“Here’s your University of North Dakota
Fighting Sioux SCORING!”. This is what approximately 12,000 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena heard 9 times on Saturday night following a home team goal. You could argue that number should have reached 11 but that’s a moot point as the Sioux absolutely destroyed Miami’s defense, goaltenders, confidence etc. After all of the carnage was over and the announcer’s voice strained, a 9-2 dominating win and a series sweep was all that remained. The Saturday performance was one of the most lopsided in recent history for the Sioux. The most recent I could remember was against Harvard that had North Dakota putting up 10 goals. But this wasn’t a win against nerds from Boston, it was against the Miami Redhawks, or the preseason pick for the NCHC league championship.
The most perplexing thing about the Miami Redhawks fall from grace is that no one saw it coming, and I mean no one. In their first year transitioning from the now defunct CCHA to the NCHC, the team from Oxford, Ohio was seen as a national contender that would make a run for the NCAA title. Yet there they were, pulling the goalie Ryan Mckay after he allowed 4 goals and returning him after his replacement let 4 more in behind him. I don’t believe I have ever seen a team look as pathetic and down-trodden as the team in red jerseys on Saturday night. Although after the crowd throwing a sieve chant your way 11 times, I’d probably start to develop a complex as well.
Following the sweep and some help around the nation, North Dakota vaulted into 12th place in the Pairwise Rankings, or squarely inside of the end of year tournament bubble. This is all good and well, but the end of the year tournament is still 6 regular season games and a conference tournament away. The final 6 games include the teams that are ranked #16, #4, and #23 respectively so winning the majority of games will not be simple for this team.
The most encouraging sign from this past weekend was the team’s ability to get a lead and step even further down on the pedal and destroy any hope for the opponent. I believe this is a sign of the team maturing and becoming more confident in their ability. The UND team I saw get swept by St. Cloud State back in November did not have the capacity to step on the opposing team’s throat. It was more of a “batten down the hatches” mentality and hope to ride out the storm and come out with a win. I feel confident in saying that Saturday’s game was the first win of the season that had absolutely no drama or worrisome feeling of the opponent getting back into the game. If the Sioux can carry this type of play forward, they’re going to be a force come tournament time. The other positive is that they are coming in a bit under the radar as they don’t have a big time scoring leader or Hobey candidate but are winning by committee.
The team was able to get a solid performance from Clarke on Friday night and held on for a win and we all know what happened on Saturday. Clarke played like he can on Friday and made the saves he should. Zane obviously wasn’t tested Saturday but did allow goals on a breakaway shot that snuck between his legs and a wrister shot immediately off a faceoff by Riley Barber. The blame can’t be placed on Gothberg’s shoulders for either goal and he made a couple of really nice looking saves on multiple attempts that required him to move laterally while keeping focus. This bodes well for his performances moving forward. It will be quite interesting to see if Hakstol doubles down on the goalie rotation with Clarke getting Friday nights or if Zane will be given the reins as the every-night goalie.
As for a recap on my predictions, I went 2-0 on the weekend as I stated that if Zane could play at least one game my score predictions were 4-3 and 3-1. This brings my predictions for the season to 12-8 and I’m comfortably above .500 on the season.
I leave you with the highlights of Saturday night’s game including the 9 goals by the University of North Dakota.