GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Niagara gave UND everything it could handle Friday night in Van Andel Arena, but thanks to a key save by Zane Gothberg, two big plays by seniors and a shut down defensive corps, UND was able to sneak one out against the Purple Eagles in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Game stories:
- UND is advancing to the regional final for the eighth time in the last 10 years and for the seventh time in nine years under coach Dave Hakstol. UND’s seniors will play in their third regional championship game.
- Yale also is accustomed to being in this game. This is the Bulldogs’ third trip in the last four years to the regional final. In 2011, they lost to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth. In 2010, they lost to eventual national champion Boston College.
- The big question will be about who you put with Corban Knight and Danny Kristo on the top line. A remarkable seven guys have had chances to play on their line, including Brendan O’Donnell, Rocco Grimaldi, Carter Rowney, Michael Parks, Mark MacMillan, Mitch MacMillan and Drake Caggiula. O’Donnell started up there, but was moved off of the line in the third. Grimaldi finished up there. Read Miller’s column to hear comments on that.
- Kristo continues to come up huge for UND. He now has five goals in five playoff games. Four in the third period. He’s second nationally with 26 goals — 18 of them have come with UND trailing or the game tied. He’s definitely making a case for Hobey.
- Prior to tonight, Niagara had just one loss in 17 games when leading after two periods.
- I originally thought Andrew MacWilliam’s point shot hit a Niagara player in front of the net and went in, but Chubak said it went in clean. He blamed himself for not stopping it and said he should have had it. Niagara coach Dave Burkholder interrupted and mentioned how many bodies were in front
- UND’s power play is 0-for-its-last-18, but threw 13 shots on goal during its six power-play chances against Niagara. The power plays didn’t struggle as much as they did in the Final Five. Maybe they are about to break through there?
- On the other side, UND has only allowed three power-play goals in the last nine games (27 for 30).
- The underrated play of the game is Zane Gothberg’s save on Ryan Murphy’s breakaway late in the second period. If that goes in, that might be it for UND. Gothberg got a piece of it and sent it wide of the net. Burkholder said Murphy has scored five goals on that move this year.
- There’s little to no atmosphere in the building, which is strange. The press box is way up by the roof, yet we can hear the players and coaches yelling clearly. There were only 2,289 in attendance for the day (while we had 3,811 on our live chat). With Minnesota losing, there might be fewer fans for the regional championship.
- With that in mind, I thought Niagara played the game it needed to a T. They kept the scoring to a minimum, made life difficult offensively for UND, got a great performance out of the goalie and scored the first goal of the game.
- Yale’s players weren’t all that giddy about the win over Minnesota. As Yale coach Keith Allain said, they came here to win the regional, not just beat Minnesota.
- Yale’s top forwards are very good and will get scoring chances. Kenny Agostino was involved in the Jarome Iginla trade this week. He was the best player on the ice in the Gophers-Bulldogs game. Andrew Miller is exceptional and Antoine Laganiere is believed to be one of the most coveted college free agents.