The fans in Oxford, Ohio celebrated a Redhawks’ Saturday night victory with an “overrated” chant directed at the University of North Dakota hockey team. I can only surmise these fans are either brain-dead or did not attend Friday’s game to see the league championship trophy being skated around their home rink, Steve Cady Arena. I have a feeling the Sioux hockey team, who is currently #1 in the country in both opinion and mathematical polls, had no concern of these silly chants as they took home the hardware for finishing 1st in the toughest league in the country this year. Would UND have liked to sweep this weekend? Absolutely, but they got what they came to Ohio for and a few thousand uninformed fans won’t change that.
Friday’s game started with North Dakota carrying the play. The UND players must have seen a weakness on Miami’s starting goaltender, Jay Williams, as Troy Stecher took a couple of bad angle shots from the goal line. Sure enough, after an offensive zone faceoff win, Keaton Thompson carried the puck below the goal line and shot it between Williams’ pad and the post to make it 1-0 UND. Upon seeing the replay it was obvious what the players saw. Williams wasn’t square to the puck or holding the post, leading to an opening for a weak goal.
The 2nd period scoring started with a 3 on 2 created by a couple of lazy Miami back-checkers making a line change. This allowed UND’s forward, Connor Gaarder, to walk in to the zone unmolested and receive a pass from Austin Poganski. He proceeded to beat Williams high on the glove side to make it 2-0 North Dakota.
Miami poured it on for the rest of the 2nd period with shots from every angle of the rink but Zane McIntyre stood strong except for a powerplay rebound goal by Sean Kuraly that no goalie should be expected to stop. In the 3rd period, the Sioux did what they have done so many times and played solid in their own defensive zone with Zane providing the backbone all the way to the final horn for a 2-1 win and rights to the Penrose Cup.
Saturday night started with a beautiful pass from Stephan Pattyn to Luke Johnson for a tap-in goal and it seemed like the green and white may run away with a sweep. However, on senior night the Miami players had some more fight in them as they answered with 3 straight goals. Luke Johnson scored on a breakaway in the 2nd period to bring the game to 3-2 and a 5 minute major called on Blake Coleman seemed to be promising for a comeback. However, a sloppy play led to an Austin Czarnik breakaway shorthanded goal for a hat trick. Then, confusingly, Miami fans threw cheap sunglasses onto the ice. I guess the fans didn’t believe Czarnik earned their hats for his efforts.
Thirty-two seconds into the 3rd period Caggiula scored a PPG to again make it a one goal game at 4-3 but once again Miami scored to stretch it out to 5-3. Michael Parks scored on a rebound to make it 5-4 but the refs called a phantom goalie interference and that seemed to kill any momentum UND would have gained. An empty-net goal made the final 6-3 in a sloppily-played game on both sides of the ice. The negatives of this game were UND’s struggles on the powerplay, giving up 2 shorthanded goals to double their totals for the season and phenom freshman forward Nick Schmaltz going out after getting a knee to the head. The positives though are that this team did not quit and Coach Hakstol said as much, saying their battle level was still high despite wrapping up the league title the prior night.
Other weekend results around the conference created the final conference standings:
1. North Dakota
In comparison, I had the following predicted standings at the start of the year:
1. North Dakota
I was correct in predicting UND would win the league and that UMD would finish 5th. I also had Denver, WMU, & CC one spot away from their correct spots. Where I really missed was putting UNO last. I assumed that their young team and last year’s weak goaltending would be a huge issue this year. Obviously that did not come to fruition although they have really struggled down the stretch run of the season. Also, I assumed SCSU would be higher in the league at 2nd while they finished 6th. At times, SCSU has looked very good this year but other times they are quite pedestrian.