PLATTSBURGH — Nick Jensen was pressed into emergency duty as a defenseman in December when Plattsburgh State’s blueliners were hit by the injury bug.
The experiment worked out so well, he’s been back there the last three games, even though all the defensemen have been healthy.
Jensen said he had “never ever” been a defenseman before this season, but he’s settling into his new position.
“It’s good. It’s fun,” the junior from Helsingborg, Sweden said. “It’s a bit different, but I like it so far.”
The ninth-ranked Cardinals (12-5-1) host Potsdam tonight for a SUNY Athletic Conference men’s hockey game.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Jensen is usually one of Plattsburgh’s top forwards — he was second on the team in scoring last year. He first played defense Dec. 1, 2012, against Oswego, when Plattsburgh only had five healthy defensemen. Coach Bob Emery said he chose Jensen to fill in because he thought his style of play would fit well there.
“Nick is the best 50/50 guy we have on the team,” Emery said. “He doesn’t lose a lot of battles, and he’s really good along the wall.
“At forward, I gotta admit he wasn’t overly physical. And for a guy his size, he’s playing much more physical on defense, so we get an extra attribute from him that we didn’t really get as a forward.”
Jensen moved back up front the next game. But Emery was unhappy with the Cardinals’ defensive play after a weekend split against Skidmore and Castleton Jan. 4 and 5, and he put Jensen back on the blue line the next game, scratching three defensemen instead of the usual two. Emery has benched several upperclassman blueliners for one game each over the last three games.
“I think he’s just trying to shake things up, maybe get some guys going,” sophomore defenseman Brandon Beadow said. The defense “started off the year well, and I don’t think it will be a problem for us to play like that again.”
Jensen said playing in the back has been an adjustment.
“Mostly I have to think about what’s behind me now,” he said. “Before, I had a couple guys I could count on. Now I’m one of the guys behind them making the decisions, and it’s a little bit different.”
Emery said Jensen still has some things to learn but has made a quick transition, and Beadow agreed that the new defenseman has played well.
“It’s nice to have him back there,” Beadow said. “Big guy, big stick, got a lot of range; moves his feet, so he gets up the ice real quick.”
Jensen is sixth on the team with 11 points (four goals, seven assists), and during his stint on defense he has recorded two assists. He said he can still be part of the offense.
“I get to do a little bit of both now,” he said. “I join the rush as it suits me. Luckily I’m a decent skater, so I get to catch up once in a while, so that’s good.”
Jensen practiced with the defense this week. Emery said he wasn’t sure how long Jensen will stay back there and that he would reassess things on Monday.
“I’m taking it a game at a time, too,” Jensen said. “Just improving every day and trying to do my best.”
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