Thursday night rewind

What struck me about Michigan’s press conference after Thursday’s semifinal game, was how much Red Berenson talked about the 1997 Michigan team that was favored entering the Frozen Four but got knocked out in the semifinals.

Here we are, almost 15 years later, and Berenson is still talking about the game like it was yesterday. He has carried it with him for that long.

Unfortunately for UND, this is a loss that the players, coaches and fans might carry with them for a long time as well.

I have now seen seven years of Sioux hockey end as a reporter and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a group so devastated after a game. Maybe after the 2005 championship. Maybe. Much of the team had showered and changed and captain Chay Genoway was still sitting in his locker stall with his gear on. He couldn’t take off the jersey for the final time. One media member came up to me and said: “I had an easier time at my mother’s funeral than going into that locker room.”

Derrick LaPoint went to the press conference and wore his heart on his sleeve. One reporter tried to get him to say that the season was overall a success. LaPoint bluntly disagreed and said it was a failure. That’s a reflection of how the team feels right now.

I think the reason why this one will sting the players, coaches and fans for a while is because they all know getting to the Frozen Four isn’t easy. UND was the only No. 1 seed to do it this year. Three other great teams didn’t make it this far. There are no guarantees on when they will be back, no matter how great of a regular season they might have.

Secondly, UND was the best team in St. Paul. And they played well enough to win nine times out of 10. And in the championship, they would have played a team they beat by five goals the last time they played. That part will sting as well.

Now the natural reaction of fans and media is to look for the scapegoat. Try to find someone to pin the loss on. But in this instance, there is no one. The Sioux played hard, carried the play, got good goaltending and still lost. It happens from time to time in this sport and unfortunately for the Sioux, it happened at the wrong time. The Sioux outshot the CCHA champs 40-20 and lost. What can you do?

The next question that will be asked is: “What will it take to win a national tournament?” In my opinion, you need a very good team to do it, but you also need things to line up. I also believe it’s impossible to predict when it might happen.

In 1997, Michigan was the best team in the country, but lost in the semifinals. Inexplicably, they came back the next year with an inferior team and won the national title.

In 1999, UND was the best team in the country, but lost in the regional final. Strangely enough, they came back the next year with an inferior team and won the national title.

In 2011, it is my belief that UND was the best team in the country. The Sioux lost in the semifinals. They will not be as good next year, but could that team win it? Certainly possible.

Tomorrow night, a team that finished fourth in the WCHA, won 2 of 8 games before the playoffs and lost to Bemidji State in the quarterfinals of the Final Five will play for a national championship. A fan base that three weeks ago was furious about “another late season collapse” may be celebrating a title. You just never know. That’s the beauty and the agony of this tournament.

So, those are my thoughts on UND’s bitter end to a storybook season. We had plenty of game coverage in the Herald as well. Stories:

Grand Forks Herald gamer with LaPoint’s quotes

Grand Forks Herald sidebar on Michigan embracing underdog role

Grand Forks Herald notebook on Nelson and other notes

Grand Forks Herald story about Sioux fans in St. Paul

Grand Forks Herald story about Sioux fans sandbagging and watching the game

Grand Forks Herald photo gallery

FightingSioux.com

AnnArbor.com

Detroit News

Detroit Free Press

A couple of other notes:

  • Sioux fans at the game were outstanding. Sometimes, when the team doesn’t score, the crowd gets taken out of the game. The only time the atmosphere left the building was after Brock Nelson got hurt. Otherwise, they were roaring for the Sioux after they put on the pressure and they were in the game until the end.
  • Speaking of Nelson, I don’t have any updates on his condition yet. He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons. Tough loss for the Sioux because Nelson was playing very well for them.
  • UND mixed and matched the third and fourth lines after that. I know I saw Jason Gregoire take at least one shift on the fourth line.
  • The Pony Express line had the same number of shots as Michigan: 20. That’s pretty incredible. Evan Trupp had 10 shots himself. His best play was an unbelievable touch pass to Brad Malone to send Malone in on the goal. Malone made the right move and had the five-hole to score, but Shawn Hunwick made a great poke check.
  • Andrew MacWilliam had a very good game for the Sioux.
  • LaPoint finished his college career going 32 consecutive games without being a minus.
  • I’m sure there are other notes I’m missing, but that’s all for now. Time to get to the Hobey ceremony.

21 thoughts on “Thursday night rewind

  1. Tough loss and I feel just horrible for the guys. I can’t wait till next season and look forward to another fun run for the elusive #8. Thanks again seniors, you deserved a better fate.

    • I failed to thank you Brad for your great coverage all season long. We have the best reporter in College Hockey. So for you Brad I would suggest for next year not to miss a blog post I.e. Weekly Wed. Updates, Friday Night Rewind, Sat. Night Rewind etc.. It kind of tweaks the base when those are late. :) . I kid.

  2. It was a great season to follow. Lots of questions and some of them had answers that would pop up… only to be followed by more questions. TONS of drama this year and very entertaining. Would have like to see them win the big one, but I definitely got my entertainment value from them this season.

    For those who want to pin this on Hak… you don’t really get it. This tournament, just like the Basketball one, does not reward the best team in the country. It rewards the teams that are able to string together a few hard fought wins with a little luck here and there. Very rarely does the ‘best team’ in either one of these tournaments win the big trophy.

    To the “sioux fan” who was caught on camera being a complete jack-donkey… thanks. You wonder why other fans are always saying that Sioux fans are such jerks. Not a class move. Not a good representation of what Sioux Nation is really about.

    I’ll be there again next year when the puck is dropped and hope to have another enjoyable Fighting Sioux Hockey season.

    Thanks much to the seniors for all they have given to the program.

  3. Well said, Brad. It is what it is. If I was told that Dell would save 18 of 19 and UND would put 40 shots on net, I would have bet any amount of money on the Sioux. I still would.

    This season was a success. As LaPoint said about this team, people can claim that only national titles matter. But I’m not willing to say that in the entire history of Sioux hockey that there have only been seven successful seasons.

  4. Brad, thanks for the updates and all of your hard work. I always look forward to your synopsis and thoughts… especially this one.

    I think you summarized it very well… it is what it is. I really feel for the players… they let it all out and wore their hearts on their sleeves. I thank them as a Sioux fan for that.

    As all Sioux fans, I much rather have been celebrating a win… but I would rather hurt like this… then never feeling this hurt at all. Otherwise, I would feel like those fans of other teams that never got to experience the thrill (and the hurt) of being a Fighting Sioux fan.

    I look forward to your future thoughts and next season.

    Go Sioux!!

  5. There was video of a fan flippin off the michigan team after the first and second goal. I have been to a hockey game in North Dakota at your arena, and been to a game at Yost Field house in Ann Arbor. The atmosphere dosent even compare, Michigan fans are the best, and the experience at Yost blows away the experience at Ralph Englested Arena, or whatever you call your home ice.

  6. I have no idea what I would be doing on Fri/Sat from Oct thru Mar if it was not for Sioux hockey and the other Sioux sports as well. The best value around. Half the time, I couldn’t care less about pro sports, but Sioux sports always matter. Berenson summed it up very well. He actually made me feel better after listening to him. Thanks Brad for all you do.

  7. Sometimes you just have to chalk things up to experience, and know that it was the journey that mattered the most. This year was an incredible journey. In time, I would expect the players and coaches to come to that same realization. Fans who live vicariously through college students, and who think winning at any cost is the only value in college athletics, show their true colors through childish actions (guys who flip off Michigan players are probably also the ones who pick fights with coaches and officials and other volunteers at kids’ athletic events). They will never find value in the journey. I am for one comfortable with the outcome of this game, because the journey was worth it.

  8. Wonderful synopsis capping a season of great coverage; thank you :-) . BTW, both you and Mr Zimmerman are correct: No WAY Michigan man-for-man is the better team (before or after last night’s game). However Shawn Hunwick was the best player on the ice by leaps and bounds last night, and that was the difference. Kudos for a very successful season for the Sioux, and hats off to Mr Hunwick for one of the grittiest netminding performances we will ever witness in the Frozen Four………

  9. Great work Brad! Great work seniors!! Thanks for all the hard work. I was at the game and although have the same sick feeling as most fans, I was proud to be a Sioux Fan! I found the pairing of Marto and Lapoint to be the calmest and most focused of our D core. I also though MacWilliam had a good game. Chay played his heart out but seemed to maybe trying too hard offensively and had problems controlling the puck-partyly due to Michigan. It’s been a fun 4 years watching these guys and I wish that group of seniors nothing but the best!

  10. Thanks again for all the coverage and articles this season Brad. Best of luck to all the seniors in the future. Disappointing ending to a great season, but I agree, they went down fighting and didn’t give up. Sometimes it just isn’t your day and there is nothing you can do about it. Looking forward to next season.

  11. Excellent synopsis, Brad.
    I was certainly disappointed with the loss, but it was just “one of those games”. The Sioux carried much of the play, had several quality scoring chances and played well defensively. However, the guy at the other end in goal just had a “career game.” Hunwick definitely was sharp, but he also had some good fortune and good defense in front of them. Let’s give the Wolverines credit. They kept the Sioux on the outside and from attacking the net with regularity, especially on the PP. They had to keep it a 1-0, 2-1 type game.
    Boston University coach Jack Parker once said, “I don’t know why they don’t call this game goalie.” Indeed, one player can make all the difference in a big game.
    Brad brought up good points about how in past years the favorite didn’t win the championship. That 1997 Michigan team certainly was one of them and UND was the beneficiary of that Wolverine team getting knocked off by BU in the semifinals.

    What’s hard for me is that fact that UND has been to the Frozen Four five times in the past seven years and all it has to show for it is a 1-5 record. Maybe it’s because Sioux fans over the years have been spoiled. Usually when UND gets to the Frozen Four they win it all. Gino Gasparini went to five frozen fours and won three titles, posting a 8-2 record (1 win was a third place victory in 1984). Dean Blais went to three frozen fours, won two titles and posted a 5-1 record. Hakstol is a very good coach and he’s certainly proved that with his winning percentage, WCHA regular season and playoff titles. Since he became the head coach in 2004 it’s hard to argue there may not be a better coach in the nation between October and March. However, it’s what you do in April that separates good coaches from great coaches.
    You can’t pin this particular loss on the coach, but the longer this Frozen Four drought continues the more restless Sioux fans will become and call into question whether the coach has the intangibles to win a title. I sure hope so.
    I expect Hakstol will take another Sioux team to another Frozen Four in the future and perhaps it will be a team with less talent and experience that breaks through.

    And finally, thanks Brad for the extensive coverage and insight in Fighting Sioux hockey. There is no one better in the business.

    • dont forget that it used to be a smaller field to make it to the frozen four. So you could win your regional with just one win and coast in. Teams are a lot more even these days and like we have all seen… a hot goaltender or a bad bounce can beat even the best team in the field.

  12. Thank You Sioux for a great season. Until the NCAA changes the format from one and done, I’m done watching hockey. I couldn’t take another loss like Thursday. I’ve never felt so much anger and disappointment, the better team should win. If Michigan wiped to floor with us I would have been okay losing to them, but they sucked. Miracle on ice wasn’t a Miracle, it was the product of one and done.

    • Sorry, but that statement is a little much. Michigan had a great full-season record, and some amazingly talented players. I doubt Merrill will be in college after next season. Yes the Sioux undoubtedly would win a best of 3, but Hunwick would not be denied this particular day, and that’s just the way it goes……:-(

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