MINNEAPOLIS — It’s the crazy time of year in college hockey with seasons on the line, championships up for grabs, early signings and awards being handed out all at once.
For UND, there’s no man busier than goalie Zane McIntyre.
It’s not just because he’s bidding to become the first North Dakota netminder in nearly 50 years to play in every game of the season. In the last 48 hours, he has been named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goalie, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the country’s best overall player and he has won the NCHC goalie of the year award.
Yes, it has become clear to everyone in Grand Forks this season that McIntyre is elite at stopping the puck.
But there’s a story behind the scenes that many probably don’t know: Zane was raised in a Thief River Falls trailer by a single mother who worked as many as three jobs to support the family.
His mother and grandmother have been deeply influential in his life and hopefully this story better explains why he decided to change his last name.
After today’s NCHC awards banquet, I also caught up with injured UND forward Mark MacMillan, who was named the league’s top defensive forward. Seems very appropriate for a guy whose career ended because he was making a great defensive play.
MacMillan tells us all about what happened on the play and what exactly happened to him in this piece here.
Speaking of the awards ceremony, here’s a quick rundown of the award winners with a lot of photos and some video of the event.
Today’s game is an afternoon semifinal at the conference tournament against St. Cloud State. I actually remember the last afternoon semifinal in the conference tournament against St. Cloud State.
It was 2007, and an 18-year-old kid named Jonathan Toews [who is still held in high regard at North Dakota, says ESPN] sniped a goal top shelf from in tight.
Today, the Huskies won’t be trying to stop a player like Toews. No, it will be trying to slow down UND’s forth line, which has outproduced every other line by far in the last three weeks. Read about that here.
Another player that the Huskies will try to slow down is Nick Mattson, the team’s leading scorer since December. Interestingly enough, Mattson says that “mindful meditation” played a big role in turning his season around. Read more about that here.
On the St. Cloud State side of things, Roseau’s Nick Oliver (who committed almost a decade ago) has been part of lifting the Huskies to new heights. He’s determined to get a win this weekend and keep the season going.
UND won’t be the only team missing a key player. The Huskies will be without defenseman Andrew Prochno, and could be without center Kalle Kossila. Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times details that in this story.
Kossila has dominated UND centers on draws this season, so both teams could be without their top faceoff men today. Prochno has been steady since his freshman season.
There was a lot made out of UND and St. Cloud State getting the early start time. Commish Josh Fenton explains it here.
UND and St. Cloud State have met four times this season, but a few things could be different without key players today.
Keys for UND:
1. Stay out of the penalty box. SCSU has the NCHC’s top power play and one of the top power-play units in the nation. They move the puck extremely well with the extra man and have hurt UND in those circumstances.
2. Win faceoffs. This goes hand-in-hand with special teams. They’ve been absolutely dominated by the Huskies at times in draws this season.
3. Get top players going. Michael Parks and Drake Caggiula have 3 points in the last 6 games. If they are on a line with Nick Schmaltz, they have to produce.
Keys for SCSU:
1. Goaltending. Yes, that’s always a key, but Charlie Lindgren needs to be better than he was in Grand Forks.
2. Match up better with the fourth line. The Huskies have been dominated by UND’s fourth line in 3 of the 4 matchups. They can’t let the Johnny Simonson unit do that today.
3. Play with the lead. UND has been miserable to play against this season once it gets leads. The Huskies can change the game if they get some early goals.
That’s about it for now. Check back on the Herald site often for more videos, photos and updates this weekend.
Also, check out College Hockey News’ wonderful Pairwise predictor to try to figure out where everyone will end up this weekend.
And check out Jim Dahl’s Twitter account for the best Pairwise info anywhere.
Catch you all soon.