The one great thing about the hockey world is that there are always connections and interesting notes about where guys have played and who they have played with. And certainly, that’s the case with UND’s first-round NCAA tournament opponent, Niagara.
Here are a few of them:
1. Niagara forward Jeff Hannan is the son of longtime NHLer Dave Hannan, who played 16 years in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators. Hannan won a Stanley Cup with the Oilers alongside Craig Simpson, the father of UND defenseman Dillon Simpson. The fathers also played together in Pittsburgh.
2. Niagara forward Sam Alfieri played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, where he finished as the team’s fourth-leading scorer — sandwiched between guys named Erik Haula and Jean-Paul Lafontaine. Of course Haula will also be at the West Regional with Minnesota, while Lafontaine led Minnesota State to the Midwest Regional. Alfieri played in the Little Caesars midget tournament in The Ralph as a teammate of former UND forward David Toews, Anaheim Ducks forward Emerson Etem and New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan.
3. UND defenseman Andrew Panzarella played on USHL teams with Niagara goalie Carsen Chubak (Tri City) and forward Patrick Divjak (Waterloo). Chubak and Panzarella helped that Tri City team to the playoffs. Its leading scorer was St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz.
4. Niagara defenseman Matt Williams and UND forward Carter Rowney teamed up to lead Grande Prairie to an AJHL championship in 2009. One year before that, Williams played with Mitch MacMillan in Alberni Valley of the BCHL.
5. Niagara backup goalie Cody Campbell played two seasons with the Fargo Force, where he was teammates with UND forward Colten St. Clair. He also played two seasons in Cedar Rapids, where he was teammates with UND forward Michael Parks.
6. Niagara forward Marc Zanette is the younger brother of former Purple Eagle forward Paul Zanette, who was a Hobey Baker finalist alongside former UND forward Matt Frattin two years ago.
7. Defenseman Dan Weiss played for the St. Louis Bandits one year after Jon Cooper left for the Green Bay Gamblers. Cooper is expected to be named head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning today. Not sure whether Cooper recruited Weiss to play for the Bandits or not. Side note: I saw the Cooper-coached Bandits play in St. Louis two days before UND played in the Frozen Four in the same building in 2007. Cooper coached against a U.S. Under-17 team that included Danny Kristo.
8. Niagara assistant coach Tim Madsen played alongside former UND forward Rastislav Spirko in Tri City.