The behemoth defenseman for the University of Maine has made some great strides on the Black Bears blueline this season, becoming one of the team’s top defensemen and logging a considerable amount of ice time. The sophomore from Vandreuil-Dorion, Quebec will be playing in his very first Frozen Four this year after sitting out of last year’s.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Simon Danis-Pepin after practice on Wednesday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
HF: So how does it feel to be here?
SDP: Oh, it feels great. We went last year but I didn’t have the opportunity to dress. This year it definitely feels great to be even more a part of the team. It’s just a great experience to be able to get out there with these guys.
HF: The fact that you didn’t play here last year but will be this year, do you feel that helps to validate that much more your value to the team?
SDP: Yeah definitely. We all have our roles on the team and I definitely know my role this year and know what I have to do coming here to the Frozen Four. I’m just glad to be a part of it. I just have to keep it simple and play my game, which is what coach (Tim Whitehead) wants from me. I continue to try and do that.
HF: What are some of the things that you’ve been able to improve on this year?
SDP: Something that I’ve been working at since I got to Maine and that I keep working to improve at this year is a lot of my defensive play. I work on just containing the small guys in the corners. I’ve been working on having quick feet and my ability to work in the corners. Defensively, I’ve been working on those things the most this year.
HF: Obviously, you have some great defensive leaders on the team in guys like Mike Lundin. What have you learned from those guys in playing with them?
SDP: Mike is a great leader both on and off the ice. He’s not a big chit-chatter but on the ice it’s what he does. He keeps things simple and has great poise. I’ve learned from that. I just kind of see him as a role model and try to utilize in my game what he does out on the ice. His poise and what he does in games are just so unbelievable. I guess you just get that with experience, but the quicker I can get at that, the better it’ll be for my play.
HF: You’re also one of the youngest members of the team. How has it been fitting into the team, specifically this season?
SDP: The fitting in part was more last year because it was such a huge jump for me. A lot of guys are older, and we have a guy that just turned 26 yesterday actually. This year with the great bunch of guys that we have at Maine it’s not that big of a deal. The big adjustment was more last year but there is still stuff that I can improve because these guys have more experience than I do. Most of them are older than me. At this point, I’m just trying to improve myself and I don’t really think about the age thing anymore.
HF: Obviously you guys came very close to missing the NCAA Tournament this year, do you feel that the team’s resilience was a part of the reason why you guys not only made it into the tournament but also are here again this year?
SDP: The fact that we weren’t sure if we’d even make the tournament definitely gave us a boost. In my personal opinion, if we had made it in for sure rather than the way we did with that uncertainty about whether or not we were going to make it in, I don’t think that we would’ve been as pumped about it as we were when we found out that we made it in. That gave us a boost in the regionals and now being here at the Frozen Four for the second year in a row is just great for us and we’re definitely here to do some damage to the other teams and hopefully win it.
HF: Do you feel that this year you guys have some unfinished business to take care since losing to Wisconsin in the semi-finals last year?
SDP: Oh definitely. We’ve got many guys on our team from last year and we definitely learned from last year. We’re not here just to show up, we’re here to win. We have a big game on Thursday and that’s what we’re focused on right now.
HF: Have you had any contact with the Blackhawks this year?
SDP: Oh yeah. I talk to them every once in awhile and they just ask me how things are going. It’s nothing really big, they just check in with me to see how things are going with me and the team. They just tell me what they think I should keep working on to be able to move on eventually and that’s about all we talk about.
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