This week marked the 10-year anniversary of the opening of Ralph Engelstad Arena. Even with the trend of opening new rinks all over the country — and I’ve been to several that have opened since — none have measured up to The Ralph.
And it’s more than just a building. It has housed many memorable events and games in the last decade. So, in honor of 10 years, I decided to compile 10 memorable nights in the building. Hopefully, I haven’t omitted any obvious ones.
10. Opening night
The buzz about the area existed for a couple of years. It finally opened with the Hall of Fame Game against the University of Minnesota. Ralph, himself, was at the game. A recruit named Zach Parise was there, too, and committed before he left (Strangely enough, he was named an NHL captain 10 years — to the day — later). The Gophers ended up beating their rivals on that day, rallying from behind.
9. Kansas comes to play UND in men’s hoops
Rarely will you see a big-time college athletics program play a school one Division lower on the road, but it happened in 2002. Kansas, with a roster that featured future NBA players Drew Gooden, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford, showed up and put on a show. UND’s Jerome Beasley held his own in that game and ended up playing in the NBA as well.
8. Andre Agassi vs. Andy Roddick
Top-notch tennis players never come around these parts. When I was younger, I figured the closest trip to see pros would be Cincinnati. But all of the sudden, two of the world’s best (at the time) were in Grand Forks playing an exhibition match. Agassi, who has every major title to his credit and eight overall, was the highlight. Roddick also has a major to his credit.
7. Grafton-Park River wins state in 3OT
This state championship had it all. Both sides had a ton of talent. It had some controversy — Grafton-Park River scored the game-tying goal in the third period with six men on the ice. And it had quite a bit of overtime. Red River’s Alex Simonson, now with Nebraska-Omaha, hit the post in the first OT. Chad Demers, who will be in The Ralph this weekend as a member of Air Force, won it in the third on a brilliant feed from linemate Alex Gaustad.
6. Sioux sweep Gophers in 2009
In one of the loudest weekends of The Ralph’s history, UND had the most lopsided sweep of their rivals in Grand Forks in program history. Ryan Duncan and Jason Gregoire both had big weekends, while Minnesota pulled its goalie, Alex Kangas, both nights.
5. Sioux beat Denver in OT to advance to Final Five
Dave Hakstol calls it “the weekend where The Ralph became a hockey rink again.” UND needed wins to make the NCAA tournament and got them in dramatic fashion. First, there was the extra-attacker, game-tying goal by Brandon Bochenski, followed by the OT winner by Bochenski on Friday night to save the Sioux. Then, hometown kid Nick Fuher, on his birthday no less, scored an OT goal the next night to keep UND’s season alive.
4. Central stuns South for state title
Fargo South was less than a minute from celebrating a state championship. In just 14 seconds, Central pulled off a stunning change of events. First, Pat Lindgren scored an extra-attacker goal on a point shot to tie it. Then, off the faceoff, Matt Moreland hit a slap shot home to give the Knights a 3-2 lead, which would hold up through the final 30 seconds.
3. Canada beats Russia for WJC title
An unbelievable crowd of rowdy Canadians invaded The Ralph for a game that featured a jaw-dropping amount of talent. Canada’s team featured Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Andrew Ladd, Shea Weber, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter and Brent Seabrook. Russia’s team featured Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. The Canadians won it.
2. UND earns Frozen Four berth on home ice
It may have been expected, but a charged-up crowd cheered the Sioux on to the Frozen Four. UND beat Holy Cross and Jonathan Toews was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. UND’s first home NCAA tournament games in 25 years turned out as successful as the team could have dreamed.
1. Holy Cross stuns Minnesota; Sioux blast Michigan
The perfect storm created what will forever live as the loudest night in the history of The Ralph. As if playing at home in the NCAAs for the first time in 25 years wasn’t enough, Holy Cross became the first No. 4 seed to ever beat a No. 1 seed. That top seed just happened to be UND’s biggest rival, and a team that was absolutely loaded that year. All that did was pour gasoline on the fire. From the second that Tyler McGregor scored the winner to the three-goal outburst (Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie, Drew Stafford) that put the Sioux up 3-0 in the first on Michigan, the building was as loud as it will ever be.
Honorable mention: Sioux rally from down 4-1 against Denver to win 5-4 on Andrew Kozek’s hat trick. . . Darcy Zajac scores the overtime winner against Colorado College to virtually clinch the MacNaughton Cup for the Sioux. . . UND rallies from down 3-0 to beat Boston College. Drew Stafford with the winner. . . South goalie Sean Deichert leads his team to the state title after his father, Tony, passes away. . . USA beats Russia 5-4 on Christmas Day to open the World Juniors.