Two wins away from the ultimate goal is where I left you at the end of last season. It was a tough pill to swallow but undoubtedly added an extra fire to the team for the extra stride or extra rep in the weight room this summer. There’s no doubt that last season ended on a sour note but that’s what makes this coming season so exciting. We get to start all over and enjoy the roller coaster that is a Sioux hockey season. Let’s just hope that it ends up with a trophy being hoisted in Boston in early April.
Since the end of last season, the Sioux hockey team lost Sophomore Rocco Grimaldi via early signing to the Florida Panthers organization. Rocco will definitely be missed and I would be interested to know the coaching staff’s unfiltered thoughts on him leaving early. He was a dynamic forward that, in my opinion, did not ever reach the astronomical standard set after watching him score his first goal of his career, followed by a ‘Tebow’ on the ice of Mariucci Arena. Rocco seemed to hit more posts and over-think more breakaway than any Sioux player in recent memory. However his unparalleled acceleration also created some highlight reel plays that will be replayed by Sioux fans for years to come.
In the gap left by Grimaldi, UND has welcomed a new freshman to campus, Nick Schmaltz, that seems to be as good as his 20th overall pick indicates. I draw this conclusion based on the game against the Manitoba Bisons last Sunday evening. It started in the 2nd period with Nick receiving a rocket pass from Brendan O’Donnell at the front of the crease. In this situation, the majority of players would jam this puck at the net hoping to find a seam in the goalie’s pads, however what Nick does with the puck got me out of my seat. He managed to handle the pass, have the presence of mind and the quick hands to deke it to the backhand just hitting the post(See 4:24 at below video). However, the result wasn’t necessarily what I was looking for. The fact that Nick looked as comfortable as anyone on the ice in his first ever collegiate game should have Sioux fans lining up to get into The Ralph to witness this talent develop over his career. On top of that play, Nick also had a beautiful set up for his brother on the powerplay for a one time goal and later threaded a pass through the Bisons following a cycle to set up a Wade Murphy goal. If Nick buys into the Sioux hockey team mentality, while continuing to grow as a player, I think the gap in scoring Rocco left could disappear very quickly.
North Dakota ended up winning the game against the Bisons 4-0, however the score isn’t what is important in these games. What was encouraging to me is that the team seemed to improve in all aspects of the game as the game went along. Cycles started to flow effortlessly, passes hit the tapes of sticks, and players were getting in the correct spots without the puck.
The Sioux kick-off their season tonight at The Ralph Engelstad Arena with a home and home series vs. the Bemidji State Beavers. I decided to make the trip as I had a prior engagement scheduled in Grand Forks for today. I can honestly say that I don’t know what to expect of the Beavers as they are no longer in our conference so I’ll go off my most recent experience. I saw them play last year at The Sanford Center and UND outplayed Bemidji for about 58 minutes yet still only managed a tie. I truly believe with our defense and Zane McIntyre(Side Note: Gothberg is a much better goalie name) in net, two goals will be enough to win the game judging by the team I saw last year. I believe what we lost in Simpson will be taken over by the amazing freshmen defense with a Frozen Four and a year of experience under their belt. The new captain or should I say General(I’ll stop beating that horse) Pattyn, will be exactly the type of leader this team needs to follow. He truly will lead by example and set a presence of what Sioux hockey is supposed to represent.
To end, I will make my predictions for the 2nd season of the NCHC regular season rankings:
1. North Dakota
2. St. Cloud State
6. Western Michigan
7. Colorado College
8. Nebraska Omaha
Also, for the other leagues I will pick:
Big 10: Minnesota
Hockey East: Boston University
WCHA: Ferris State
I’m sick of listening to myself talk/type so let’s drop the damn puck and as always…
LET’S GO SIOUX!