“The crowd was really amped up and cheering us on and I think that really helps us build momentum”. Those were the words of UND defenseman Gage Ausmus describing the Friday night 7-4 comeback win by the Sioux that saw them score 6 unanswered goals to crush LSSU’s hope of upsetting the #1 team in the nation in their own building. Momentum is a fickle thing when playing hockey and it can swing at the drop of a hat or, in this case, the sound of a goal horn. Friday night’s game started out somewhat similar to the season-opening 5-1 loss to Bemidji State, in that every opportunity the opponent had, seemed to find the back of the net. While on the other end, every open net seemed to hit a last second stick or ring off the outside of the pipe. This saw Lake Superior State get out to a quick 3-0 lead early in the 2nd period. A Trevor Olson tip 5 minutes into the 2nd period seemed to breathe life back into the team. However, it was quickly forgotten when 3 minutes after, Mitchel Nardi put home a rebound on replacement goalie, Zane McIntyre, to stretch the lead to 3 goals again.
The crowd was pissed. I didn’t hear many boos, which I think was because most fans were in shock and expecting someone to wake them from the nightmare of a game their team was playing. A guy sitting a few rows in front of me stood up, grabbed his jacket in disgust, and left the arena. All I can think is, he must be kicking himself for that, because the next 32 minutes of hockey was a tidal wave of North Dakota momentum that crashed down on Lake Superior State University. It started out with phenom freshman, Nick Schmaltz, looking off a defender and feeding a pass to Tucker Poolman in the slot. From there, there was no mistake with a wrist shot that beat LSSU’s goalie high to make it 4-2. The crowd is back into the game and people start murmuring that there’s plenty of time left to make this a game.
Next, Mark McMillan picks up a rebound and shovels it into the net and it’s a one goal game and there’s still 6 minutes left in the 2nd period. Now the crowd is thinking, why not tie it up before the 2nd period is over while we’re at it(in case you’re wondering, yes, I can read the crowd’s mind)? UND did them one better though as Tucker Poolman scored his 2nd power play goal of the period and Connor Gaarder rifled a wrister in with 39 seconds left in the frame to take the 5-4 lead into the final period. I have to think that the opposition was completely defeated at this point. They came into one of the toughest buildings to play in the country and shut down the #1 ranked team for half of the game, only to be losing by a goal after the 2nd frame. Michael Parks and Brendan O’Donnell capped off the scoring in the 3rd period to complete the unbelievable comeback.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the goaltending. UND tried to get some time for Cam Johnson, the rookie goaltender, by starting him in this game but things did not go well. A seeing eye shot by Lake Superior in the 1st period seemed to rattle him as he was fighting the puck until he was pulled with LSSU up by 3 goals. The rock solid Zane McIntyre came in and made some extremely big saves for the team while they were still down by a goal and then, while they were holding the lead. Needless to say, this team absolutely depends on the health of McIntyre in making the trek to #8 come this spring. I want Cam to come into his own as Zane’s backup as he may be the starter as soon as next year, but it’s Zane’s net for as long as he desires(or has eligibility left).
I won’t comment a whole lot on Saturday night much because, to be honest, it was a bit of a boring game. UND got out to a 2 goal lead behind solid goaltending from Zane. LSSU scored to make it 2-1 on a weak trickler that I’m sure we’d like back but it never felt like they were going to tie it up. This allowed UND to coast to the 3-1 win and the series sweep. This of course resulted in the first stick salute of the year(or if you’re UND announcer Dan Hammer, the “traditional circle of sticks”).
UND @ Denver
Engelstad South is another name people will call the home of the Pioneers, Magness Arena, on the Denver University campus. The reason for this is because every time UND plays there, the North Dakota fans match, if not drown out, the sounds of Pioneer fans. It’s a pretty spectacular site and if you have the means, please go see a series at Denver. My first memory in going to a game there is walking into the arena and expecting to get heckled for my Sioux gear. Upon entering, the first thing that catches my eye is a grown man in Sioux regalia from head to toe wearing a green cape, walking around the concourse. That’s the type of atmosphere you can expect at a game there. The best part about it is listening to Pioneer players doing interviews and saying things like ‘we need to score early to get the Sioux crowd out of the game’… DID I MENTION THIS IS IN DENVER, COLORADO?!
There’s no doubt UND fans have a large presence in Colorado. In large part, due to a strong alumni base there but also because this, in my opinion, is now our biggest rivalry in the NCHC and will probably prove to be moving forward. Denver has everything you look for in a rival, including some very heated and important games played in the regular and postseason. Just to name a few:
2004- Denver beats us 1-0 in the regional final on their way to the program’s 6th national title
2005- Denver beats us 4-1 in the title game for their 7th national title
2010- UND beats Denver 4-3 in the WCHA Final Five on their way to winning the WCHA Final Five.
2011- UND beats Denver 3-2 in Double OT to win the WCHA Final Five then 1 week later ends their season with a 6-1 drubbing in the regional final.
2012-UND beats Denver 4-0 in a no-contest WCHA Final Five Championship game.
… and this is only talking about the important games that have been decided in this series. Don’t forget Radke pounding on Vossberg…
or the infamous dasher troll(aka Denver coach) waltzing out onto the ice at The Ralph…
If you’re new to the rivalry, the previous videos will give you a taste of what it entails. Two programs that hate each other very much and one program that actually has fans (sorry I couldn’t help it, but it’s true).
So now that I’ve given you YouTube overload, I suppose a prediction is in order. North Dakota has been good on the road this year. However, no matter how good they seem to look(see: last year’s series) it seems a split is always in order at Magness. So my prediction is:
UND 4-2, Refer… oops I mean Denver 3-2
(Disclaimer: this is my prediction but I hope we wipe the floor with them)
Around the NCHC:
UMD @ Michigan Tech: This week around the Twittersphere it seems like a lot of WCHA fans have all of the sudden decided that the NCHC and everyone affiliated with it hates old people and puppies. This prediction says otherwise.
CC @ WMU: The two teams I believe will finish at the bottom of the NCHC are facing off in Kalamazoo this weekend. I say WMU wins the first and CC has a surprise win in the sequel.
SCSU @ UNO: St. Cloud is a below .500 team but they don’t “feel” like a bad team to me. They travel to Omaha to face the feisty Mavericks, who still believe they don’t get enough respect in the league. UNO wins Friday, SCSU Saturday