Posted by: Feldman
John Simonson was the leading goal-scorer in Austin Bruins history when he finished his second and final season with the team in 2012-13. He's now second in the franchise's four-plus-year history with 52 (Jay Dickman surpassed him last season), but Simonson has excelled at even higher levels.
He put up 59 points in 58 games for the Licoln Stars of the USHL last season and now he is three games into his Division I career for his hometown University of North Dakota men's hockey team.
I caught up with Simonson this week for a short story that is in today's (Thursday's) Post-Bulletin. Here is the full interview with Simonson:
P-B: What has the first month of Division I college hockey been like for you?
John Simonson: It's been good, definitely there's a learning curve and it's been a big adjustment. I'm getting into a routine now, though. The first couple of weeks there was a lot thrown at me, but I'm feeling good now.
P-B: After being a healthy scratch in the season opener, how does it feel to have a few games in?
JS: This past weekend (a two-game UND sweep at Colorado College), after I had a couple of games under my belt, I definitely felt more comfortable. Even that first game I played (Oct. 11 at Bemidji State), I just felt pumped and ready to go. I was happy with how I played in my first game and I feel like I played two strong games at CC. The team as a whole has come out with good effort the last few games.
P-B: You had a couple of great scoring chances in Saturday's 7-2 win at CC. You hit the crossbar once and a post once. Frustrating at all? Or just part of the game?
JS: The important thing is I'm getting those good chances. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I won't beat myself up too much. I'll just keep working. Another night, those shots will go in.
P-B: What has the UND coaching staff told you about what they expect from you, what role they want you to play?
JS: The coaches expect me to play a hard, simple game. That's the base of my game, playing hard and simple. I have to have that grit to my game, get to the net front as much as I can, just like when I was in Austin and learned from coach (Chris) Tok. I need to be there scoring a goal or getting a rebound and always going hard to those tough areas. I'm trying to keep it simple and not do too much, too soon.
P-B: What was your offseason like? You're back in your hometown. Did you work out with UND teammates? Take classes?
JS: We had a summer program that, for 6 weeks, most of the guys were here working out with our trainers and taking a class or two. That's what I did, I worked out with most of those guys Monday through Friday and took one class. I got to know the older guys and guys from other places. It was a nice way to build some relationships before we got here for the season.
P-B: What's it like to play for a program with a strong history of success, that you grew up watching?
JS: I use this word a lot, but it's pretty special. A lot of the time, I'm so focused on the task at hand that I don't really think about it. There are definitely high expectations here, especially with the team we have returning. The bar is set high from the coaching staff on down. We expect to go to the national tournament and make the Frozen Four. Anything less isn't acceptable.
P-B: What thing(s) did you learn during your two years with the Austin Bruins that made you a better player?
JS: It was a combination of a lot of little things, little details that add up to make a huge difference. I don't stick out in any one area, I just try to be a good well-rounded player. That comes from the little details I learned from coach Tok and the staff in Austin. They helped me develop good habits.
P-B: It seems like the Bruins coaching staff runs its program in a similar fashion to a Division I program. Is that fair to say?
JS: It's definitely fair to say. (Tok) expects players to come out, compete at a high level and bring a lot of energy. Some days the puck doesn't bounce your way, but you can control your effort and the way you play. It's the same way here. If you work hard and battle, everything else will fall into place.
P-B: One more: Your thoughts and feelings on stepping onto the ice for your first home game as a college player (likely on Friday vs. Providence), in a rink where you grew up watching a lot of big names play in a lot of big games?
JS: I'm definitely excited and a little nervous. I know it's going to be an unbelievable experience. I'm sure it will feel surreal in warmups and when I hop onto the ice for my first shift in that building (Ralph Englestad Arena). I can't wait. It'll be very special and exciting to play my first game in the Ralph.