As a North Dakota hockey player filtered down the hallway in Ralph Engelstad Arena to go from one interview to the next, a media member asked a common question during Wednesday's annual media day: "Who was that?"
There are a lot of new names and faces to learn this season.
The Fighting Hawks turned over more than half of their roster from last season. For the first time in nearly a half century, UND has more newcomers than returners on the roster.
There are 14 newcomers in all — nine freshmen and five transfers. There are 13 returners.
"It's going to be exciting having everybody building and growing and coming together," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We started early. We came back here in July, got our voluntary workouts, went to summer school and they've dug in and worked together. They got to know who's who and how things are run here. Those transfers and freshmen got to know what the North Dakota way is as far as building and growing together and being team-first, and how we compete every single day and earn it every single day."
While TV, radio, print and internet media outlets were introduced to the 2021-22 team on Wednesday, work continues behind the scenes to get the new players acclimated to UND's systems as the season nears.
The coaching staff is allowed to be on the ice with the team for four hours a week leading up until the Oct. 2 exhibition game against Bemidji State. They also are allowed to have four more hours off the ice.
"We have a theme every day on what we want to cover," Berry said about system implementation. "It's also having meetings, whether that's individually or in a small group. The freshmen are a little bit different than the transfers. The transfers have been through college hockey, so I think they're up to speed on some of the systems that are happening in college hockey."
Berry said the coaching staff tries to get the freshmen into smaller groups to invite more questions and more robust discussion about the systems.
"When you get into a big group setting and you have meetings and you talk about your structure, that doesn't invite a lot of questions coming back," Berry said. "For whatever reason, they won't ask a question. If you pull a young man or a couple freshmen out and say, 'Hey, what do you think about the D-zone coverage?' or 'What do you think of the breakouts?' Then, they'll say, 'Yeah, I've got a question about that.'"
Berry said it's important that players understand the structure, but he also doesn't want to bog them down in systems.
"When you really come down to it, the game of hockey, and especially the way we play — we play a very intense, high-competitive game — your natural reactions and instincts have to take over at some time, too," Berry said. "It's a combination of having structure within your game but also making sure it doesn't paralyze you on how you want to play. We want to play with a high-pace, high-compete, high-tempo type of game."
UND, which has won back-to-back National Collegiate Hockey Conference Penrose Cups, was picked to finish third in the annual NCHC preseason media poll behind St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth.
"We want to use that as motivation," Berry said. "We were No. 1 last year. We want to try to get to that level, but we know it's going to be a journey. We know it's going to be a process. We know it's not going to come overnight."