After winning a National Championship with UND in his first season, Christian Wolanin, along with the other Fighting Hawks, had to learn their way around a season without the veteran core they had to lead them to the National Championship. However, Wolanin took away the experience of both seasons with a solid vision for the future.
“We just learn what it takes,” said Wolanin during UND’s Hockey Media Day. “We were lucky in the National Championship season to have Troy Stetcher and Paul LaDue on defense and Drake Caggulia, Nick Schmlatz up front. It was a blessing to learn from them. Last year, we figured it out as it went along. We had a rough start, had some ups and downs. But we figured it out what it takes to win on a day-to-day basis. I think we deserved a better fate, but that’s behind us and we’re ready for this year.”
However, this year, Wolanin will be the senior most player on the blueline. With Gage Ausmus graduating and Tucker Poolman going pro, Wolanin will be looked at to be the leader on and off the ice for the younger defenseman, but it’s a role he’s more than willing to take up.
“I’m excited. I had great leaders and great people around me to help me in my first two years,” Wolanin mentioned. “At some point you expect the role to be dropped on you. I hope to exceed everyone’s expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I know the pressure is there but that’s what you play for.”
Wolanin sees this team a little different than the past two years and providing a line-up that may see this UND team have a higher internal competition between teammates than what has happened in year’s past.
“We’re deep, we have four lines we know can go,” said Wolanin. “Unfortunately, with how North Dakota is, we’ll have some great players will be out of the line-up; but that will create some better competition in practice. And that goes for every player from senior to freshman. New guys are great. They haven’t played a game yet, but their work ethic is there and they’re learning to buy into the tradition and culture of the team.”
During the summer, Wolanain went back to Ottawa Senators developmental camp, as the 2015 Fourth Round choice of Ottawa said he had gained the weight that Ottawa, as well as UND, wanted him to gain. While he keeps his eyes on the UND season, Wolanin knows that if he can play his game– both the Senators and Fighting Hawks staff will be more than pleased with his performance.
That performance could lead him to the NHL, which is something that is in his lineage, as Christian is a second generation player, with his father Craig playing almost 700 games in the NHL and was a member of the 1995-96 Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche.
“My dad is the reason I’m here,” said Wolanin “He’s been so influential in my whole life, whether it’s turning hockey into life lesson or life into a hockey situation. I’m very thankful for him.”
While Christian has carved out his own path, having a father that has experience does help. That said, with more on his plate this season and his hunger to help get UND back into the National Championship picture, expect Wolanin to be better than he has been and make those around him up their games in order to keep up.