Saunders skates new territory
Last Updated - November 20, 2012 4:30 GMT
For North Dakota goalie Clarke Saunders, what a difference a year makes.
Last season, he was the starting goalie for the Alabama-Huntsville, who finished the season 2-28-1. However, towards the beginning of the season, the University announced they were going to reclassify their hockey program from Division I to club. During this time period, Saunders decided he was going to transfer to the North Dakota.
UAH later changed its decision, but due to the original announcement, players were able to transfer without having to sit out a season, which is the normal protocol. The school’s flip-flop left Saunders with a very difficult decision – continue with his decision to transfer to UND or stay at UAH.
“I made some really good friends at UAH that I know I will have for the rest of my life,” Saunders said. “The hardest part about the decision was to leave them. I spent a lot of long nights thinking about the decision, but what really helped me decide was my teammates as they were happy for my opportunity and made me realize it was something I needed to do.”
For Saunders, the transition from playing as an independent at UAH to playing in the WCHA as a member of UND has been fairly seamless.
“My teammates here have been fantastic from Day 1,” Saunders said. “It could have been really tough coming in to a new program like this, but the guys on the team made the transition a lot easier. The competition level day in and day out has been a lot different in practices and games, so I need to focus on being at a high level every time.”
So far this season, Saunders and his teammates are 5-3-2 overall and ranked 10th in the nation. For the junior transfer, personally, the season is off to a good start as he is 3-2-2 overall with a 2.24 goals against average and two shutouts.
“Having two shutouts this early in the season is nice,” Saunders said. “but there is definitely room for improvement. I have set the bar high for myself, so I want to make sure I keep improving. I am going to keep working hard to make sure I am playing my best hockey at the end of the year when it matters most.”