I can’t remember a more deflating season opener of a Sioux hockey season than last Friday night against the Bemidji State Beavers. The 5-1 loss didn’t even feel as close as the score indicated. The Beavers showed up to play a hockey game, while the home team seemed to think they would be able to skate on the ice and BSU would bow down to their #2 preseason ranking.
What transpired, however, was a letdown of epic proportions that left the approximately 12,000 fans questioning if this team is as good as advertised… and this after the first game of the year. Leaving the arena, I commented that this may have been in the top 3 worst Sioux hockey games I’ve ever been to. The others that came to mind were 2011 Frozen Four semi-final and a home game against UNO a few years back where they hung 6 or 7 on us. After the game, in a rare statement Hakstol took most of the blame for the loss stating that the team wasn’t prepared and “…that’s on me.”
After a loss such as this, there’s only one thing you can do…
(Go ahead and pretend you don’t love this song, I dare you.)
Anyways…while I was extremely frustrated with the drubbing, my main takeaway was that the team better learn something from it and play a completely different game in Bemidji the following night or this will be a brutal season. Now this could be jumping the gun, but if the team can’t at least split with a Bemidji team they’ve only lost to a couple of times in the last 30-40 years, there’s an intrinsic problem with our team because the talent level is there. Thankfully, the team came out looking hungrier and playing a more physical game away from the comfortable confines of their own arena(Full Disclosure: I’m basing this off highlights). It seemed that players were fighting for the puck and guys that weren’t in the lineup the previous night made a huge difference in this turnaround. In the end, UND was able to hold on for a 2-1 win on the backs of a gritty goal by Colten St. Clair and a shorthand goal from Stephane Pattyn that resembled a hockey video game where a glitch freezes the goalie in place. Myles Fitzgerald made it interesting scoring a quarter way into the 3rd period, but Bemidji could not find the equalizer in the remaining 15 minutes.
So, the team seemed to acquire a bit of their identity Saturday night. The idea will be to carry this in to the series starting tonight in the city of my former alma mater, Colorado Springs. The opponent, the Colorado College Tigers, have been known for a while as a high-flying team that plays a fast-paced style with skilled forwards with Scott Owens at the helm. However, they will probably look a little different moving forward. After firing Scott Owens, CC has brought in a coach with NHL experience in Mike Haviland. This coupled with the fact that there is no longer the usual Rylan Schwartz-like skilled forward on the team leads me to believe CC may be looking to mimic UND’s style of play more than their former. They squeaked by the perennial last place team, in Huntsville last week so it seems the Tigers may still be settling into their new system as they try to crawl out of the basement of the NCHC, where they found themselves to end last year. So it seems that the main question will be whether North Dakota can play their “pro-style” system better than CC. My money is on yes but it won’t be easy.
UND 3-2, UND 4-3(OT)
(Note: If you follow my twitter @UofHockeyBlog you saw my predictions as I neglected to put them in last week’s column. I went 1-1 last week.)
Around the NCHC
Nebraska-Omaha @ Western Michigan: Both teams split last week however Omaha showed me something in their split with a solid Mankato team. I’m going with a split in Kalamazoo.
Miami @ Ohio State: Miami had a disappointing split with Bowling Green last week and Ohio State picked up an impressive split with Providence in a pair of one-goal games. I think Miami is still trying to find their consistency early. Split.
Minnesota State @ Minnesota- Duluth: Minnesota State split with Omaha and UMD nearly completed a comeback against preseason #1 Minnesota then went on to stomp Notre Dame 3-0. UMD sweep.
RPI @ Denver: RPI narrowly beat Notre Dame then lost 3-0 to Minnesota in the icebreaker while Denver has only played an exhibition. I see Denver taking a little while to get their feet under them and Sam Brittain is not there to bail them out. SPLIT.
I’ll leave with this week’s episode of ‘Through These Doors’: