WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 04, 2013, 09:15 AM

UND standouts Kristo, MacWilliam ink pro deals

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Andrew MacWilliam is not sure if he's allowed to be friends with Danny Kristo anymore.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Andrew MacWilliam is not sure if he's allowed to be friends with Danny Kristo anymore.

Sure, they've been hockey teammates and classmates for the past four years at the University of North Dakota. Sure, they've lived in the same building for the past year.

But they are now rivals.

MacWilliam, a physical defenseman from Alberta, Canada, signed a two-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Kristo, a skilled forward from the Twin Cities, signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Leafs and Habs are the biggest rivals in the NHL.

"The first time we ever played against each other was the World Junior A Challenge, and we were pretty big enemies," MacWilliam told the Grand Forks Herald with a laugh.

At UND, they became good friends who led the team to 105 victories, four Western Collegiate Hockey Association titles (three Broadmoor Trophies, one MacNaughton Cup) and one NCAA Frozen Four.

"They brought a great amount of value to our program," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "They didn't just all of the sudden in the last year or two show up and become good players. They, along with others, worked hard day in and day out. They put in the work it takes to become a great player at this level. Within their roles, they've each become dominant players at this level and they're ready to go and be very good pros."

MacWilliam was the captain as a senior, Kristo an alternate captain.

They played much different roles, though.

MacWilliam was a punishing defenseman who led UND with 43 penalties and 116 penalty minutes. He also had a plus-13 rating, best among UND's defensemen. He will report to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, but Leafs general manager Dave Nonis told local media that, "I'd expect he'll move up the ranks pretty quick."

The Maple Leafs drafted MacWilliam in the seventh round in 2008.

"He plays an efficient, two-way game," Hakstol said. "Part of that game is an abrasive, physical element and that will bring value at the pro level."

Kristo is an explosive, game-breaking player who earned first-team all-WCHA honors, was named a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award and was tabbed as the College Hockey News player of the year.

Kristo, a second-round pick of the Canadiens in 2008, tallied 26 goals and 52 points this past season, leading UND in both categories.

"The biggest thing for him is to be able to play a good, baseline game in all different situations," Hakstol said. "He has outstanding offensive ability, but to be in the lineup on a regular basis at this time of year, you're going to have to be a reliable player. I think Dan has worked very hard to become that."

Although both players are moving toward a career in the NHL, they have a sense of sadness in leaving UND.

"It was the best four years of my life," MacWilliam said. "It was such a great group of guys that I got to spend it with. I was fortunate enough to be on some great teams. The class we had was pretty special. The memories and the friends I made, I'll have for a lifetime."