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Four years in the making

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Danny Kristo’s time tearing up the NCAA is coming to an end. The 22-year-old winger is looking to go out with a bang.

After being eliminated from the WCHA tournament following a heart-breaking loss to Colorado, Kristo and his University of North Dakota teammates have already moved on. They’ve shifted their focus to getting ready for the NCAA regionals, leading up to the Frozen Four, the most important college hockey tournament south of the border.

Credit: UND Athletics/Eric Classen

Championship hopes are still alive and well for North Dakota, the second most decorated hockey program in the States behind Michigan, with seven national titles in school history.

In addition to having a guaranteed pass into the NCAA tournament, the Canadiens prospect recently received more good news, hearing his name announced among the Top 10 finalists for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award, given to the NCAA’s most valuable player.

“It’s an incredible honor. I’m really happy and I have to thank my coaches for the opportunity they’ve given me this season. I also have to thank my teammates and linemates who have helped me all season long. None of this would be possible without them,” stressed Kristo, who racked up 51 points in 38 games to finish third in NCAA scoring this year.

About to finish his fourth season at North Dakota, Kristo is confident the lessons he’s learned throughout university will pay dividends – and not just in the tourism industry he’s majoring in.

“It’s been good for my development. I think it’s one of the best programs you could possibly play for. They really prepare you for a professional career. Just look at how many former players are in the NHL and how successful they are,” mentioned Kristo, whose UND brethren currently playing in the NHL include Jason Blake, Zach Parise, T.J. Oshie, Drew Stafford and Jonathan Toews. “You have to give the coaching staff credit for the way they prepare you for a pro career on a daily basis.”

A two-time WCHA offensive player of the week winner this season, Kristo also has two shorthanded goals to go with a plus-15 differential in 2012-13. Since December 8, he’s dominated the NCAA, leading the nation in points (36), goals (19) and points per game (1.5).

“It’s been a good year for me,” understated the Canadiens’ second-round pick from 2008. “I’ve really improved defensively and I’ve gotten better offensively, too. I’ve been playing in almost every situation. I got a lot of great experience this year and I think that’s really going to come in handy when I make the next step.”

Before he makes that next step, Kristo has one final item left to cross off on his college to-do list: win an NCAA championship. The tournament gets underway on March 29 when North Dakota takes on the Niagara University Purple Eagles in Grand Rapids, MI.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for Translated by Shauna Denis.

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