UND captain Mark Senden to return for fifth season
The Fighting Hawks forward said ending on a sour note after last month's regional loss 'didn't sit right with me.'
GRAND FORKS — For the last two weeks, Mark Senden has contemplated his future.
He had completed four years at UND, is set to graduate this spring and could have started a pro hockey career and post-college life.
But something was gnawing at him.
"The year didn't end the way we all would have hoped, losing in the first round in the regionals," Senden said. "With the team we had and how we were playing, we definitely could have gone farther than that. Obviously, stuff in the game happens and we lost in overtime there. Just sitting on it for a little while, it didn't sit right with me.
"My goal here at UND the past four years has been to go after one of those green banners and hang a green banner. That's what I want to do."
UND's captain has decided to return for a fifth season with a goal of helping the Fighting Hawks win a ninth NCAA national championship.
"Playing here at UND, there's no place like it," Senden said. "It's such a special place. It has a special place in my heart. It doesn't get much better than this in the hockey world — the fans, the culture UND has, it's the best around. There's not a lot that compares to it. That was another strong reason for my decision."
The NCAA ruled the pandemic-altered 2020-21 season didn't count against anyone's eligibility, leaving the door open for players on that team to play a fifth college season.
UND had eight seniors on last season's team, but none took their fifth year. Six signed pro deals. Two transferred.
This season, Senden and Gavin Hain will both take advantage of the free COVID-impacted year to return.
Senden and Hain have been tied together since the first month of their rookie seasons, when coach Brad Berry moved them on a line together for a game against rival Minnesota in Las Vegas. They were dominant in that game along with their third linemate, Cole Smith.
Berry has mostly kept them together for their careers — even after Smith graduated in 2020.
The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Senden has excelled as a shutdown centerman, frequently drawing the assignment of combating top players on opposing teams. He has chipped in offensively, too, posting 14 points as a freshman, 11 as a sophomore, 14 as a junior and a career-high 17 this season.
Senden, who will earn a degree in banking and financial economics next month, will use next season to go after his Master of Business Administration.
So far, only three players from the 2021-22 team have moved on. Zach Driscoll and Connor Ford, who transferred in last summer for their fifth years, ran out of eligibility and both have started their pro careers. Jake Sanderson signed with the Ottawa Senators after two seasons.
UND has already addressed two of those losses by picking up fifth-year senior goalie Drew DeRidder from Michigan State and fifth-year senior defenseman Ty Farmer from UMass.
The Fighting Hawks still are ironing out the forward situation for next season, but it is starting to clear up with the return of Senden and Hain.
"Losing a few guys like Sanderson, Driz and Fordo, those are definitely big guys to replace," Senden said. "But with a majority of the team coming back and what we accomplished this year with 14 guys coming in — getting more playing time each game and building confidence at the college level — we are going to have a really strong team to compete for a national title."