This will be my last regular season “hockey trip” and I will provide a full report on my impressions this time around of Amsoil Arena as it pertains to the crowd, atmosphere, and surrounding area. It is not my first trip to the arena as I attended the Saturday night game a couple of years ago and came away thoroughly impressed with the setup of the Bulldogs new digs, just not necessarily the game. It is situated right next to Lake Superior and dropped in the heart of the happening Seattle-esque, Duluth scene (full disclosure: I’ve never been to Seattle). I would even venture to say that it is the second-best college hockey arena I have been to (if you’re asking what the first is, take a wild guess).
However one sour point of my trip a couple of years ago was the student section starting a “Smallpox blanket” chant that was outright racist and directed at the Native American Sioux tribe. This is obviously a very sensitive issue and, in my opinion, North Dakota has tried so hard to uphold the logo and respect the culture, even upon the nickname’s “retirement”. I love a rowdy student section as much, if not more, than the next guy and it takes a lot to offend me but that completely crossed the line. Hopefully we won’t have a repeat of anything like that this weekend. But despite that isolated unfortunate incident, I always have a great time in Duluth with all of the different “activities” available at one’s disposal. Now let’s talk about some hockey!
UND Fighting Sioux vs. University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (Duluth, MN @ Amsoil Arena)
Last weekend for the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs were on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Bulldogs of Duluth went to the National Hockey Center home of the SCSU Huskies and were swept by scores of 5-3 and 4-3. This left UMD without any points towards the NCHC league race to show for their efforts. This also resulted in the drop of their Pairwise Ranking from inside of the NCAA tournament bubble to 16th, which would not allow them to play for a national title should their position stay the same.
In contrast, UND completed a home sweep in convincing fashion by scores of 3-2 and 9-2(you read that correctly) of the last place Miami Redhawks. The impact on their pairwise was quite noticeable, leap-frogging 5 teams to move into 12th place, with a lot of help from other teams as pointed out in the Pairwise breakdown by the savvy Jim Dahl of Siouxsports.com.
At first glance, it would seem that North Dakota may be getting a team that is hungry, sliding towards desperate, if the Bulldogs of Duluth are paying attention to their national position with a limited amount of hockey left to play. This paired up with the fact that the game is in Duluth would generally be a scary proposition. However, the Dogs seem to be tamed puppies inside their brand new Amsoil Arena this year sporting a losing record of 4-5-3, uninspiring to say the least. This coupled with the fact that North Dakota is really starting to click and score goals in bunches makes me think grabbing a few more points than 3 may be possible. UND’s defense currently leads the nation in points-per-game, something not generally associated with the Sioux history of having big, punishing defensemen. Also, Zane Gothberg coming back in on Saturday and appearing not to have missed a beat is quite encouraging for this weekend. I know the rotation worked last weekend but I tend to think Hakstol will start Zane in both games barring a catastrophic meltdown.
As I was saying, I believe that UND is really starting to heat up and none to late as these are key games for the boys in green…
UND 4 Duluth 2, UND 3 Duluth 3 (UND wins shootout)
Who else should you root for to help UND’s Ranking?
#53 Penn State @ #10 Michigan: I want a Penn State sweep, I ain’t Lion…
#8 Mass-Lowell @ #1 Boston College: Riverhawks can’t be a real animal right? But then again neither are Golden Eagles. Come to think of it, I don’t like either team, Go Tie!
#11 Vermont @ #44 Merrimack: Hoping for a Merry Mack after sweeping the mount-a-cats!
#11 Maine @ #9 Northeastern: Just splittin’ a Nordeast beer with my Maine man!