If someone could picture a better ending to this senior class’ last game in The Ralph, I’d like to hear it. The game seemed slightly reminiscent of last year’s 1st round game against the Tigers with both teams getting into the waning moments of the game knotted up. However, instead of the Colorado College Tigers forcing overtime, Bryn Chyzyk, Austin Poganski, and Connor Gaarder combined for a very timely play that electrified the 12k people in attendance. I’d break the play down but it wouldn’t do it justice so I’ll just leave the video here instead for you to enjoy.
Friday night started out much as you would think a series would starring the #1 team in the nation and the 50th team in the nation. Admittedly it was not the prettiest start to the game but red-hot Nick Mattson glided down the boards and fed a pass to Brendan O’Donnell in the slot who one-timed it past CC Goalie Tyler Marble. It seems like this may be something we’ll see moving forward quite a bit. A quick aside on Nick Mattson, he seems to be playing with a ton of confidence and makes a play every time the puck is on his stick. You could argue he has been UND’s best defender since Christmas and I couldn’t be happier to see the senior defenseman back in the lineup and out of the stands where he spent a bit of time as a healthy scratch. Here’s to hoping Mattson continues his dynamite play throughout the end of the season.
Once the game hit the midway point UND found themselves up 1-0 but it didn’t feel like they were playing all that well. However, 15 minutes into the 2nd period a goal from, who else, Nick Mattson got the team starting to buzz and effectively spelled the end of the game. A goal by Connor Gaarder late in the 3rd was answered early in the 1st by CC’s Matt Hansen, however UND piled on a couple more goals by Paul Ladue and Tucker Poolman to put the game out of reach at 5-1.
Saturday night started out as you expect as well, trying to end a team’s season and the Tigers seniors’ college hockey career. CC scored first 15 minutes into the game but UND answered with a Jordan Schmaltz goal shortly thereafter. It was one of those goals where you scream for Nick Schmaltz to shoot but because he’s a 1st round draft pick and I’m not he sees his brother on the backdoor looking at a wide open net and makes no mistake.
Early in the 1st UND was called for covering the puck in their own crease and CC was awarded a penalty shot. I decided to take a video as I could feel a big Zane McIntyre save coming, and I was right:
Ten minutes into the 2nd period Nick Mattson strikes again with a one-touch cross ice pass to O’Donnell who one-times it into the net before Tyler Marble can even think of pushing off to make the save. It was truly a thing of beauty and no goalie in the country(maybe save McIntyre) could stop that puck. If Nick Mattson can keep finding players like that it’s going to be a fun month left of hockey to watch.
CC tied it up almost halfway into the 3rd period with a player coming around the net and sneaking in a questionable goal, by McIntyre’s standards, under his armpit. The play also could have been defended a little better to be fair but we were playing a desperate team. That all set up for the beautiful game-winner in the above video. Troy Stecher also made a play that went unnoticed by a lot in the crowd by diving to deflect a CC open net look that probably would have sent the game to overtime. This allowed UND’s seniors to preserve their storybook ending to their time at The Ralph by being presented the Penrose Cup and skating it around the ice for the fans. The moment that stuck out was when Mark McMillan held it above his head which, of course, sent the crowd into a frenzy. Also, props to The Ralph for the added pyrotechnics.
UND vs. SCSU– These teams can not have so short a memory to not remember the series 3 weeks ago that sling-shotted UND into first place. Some may say that’s an unfair weekend to base assumptions off because it was played in Grand Forks but this weekend won’t be much different.
The Sioux fans are famously known for their penchant for travelling, especially to Minneapolis, to watch their beloved teams play so expect Target Center and Downtown Minneapolis to experience a level of green-out this weekend. I do believe this will play a factor in the outcome of this game.
The previous meeting started with Mark MacMillan sacrificing his college hockey career to kill a 5 on 3 and ended with his teammates carrying him around the ice during an emotional senior night. Truth be told, I’d give the Penrose Cup back in a second if it meant MacMillan could be healthy for the rest of the year. I know this team has the “next man up” mentality and the depth to make it happen but even so, MacMillan provided a level of play on the score sheet and in the locker room that cannot be replaced. That being said, the team will have no problem moving forward towards the ultimate goal which will be as much Mark’s as anyone else on the team.
I see this game being extremely close with SCSU’s season on the line essentially and UND looking to lock up the #1 overall seed in Fargo that allows them to play the “worst” of the qualifying teams.
UND wins a squeaker 3-2
Denver vs. Miami
UND has played both these teams in about a month and I was at the Denver series. To be honest, they didn’t do a whole lot to impress me and UND should have swept them but let a Saturday 2 goal lead slip away. In Miami, the Redhawks were able to come away with a convincing Saturday win after allowing us to hoist the Penrose Cup in their building but the situation makes it less convincing to me. They got a lot of bounces, which admittedly are needed, to win the hockey game and it was a penalty filled contest with no real flow developing. However, I think Miami may be playing slightly better hockey at the moment.
In the 3rd place game I predict SCSU takes care of Denver 4-2 and we see 6 NCHC teams in the national tournament. For the title game, UND gets to play some 5 on 5 hockey and takes care of Miami to hoist their 2nd of 3 trophies.