Towering junior defenseman Joe Finley is enjoying a career season with North Dakota. Coming into the Frozen Four he has more than doubled his entire point production from last season having posted 15 points (four goals, 11 assists). The Edina, MN native currently leads the Fighting Sioux in plus/minus (plus-27) and penalty minutes (92). One of his most memorable games came back on Jan. 5 when he posted an assist and was a plus-5 in North Dakota’s 6-2 win over St. Cloud State.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Finley after practice on Wednesday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
HF: You guys are here again, so how does it feel?
JF: It feels great. It’s a little more of the same but it’s a different atmosphere. We were here for the West Regional last year, so it’s a bit comfortable for us.
HF: With this being North Dakota’s fourth straight trip to the Frozen Four, what do you think is different about this year’s team compared to the teams in the past?
JF: With this team, we’ve been playing a little better team defense. It starts with our goaltender in Phil Lamoureux. He’s done a phenomenal job for us. The defensemen have done a great job of letting him see pucks and do the things that he’s always great at doing, and just taking care of that first shot and letting us clear out the rebounds. The forwards have been coming with a lot of grit and back pressure. Guys are getting down in the lanes, blocking shots and things like that. I just think that it’s our attention to detail on defense that has really set this team apart from any of the past.
HF: You have had a great season so far. What do you personally feel are the areas that you’ve really improved in this year that has helped the team?
JF: You know what, it’s my five-on-five play defensively. That’s kind of always been a staple of my game. I concentrate on taking care of our own end of the rink first, but also adding offense, getting a lot of time on the second power play unit, getting pucks to the net and things like that that have allowed me to have something to show for myself on the offensive side.
HF: Your offensive numbers are up this year, do you feel more comfortable with that as well now that you are more involved in that side of the game?
JF: Yeah, absolutely. All the way from being a freshman to last year and now this year, the comfort level is definitely there. I’m comfortable with making a good first pass, coming up and joining the rush, handling pucks and just knowing what the speed is going to be like. It’s a lot of little things that like that continue to add to the comfort level.
HF: I know that you’re one of several NHL prospects on the team that chose to come back to North Dakota this year. Was that any easy decision for you knowing that you guys had some unfinished business to take care of?
JF: Yeah, that’s definitely a part of it, but another part of it is coming back to North Dakota to the facilities that we have in Grand Forks being second to none in the country is going to allow me to develop and continue to get further along towards graduating and getting my business degree is another important major step for me. Also another thing was just being back with the guys. It’s a good group of guys that I’ve grown up with and there are still a few goals that we have yet to accomplish that we’ve set out to.
HF: Any chance that you’ll be back next year, even if you guys win it all this weekend?
JF: Yes, most definitely. There’s always a never say never attitude with myself. What is going to happen after the season is going to happen. I can’t worry about that now. I’m definitely really focused on Boston College right now on Thursday. That’s kind of the boring answer for you, but at the same time that’s the truth. Personally, I’m going out there to get a win against Boston College and then seeing where we go from there.