Frozen Four Recap Pt. 2 – ‘We Will Not Be Denied’

Brad Berry spoke to the UND men’s hockey team in the locker room after the emotional rollercoaster 4-2 win over the Denver Pioneers on Thursday night in Amalie Arena.  He repeated a phrase multiple times. “We will not be denied on Saturday… we will not be denied.”  The fans felt it too. Quinnipiac was a formidable and deserving foe in the national title game, but this was UND’s time. We would not be denied.

Friday in Tampa was fairly uneventful for the party I traveled with. We were up for approximately 24 hours without sleep through Thursday night/Friday morning celebrating the green and white advancing to the title game. After catching up on a little sleep we headed to downtown Tampa to check out the Hobey Bar.  This was a neat outdoor bar on the bay that had college hockey paraphernalia adorning the small structure that housed the bar.

A few drinks there and we headed over to the Marriott Waterside to get our seats for the Mike Richter award ceremony and live radio broadcast with ESPN hockey anchors John Buccigross and Barry Melrose.  I have been open on with my disagreement of ESPN’s coverage of the Frozen Four.  Specifically, I have criticized the commentating including issues with the play-by-play and anchors not pronouncing names correctly for the biggest college hockey games of the year.  Aside from these issues, I have always been a huge fan of John Buccigross’ cheerleading of the sport on ESPN/Twitter/etc.  I was glad also to find that him and Barry Melrose were very approachable and easy to talk to.  You can tell Buccigross really cares about the sport and that allows me to put some personal opinions aside on the announcing team.  They had Mike Richter himself present Thatcher Demko with the Mike Richter award which was somewhat anticlimactic but it was neat to see the hall of fame goaltender and get a picture with him. However, they did interview Pecknold and Coach Berry which was a good look at the coaches before the big game. After this event, we called it an early night and headed back to the hotel for some restless sleep before the most important hockey game for UND fans in the last decade.

Saturday morning presented another beautiful Tampa day but it did little to calm UND fans’ anxiety on the brink of the national title game.  I was looking to calm down a bit so a few drinks before the game helped take the edge off of what was sure to be a nerve-wracking 2.5-3 hour game.  We arrived at our seats and it was time for the team introductions and national anthem.  It ended predictably with a “Home of the SIOUX!!” that sends chills up your spine.  There had to be at least 9-10k UND fans that made the trip and I’m sure the players knew they had strong support behind them to get the job done.

The 1st period begin and it started to sink in to my head that this is actually happening, my legs immediately started to shake without control. There wasn’t enough liquor in the state to calm the nerves this game was sure to bring.  The first chance came for UND 90 seconds in the game with Coltyn Sanderson entering the zone with Christian Wolanin in a partial 2 on 1. Sanderson passed over to Wolanin upon entering the zone and Wolanin passed it right back for a Sanderson one-timer.  Garteig wasn’t fooled and sniffed out the give and go returning me to my seat.

Halfway through the 1st period an even up penalty is called leading to a 4-on-4 with some open ice for playmaking and UND took advantage.  Brock Boeser brings the puck coast to coast hardly being touched into the zone then dishes it back to Gage Ausmus at the point.  The captain finds a shooting lane and puts it on QU’s goalie who lets a rebound out to a waiting Shane Gersich.  Gersich takes the rebound to his backhand and makes no mistake putting into the net.  The UND fans go crazy, I think I may have blacked out I was so excited.  I do remember thinking that getting the early lead was huge after hearing about Quinnipiac’s 1-3-1 defense that clogs up the neutral zone once they get a lead and I didn’t want UND to be chasing the whole game.

Tucker Poolman gets called for a tripping penalty on Sam Anas which was a concern as I know the Bobcats have a powerplay clipping along at an efficient 30% this year.  Then, the phenom freshman Brock Boeser strikes again.  An Austin Poganski drive to the net is broken up but QU’s goalie is forced to come out and play it.  Boeser splits the defenders to race the goalie to the loose puck.  Boeser reads his eyes and turns quickly to his left to block the puck off his hip.  It bounces up in the air and Brock calmly taps it out of the air and settles it on the ice while where he matter of factly sends it into the open net at the dismay of Michael Garteig.  Once this happens, I’m on cloud 9.  I cheer so hard I think I might blow out my vocal chords.  My reaction was fairly similar to this.

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University of North Dakota’s Brock Boeser celebrates his first period goal agaist Quinnipiac during the NCAA Frozen Four championship game at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Fla. David Samson / The Forum

The 2nd period started with a shortened powerplay in which a golden opportunity was denied by Cam Johnson to maintain a 2-1 lead. Shortly thereafter Drake Caggiula missed a wide open net on the backhand after a puck bounced off the boards in front of the net. This was the theme of the 2nd period with missed opportunities and great goaltending on both sides of the ice. This resulted going into the 2nd intermission with a 2-1 lead and twenty minutes away from glory or despair for North Dakota and it’s fans. While I was confident, I was expecting a repeat of the semifinal game where we would experience a setback and have to answer.  What transpired was so much better than I could have imagined.

One minute into the final frame, Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz came on the forecheck and Quinnipiac’s defense turned the puck over to the CBS line… bad mistake. Playing behind the net Schmaltz lifted the defender’s stick, as he so often has done this year, and circled along the wall.  He found Drake Caggiula streaking to the net and before anyone could react the puck was on #9’s stick and being lifted under the bar.  This set the tone for the period moving forward, there would be no comeback allowed.

 

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Quinnipiac vs North Dakota

Apr 9, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; North Dakota Fighting Hawks forward Drake Caggiula (9) reacts after scoring against the Quinnipiac Bobcats during the third period of the championship game of the 2016 Frozen Four college ice hockey tournament at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Three minutes later Paul Ladue found Brock Boeser with a wonderful stretch pass through the neutral zone.  Boeser, being caught by the defender, spun around to find a wide open Drake Caggiula.  From there, Michael Garteig did not stand a chance.  Drake Caggiula showed the killer instinct he’s shown in his 4 years playing for UND and made it 4-1.  “Oh my God, this is happening” were my exact thoughts.

Then with 9 minutes left in the game… the dagger.  After a good cycle the puck made it out to Gage Ausmus at the point.  He put the puck on net and Garteig relented a juicy rebound that found Austin Poganski’s stick.  He beat Garteig high glove before he could react and the celebration was on in the stands. I’ve never seen so many hands on heads in disbelief…including myself.  We were up by 4 goals with 9 minutes to play but I still wasn’t relaxing.

The clock continued to tick down and I kept waiting for something to happen but it never came.  Compared to the Denver game, this was so anticlimactic and easy.  After all of these years, this is how the drought would end.  From about 2 minutes left to go in the game to the final horn, the crowd noise level began to swell until it reached deafening noise as the time ticked down without even stopping to notice 0.6 on its way to North Dakota’s 8th national championship.

This was followed by one of the greatest sights I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing when UND’s bench emptied and players skated/skipped/jumped towards their goaltender throwing all of their apparel and gear into the air.  I remember seeing Cam Johnson throw his mask in the air and hoping it wouldn’t land on someone. I remember watching the coaches embrace and congratulate each other. I remember feeling the burden of failure of past years lift off the shoulders of every player, fan and supporter of the North Dakota hockey team.  The overtime title game loss to BC…forgotten.  The Zach Parise early exit against Ferris St… vanished. The 2005 title game loss to Denver… buried. The 2006 through 2008 semifinal curse to Boston College…inconsequential. The New Hampshire game… moved on. The 2011 Michigan game…oh well.  0.6 against Minnesota…we’ll take our trophy. Eichel and BU…same answer.

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University of North Dakota team members celebrate their 5-1 win over Quinnipiac Saturday after the NCAA Frozen Four championship game at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Fla. David Samson / The Forum

My first coherent thought while watching the team celebrate was thinking of all the people that have contributed to the hockey program every year and not been rewarded with the ultimate prize that we were about to hoist.  Zach Parise, Matt Greene, Drew Stafford, TJ Oshie, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Duncan, Travis Zajac, Chay Genoway, Matt Frattin, Andrew McWilliam, Danny Kristo, Aaron Dell, Stephane Pattyn, Zane McIntyre, Jordan Schmaltz, Coach Dave Hakstol and so many otheres.  None of them were present to raise that trophy but it also wouldn’t have become a reality without the foundation and culture they instilled in this program.

Aside from taking a few pictures all I could do was absorb the celebration and try to come to grips with all of it.  Another thing that I thought of was this tweet. I sent it in December of this season and it said enjoy the ride.  For as much talk about there is about the ultimate goal of winning a national championship, I hope that fans were able to realize what they were seeing was special.  We saw countless highlight reel goals from the CBS line.  We saw Coltyn Sanderson prove he was a huge part of the team and could score big goals. We witnessed a thorough domination of Denver by winning by scores of 5-1 and 4-0. We saw UND win all 4 regular season games against Duluth, including 2 shutouts in Amsoil Arena. We saw a sweep of UNO in Omaha. We saw a sweep of Western Michigan to raise the Penrose Cup for the 2nd straight year.  Then of course we saw the wins against Northeastern, Michigan, Denver, and Quinnipiac.  Sometimes the focus is so much on one final goal that fans forget to enjoy what we are watching on a weekly basis.  So I’ll say it to fans this year and in the years to come…Enjoy the ride, I know I did.

Thanks for reading and another great season with the best fans in the country. Here’s to doing it all again next year. I leave you with some of my pictures of the celebration from Tampa…

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Frozen Four Recap Pt. 1- ‘I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts’

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Brad Berry celebrating the Frozen Four semifinal win over the University of Denver Pioneers

You haven’t heard from me in a while in blog form but I have made my thoughts known in 140 characters or less via my twitter handle @UofHockeyBlog.  However, my thoughts/feelings/emotions from my trip last weekend to Tampa, FL to watch the University of North Dakota win the national championship cannot be consolidated for consumption on Twitter so here I am with my final installment for the 2015-2016 season and wow… what a season it has been.

My wife and I decided the Monday after the regionals that we needed to be in Tampa for the Frozen Four.  The previous 2 years we had tried to make the Philadelphia and Boston Frozen Four, but for whatever reason we didn’t pull the trigger.  However, this year felt different. I felt like we would be missing out if we didn’t make it to Tampa. This team felt like it had the makeup to win it all.  They routed the “hottest team in the country” Northeastern 6-2 and took it to the Hobey-laden Michigan team to advance. This team had the makeup to go the distance and we had to be there.

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The wife and I outside of Amalie Arena in beautiful Tampa

As we arrived in Tampa, we knew that we were already sold on a Florida Frozen Four.  Walking around in April with shorts and a jersey on felt like a good reward for all of the frozen walks endured in dark January nights to The Ralph Engelstad Arena.  Another thing that we loved was the city of Tampa embracing the event.  From our pilot saying good luck to UND hockey to all of the hotel employees’ awareness of the hockey event.  It makes a huge difference for a city to make a statement that they’re happy you’re there and show an appreciation for the business the fans bring the city.  Ferg’s Live was the official pre and post game party locale for all Sioux fans and they embraced it.  Little things from the Frozen Four banners and the waitresses having the interlocking ND temporary tattoos make a difference.  Even the $15 beer prices just outside Amalie Arena’s entrance were forgiven because of the weather and atmosphere provided by Tampa.  At the end of the weekend, all five people in my party agreed we would love for Tampa to become a regular Frozen Four stop(we actually said we would love it there every year).

To top it all off, the hockey turned out to be pretty damn good too.  The first game between Quinnipiac and Boston College was a bit of a sleeper while Quinnipiac seemed to quell any skill advantage BC might have until the 3rd period. Then, Boston College seemed to wake up and made a great push and would’ve tied the game at 3 if not for a great save at the buzzer by Michael Garteig.  So we knew Quinnipiac would be in their 2nd ever title game with only 3 losses thus far on the season and now it was time for the heavyweight bout.

I don’t know if nervous or anxious quite encapsulates my attitude going into this game but I was on the edge of my seat.  We owed Denver a Frozen Four loss after the 2005 title game and I really wanted my NCHC bragging rights for the entire next season. Later, Brad Berry stated that this felt like the title game to him. The game started out with good action both ways punctuated by Cam Johnson making a save from his back.  Denver had a chance to take the early lead with 2 penalties in the first frame but failed to capitalize on either chance resulting in a 0-0 tie going into the 1st intermission. North Dakota was playing well but needed to capitalize on the chances.

Then a minute into the 2nd frame Coltyn Sanderson made a stretch pass to Boeser, who then proceeded to saucer pass to a streaking Drake Caggiula left all alone.  Number 9 made no mistake in beating Denver goalie Tanner Jalliet blocker side and we went crazy up in section 312. Five minutes later, a seemingly innocent scrum turned deadly as Caggiula stripped Trevor Moore of the puck walked below the dot and sniped a short side wrist shot off the near post and in.  Just like that, North Dakota had a 2-0 lead in a Frozen Four and a flicker of a title game appearance flashed in UND fans’ minds.  Despite a third straight powerplay awarded to the Pioneers, the score stayed at 2-0 to end the 2nd period.  I immediately thought of the stat regarding UND being undefeated in the past 3 years with a 3rd period lead but I knew this would be the toughest of all those previous 70+ games to finish off.

In the 3rd, Denver came out with a purpose and UND looked to be a bit on its’ heels.  Then, a faceoff in UND’s defensive zone 3 minutes into the final frame. Rhett Gardner gets tossed leaving Sanderson to take the draw. Right before the puck was dropped, I motioned to my friend that Will Butcher had crept down into an aggressive position and said ‘They have to watch him’.  Sure enough, Denver won the faceoff back to Butcher and he fired a shot over Cam Johnson’s blocker and it was a 1 goal game. I reminded myself that this team has been through this before and was resilient enough to recover.  Then, 9 minutes away from a berth in the national title game Matt VanVoorhis(a Grand Forks native) threw a cross crease pass that defenseman Gage Ausmus blocked but deflected underneath Cam Johnson’s pads and into the back of the net.

You could hear and feel the sigh from the 7,000+ UND fans in Amalie Arena.  Not again… not this year.  Although it only tied the game, it almost felt like a game-winner for DU because of the lead that evaporated as if it never existed.  I didn’t say a word or even react aside from putting my head in my hands.  This was supposed to be our year like so many years since 2000.  Then, Denver came down the ice a minute later with a clean 2 on 1. I guarantee every UND fans thoughts at that time were something along the lines of “Here we go…” but the grimacing UND fans were not dealt a death blow when the play was broken up.

I hate to admit it but the thought went through my head was along the lines of “I don’t know if I’ll leave my hotel for the rest of the weekend if this doesn’t go our way”.  Trevor Olson took a poor penalty with 6 minutes left and it seemed as this again could be the end.  However, UND persevered and killed it off. The time continued to tick down seemingly destined for a sudden death overtime.  Then, the biggest play in the last decade and a half in UND hockey. The Pioneers iced the puck and allowed the famed CBS line to get on the ice for one last crack at finishing the game in regulation.  Brock uncharacteristically was made to take the faceoff. He won it back to Caggiula whose shot was blocked and ended up on Boeser’s stick. Brock shuffled it under a Denver defender to Nick Schmaltz in front of Denver’s goalie.  Then the shot heard round Grand Forks came off #8’s backhand and into a wide open net while going across the crease. Jubilation and relief swept through the green and white faithful but there was still 50 seconds left to finish the job, plenty of time left for the Pios to even it up again.

But, Rhett Gardner found a puck in his defensive zone and flipped it down the ice and into the vacated DU net to send UND to the title game for the 1st time in 11 years.  The ghosts of the Frozen Four had not gone away easily but finally we had made the title game. Here’s a video of that moment from our vantage point. From there the party was on in the arena and it carried over to Ferg’s Live bar across the street. UND fans all seemed to be floating with all of the memories of previous Frozen Four semifinal losses off their shoulders and out of their minds.  All of the attendees clad in green and white truly appreciated the win and national title game berth. Most of the people I spoke to were just so relieved and happy to experience a Friday and Saturday Frozen Four without a devastating loss hanging over their head.  UND was going to play for the national title game and there was a general feeling among the players and fans that they would not be denied.

Next up is the title game vs. Quinnipiac…

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Weekend Preview – “And North Dakota has done it again!”

“…And there’s the difference between the two, Wisconsin’s players are on the bench and North Dakota’s players are still trying to get into it” said the Wisconsin announcer.  This, of course, was the famous water bottle incident where Cary Eades was squirted with a water bottle and started a brawl that saw many Badger players beat down to the chagrin of the aforementioned announcer.

If you looked at “the difference between the two (programs)” in the modern era, you would see a Badger program that could use a water bottle incident to wake up their AD Barry Alvarez to the plight of the once prominent program.  If you’ve been ignoring hockey completely for the past year(looking at you Badger fans), Wisconsin won 4 games all of last season.  Last season, North Dakota failed to reach 4 wins in a MONTH only in December and that’s because they only played 4 games and went 3-1.  It almost seems difficult to field a college hockey team that only wins 4 times in a season, let alone a “powerhouse” such as the Wisconsin Badgers.  But what’s the saying? The bigger they are… the more fun it is to watch them become irrelevant… or something like that.

UND is coming into this weekend with an unbeaten 6-0-2 record after playing their first 7 of 8 games on the road.  The most recent series was finished last weekend in Colorado College with a sweep of the now 0-8 Tigers.  This is another once proud program that has really struggled lately.  They finished dead last in the NCHC last year and I would bet most everything I own that they’ll repeat that accomplishment this year.  At least they’ll get a good draft pick… er, that’s how it works, right?

Some hard hitting stats: CC is 57th out of 60 teams in Goals/Game at 1.38.  They are also 51st out of 60 in Goals Against/Game at 3.75.  Mike Haviland was brought into help turn the team around after they let go former coach Scott Owens but he has yet to do so.  At this point CC doesn’t look comfortable in its own skin playing in the NCHC and it’s getting to the point where I’m starting to feel bad for them.

Friday’s tilt started out with newly healthy freshman Shane Gersich collecting a rebound and roofing it where Grandpa keeps the whiskey 4:11 into the 1st period.  UND followed this up with a Power Play tipped goal by Chris Wilkie off a Bryn Chyzk shot to make it 2-0.  CC made it competitive a couple minutes into the 2nd with Teemu Kivihalme scoring a PPG.  However, UND responded with a SHG by Rhett Gardner in a 3 on 1 break set up by Troy Stecher’s tenacious play.  A couple more goals by the green and white and an inconsequential 2nd goal by CC resulted in the 5-2 convincing win for UND.

Saturday started out much the same and saw Christian Wolanin score a weak goal on goalie Tyler Marble from the half wall.  To be completely honest with you, I don’t remember a whole lot of the remainder of the game.  For one, it was pretty uneventful, save a 2nd Gersich goal on the weekend, and secondly I was at a soirée that left me slightly incapacitated.  But the Sioux came away with the sweep in the Springs and all was right with the world when I woke up on Sunday morning.

UND v Wisconsin (Grand Forks, ND @ Ralph Engelstad Arena)

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Unlike at the Kohl Center, fans will pack the seats for this matchup.  However, they will be packing the seats because of the #1 ranked UND hockey team and the nostalgia of the epic showdowns these two sides have experienced.  But as stated above, this is not the same Wisconsin team that we’ve come to know.  There is no Ryan Suter,  Joe Pavelski, or Dany Heatley on this team.  Arguably their best players at the moment are Minnesota high school product Grant Besse and Freshman Luke Kunin.  And just this week their was speculation that the latter would be packing up his bags for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.  He dispelled the rumors by tweeting that he can’t wait to play North Dakota this weekend.  Whether or not he decides to continue with the team after that may depend on their performance this week.

Statistically, Wisconsin is 40th in the nation in scoring at 2.30/game and 37th in the nation in Goals Against at 2.91/game.  One of the lone bright spots in otherwise dark world for Badger fans is their power play, which is clipping along at 22.22% which is good for 16th in the nation.  North Dakota will need to stay out of the box which has been a problem so far this year taking 12.24 minutes in penalties per game.  The leader in these penalties is Assistant Captain Drake Caggiula, who is averaging 5 minutes in the box every game.  Caggiula will be watching from the sidelines as the NCHC doled out a questionable one game suspension for a hit on a CC player last Saturday night.

Another area of concern, you would think, is UND starting its 3rd string walk-on goalie.  I said this last weekend though and this was far from the truth.  Junior Matt Hrynkiw looks better with each save and currently sports a healthy 5-0 record, with a 1.48 GAA and an equally impressive save percentage of .942 which are 11th and 14th in the nation, respectively.  If he keeps up these numbers it will be difficult to replace him, even if your 3rd round draft pick is healthy and ready to go.  Hrynkiw has earned that net and claimed it for himself so I say let him take it as far as he can.

Although the fans will be treated to some scuffles this weekend, I don’t think we will see another ‘Water Bottle Incident’ between these two teams as in this day in age it would probably result in the whole team being thrown in jail.  However, I do think we’re going to continue to see the freshman shine for UND and the impressive defensive core skate circles around the hapless Badgers.

UND 4-2, 3-0

Gameday song:

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Weekend Preview – ‘Trap Kings’


The University of North Dakota has a chance to start their season unbeaten in their first 8 games. The last time UND went unbeaten for this long of a stretch to start the season, you ask? The 1999-2000 season that ended in the most recent national championship for the program. I’m always one for trying to find a good omen, no matter how obscure, that points to my team taking home the ultimate prize so I couldn’t resist. In case that isn’t enough to sway you, the last time UND won the title their goalie was under 6 feet tall. The current goalie, 3rd stringer walk-on, Matt Hrynkiw is also under 6 feet tall and is being coached by the 2000 national championship goaltender Karl Goehring… compelling stuff, right?

Last weekend in Vermont, UND showed that they have no problem outscoring teams no matter who is in between the pipes. This team seems to be able to score goals in bunches on one end of the ice and shut it down defensively on the other end. UND came out of Friday with a 2-0 shutout win that didn’t severely test the junior net-minder while creating plenty of chances while cycling the puck in the Vermont zone.

Saturday’s game played more competitively with UND and Vermont exchanging goals until UND got the game-winner on a tipped goal by Christian Wolanin. This sent the freshman on a skate that looked like he wasn’t sure how to celebrate according to Tim Hennessey. Hopefully, Mr. Wolanin scores some more game-winners so he can clean up his goal celebrations. Despite being heavily outshot in the 2nd period, UND was able to hold a lead going into the 3rd period. From there, they stepped on the gas and buried the Catamounts resulting in a 5-2 finish and road sweep.

UND @ CC (Colorado Springs, CO @ World Arena)


UND travels to the land of 6,000+ ft this weekend and will face the woeful Tigers of the tiny liberal arts school, Colorado College. In the last few years, it seems as though the CC Tigers have been working too much on their slack-lining to put together a competitive team. After finishing dead last in the NCHC last year, they look to continue that tradition with an 0-6 start and acting as a weight on the NCHC out-of-conference record. As a result, these games are must win for UND. The Tigers are looking like they will continue their tradition of terribleness this year so a loss or even a tie could really hurt the Pairwise Ranking come March when the field is set for the NCAA tournament.

Per Brad Schlossman, CC starts with 5 freshman on the blue line which is  in stark contrast to the 5 experienced NHL draft picks starting for UND’s d corps. Also, CC’s goalies Tyler Marble and Jacob Nehama have save percentages of .877 & .904 respectively. If UND continues to outshoot and outplay CC as it has its first 4 opponents of they year, a 4 or 5 goal win each night should be the result. However, in college hockey we all know that any goalie can get confidence and seem to be unbeatable. The key for UND’s squad is to not get frustrated if a few chances don’t get buried right away and to keep at it because eventually the goals should come. The Tigers will probably look to play a trap game with freshmen defense and UND will look to open it up.

Some early standouts for North Dakota are Bryn Chyzyk who already has 5 goals in 6 games, which is only 2 goals short of his season total last year and Brock Boeser, who I believe will lead the country in freshman goals. Also, Matt Hrynkiw has shown that he can backstop a college hockey team which is great depth to have even if Cam Johnson and/or 3rd round pick Matej Tomek eventually take the reins.

There’s no reason to think UND shouldn’t handily sweep the team that couldn’t must a goal all of last weekend.

UND 4-1, UND 6-0

GAMEDAY SONG(In honor of the type of game CC would like to play):

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Weekend Preview – ‘Nodak Nation’

‘Nodak Nation’ made a strong showing at The Ralph last Saturday in the form of a banner that spread across an entire student section and was approximately 10 rows tall. As the players were introduced for the university on the precipice of selecting a new nickname to “replace” the Fighting Sioux, the fans shook the banner violently and got excited for their first home game. If you follow my twitter, you know I’ve been pushing for Nodaks to be selected and it seems like at least some students share my perspective. In my opinion, it is the one nickname option that says ‘We are North Dakota and we’re not going to apologize for it’. In my eyes, we are abiding by the NCAA’s requirement of getting rid of the Sioux nickname but at the same time picking something ambiguous for each person to assign their own meaning. Yes, we are Nodaks. You know who else are included in that family? …the Sioux tribes from around the state. So on the eve of a new nickname vote, my choice is unequivocally NODAK NATION.

Friday’s game skated to a 4-4 tie in a game played in Bemidji, MN. Johnny Simonson and Bryn Chyzyk opened the scoring to take a quick 2-goal lead in a game that saw the Fighting Nodaks(see what I did there?) jump all over the home team. However, the Beavers were able to answer with 2 PPG’s in the latter half of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd period.

UND once again put the pedal down with goals by Luke Johnson and Austin Poganski to take a 4-2 lead going into the 3rd period. However, after the buzzer sounded at end of the 2nd Cam Johnson pulled his groin sliding over to stop a Bemidji one-timer. This injury created the opportunity for Walk-On, 3rd String Goalie Matt Hrynkiw to jump in net for the 3rd period and it didn’t start well.

The 1st shot of the 3rd period was a shot from the point by Bemidji’s Graeme McCormack that went off the post and in to make it a 1 goal game. It was McCormack’s 2nd PPG of the game. Then with 6 minutes remaining, one of the Sedin Twins Gerry Fitzgerald evened up the game to send the BSU crowd into a frenzy. UND was unable to find the winner at the end of the 3rd or in the OT despite good pressure and the game ended in a disappointing tie.

Saturday night UND would be Matt Hrynkiw’s first start of his career as Cam Johnson and Matej Tomek were out with injuries. The game didn’t start ideally for the new goalie, letting in 2 of his first 4 shots while UND dominated play. This led to an unsatisfying tie ending the 1st period with bookend goals by one of the twins from Full House Gerry Fitzgerald. Drake ‘Highlight Reel’ Caggiula scored 6 seconds after Bemidji opened the scoring by opening up BSU’s goaltender’s legs before depositing the puck in the goal bank. Brock Boeser followed that by wrapping around the net and sniping the opposite corner on the helpless Beaver goalie.

The 2nd period doesn’t deserve any notable space in this blog because it was the most boring period of hockey. I literally don’t remember anything about it(and I know what you’re thinking, I only had a couple beers at this point).

The third period begin with more chances for UND that finally climaxed in a scramble in front of the net. The puck kicked out to Troy Stecher who somehow shot it through the carnage in front of the net into the back of the net. The goal was reviewed for goaltender interference and upheld to the delight of the 11,800 in attendance. Following this, Troy Stecher was hit up high by a BSU player who was given the gate. UND wasted no time in scoring 7 seconds into the PP giving Boeser a tap-in off a Caggiula rebound. An ENG gave Boeser the 1st hat trick by a Freshman since this guy…


UND @ Vermont
(Burlington, VT @ Gutterson Fieldhouse)

UND is probably heading to the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, VT right about now to face the Catamounts in their rink that literally looks like a barn. This is one of these rinks I’d love to go see a game at because it has a lot of history and character. That, and it would make me appreciate what we as UND fans get to watch college hockey in every weekend.

Vermont sticks out to me because of 3 names, Yvan Pattyn, Dan Senkbeil, and Alexx Privitera. Yvan is General Stephan Pattyn’s younger brother. Dan Senkbeil aka Jim is the player that made ‘jimmering’ or ‘to jimmer’ become part of UND fan’s lexicon. Then there’s Alexx Primadonna Privitera who UND fans may remember from a penalty box incident from October of 2013. Privitera played for BU(he was kicked off the team later) when they visited the Ralph in 2013. He got a good heckling from our fans for committing a penalty and decide on his way out of the box he would assault one of them. So as the penalty expired he hit the student in the head with the stick leaving a welt… class act huh? At least now the players should know he gets rattled easily.

Although, it’s early UND comes in with a .750 winning % while Vermont is at .333 getting swept in Burlington by UNO last weekend. I can imagine getting swept in their own barn doesn’t sit well with them and they’ll be looking to rectify it with the #1 ranked team starting tonight.

The obvious concerns for UND are injuries. We have yet to see 3rd round pick Matej Tomek’s skills as he is recovering from offseason surgery. That, coupled with Cam Johnson being injured, leaves us with our 3rd string goaltender Mr. Hrynkiw. Our defense needs to be sound and limit Grade A chances in front of him because of his inexperience. This may limit the amount of offense they can contribute by jumping up in the play and pinching along the walls.

The good news is that this team has had no trouble scoring goals so far this year. Averaging 3.75 goals/game and handily outshooting every opponent so far this year, they may need to continue this trend with an unknown in net. The line of Nick Schmaltz, Brock Boeser, and Drake Caggiula will most likely stay in tact for Friday’s game and may be the best line in the nation. Nick’s vision combined with Brock’s scoring ability and Caggiula’s hard hitting and pure finishing touch will be a force in almost every game.

Here’s to thinking UND continues to outscore opponents:


UND 5-3, UND 4-3

GAMEDAY SONG OF THE WEEK:

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Weekend Preview – ‘Good Good Night’

He’s baaaaaack….  I know, I have not been keeping on my blog responsibilities to start this college hockey season off. I have been pre-occupied with trying to finish off my MBA while working my full-time job.  This takes up the majority of my time so I was not able to preview the Icebreaker Championship. The only reason I am writing this post is because I can’t sleep.  It must be that I’m excited for this upcoming series against the Bemidji State Beavers that has me losing sleep.

What have I been up to this offseason? Well, I’m glad you asked.  Just been doing a little of this…

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Got married

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Golfed

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Golfed some more

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and golfed some more

I truly hope everyone else enjoyed the offseason as well.

Last weekend UND had a slow start against LSSU on Friday night.  No one expected a goal against 11 seconds into the season. It was waved off but LSSU capitalized on the momentum and scored the first 2 goals on the opening 4 shots of the game.  With Cam Johnson holding down the crease, it seemed like a continuation of his shaky showing of last year.  Luckily for Cam and the team he calmed down and only let in 1 goal on the next 41 shots on the weekend.  Impressively, he turned a nightmare start into NCHC goaltender of the weekend honors.  North Dakota came back against LSSU on Friday night and scored 5 unanswered goals to show Lake Superior wasn’t in their stratosphere.

It’s tough for me to comment extensively on the series as it was only via radio extraordinaire Tim Hennessy that I could listen.  There was no tv feed or webcast, get it together Maine. We’re in the 21st century, it’s called a TV and the other 49 states have access to them.  But from the highlights I saw in North Dakota Hockey with Brad Berry the team looked fast, aggressive and surprisingly enough, fluid.  There was a lot of nice passing plays that you generally don’t see until around Christmas Break or after.  This team seems to have some nice chemistry, especially between the 1st round picks Nick Schmaltz and Brock Boeser.

#1 University of North Dakota vs. Bemidji State Beavers (Home-and-Home)

In case you forgot, last year Bemidji State Beavers ran roughshod over the UND hockey team to open the season last year.  This was followed by a tight checking win by North Dakota in Bemidji that resulted in a series split.

This year’s version of the Beavers will be just as hard to solve.  Bemidji is coming off an opening 3-2 win over University of Minnesota Duluth who is thought to be one of the top teams in the country to start the year.  BSU seems to be regularly underappreciated to start seasons.  Let’s just pray that Brad Berry is making sure his guys don’t make the same mistake.

On Friday night, it will be important for UND to find the net to not let the BSU get comfortable similar to Maine last weekend.  Despite outshooting the Black Bears 45-20 the green and white could only muster a 1-1 tie.  The silver lining to all of this is that once the good guys start finishing, they will put a whole mess of goals.

So here’s to hoping tomorrow is a ‘Good Good Night'(Disclaimer: I am a shameless hip-hop fan, apologies if you don’t share my proclivity for this type of music):

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Frozen Four Preview- ‘Eichel… We’re Comin For Ya’

Matt Lane (BU - 21), Troy Stecher (North Dakota - 2), Nick Roberto (BU - 15)

As fans of their beloved Sioux hockey team flock to Boston, I sit here in Grand Forks typing on my laptop.  Adult things got in the way this year so I am admittedly disappointed that I won’t get to see UND haul the trophy around the ice on April 11th in celebration of their 8th national title.  I’m not being cocky, I just truly believe this team is made up of exactly what you need to win the next 2 games.  Strong goaltending and disciplined defense will be the key against a line touted as highly as the BU line is.  Appearances on SportsCenter and every other college hockey news outlet is just what the doctor ordered for a BU team expected to win it all in front of their hometown.  Hopefully the phenom, Jack Eichel, has his mind start to wander to Buffalo because you know he’s thinking about it. Meanwhile UND comes in with a healthy dose of balance that leaves you guessing who scores next, an unbelievably talented D-core, and the best goalie in the nation.  It sets up perfectly for an early farewell party as Eichel rides off into the sunset and into his multi-million dollar NHL contract.

The key to making all of this happen, in my opinion, is going to be the discipline of our players.  We’ve already seen the price paid if a player attempts to line up a big hit in the NCAA tournament.  Defenseman, Joey LaLeggia may have cost Denver a chance at the Frozen Four by laying out an opposing player rather than going for the puck.  This will prove exponentially costly against a BU team that scores 1 out of every 4 times they are given the man advantage.  While I think we do have a good penalty kill, if we play BU 5 on 5 for the majority of the game I like our chances.  Not having a parade to the penalty box will also allow the game to flow better and for UND to roll 4 lines, which is a major strength they hold over the Terriers.   Well that, and they have better style…

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Eichel showing his sass

A few other croc-wearing players UND should watch out for are Evan Rodrigues who scored 2 of the 3 goals in the regional finals vs. UMD and Ahti Oksanen.  Oksanen is tied for the team lead in goals despite not playing on a line with Mr. Crocs.  The BU goalie, O’Connor may be the Terriers weak spot.  Despite putting up solid numbers on the season, O’Connor allowed the UMD Bulldogs to get back into the game by letting a weak wrist shot from the blue line hit off his catching glove, eventually ending up in the back of his net.  UND would do well to throw a lot of the bad angle shots at the net that they have been successful with in the last couple of games.  Testing O’Connor early is important because if he shows an early crack it could make the young BU team hold their sticks that much tighter.

This is a very cliché thing to say but we need to play Sioux hockey.  We are at our best when we hit hard and make skaters work for every single stride they take.  Then having our finishers finish will lead us to the title game.  So I’ll leave it at saying “Eichel…we’re comin for ya!”

Sioux win 4-2

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