So the 3-2 win in overtime wasn’t exactly “rolling” Air Force as I so eloquently stated in my blog predictions last week but “it doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning’s winning”… Vin Diesel said that in Fast and the Furious so it must be true. However, UND definitely won that game by an inch, probably closer to a millimeter actually.
Down 2-0 with half a period of hockey to play, UND needed goals from Tucker Poolman and then Drake Caggiula in the waning seconds of Saturday’s game against the Falcons just to force overtime. Then, a seemingly costly checking from behind major sent UND on the penalty kill for the rest of the extra session. At best, it looked as though a tie would be the outcome and I was okay with that. We sat back and let Air Force attack too much in the first period, leaving guys open in the slot repeatedly, and were lucky to get out of it only down 1-0. So a tie it would be, but before I could even contemplate how this would affect us moving forward, Michael Parks went “Beast Mode”, if you will.
On the back-check, Parks stole the puck from a Falcon player at center ice, wheeled back around avoiding one defender, getting hit by another, going into the zone, holding.. .holding… holding then after the defender committed, slid the puck to Chyzyk who only needed to get his stick on the puck to score into the gaping net and blow the roof of the arena. It was one of the most exciting finishes I’ve seen at The Ralph and I like to think it’s the college hockey universe balancing itself out after fans had to witness the opening 5-1 loss to Bemidji State. The game was a perfect example of why college hockey is so great, it’s unpredictability and ability to surprise no matter how dire the odds. It was great theater and I only wish I could have been in attendance. Lucky for me, it will be the last home game I miss for the rest of the year so I’ll live with it.
I tweeted at the always reliable Sioux hockey beat writer Brad Schlossman to inquire when the last time North Dakota won a game at home after pulling the goalie and I have yet to obtain the answer. I would assume it would have to be in the Dean Blais era as he was well-known for his aggressive stance on getting the extra attacker on the ice. If anyone can solve this riddle, go ahead and comment below. The first one wins a ‘good job buddy’ comment and the feeling of admiration from his peers. Now onto this weekend!
North Dakota @ Wisconsin
I went up to every fan wearing Badger gear and personally thanked them for beating Ohio State. For the first time in my life, I was ecstatic that Wisconsin had won a hockey game. The Badgers had just came back from 2 goals down in the third period and beaten the Buckeyes in overtime to not only win the Big Ten Tournament, but also to award the last at-large bid to the Fighting Sioux. I was wandering (possibly stumbling) around Pourhouse in downtown Minneapolis showing my gratitude to fans of Bucky with handshakes and offering the occasional shot. However, many of these fans were clueless as to what I was talking about because they were Wisconsin basketball supporters during March Madness and could probably care less about how their hockey team is performing. However, I wasn’t concerned or deterred in the least. For that night, we lived harmoniously with fans from the cheese-head state.
Then the next morning, North Dakota was matched up against Wisconsin in the selection show on ESPNU and we reverted to being sworn enemies again. In fact, we showed our appreciation in the best way possible… by ending Wisconsin’s season in the first round of the NCAA tournament by a score of 5-2.
Even though we were separated from two of our biggest rivals, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the universe still saw it fit that we should play them last year. Of those two teams Mike Eaves and Wisconsin knew this WCHA rivalry was too much fun to remain dormant. And luckily, Mike Eaves didn’t think our great rivalry was too ‘unhealthy’ and needed a ‘cooling off period’ and for that he gets my respect (a tiny bit). Because of this, North Dakota and Wisconsin will play 2 games at the Kohl Center this year and the Badgers will visit the Ralph Engelstad Arena next season.
This Badgers team will look quite a bit different from the feisty bunch North Dakota had to face last year. Missing is some of the top-end guys, such as Mark Zengerle, Nic Kerdiles, Michael Mersch, Jake McCabe and Tyler Barnes. These players accounted for 3 of the 6 points in the meeting between the teams last year. Because of this purge of talent, the red and white have struggled this year scoring 3 goals in 4 games. This would have the ‘knee-jerk’ Sioux fans rioting in the streets and calling for scholarship revocation and Hakstol’s head(as if they don’t already). It’s surprising the Wisconsin is 0-4 at this point but when you see what they have lost in the form of senior leadership, it begins to make some sense. This could be a team that needs to pull it together in the 2nd half of the season and do their best UND impression to make a run at the NCAA tournament. The fact that there coach is saying he just wants to “make it through the first period” leads me to think this isn’t the series this Badger team turns anything around.
SIOUX SWEEP 4-1, 4-0
Last week I went 7-2 in predictions bringing my season total to 23-10.
Around the NCHC:
Omaha @ Ohio State: UNO is looking like the team that many expected them to be last year. They were a goal short of making my sweep prediction last week but I don’t believe they’ll disappoint me in consecutive weekends. UNO SWEEP
Colorado College @ Miami: CC had an off week to get their life together and Miami split with a good UMD team. Unless CC went out and recruited in the bye week I don’t like their chances in Oxford. MIAMI SWEEP
UMD @ SCSU: Duluth hasn’t fared well in St. Cloud over the years, or so I’m told. St. Cloud is coming off a very solid weekend against the rodents but Duluth has the firepower to match them. SPLIT
WMU @ Denver: All signs point to Denver sweeping the Broncos at home here. But I believe Andy Murray pulls his team together and they sneak away with a point. Denver Shootout Win and Denver Win
As always, I leave you with this week’s episode of ‘Through These Doors’: