Season comes to an end

PHILADELPHIA — UND’s season came to a close Thursday night in stunning fashion with Minnesota scoring a shorthanded goal with less than a second left in Wells Fargo Center.

It’s the fifth Frozen Four trip in a row that UND has lost a semifinal game. This one was like a few of the others, where UND played more than well enough to win.

Shots on goal were 37-28. Shot attempts were 83-52. In the decisive third period, UND outshot Minnesota 13-7 and had a 30-15 shot attempt advantage.

This seems to keep happening, doesn’t it?

After a fifth straight Frozen Four semifinal loss, you start looking back at the others for a pattern. What do they need to change? What’s going wrong? And that’s the baffling part.

Other than the obvious answer of “more goals,” what would anybody change about tonight’s game? I thought UND executed its game plan to a T.

UND had more zone time than Minnesota, which is a great puck possession team. UND had traffic in front of Adam Wilcox often. UND created some scrambles around the crease. The defense generated. UND did a great job of getting in passing lanes and making it tough for the Gophers to create offense (Dillon Simpson was terrific tonight, I thought).

In fact, here’s the shot chart in the period where UND lost the game:

Same thing with 2011 in St. Paul. I would take that performance against Michigan (40-20 shot advantage, 26-10 in the final two periods) every day of the week.

You could even go back to the 2005 title game loss (45-24 shot advantage) as another performance that you wouldn’t change anything.

The UND program certainly hasn’t caught many breaks in the Frozen Four lately, and on this night, it was a blocked shot that ended up on the stick of Minnesota’s Justin Holl for the game-winner.

UND may have been a No. 4 seed that managed to surprise everyone on its way to the Frozen Four, but after watching this game, I really do think that UND probably was one of the four best teams in the nation by the end of the season.

The progress of this team over the season was remarkable.

UND outshot Vermont 36-34 in the opening game of the season and got a win. Then, things got hard for UND. It won just two games in a 10-game stretch. When it did win, often times it was because of its goaltender.

In fact, after the season-opener against Vermont, UND won six games in the next two months, but got outshot in all six of them (four of them by double digits).

But slowly, this team turned into a very good team that finished the season 21-7-1 in its last 29 games, and it was outshooting even the best teams in the country (Wisconsin, Minnesota).

Yes, there’s a lot for UND fans to be excited about for next season. If everyone stays (and I think there’s a good chance of that), UND only loses Simpson and Derek Rodwell from tonight’s lineup.

I do think UND will be a better team next season. But here’s the truth: UND could have a better team and not make it to the Frozen Four.

It’s hard to get to the Frozen Four. Only 4 of 59 teams do it and far more teams are capable of it than a decade ago. The tournament is volatile and unpredictable. Getting there six times in 10 years is not normal.

UND overachieved this season and made it a lot further than most of us thought they would. But that’s what makes this loss tough for the team: When you get to the Frozen Four, you want to make the most of your opportunity, because you don’t know when you’ll be back.

UND has things set up pretty good for the future with this young D-corps and the stable of recruits lined up. But who knows what the future holds with the unpredictable NCAAs.

When you look at the season as a whole, it was quite a wild ride for this team.

Remember when we all went to The Ralph on a Sunday afternoon for Game 3 against Colorado College wondering if this was the last night of hockey for the season? Seems ages ago.

A lot has happened since then. The fans who I talked to today at McFadden’s said they really enjoyed watching this team turn into a lunch-pail group, led by guys like Connor Gaarder and Stephane Pattyn.

For me, this season blew by. It is hard to believe it is already April and the season is already over. Feels like it was just yesterday when I was scrambling to finish our annual preseason special section preview and it probably won’t be long before it’s time to start working on it again.

In the meantime, I think there will be plenty of interesting storylines around college hockey this summer for me to work on, starting with a season recap next week.

I’ll try to think of new ideas to make the Herald’s coverage of college hockey better next season. As always, if you have any ideas or suggestions, please, by all means, drop me an e-mail or leave a note in the comments.

Other than that, thanks a lot for reading the coverage this season, and thanks to the fans who introduced themselves this weekend in Philly (and elsewhere the rest of the season that matter).

48 thoughts on “Season comes to an end

  1. Nice summary Brad and keep up the great work!
    Our team made us so proud last night, they OWNED the gophers. There were many times [most of the time] that uMN didn’t even look like they could keep up. Yes, they had the boys on their heels at times, but significantly less than us.

    Hockey is a game of chances and bounces, which didn’t go our way last night. Nothing but to be proud of the fantastic game the boys played. Like 05′ this one stung, especially with 9 seconds left we’re still on the power play.

    My wife called it best that a timeout should’ve/could’ve been called at that point, but momentum is a funny thing.

    Thanks again for a great season of coverage Brad, you Enthusiastically and Exceptionally keep us as fans Informed and Invigorated!

  2. A fantastic year all the way around with no quarter asked or given, no apologies owed, and respect earned from all. The Sioux outplayed an opponent with superior firepower, and in the end only lost because of a freakish bounce. That was the best game I’ve seen in a long time, and I am only sorry the Sioux season couldn’t continue on like it should. Thanks for the great coverage, and I can hardly wait for next season to arrive…..

  3. I echo Viking1 above and will add that we *need* to play the Gophs more often. That was the best game I have watched all season.

  4. Thanks to the Sioux for another fun ride and the Herald for all of the great coverage. At the beginning of the year, we all wondered who could even score on this team. This team proved all of us totally wrong that they had plenty to show us and that they did. They were just as much fun as any team I can think of in the recent past.

  5. As has been said and will be said over and over again; that was a fantastic hockey game to watch. Not just because of the UND vs. MN factor, but just hockey in general. At several points in the game I felt that UND was “working” MN and there was bound to be a hard working goal; unfortunatley didn’t happen.

    Thanks again Brad for all of your hard work and dedication. I can’t wait to check out all the updates over the summer to fuel the juices for next season. I have to admit, last summer and before the season started, I wasn’t too sure how much I would get into this season. But as I’m reading the blog and watching the games as it progresses, I think this season ranks right up there with one of the best ones I’ve followed and really gotten into. Thanks Brad for the ability to keep fans attentive and draw in new fans!

  6. “but after watching this game, I really do think that UND probably was one of the four best teams in the nation by the end of the season.”

    Thank you! Finally. It’s been driving me nuts hearing our fans thinking we were this great underdog. We can’t in one breath say “UND doesn’t rebuild, we reload!” and then say that “we are huge underdogs” in another breath. We’re a perennial power house program and just because we “snuck” into the tourney or had a #4 seed ranking next to our name we, in my mind, we were never underdogs in any of the tourney games. No, we didn’t have the Toews/Parise type superstars, but by no means were we a lunch pale team like Union either. We have the most draft picks on our roster than any team in the nation!!! That’s a sign of talent. Anyway, thank you for finally recognizing this.

  7. It’s been ground into my competitive spirit that their is NO pride In losing! But I am conflicted, as I do believe our team out played the #1 team and were in position to win the game! Unfortunately, fate intervened and it became the same old same old! I am still a bit confused as I believe that everything happens for a reason and I cannot rationalize why this continues to occur. I am not sure of the exact measurements but it looked like if the puck went a inch or so to the right it hits the goalie pad, an inch or so to right and it hits the post or if it’s shot a half a second later – we are in OT! Maybe someone has to make amends with their maker as this is becoming hard to rationalize!

  8. I was happy to see you point out that Simpson had a great game. The whole team played solid last night and deserved a better outcome but that’s how it goes sometimes. I think Simpson showed last night he’s one of if not the best defenseman in college hockey this year. His leadership and strong defensive play is going to be missed. Somebody else is going to have to take this team on their back next season to carry them through. If I would have to guess now, I’d say that the “General” is that guy. Maybe not the talent that Simpson is but clearly stepped up as a leader this year and is clearly well respected by his teammates.

  9. What better proof that it’s a game of inch – one inch for the US Women’s Hockey team and they win the gold medal. One inch last night and we at least go to overtime.

  10. The team with the better record won the game last night. The BEST team last night did not win. I am so proud of our FIGHTING SIOUX for the great season they had. Looking forward to next year and beyond. Brad, you guys do an excellent job of reporting and keeping us informed about this hockey program. Thanks again.

  11. I wonder how many hockey locker rooms will have a picture of last nights GWG with the reminder….”Every second counts…”

  12. Brad,

    As mentioned by many you do an outstanding job of covering the Sioux. We as fans are very spoiled with the coverage of our favorite team. The coverage only gets better from you and the Herald and for that I am very grateful. Please pass along our appreciation to everyone at the Herald for another great season of coverage.

    And most importantly pass on how proud Sioux fans are of the way that this team represented the University and ND. A collection of hard working guys who embody the word team. Every year ends in a difficult fashion for 58 teams but this team has nothing to feel bad about. They earned everything this year and should be proud of their accomplishments.

    Lastly, can the haters get off the coaches backs. They did an outstanding job with this team and it should be recognized how they have adapted their approach to a new game while setting this program up for future success. Again we as fans are truly spoiled.

    Can’t wait for next year. Other than Miami I think we are strong favorites for the NCHC. And we as fans will be there to support that group like we did this year.

    Take care and thanks again for all your efforts.

  13. Thanks for the awesome coverage Brad! I appreciate all of the work you put into making sure that Sioux fans are the best informed college hockey fans out there.
    That one last night was a tough one – they dominated the game yet one brief letdown as time expires ends a season. Hard to take. I feel bad for the players as they definitely earned a better outcome. Next year will have high expectations.

  14. UND proved it was no underdog last night and competed brilliantly with a very strong and skilled and extremely fast Gopher team. The difference really came down to Wilcox, who had a number of stupendous saves from point blank range that allowed the Gophers to hang in there until literally the last second.

    Brad, thanks for another year of terrific coverage. I really appreciate how you always include news and insights of other teams in the NCHC and elsewhere in college hockey.

  15. Great to see almost 100% positive comments here today. Mr. Hakstol, his wonderful staff, and the team certainly deserve no less. I do need to add ONE negative comment though; that being the embarrassing attendance at the games yesterday. If ever there was an organization to be held in contempt and light regard, it is the buffoons at the NCAA. Were last evening’s game held in ANY good college hockey town (like the twin cities or the Ralph), the building would have been filled BEYOND capacity with true fans enjoying the spectacle of two arch-rivals locked in an epic struggle. As it was, last night’s wonderful game was played to tons of empty seats and a lethargic, unappreciative crowd (aside from each team’s respective fan base). Its time to start phasing out the NCAA’s control over tournament and regional placement. They have proven their incompetence time and time again…..

      • Not arguing there were bodies last night (never mind the regionals), but the atmosphere was very restrained and there were also entire empty sections. Neither would have happened with different placement in an appropriate college hockey venue. Methinks a mite smaller true college hockey crowd trumps silent superior numbers anytime. Just imagine the volume level/atmosphere were that game played at Mariucci or the Ralph….. :-)

        • I think a challenge with college tournament hockey is that once your team is done playing most hit the streets rather than watch the next game. If we played the first game and lost I doubt many of our fans would stick around to watch the second game regardless of where its played. If there were seats open for the first game that were filled for our game then our folks (or minnesota fans) sat the first game out as well.

          • I attended both games on Thursday and the UND section was right next to me, until late in the 2nd period of the Union/BC game it was 90% EMPTY. I don’t blame the UND fans for this, I blame the NCAA. Prior to 2007 the Frozen Four had two tickets for Thursday, fans who didn’t want to attend both games sold them and there were butts in the seats for BOTH games. Not sure why they went to a single ticket for Thursdays games but its hurt attendance to at least one (if not both) games ever since.

  16. Also glad to see that no one is out to get Hakstol. He’s had some questionable coaching in Frozen Four games, but last night was not one of them. He is getting closer to his title, and I like his chances in 2015.

  17. I would bet this isn’t the last we see of Simpson. When interviewed after the first period he spoke like a coach commenting on the team needing to stop the Gophers from getting to the puck at the wall point, and another time during the game they showed him on bench telling a coach (I think Berry but not certain) what he noticed out there. Hopefully he comes back to the G-Funk to coach after his playing career ends, he has a mind for hockey and hopefully a heart devoted to the Sioux. Wait ’til next year…

  18. Agree with Viking1 that is was surprising the amount of empty seats at both games. Were the tickets sold out?

    I think this was Hakstol’s best coaching year and he should be recognized as coach of the year for it.

  19. Brad you are one of the best in reporting hockey. I’m amazed you haven’t gone “pro” yet.

    SIOUXper year, it’s one for the Books, that’s for sure.

  20. Brad – Living out of state, your Fighting Sioux hockey coverage is essential for me. I sincerely thank you for your dedication and hard work in covering Fighting Sioux hockey. If there was a All-American list for college hockey journalists, you would get my vote every year. Keep up the great work Brad!!!

  21. I’m guessing part of the reason for the reserved atmosphere was nerves on the part of the fans. No fan wanted their team to lose this game. Also, there wasn’t a whole lot of action that gets fans excited, like odd man rushes and highlight scoring. The game was so even, and no clear momentum swings.

  22. Thankyou Fighting Sioux for an amazing season!!!! Dillon Simpson and the rest of the Senior class, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. It has been an absolute treat to watch you play.

  23. I’ve watched this team for a long time. And while the highs have been amazing (the 2000 win over BC, Bina’s 185 footer, Porter’s wraparound to send the team to the Frozen Four in 2007, etc) there have been some lows as well (the run of 0-fers in the Frozen Four, the overtime loss to UNH). Last night was not a low. Last night was a team, who on paper was an underdog, skating with the best team in the country and taking it to them. Hak was not outcoached last night. The team was not outplayed last night. A simple bounce, off of a blocked shot, made the difference. That’s it. A bounce.

    I’m very glad the haters haven’t come out calling for Hakstol’s head. Dave had a great gameplan and the Sioux executed it to near perfection. I’ve never seen a Gophers goalie play so lights out like Wilcox did last night. But for this lunchpail team, this blue collar team, to skate like they did last night and very nearly upset the number one team in the country…let’s just say there’s no reason to cry. Sure, the sting of defeat hurts. A lot. Especially against your hated rivals. But there’s a lot of Sioux pride out there, and I don’t see it fading anytime soon. :-)

        • Sorry, but take off the green glasses. Even Brad would disagree with this comment.

          On the Ice, there were no underdogs playing. However, on paper, Minnesota was the complete team. They had everything from super quality goaltender to staunch D to explosive offense and lastly depth at all positions. ON PAPER, Minnesota should have blown us out of the water.

          In the end, however, Minnesota won but it wasn’t the victory the paper would suggest. We played like absolute champions. EVERYONE played their game and the Gophers literally got a lucky shot off at the buzzer.

          It was a great game and an instant classic.

          • Most draft picks on roster more than any other team in NCAA. NHL drafts talent. Enough said. Goalie talent was equal. D core equal. They’re forwards may be more talented, but they are younger and less experienced and that’s what UND exposed. Tired of hearing our fan base use the we were the little underdogs who could. NO ONE in the nation is buying it. We’re an elite program each and every year. We sound silly trying to pass the “we shouldn’t even have been in that game and look we almost beat the almighty Gophers” as if trying to diminish the Gophers win/team to make us look and feel better. Too many fans seem to talk in circles after deflating losses like this. One day their saying “UND doesn’t rebuild we reload” and then we lose to our bitter rival and all of sudden we’re the poor, talentless underdogs who shouldn’t have even made the tourney. If we beat Miami we’re at worst a #2 seed. All of sudden our ranking changes from #4 to #2 in the flash of one game. Are we still underdogs than?

          • Murray – It won’t let me reply to your comment for some reason.

            Anyways, number of NHL draft picks is a huge misnomer. Just because you are drafted in the NHL doesn’t mean you’re a sure thing at the NCAA level. Just ask David Fischer as an example that comes to mind. Heck, I like Joe, but Joe Finley wasn’t worth a first round draft pick (neither, fwiw, was Washington’s other first rounder that year, Sasha Pokaluk). NHL drafts potential at a certain skillset. Sometimes, it is obvious (Toews). Sometimes it is not (Brett freaking Hull…6th rounder for F sake btw, look up his stats on hockeydb. His final year at Penticton featured him scoring 105 Effing goals. GOOD GOD!). That’s how Tim Thomas goes from a nobody to a somebody. Brett Bruneteau was drafted by Washington, remember, and then Washington dropped his rights for a compensatory pick. An NHL pick, especially one in the 4th through 7th round, is more of a “We like what we see and we’re wondering what you’ll develop to so we want to find out exclusively” type deal.

            You dislike the term “underdog” just as much as I dislike the term “hot goalie” but sometimes it is true. It isn’t to put down UND or pump up our opponent. Minny was top 3 all year long. You don’t come into a game vs. the #1 team in the nation as equals or better. It’s reality, dude. We didn’t play like underdogs, but we were underdogs nonetheless.

  24. Having grown up in western GF county I’ve always said I never learned to skate because the sloughs, and ponds, and even Golden Lakes were covered by drifts. So my knowledge of hockey was zero until the first game I saw in the WSC (old Ralph). I was able to be at every home game when the program took off, again, under Rube with Gino assisting.

    For all of you more knowing on this blog I have a couple of questions. I thought I saw a defensive schooling on Thursday by UND from my meager knowledge base. So with young defenseman and newer defensive coaching, how did that affect the team this season? The defense looked outstanding which is probably what this team needed to compete at a high level. The growth in that aspect really brought this group to the top 4 in country.

    I think Hakstol did a great job with this team but how has the defensive play changed and what impact have the assistants had? Assistants can have a big impact and I wonder if they’ve had more say in particular areas. I felt Gino had a lot of say in Rube’s last year and the excitement has never stopped. Next season should be even more fun.

  25. I’ll echo what many have already said. Very hard and brutal ending to the season, but I’m very proud of this team and how hard and well they played last night. Hats off to the players and coaches. No shame in an unfortunate bounce of the puck, just a bitter taste in the mouth. Looking forward to next year. Let this be fuel for the fire that is Sioux hockey.

  26. Ah yes, how ironic that ND fans are now pleading the woes of the “shots on goal” metric as the measure of success. Memory can be selective. Ferris State had a 26-8 advantage in shots in the first overtime, and a 44-24 game advantage. I didn’t see any willingness by ND fans to concede that victory – rather it was attributed to “great goal-tending”. And enough about “the little engine that could”…ND was picked #5 in preseason polls (ahead of the Gophers). I think the best team won against Ferris State…and also Thursday night.

    • Most here have already acknowledged Wilcox played exceptionally (almost unbelievably) well, and that Z Gothberg did the same against Ferris. Now if you can just admit the Gophers advanced by the skin of their teeth (after being outplayed most of the game), all will be copasetic…… :-)

  27. Great coverage Brad! We are all spoiled because you provide us with the best coverage in the nation.

    Do you anticipate any early departures this offseason?

    Thanks again Brad!

  28. Brad,

    I graduated from UND in 1981 and have followed the the team since. Your blogs are very enjoyable and make it easy to stay up with the team. Your insight is excellent and your writing is timely and helpful. For next year I would like to see more video….of key moments of the game and maybe introduce an asst….coaches corner….they look at a lot of film each week and it would be fun to see them talk about three of four key things each game that the team did well and did not do so well. Most hockey fans need to learn more about the systems that are employed. We rarely talk about the detail strategy that occurs in our great game and your readers I believe would enjoy that. Again great year by UND, wonderful job by the coaches….man would I have loved to beat the rodents ! Thanks again Brad have a great summer !!!!!

  29. Okay, now that the Gophers have lost and my blood pressure is slowly dropping…

    Thank you for a great year and great coverage. You have the absolute best job in the world, and we are all very appreciative of your thorough and extensive coverage of our favorite team. I look forward to reading your column every single day.

    My feedback: this year seemed to be some of your best work. You seemed to update the page (nearly) daily with stories that weren’t too repetitive or dry. The coverage of the team was great and handled the conference realignment very well. I still would like a little more national coverage. I can’t watch a ton of national games, and it’s hard to appreciate the players past their box score. I also love hearing/reading about recruits. I don’t know your ability to talk about prospective recruits, but I want to hear about guys like Jack Eichel who will be the next face of college hockey (potentially), Zach Yon who looked really impressive in the state tourney, or uncommitted guys who all the colleges would love to have with their program.

    Thanks again for a great year!!

    • I definitely want to get into covering the national scene more. I planned to do that this year but didn’t really get around to it. I’ll try to bump that up next season. I know fans do like the prospective recruit info, and I try to get some on that, but that info is a lot more difficult to get.

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