The words Sioux vs. Gophers bring a tidal wave of emotions to fans of each side of the rivalry. These emotions are tied to all of the unbelievable games, goals, and fights the teams have treated the fans to on both sides of the best rivalry in college hockey. These stories have been re-hashed repeatedly on siouxsports.com, uscho.com, college hockey news, and my favorite trip down memory lane at Daddy Dump and Chase. At the risk of repeating one or multiple of these sources, a few of the most recent great memories I personally have are:
March 25, 2007: UND dished out some revenge from a Final Five loss a week earlier in this amazing Chris Porter wraparound to finish the Gopher’s season. This is the one moment that I unfortunately did not attend in-person but the video is a great representation of the emotional win. From the bewildered look on the Rodent’s faces to the awesome pileup on the boards by the ridiculously talented Sioux roster, this was one for the ages.
January 9-10, 2009: 6-3 6-1 sweep at the REA. I flew back into Grand Forks from Colorado Springs where I was attending school to attend this series and remember being nervous about how UND would play. Those nerves were quickly replaced with the joy of watching the sieve, Alex Kangas, get pulled both nights and seeing Ryan “Hobey” Duncan score 3 goals in the series. The student section was so appreciative of the opponent’s net-minder they even chanted “Thank you Kangas” over, and over, and over again just in case he missed it. The Gophers were never a threat in the series and it was a weekend-long party at The Ralph with Kangas serving as the jester.
March 12-14, 2010: A ton of anticipation going into this unusual meeting of the Sioux and Gophers in the 1st round of the WCHA Playoffs. I went with a friend that I’ve been going to Sioux hockey games with since we were toddlers at the Old Ralph. The Sioux did not disappoint us. The seats we were in had that bleacher material underneath rather than concrete. The reason I mention this is because when Kristo turned the puck over in the Gopher D-Zone(the net we were sitting behind) 90 seconds into the game and buried the goal, those bleachers shook with rambunctious Sioux fans that sensed a big win on the horizon. North Dakota made it interesting after a loss on Saturday, but a night later, ended Minnesota’s season, and it doesn’t get much better than that. Oh yeah, this happened too…
I was on the opposite end of the rink and could feel the boards shake. It was a fitting exclamation point on the superiority UND held over their lowly rivals from Dinkytown that year.
March 16th, 2012: Not a lot needs to be said besides ‘The Timeout Game’. The Xcel Energy Center was packed to the brim for the WCHA Final Five semi-final. The Gophers had the edge in talent and clearly a much healthier team, as the Sioux skated with less than a full roster for much of the season. The thing I remember most about this game was following the 2nd and 3rd Minnesota goals, a Gopher fan about 15 rows above us was taunting all of the Sioux fans rubbing their faces in a seemingly one-sided game. Boy… he shut up real quick when the 3rd period unfolded. It seemed like everything was going in for the green and white, even Mario scored twice! We wanted it more than they did and that’s all that mattered in that game.
So it’s quite obvious that North Dakota and Minnesota have a lot of history with some unforgettable moments that are a product of a great rivalry. However, what I’m about to state may shock you… on Thursday, I don’t care about any of it. I don’t care about the Minnesota connections. I don’t care who gets knocked on their backside in the scrums. I don’t care who lays the biggest hit on the ugly maroon and gold sweaters. All that matters come Thursday, is the final score. Not many things in college hockey are bigger than this rivalry. A national championship, however, is one of those things. The winner of this game gets a shot at adding the next national championship trophy to their case and the next banner to their rafters.
In the last 10 years, the Sioux have deserved much better fates with some very talented teams, only to come up a game or two short of the ultimate goal. So it would only be fitting for a team that doesn’t come into the Frozen Four with any of those accolades to get done what the aforementioned groups couldn’t. This team has been and will be an underdog in every game of the tournament and perhaps, it will make them hold their sticks a little looser and skate a little harder. This group of guys does not have the weight of astronomical expectations pressing down on them on every shift and hanging over their heads with every scoring chance. I believe this will be the difference that could make it North Dakota’s year.