So it couldn’t last forever…well, it could have but the 10 game unbeaten streak the University of North Dakota’s hockey team was enjoying came to an end Saturday night as I predicted. I was really hopeful that the Sioux would prove me wrong and light Sam Brittain up both nights, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pick a sweep with Brittain playing the way he has and UND not sweeping in Denver since 2004.
On friday night UND looked as good as they have all season, absolutely dominating DU in every phase of the game, including fan support. After Michael Parks’ first goal to open the scoring, the majority contingent of vocal UND fans made the CBS broadcasters for the telecast take notice. Although, it was no surprise to one of the CBS announcers Dave Starman. He is the cream of the crop when it comes to college hockey announcers and I always learn something new about the teams when he’s on air with CBS. Following the Parks goal, the team never looked back. One of the other highlights of the weekend was a powerplay towards the latter half of the 1st period. Brendan O’Donnell had the puck near the far side boards and Drake Caggiula put his stick in the air las if he was Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions calling for a pass. O’Donnell saw “jewels” signaling and faked a shot to hold the goalie and open up the passing lane. This allowed him to feed the cross ice pass where Caggiula made no mistake in one-timing it into the open net. The night was capped off by a shorthanded goal where Colten St. Clair admitted later he was considering changing before seeing Rocco Grimaldi speeding down the ice. Upon seeing this St. Clair carried the puck and fed the puck to Rocco who re-directed it past the DU goalie. It appeared that Brittain wasn’t ready for the re-direct and expected Grimaldi to catch the puck instead. I can’t say I blame him because the re-direct from at about the dots took me by surprsie as well. In between all of the UND goals and “Let’s Go Sioux” chants ringing around DU’s home rink, the Pioneers scored a couple of goals but they were both flukey in nature and the game never felt in danger of being lost, at least not by me.
Saturday night is a little bit more difficult for me to summarize as I’ve only seen replays of highlights and was attempting to watch the game via a friend that lives in Denver on FaceTime. All of this while listening to the ‘man, the myth, the legend’ Tim Hennessy, the Fighting Sioux’s radio play-by-play announcer. The gist of what I’ve seen and heard is that DU stepped up their intensity but still were heavily outshot and Brittain played like I know he’s capable of. It’s no secret that he’s a really good goalie that has the potential to steal games for his team and that makes them a dangerous team to play against in these end of the year tournaments. That being said, I hope we get a chance to play the Pioneers in Minneapolis for the NCHC Final Faceoff for a rubber match.
Onwards to the other game I predicted for last weekend. I had laid out a very convincing argument(I think) that the St. Cloud State Huskies were going to knock off the #1 ranked Minnesota team. Unfortunately, my prediction did not go how I imagined it. The Gophers, who most of the season had struggled with the extra man, seemed to figure out their powerplay issues going 2 for 2 on the night. I don’t believe the Huskies were dominated despite the 4-1 score and I did say the game would come down to special teams. The Huskies went 0 for 2 and did outshoot the Gophers 39-29 on the night but could not get the puck past Adam Wilcox.
In summary, I went 2-1 on my weekend predictions bringing my overall record for the season to 7-3.
Other weekend notes:
– Initially turning on the Minnesota Cup(or whatever it’s called) it reminded me of the WCHA Final Five that is no more as a result of conference re-alignment. However, then I looked at the crowd and realized that it’s not even close to the atmosphere of the Final Five. There’s not going to be a conference tournament this year or in the near future that will match the intensity of that tournament and I am going to miss it. However, being that I live within walking distance to Target Center, I won’t complain too much about the new NCHC Final Faceoff. I just hope the Target Center proves worthy as a hockey venue.
– The ticket policy that DU tried to institute requiring visiting UND fans to buy a ticket package for the weekend seemed to fall flat on its face. It sounded like the Magness Arena held at least 50%, if not more Sioux fans when compared to DU faithful. This is no surprise to me as the first time I visited Magness, the first thing I saw walking in was a guy in a green suit and a Sioux cape walking around the concourse chanting “Let’s Go Sioux”. I think it would be tough to argue that any college hockey team has better fans than the Sioux. College hockey is life in Grand Forks, ND and I wouldn’t have it any other way for my hometown.
– UND has moved up to #17th in the pairwise, the rankings that determine the tournament at the end of the year. They started out the weekend tied for 19th so 2 spots is a decent jump for coming away with a split. Some huge games coming up and in my opinion they can’t afford a loss over the next couple home series against Omaha(February 14th) and the struggling Miami Redhawks(February 21st). After that they will be in Duluth to play a team that is 3 spots ahead of them so that series will loom large come selection time. What I’m trying to say is, pretty much every game from here on out is extremely important.