If you are one of thousands of rubes that reads or follows this blog(IALTO) on a regular basis you might be thinking ‘What happened to Weekend Reactions last week following the Western Michigan series?’ I considered explaining it as being busy at work or the week getting away from me with activities outside of work but it would all be a lie. In actuality… I had a hockey hangover. I didn’t want to re-hash the University of North Dakota’s failure to secure a share of the inaugural Penrose Cup they seemed so poised to capture. This of course allowed the <shudders> St. Cloud State Huskies to place their grubby paws on the first cup and proceed to share it with the world via Twitter.
If you don’t know me personally then I should probably let you know that I’m a competitive person, to a fault mostly. Winning is something that consumes me and when I’m not able to accomplish it I do what any self-respecting adult would do… I get pissed and sometimes even break stuff. Most times, however, the source of my anger is something that I can actually control like golf(snapped club), ping pong(smashed paddle), or something as simple as a game of badminton(bent racquet).
However, the one thing that gets me fired up that I have no direct impact on is Fighting Sioux hockey. Vikings loss- “Fine, they always suck”, Wild loss- “Whatever, I’ll root for another Sioux alumni”, but if the Sioux lose a big game I can not seem to shake it. I think it has something to do with the fact that I’ve poured so much energy, money, and travel time into watching the team you feel like you’re contributing, even if in some miniscule way. After a season-ending loss by my beloved Sioux I’m equivalent to an 8-year-old with his fingers in his ears making insanely annoying sounds…except I’m a grown man. I just avoid the disappointment so I don’t have to deal with it until the next game, season etc. A more qualified person than me might say there’s some sort of psychological complex at play here but I’ve gotten far enough into my own head for one day.
I’ll always say the most difficult sports moment of my life was being in the club level at the 2011 Frozen Four semi-final game against Michigan. The team was destined, it seemed, to win it all destroying RPI and Denver in the regionals only to have some sort of puck-deflecting force field be placed on the Wolverines net in the semifinal and leave me to writhe in agony for 60 minutes. One thing is for sure, I will never get over that game. Sure, a national championship or two might dull the pain a bit but that was our year and no one else deserved it more, but I digress.
The main point of all of the rambling above is that I’m not going to break down last week’s performance because I believe the team (and myself) needs to move on and forget about it. My only takeaway is that you can’t take any team lightly moving forward because almost all of them will be fighting to keep their season alive. Now in the theme of all my babbling, let’s move forward to this week’s games! (Side Note: After going an uninspiring 4-4 in prediction last weekend, I sit at 19-15 on the season)
Colorado College Tigers @ University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND @ ‘The Ralph’)
Every single year leading up to the conference tournament I say I will hold off on making the trip to the 1st round of the conference tournament in Grand Forks and every single year I find myself at the Ralph ensuring the Sioux win their best-of-3 series. It appears that this year will be no different with me locking down my tickets on Monday of this week to make the trip up I-94 to ensure an NCHC Frozen Faceoff berth. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining one bit it just seems funny to me that I always go, but never plan to. If it makes you feel any better, they have won every best-of-3 series I’ve traveled to although last year was a bit nerve-wracking with Michigan Tech taking us to 3 games. I hope this series doesn’t have quite as much drama.
UND comes in to this series with a bit of disappointment missing out on the Penrose Cup last weekend. I think it will be quite telling on Friday night to see how well they put that game behind them. I can only hope that Coach Hakstol has put them in the right mindset to move forward and focus on the important trophies yet to come. If you take a look at the numbers the only category the two teams are similar in is age: North Dakota seems to be the much better team in all facets. Winning percentage and goals per game are the most obvious and I can’t think of two more important statistics to measure a team with. Colorado College has been pitiful all year and despite not earning the first seed, I would argue we got the “easier” match-up rather than facing Miami who is surging with a healthy Blake Coleman in the lineup.
Colorado College is one of the teams that North Dakota only played twice this year. The Sioux won both games capped by an exciting 3rd period comeback to complete the sweep on Saturday night on the back of a Rocco Grimaldi game-winning goal. Because of this being the only experience CC has, North Dakota could be in their heads a bit, as if they did not have enough problems of their own.
One area UND needs to take advantage of is powerplays. The main reason for this is an odd one, the crowd. The fans at The Ralph this year have been pretty crappy, to be blunt, for a team in the top 10 in the nation. They are quick to sit on their hands when the powerplay starts to go south and I think the players recognize that. So I think a quick powerplay goal would get the Spring Break crowd into the game early and get some noise pumping through the arena for a change. Where’s the dasher troll or hedgehog when you need them?
UND enters the weekend at #10 in the pairwise needing two wins to avoid having to sweat out the next 2 weeks on the bubble of the NCAA tournament. My thoughts are that they will get it going with the extra chip on their shoulder missing out on a share of the Penrose Cup and hold the hapless Tigers from getting in either game.
UND 4-1, UND 3-0
Other NCHC Quarterfinals games:
Miami@SCSU: Miami will throw a scare into SCSU but the Huskies will come back down from their Penrose high in time to make the Frozen Faceoff. SCSU in 3
Denver@UNO: The first game just went to UNO and it was a shootout. My money is on UNO wrapping it up tomorrow night and Denver wishing George “the dasher troll” Gwozdecky was still the head coach. UNO in 2
WMU@UMD: Western Michigan is a tough team to play and UMD is a soft team at home for whatever reason. Although UMD did look to be turning things around last Friday, putting an 8 spot up on UNO, only to lose 4-1 the next night. This one goes to 3 for sure. WMU in 3
Closed Circuit to the Ralph Scoreboard operator: Play this video to get the fans pumped up for the games this weekend