheard of as a forward to play that much," Berry said. "At the end of the day, he was forced to do that and he never looked back. I thought he played an excellent game throughout. That's going to happen. Sometimes, we'll have situations here where we'll have to lean on the experienced guys heavily down the stretch."

Ford is the third-leading scorer on the team with four goals and 21 points in 26 games. He hasn't gone longer than two-straight games without a point all season.

In addition to that, Ford is one of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's best defensive forwards.

"He's been great all over the ice," junior forward Judd Caulfield said. "He's a great two-way player. He's always making plays in the D-zone and O-zone. He's a heads-up player. He has great vision. It's amazing playing with him out on the ice. He just slows down the game and kind of takes it over. He's a great player."

Colorado College at No. 12 UND

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Stream: NCHC.tv.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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