Brock Montpetit has already doubled his goal total from last season, but it's hardly cause for celebration.
Montpetit and UNO expect more than just two goals anyway, and his one-goal junior season included a 13-game layoff because of injuries.
“It's been very frustrating,” Montpetit said of the past two seasons. “Having a good freshman year, in the back of your head you're thinking about having good sophomore, junior and senior years and hopefully getting a (pro) contract.”
A 5-foot-11, 189-pound center from Somerset, Wis., Montpetit made an immediate impact with 11 goals and 10 assists as a freshman. He wasn't quite as effective while getting six goals and 11 assists as a sophomore — a season in which he missed time with a sprained knee ligament — then was off to a nice start last year with one goal and 12 assists through 17 games.
But he broke two bones in his lower leg and suffered a high ankle sprain Dec. 15 against Minnesota State-Mankato and didn't play again until March 1.
“I think my sophomore year I got a little happy with my freshman year and maybe didn't work as hard as I should have,” Montpetit said. “Going into my junior year I started off well, but the injury set me back. The goal this year is to stay consistent for the whole year and stay injury-free and stay on top of my game.”
A creative player, Montpetit seems to click with whichever wingers are paired with him. He spent practice time this week on a line with the unheralded duo of Aaron Pearce and Justin Parizek. He's skated with fellow seniors Johnnie Searfoss and Zahn Raubenheimer, with sophomore Tanner Lane and freshman Jono Davis, and with Raubenheimer and junior James Polk.
“It doesn't seem to matter who he plays with,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “He can play with anyone and manage to get his points.”
That was never more obvious, Blais said, than when the Mavericks had to play without him for much of last season.
“We really, really missed him when he got hurt last year,” Blais said. “It's one of those things where you don't know how effective he is until he's gone. He's a big part of our leadership, and we don't have a lot of natural centermen.”
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Montpetit returned last season just as the season started to take a turn for the worse. He had an assist in his first game back against Wisconsin, but didn't record a point in the final six games. The Mavs were 1-6 after Montpetit's return.
Montpetit did the best he could, but he was playing at less than his best.
“Taking 10 weeks off, it's tough,” he said. “Then you have a weak ankle and you're worried about it going into corners, going in front of the net. An injury like that is going to be in the back of your mind for a while.
“And not being able to do any conditioning for 10 weeks took a toll on me, because a big part of my game is skating, being in shape, being able to play a full 60 minutes. It took a toll going into second and third periods — I wasn't up to speed with everyone else. I was kind of lagging behind.”
Montpetit said playing with injuries has affected his confidence, but he's trying to build it back up now that he's healthy again.
His goals this year, he said, weren't things of beauty. But he was at the right place at the right time and took advantage of the opportunities.
He scored the tying goal, a key momentum boost, just before the first-period horn in the Oct. 12 win over Bentley after defenseman Jaycob Megna went from end to end and sent a shot toward the goal. He scored the game-winner with 2:51 left in regulation Friday at Northern Michigan, after Raubenheimer's rebound shot was stopped and the puck made its way towards Montpetit.
“I think they were lucky bounces — bouncing off the guy in front of the net on Jaycob's and just a rebound goal in front of the net (on the second),” Montpetit said. “But I've just been kind of slowing it down and doing the simple things to get goals.”
Maybe Montpetit was due. Luck isn't something he's had much of the last two seasons.
“I think he's headed for a big senior year,” Blais said.