What did you do?

This week, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about their reaction after they saw Chris Porter score an overtime goal to send UND to the Frozen Four for the third straight season. I’ve had the chance to ask a few players about their reaction.

Porter: "After I wrapped it around, I was turning and facing the net. I could see it squeeze through his legs. It didn’t really hit me at first that we just won the game. As I saw everyone coming at me, I thought ‘Wow this is great.’ It took a few seconds to register. It was an unbelievable feeling."

Porter, by the way, was hit so hard during the celebration that it left his lip bleeding.

T.J. Oshie said: "It was kind of funny. Usually, when we score, we jump up on the bench and hug each other. When (Porter) scored, I jumped up and looked around and everyone was already off the bench. I had to jump over real quick and catch up. I don’t think I’ve ever hit anyone as hard as I hit the pile there at the end of the game."

Jonathan Toews said: "I thought it was really special for (Porter). He’s a selfless guy. He wouldn’t have cared if someone else scored it. It’s a huge accomplishment for him, the way he’s led our team all year and the way he’s been playing. He’s front and center on our team right now. He’s been playing unbelieveable and it’s not just the way he’s scoring. It definitely makes me want to go out there and play for a guy like him. He’s a senior and this is his last crack at it. The effort he’s put in to this program is something special and he definitely deserves to be rewarded for it."

So, what did you do when you saw Porter score?

Duncan’s case for Hobey

Once again Wednesday afternoon, Ryan Duncan basically stated that he shouldn’t win the Hobey Baker Award. So, I’ll tell you why he should.

Let’s start with the numbers.

Duncan is second in the country in goals with 31 and fourth in overall scoring with 57 points. He is second nationally in power-play goals. He was the WCHA’s player of the year and led the league in goals, points, points-per game and power-play goals. Not a bad resume to begin.

Take a look at his competition.

Duncan did this against a higher level of competition than any other of the original 10 Hobey Baker finalists. UND had a strength of schedule rating at .5348 — which is the second most difficult in the country. It’s barely behind Wisconsin’s .5349.

The WCHA was so good this year that its teams finished 1-10 in strength of schedule rating. The conference had a winning record against every other league. What’s perhaps the most impressive is that Duncan had the majority of his production against league opponents — especially the top teams. For example, he had 4 goals, 3 assists in a series against No. 1 Minnesota. Or you could look at his goal and three assists to lead UND to the West Region title just last weekend.

He was the top player in the top league.

If you want to look at how Duncan did solely in conference games, here are some numbers:

In scoring, Duncan won the conference title by seven points. They only keep track of conference scoring races for about the last 10 years on the internet. Reading those files will tell you that nobody has won a WCHA scoring title by Duncan’s margin in that timeframe.

He also won the conference goal scoring title by seven. It might be even longer since someone has won that championship by that amount. With all the talented players in the WCHA year after year, it’s hard to believe that nobody has been as dominant as Duncan in a long time.

He does more than score goals.

Duncan scores a lot of goals, which is ironic because he prides himself on being a playmaker. His best example of unselfishness came in the Minnesota game in Mariucci Arena, which the Sioux won 7-3.

Duncan already had two goals. He was looking for the hat trick, which against a rival would make it a legendary performance. Duncan got the puck in his favorite spot in the right circle on the power play. The defense started to slide over and Kellen Briggs did his best to get over to that post. Instead of going for the hat trick, Duncan slid a perfect pass across the slot to T.J. Oshie, who was wide open because of the focus on Duncan. Oshie easily scored to make it 6-3.

He gets the job done 5-on-5, on the power play and killing penalties. Duncan plays in all situations.

If off-the-ice personality truly is part of the selection process, Duncan could only gain points. After tough losses during the first half of the year, media relations director Dan Benson began bringing him out of the locker room for the media often, because he knew Duncan would be respectful and represent himself and the school well even when he was feeling awful. You’re not going to find much nicer of a person.

Who is arguing?

There are plenty of people saying he shouldn’t win. The argument is that Duncan plays on a line with Oshie and Jonathan Toews — that Duncan isn’t the best player on his line. It is a weak argument in my opinion.

Oshie and Toews both had slow starts to the year with injuries. Duncan still produced. Oshie and Toews weren’t even on his line for most of the first half. Duncan still produced. In fact, until last weekend, Duncan had more goals than those two fantastic players combined. How incredible is that?

I don’t put too much stock into people who say that a player is a product of his linemates. We heard that last year about Denver’s Ryan Dingle. He was supposedly a product of playing on the power play with Gabe Gauthier, Matt Carle and Paul Stastny. All three left and Dingle wound up playing with rookies this year. He still scored goals, finishing second behind Duncan in the WCHA. Travis Morin was supposedly a product of playing with David Backes and Ryan Carter. Well, both those guys left and Morin still scored goals. Good players get the job done.

So will Duncan win?

I don’t know. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he didn’t win, nor would I be surprised if he did win. His two competitors, David Brown of Notre Dame and Eric Ehn of Air Force, also have people arguing why they shouldn’t win. I’m not going to try to argue against guys who I haven’t seen play this year (which many are doing to Duncan). I’m sure they are both very deserving. But if Duncan does win, he also would deserve it.

Duncan among top 3

UND coach Dave Hakstol announced at practice today that Ryan Duncan is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

The other two are Air Force forward Eric Ehn and Notre Dame goaltender David Brown.

Duncan is the first Sioux player to be in the Hobey Hat Trick since Zach Parise in 2004.

Both Duncan and Hakstol commented on the honor. For more, see Thursday’s Herald.

Hobey hat trick on the way

This afternoon the Hobey Hat Trick will be announced — where they cut down the finalists from 10 to three. The winner will already be known by the committee, but they keep it a secret until April 6. The three finalists will be present at the presentation.

If I had to guess, I would say that UND’s Ryan Duncan will be among the three finalists. Duncan is one goal away from leading the country. He ran away with the scoring title in a league where scoring was at an all-time low. Not to mention, the league had a winning record against every other conference. And Duncan is the only Hobey finalist still remaining.

College Hockey News’ Adam Wodon thinks Duncan has a legitimate shot at winning it. My personal opinion is that Michigan’s T.J. Hensick will win it. But we’ll see on April 6. And we’ll see who has a shot this afternoon.

Also, Sioux captain Chris Porter was featured on a CSTV chat yesterday morning. Read it here.

Weekend in Denver

Remember that team that got swept by last-place Anchorage? And remember the team that couldn’t score a timely goal, couldn’t get a big save and couldn’t win at home?

Remember when a single win felt the Sioux just completed a big accomplishment?

It’s hard to believe that the same group marched through the second half of the season losing just three times (all by a goal, two in OT) before knocking out two powerhouse programs in Michigan and Minnesota in the West Regional.

The run to the Frozen Four is complete. Now the Sioux will search for their first title since 2000, trying to keep up the run of years that end with 7…. 1987, 1997… 2007? First, let’s look back at the weekend in Denver, since there is a lot to talk about.

UND offense: A. Eleven goals for the weekend. If it weren’t for the explosive offense, UND would have been done on Saturday night.

UND defense: B-.  Way, way, way too many odd-man rushes and open players cutting down the slot in the Michigan game. On the other end, the Sioux were very good against Minnesota.

Philippe Lamoureux: B. Even Phil admits he great struggled at the start of Saturday’s game… or in his words, he "couldn’t stop a beach ball." Obviously he’s very mentally strong, though, because he finished a wide open game with 39 minutes of shut out hockey. Lamoureux was good against Minnesota, too.

Road support: A. The Sioux probably had the largest following in Denver. Minnesota had a very good crowd. Air Force had a nice section. Michigan didn’t travel quite as well. It’s pretty good to get more than 11,000 at all three games when the host school is out.

College hockey: A+. In my opinion, there is nothing like playoff hockey… at any level. It’s not the same in other sports. It doesn’t have the same intensity from the start to finish. There is a reason why college hockey is breaking attendance records each year and gaining more television deals. Anyone who was watching the games this weekend knows why. All three were exciting.

Denver host: A-. Denver and the Pepsi Center did its rehearsal for the Frozen Four, which it will host next year. Banners were welcoming fans and athletes at the airport and around the city. The tournament was well run by organizers. Just a couple of kinks they will have to work out (getting consistent internet in the press box being one). But it appears to be set up to be a very well run Frozen Four.

Denver weather: B. The rain on Saturday wasn’t real pleasant. Can’t complain about the 70 and sun on Sunday and Monday.

On the big screen: D. How many times did they show the signs "Sioux is a girl’s name" and "Golden chokers" on the big screen Sunday? Good grief, I would have much rather they showed people shoveling off the ice or anything else. But hey, for us at the game, at least we weren’t subject to watching Bob Norton list his Hobey Baker finalists 85 times this weekend.

Denver International Airport: C. Getting from the front doors to your gate is a process, especially if you are carrying all your stuff. Walk in doors, go up stairs, wait in long ticket line, go back down stairs, walk about 100 yards to reach tens-a-barrier misery, zig-zag in security line forever, take laptop out of bag, take shoes off, go through metal detector, put laptop in bag, put shoes on, go down some more stairs, wait for train, hop on train and ride to Concourse B, go up two flights of stairs, walk 500 yards to gate, get ticket scanned, go down stairs again, walk another 200 yards, go outside and board plane. Then you hope that little air thing above your chair works.

Residence Inn: A+. Photographer Eric Hylden and I decided to save $20 per night by going to the Residence Inn instead of the media hotel, the Hyatt. As it turns out, it was a brilliant move. Kitchen, full-size fridge, stove, microwave, dishes, dishwasher, couch, two tables and a flatscreen HD television. Checking out has never been so difficult.

Beyond the box score: Minnesota

Face-offs

UND (49-30): Jonathan Toews 21-12, Chris VandeVelde 12-7, Rylan Kaip 7-3, T.J. Oshie 4-0, Darcy Zajac 4-2, Erik Fabian 1-1, Andrew Kozek 0-2, Chris Porter 0-3

Minnesota (30-49): Kyle Okposo 13-18, Mike Carman 8-8, Blake Wheeler 7-12, Tony Lucia 1-0, Jim O’Brien 1-8, Evan Kaufmann 0-1, Ben Gordon 0-2

Blocked shots

Minnesota 26, UND 18

Off-target shots

UND 18, Minnesota 15

Shot charts

First period

Second period

Third period

Overtime

Beyond the box score: Michigan

Face-offs

UND (33-50): Chris VandeVelde 11-11, Jonathan Toews 10-19, Rylan Kaip 6-6, T.J. Oshie 5-3, Andrew Kozek 1-5, Chris Porter 0-1, Darcy Zajac 0-5

Michigan (50-33): T.J. Hensick 21-4, Andrew Cogliano 12-11, Tim Miller 6-11, Anthony Ciraulo 5-0, Chad Kolarik 4-3, Travis Turnbull 2-1, Danny Fardig 0-1, David Rohlfs 0-2

Blocked shots

UND 11, Michigan 8

Off-target shots

UND 12, Michigan 12

Shot charts

First period

Second period

Third period

Gameday final: UND 3, Minnesota 2, OT

First period

Minn 1, UND 0 — Mike Carman (Mike Vannelli, Tony Lucia) 2:22. Vannelli found Carman camped in the left circle, where he one-timed it past Lamoureux on the short side.

Minn 1, UND 1 — Ryan Duncan (Brian Lee) 6:49. Lee’s shot from the point too a long bounce off the back wall and went to Duncan, who was at the bottom of the left circle. Duncan quickly sent the puck behind Frazee.

Second period

No scoring.

Third period

UND 2, Minn 1 — Robbie Bina (Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie) 2:08 (pp). Toews fed Bina, who was pinching in from the point. Bina one-timed it between Frazee’s pads from the inside of the right circle.

UND 2, Minn 2 — Jay Barriball (Mike Vannelli, Alex Goligoski) 13:11 (pp). Vannelli fed Barriball, who was standing in the left circle. The freshman one-timed it past Lamoureux between the pads.

Overtime

UND 3, Minn 2 — Chris Porter (Matt Watkins, Zach Jones) 9:43. Watkins chipped the puck along the boards and down low, where Porter picked it up, skated around the net and beat Frazee between the pads with his wraparound.

UND’s lines (wearing black)

16 Ryan Duncan–9 Jonathan Toews–7 T.J. Oshie
20 Matt Watkins–29 Chris VandeVelde–24 Chris Porter
21 Erik Fabian–17 Rylan Kaip–10 Andrew Kozek
26 Kyle Radke–11 Darcy Zajac–14 Brad Miller

4 Taylor Chorney–22 Brian Lee
2 Joe Finley–28 Robbie Bina
6 Zach Jones–5 Chay Genoway

1 Phil Lamoureux
30 Aaron Walski

Minnesota’s lines

29 Ryan Stoa–9 Kyle Okposo–19 Evan Kaufmann
13 Ben Gordon–17 Blake Wheeler–26 Jay Barriball
12 Tony Lucia–16 Mike Carman–22 Ryan Flynn
6 R.J. Anderson–18 Jim O’Brien–14 Justin Bostrom

10 Alex Goligoski–15 Mike Vannelli
5 Derek Peltier–4 Erik Johnson
27 Brian Schack–20 David Fischer

1 Jeff Frazee
34 Kellen Briggs
35 Brent Solei

UND talks about Minnesota

Any time a UND player was asked about Minnesota this week, the answer was along the lines of: "We play Michigan."

Well, now the Sioux are indeed playing the Gophers and they talked about the matchup after beating Michigan 8-5 in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.

The Sioux lead the season series 2-1, but UND coach Dave Hakstol said it’s time to throw out all previous meetings. Here’s a look back at what happened this season:

UND swept Minnesota in Mariucci Arena on Jan. 26-27, winning 5-3 the first night and 7-3 the second night. The Sioux fell behind 2-0 on Friday and scored the next five goals to take control. On Saturday, they stormed to a 2-0 lead, fell behind 3-2, then scored five straight to seal their first sweep in Minneapolis since 1980.

Minnesota got back at UND last weekend, beating the Sioux 3-2 in overtime in the WCHA Final Five championship game. The intense contest was capped by Blake Wheeler’s highlight-reel goal, where he dove at a puck to prevent icing and ended up knocking it past Philippe Lamoureux.

What do they expect at 5 p.m. today?

"It’s always a good game when we play the Gophers," T.J. Oshie said. "It’s always a good rivalry. They are fun games to play in. There’s definitely been a feeling in my gut this week. We took a pretty tough loss last week. It would feel good to get some payback. But we have to keep our heads about us tomorrow night, not over-exert ourselves, and just play our game — which is just hard-nosed Fighting Sioux hockey."

Hakstol said: "They are a heck of a hockey team. We’re going to prepare for them and going to prepare to play as well as we can play within our style of hockey."

UND hopes to step up on D

Hakstol also said hopes to see his team play better in its own end.

"We’re certainly going to try," he said. "You have to give Michigan credit. We weren’t good defensively early. They were making plays. They are extremely dynamic. Their team speed is as good as anyone we’ve faced. They put us back on our heels right away. We gave up a lot of Grade A opportunities and gave up some goals that at this time of year, you’re certainly not happy about giving up.

"We regained composure and played reasonably well defensively (late in the game). Obviously, we want to play a much stronger defensive game (against the Gophers). I think we can do that. That’s the way we’ll prepare."

Michigan game notebook

Game story is here. For the stuff that didn’t get in, below is a notebook that didn’t get in the paper because of deadline:

Lamoureux bounces back strong

Perhaps the easiest question UND coach Dave Hakstol fielded at the press conference was whether he considered pulling Philippe Lamoureux after he misplayed the puck behind the net in the second period, allowing Michigan an easy wrap-around goal and a 5-4 lead.

"No, not at all," Hakstol said. "Phil has really proven his mental toughness. He came out of a first half where there was nothing but question marks surrounding him. But he’s such a strong competitor mentally. We have faith in him. We know he’s going to battle back and he showed that tonight. That’s due to mental toughness.

"He made a couple of saves in the second half of the game that were game-changing saves. I thought he provided the turning point in our game with his save on T.J. Hensick’s breakaway in the second period."

Lamoureux allowed five goals on the first nine shots he faced through 21 minutes. In the final 39 minutes, Lamoureux stopped all 25 shots he saw.

Lamoureux told the Associated Press: "I made critical saves when I had to. Sometimes you get in 2-1 games. Sometimes they are 8-5. I can win games either way."

Both teams talk about UND’s power play

The Sioux scored five power-play goals on eight chances, a major reason for the outcome.

What I thought was notable about UND’s power play is that the second unit tallied the first two with the extra man. In the second half of the season, it was almost exclusively the first unit doing the scoring.

Hakstol’s comment on the power-play success: "Michigan is extremely aggressive on the penalty kill. Number one, we wanted to get traffic and get pucks to the net. When we did have a second or two, we wanted to hit seams. Most goals tonight was the result of us getting the puck to the net and traffic in front. You don’t always have to be pretty. Tonight, our power play was successful by doing simple things."

Michigan coach Red Berenson said: "Our penalty killing has been improved lately, then tonight we give up five power-play goals. Shots were getting through that we didn’t block and our goalie didn’t see. They scored one on a power-play rush that was a nice goal. The others were just going in. It was unbelievable. Billy Sauer couldn’t see it or couldn’t find it or was too far back in the net to make a save. It was a goalie’s nightmare.

"I thought our penalty killers were working hard and doing a lot of good things. I don’t think you can blame them for any of the goals. The puck was just going in. It’s like it had eyes. One went in from behind the net."

T.J. Hensick talks about misconduct penalty

Michigan’s Hobey Baker Award candidate was taken out of the game for 10 minutes with just 12:26 remaining for saying something to the ref. Hensick didn’t say exactly what he said, but he did talk about the penalty.

"I was angry. I’d say the ref was chirping at me more than I was chirping at him. At the end, I got sick of it. I don’t have much to say about it. I don’t want to get in trouble, so I’ll leave it at that."

It’s not clear how he could get in trouble being that Hensick was a senior and is done playing college hockey. But he did say what it felt like sitting in the box while his team was trying to rally.

"It was extremely frustrating because I didn’t think I deserved that. For the ref to do what he did — take me out of the game for 10 minutes in that critical situation — I thought it was extremely unlikely to happen. I wasn’t very happy sitting in the box. The referee was trying to take control of the game. I thought he should have done it early on in the game and often."

Berenson added: "I don’t like to talk about officiating, but at this level, I think it’s important that everybody understand what the standard is. That’s all I will say about that."

Notes and quotes

***There was a large eruption from Sioux fans in attendance when the clock hit 19:00 in the third period, as the Sioux successfully held Michigan off the board in the opening minute of a period.

***Berenson on his team’s defense: "We were telling our guys that one goal could win the game. Certainly, the team that wins shouldn’t give up more than one or two. If I were North Dakota, I’d feel bad about the goals they gave up. At Michigan, we’re embarrassed about the goals we gave up."

***Michigan also gave up eight goals to Minnesota earlier this season.

***Hensick was 21-4 in faceoffs. Michigan held the edge 50-33.

***T.J. Oshie scored his three goals three different ways — one even-strength, one power play, one shorthanded.

***Chris Porter was given the hard hat and he showed up to the press conference wearing it.

***Baudette’s Brett Nylander, and Air Force forward, landed himself on SportsCenter with the No. 7 play of the day with his wrap-around goal against Minnesota.

***Attendances were 11,161 and 11,171 for the games. In my estimation, the largest fanbases were: 1. Air Force, 2. UND, 3. Minnesota, 4. Michigan. Keep in mind that Air Force had UND, Michigan, CC and DU fans cheering for them along with their own fans.