Alongside of his pre-accountancy courseload at the University of North Dakota, Bryn Chyzyk is being taught a lesson in patience.
The 20-year-old forward is making the adjustment from junior scoring star to freshman role player with one of the most storied programs in NCAA hockey.
Chyzyk returned home to Virden this week after wrapping up his first semester at UND and, all things considered, he’s happy with his progress so far.
The 6-foot-0, 185-pound forward has gotten into 11 of UND’s 18 games this season, contributing a goal and two assists. His goal and his first assist both came in his first official NCAA game, against the University of Alaska-Anchorage in October.
"When I came in there I knew there was always going to be top-end NHL draft picks (competing for ice time) and some pretty good players, but that’s why I went there," said Chyzyk, whose teammates include 14 players drafted by National Hockey League clubs. "I wanted to play for a good team and have a chance to win a national championship, so I’ll take a little less ice time if it means winning a national championship."
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s rookie of the year with the Dauphin Kings in 2010-11, Chyzyk finished eighth in the United States Hockey League with 28 goals in 57 games for the Fargo Force last season before jumping to NCAA Division I.
You could say that UND was in his blood as it is his grandfather’s alma mater. And when the Grand Forks school started recruiting Chyzyk, it didn’t take long to convince him.
"He always had a passion for the Sioux," Chyzyk said of his grandfather’s affinity for UND, which dropped its Fighting Sioux nickname prior to this season and has yet to choose a new moniker.
"He went to school there and he talked about all the hockey legends that he went to class with and stuff like that and I definitely thought it was cool and I kinda had a soft spot for them all along. …When they came to recruit me and I went to look at the rink and all the history that they had there and everything, I couldn’t say no."
What Chyzyk saw in his recruiting visit to UND could hardly prepare him for what he would experience when he actually stepped on the ice in front of a packed house at palatial Ralph Engelstad Arena for the first time.
The team has drawn 11,750 fans per game this season — about 100 more than the seating capacity — and the Grand Forks Herald reported last month that, with the NHL locked out, UND has a higher average attendance this season than any other hockey team in North America.
Dwarfing the sheer numbers is the rabid enthusiasm UND fans have for their team, which has won seven NCAA men’s hockey championships and is off to another strong start this season, with a 7-2-3 record that has the squad battling for first place in its conference.
"The atmosphere is surreal," Chyzyk marvelled. "… The whole community is behind you, everyone’s talking about the games.
"If you win, the community’s happy for a week and if you’re losing, they’re on your case, and it’s just the best place to be for sure, hockey-wise."