Saturday night rewind

Five highlights from around the country:

1. Omaha continued to stay hot early this season, sweeping Western Michigan on the road. The top line of Jake Guentzel-Dominic Zombo-Austin Ortega now has 21 points in four games this season. Guentzel leads the way with nine of them.

2. In Denver’s first weekend without NCHC goalie of the year Sam Brittain, the heir apparent, Evan Cowley, stopped 40 of 41 shots (.976, 0.51) in leading Denver to a sweep of RPI. The lone goal allowed by Cowley was a power-play tally with :35 left in the game.

3. As expected with so many new players, Wisconsin is off to a tough start, dropping to 0-4 after getting swept by Northern Michigan. The Badgers have just 3 goals in 4 games this season. The Badgers now have two weeks to prepare for UND.

4. Union finished off a sweep of Maine with a 5-2 victory, setting up a key nonconference showdown against St. Cloud State next week in upstate New York. Union will take a 16-game winning streak and a 21-game unbeaten streak into that series. Its last loss came in January.

5. The Alaska schools are a combined 7-0-1 to start the season after the teams went 3-0-1 against Penn State and Air Force this weekend in Fairbanks.

In Colorado Springs, UND was dominant in its 7-2 win over Colorado College from the start to the end of the game. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Colorado Springs Gazette

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • On Friday night, I thought Colorado College played a fairly even game with UND and that goaltender Zane McIntyre was a huge difference-maker. Saturday was completely one-sided from the start as UND won nearly every puck battle. The lack of compete from CC is likely why they held a players meeting after the game.
  • UND used the Olympic ice sheet to its advantage on the power play, going 5-for-11 on Saturday and 6-for-16 on the weekend.
  • Mark MacMillan will surely be the NCHC offensive player of the week with his five-point night and seven-point weekend. On top of that, MacMillan went 14-4 on faceoffs as UND dominated that category 34-21.
  • In the first period, CC had just one shot attempt between the dots. It came from Hunter Fejes, who was ejected by the end of the frame. In the second period, the Tigers got one shot on goal between the dots. It was the easiest 40 minutes that McIntyre has had in a while.
  • Johnny Simonson registered his first college point and came so close to getting his first goal. He rang two shots off the post. Simonson, a scratch in the season opener, is starting to leave the coaches no choice but to play him, much as Mario Lamoureux did as a youngster. Simonson now has worked his way onto the second power-play unit.
  • Tucker Poolman, who scored his first-career goal, also has worked his way onto the power play.
  • In past years, I’ve written about UND’s inability to score on five-minute major power plays. That obviously was not the case Saturday as UND tallied four goals on the two majors. MacMillan said after the game that the key is playing with urgency, instead of relaxing because of the extra time.
  • The seniors came up big this weekend for UND, combining for 6 goals and 14 points.
  • The biggest area of concern is the health of Drake Caggiula, who left the ice after a hit by Christian Heil, who was penalized for contact to the head. Caggiula did not return and there were no updates available at the end of the game.
  • Colorado College now has to go on the road for 13 of its next 14 games. It has just one home game between now and January 16. That’s a tough way for a young team to start the season.

Friday night rewind

Five highlights from around the country:

1. Miami showed its offensive firepower against in-state rival Ohio State, scoring five times in a 5-1 win. The series finale shifts back to Oxford. Sean Kuraly led the RedHawks with 3 points.

2. Minot’s Bryce Schmitt scored his first goal of the season for Lake Superior State, which rallied to within a goal three times against Notre Dame, only to fall 5-3.

3. New Hampshire sent Michigan to an 0-2 record by dominating the Wolverines 5-1 on Friday night.

4. Evan Trupp’s brother, Hayden, scored the shootout winner to lead Alaska Anchorage to the championship game of the Brice Alaska Goal Rush against rival Fairbanks. Hayden also scored against the Badgers last weekend.

5. Colgate continues to look impressive with a 3-0 win over a good Northeastern team.

UND topped Colorado College 3-1 in the series opener at World Arena on Friday night thanks to three goals in the span of 3:25 and a great performance by goalie Zane McIntyre. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Colorado Springs Gazette

Colorado Springs Gazette notebook on UND’s crowd

Colorado Springs Gazette column

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • My general thoughts were that UND made several miscues and that the team has things to clean up after this one, but it did all the things it needs to in order to win games. Zane McIntyre was great in goal. The team played hard. The forwards got to the top of the crease. All three goals were scored at the top of the crease.
  • Several players have talked in the last week about how they need to play to win games. I think they are starting to remember how hard they had to work last season to win.
  • CC goalie Tyler Marble gave up three quick goals in the first period, but I actually thought he played very well. UND was all over CC at the start of the second and he held the Tigers in the game.
  • UND coach Dave Hakstol was not happy with the penalties his team took in the second period. You could tell by his reaction on the bench that he didn’t like the call against Luke Johnson on the top of the crease, but he made a point in the postgame to say that the others were the correct calls and they were all bad stick penalties by his team. Hakstol thought the penalties really cost the team energy.
  • From CC’s perspective, I thought the line of Hunter Fejes, Cody Bradley and Luc Gerdes was really good tonight. Fejes had a good freshman year but was unnoticeable as a sophomore (when he didn’t score any goals). He was all over the ice on Friday.
  • Two of UND’s unsung players for this game were Troy Stecher and Gage Ausmus. Right now, Ausmus is making himself a must-have in the lineup, especially due to his play on the penalty kill. Stecher was terrific there as well.
  • Mark MacMillan registered eight shots in the first two periods alone for UND.
  • Faceoff numbers weren’t in the final stat packet, so I don’t have those.
  • Tonight, UND will look for its first October sweep since 2010, when it won the first two games in Bemidji’s Sanford Center. No player on the current roster has been part of an October sweep.

Saturday night rewind

UND gained a series split with a 2-1 victory over Bemidji State in the Sanford Center. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Bemidji Pioneer

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • Clearly, UND had a much better effort on Saturday. The team started getting back to the way it needs to play to win games. There’s still a ways to go, but it was a good step in the right direction.
  • This game reminded me of several others that I’ve covered in Bemidji — tight, low-scoring, physical one-goal win for UND.
  • Two unsung players of the game: Gage Ausmus and Troy Stecher. I thought both played very well. Ausmus is in the lineup to add physicality. He definitely did that. He was a very key player on the penalty kill. Stecher had one of his most dynamic games at UND.
  • GF Central’s Johnny Simonson got in the lineup and I would definitely expect to see him back in on Friday. He added a little bit of everything. He created some scoring chances and he played with an edge. Growing up in Grand Forks, he certainly knows the style of game that’s expected. On top of that, he went 8-4 on faceoffs, the only guy on the team with a winning record on draws.
  • Speaking of faceoffs, it was not a great night for UND, going 32-39. It was 20-29 through two periods if I recall correctly. Like last season, this is an area that UND will need to work at. I don’t think they have any naturally dominant faceoff men like a Corban Knight, Brad Malone or Chris VandeVelde.
  • On Friday night, UND had 9 shot attempts from the prime scoring area for the entire game. On Saturday, UND had 14 shot attempts from the prime scoring area in the first period alone. Coach Dave Hakstol said that the team was “on a different planet” in regards to creating opportunities down low.
  • I thought Bemidji State’s defensemen made more mistakes on Saturday. They gave the puck away at bad times here and there, though it didn’t come back to hurt them. UND could have put this game away a lot earlier, but BSU goalie Andrew Walsh stoned Drake Caggiula and Brendan O’Donnell on clean breakaway attempts.
  • Colten St. Clair said he thinks that his goal may have gone off a Bemidji State player and in. If so, UND got a nice bounce there, but that’s what happens when you’re around the net.
  • There’s always a strong UND contingent in Bemidji for games, but I think there were even more UND fans than I’ve seen in the past there. The Sanford Center was packed.
  • I think that Bemidji State has a bit more skill than last season. Brendan Harms looked very good this weekend and could have a big season. The defensive corps is pretty good there, too.

Friday night rewind

Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Herald column

Bemidji Pioneer

UNDsports.com

USCHO

Last year, around late November/early December, it became clear how UND needed to win games. In a blog post after the St. Lawrence split on Thanksgiving weekend, I wrote:

This team’s margin for error is small. If its goaltenders don’t play well, they will lose. If the team doesn’t execute well, it will probably lose. If it has some bad breaks or bounces go against it, a loss is likely.

So, right now, the challenge for this team is to navigate that small-margin-for-error path to victory.

It needs to play desperate. It needs to get good goaltending. It needs to execute as well. It needs to get some contributions from everyone.”

UND went 21-6-1 en route to making the NCAA Frozen Four after that loss to St. Lawrence. It was one of the top records in the nation during that span. Because of that run — and all of the returning players — there has been lots of talk about this year’s team.

But I think everyone — the players included — forgot exactly how UND made that run.

UND was generally not blowing away opponents. It was using the formula above. The team played desperate. Its defensive corps made it difficult for opponents to score. The goaltending was there. Everyone was chipping in and it led to a lot of down-to-the-wire wins.

I think, over the summer, the players forgot exactly how hard that team needed to grind every night to win games.

Now, I do not think it’s possible for teams to just pick up in the fall with the exact toughness and mentality from the previous season. I think that’s something that has to be built through a season of experiences.

But what was shocking on Friday night was how far UND was from that point. I’m not sure if there was one real redeeming part or bright spot Friday night.

The defensemen, who were so great at the end of season and expected to be a big strength this season, were getting caught out of position on almost every other shift. Yes, the coaching staff wants the ‘D’ to be involved in the offense, but they did not pick their spots well Friday. I don’t remember the last game I covered where UND’s opponent had so many odd-man situations.

Up front, UND wasn’t very dynamic. The line of Drake Caggiula, Luke Johnson and Nick Schmaltz combined for 10 shots on goal. Other than that, there wasn’t much.

The first line made up of all seniors — Brendan O’Donnell, Mark MacMillan and Michael Parks — combined for just two shots on goal in the game (both from outside the dots). That line did not even attempt a shot in the second period. If those seniors are going to play together, they need to be more of a factor offensively.

The line listed as No. 2 on the chart — Stephane Pattyn, Connor Gaarder and Wade Murphy — only generated one shot on goal. And the fourth line of Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson and Austin Poganski didn’t generate a single shot.

So, three of UND’s forward lines combined for just three shots on goal. UND is not going to win games with those types of numbers.

If you look at the shot charts, UND had just one shot on goal from the prime scoring area during the first two periods. That made for a very comfortable first start for Bemidji State rookie goalie Michael Bitzer.

Clearly there are going to be lineup changes today. It will be interesting to see exactly how many. But it will be more interesting to see if UND can take a step back toward that grinding personality that last season’s team developed.

*****

On another note, UND’s loss to Bemidji State was just one part of a disastrous day for the NCHC in nonconference play.

St. Cloud State lost to Colgate (ECAC)
Western Michigan lost to Canisius (Atlantic Hockey)
Miami lost to Bowling Green (WCHA)
Duluth lost to Minnesota (Big Ten)

Colorado College beat Alabama Huntsville (WCHA), but it took a late, third-period goal to break a tie and give the Tigers the win. Since Huntsville went 2-35-1 last season, that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

The lone team to have a really good day was Omaha, which topped MSU-Mankato (WCHA).

It’s only one day of a long, five-month season, but the NCHC definitely does not want to fall into the trap of having a bad nonconference record again this season.

Thoughts from the first 60

Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

USCHO

UNDsports.com

On Sunday morning, I posted five things I’m looking forward to checking out during the exhibition game against Manitoba. Here’s how I thought they played out:

1. Who will earn a spot on the D-corps?

Good question. The coaches got their first look at all eight blue liners in exhibition action, but to me, everyone made their case to be in the lineup. There are no clear-cut decisions here. Gage Ausmus only played 1 of the team’s last 14 games last season, but he was back in the lineup and clearly played with an edge, attempting to give the team a physical presence that the other blue liners (outside of Andrew Panzarella) don’t. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out during the season.

2. Who will be the No. 2 goaltender?

Since Cam Johnson played a period and Matt Hrynkiw did not play at all, that answers our question for now. To start the season, Johnson will be the No. 2 guy. He looked very confident between the pipes during his 20-minute stint. He only could have helped solidify that No. 2 spot with his performance.

3. The Nick Schmaltz debut

Nick was pretty much exactly as advertised. He set up his linemates all over the ice. He had two primary assists because of beautiful feeds and he could have had several more if not for Manitoba goalie Brendan Jensen robbing Drake Caggiula a couple times in the second period. Jensen also robbed Nick in front. Strength is definitely something Nick will be working on while at UND, but his skill level is going to help big time, especially on the power play.

Some scouting reports have questioned Nick’s effort level at times, but I’m wondering if maybe he’s a little bit like Jordan, who could possibly look like he’s not trying at times simply because he’s just so smooth. The effort level was clearly there all night tonight.

4. Can Wade Murphy find a spot?

A couple of times this fall, I saw Murphy snipe a couple of shots for goals. Now, we’ve seen it in a game. Yes, Nick made a nice feed to set him up, but Murphy made a great shot to finish the play. Coach Dave Hakstol mentioned Murphy as one of the players who played well. I think we will see him in the lineup Friday night.

5. Who will be on the power play?

One unit was Mark MacMillan, Michael Parks, Stephane Pattyn, Paul LaDue and Nick Mattson. The other unit was Nick Schmaltz, Drake Caggiula, Luke Johnson, Jordan Schmaltz and Keaton Thompson. That means rookies Austin Poganski and Tucker Poolman are probably not starting the season on the power play, but that could change some time during the next sixth months.

Other notes:

  • Manitoba’s Josh Elmes, who played briefly for the Fargo Force last year, was injured early in the game and went to Altru to get stitches, I was told. Strangely enough, he walked back from Altru to the Ralph. I got a text from someone who saw “a Manitoba player walking over the Columbia overpass with gear on.” A strange sight for sure.
  • UND’s first period was a big disjointed and ugly, which is probably to be expected for the first time out. But slowly, UND started sustaining more and more and dictating the game.
  • Special teams ended up being good for UND. It went 3-for-6 on the power play and shut out the Bisons on five chances.
  • Hakstol was pleased with the play of Bryn Chyzyk. He brought a lot of pace to his line.
  • As Hakstol said after the game, it’s a good starting point for the team, but there’s lots of work to be done to get the team to where it was at the end of last season.
  • Former UND forward Taylor Dickin started on the top line for the Bisons. He took the majority of Bisons faceoffs, but did not register a shot in the game.

Quick thoughts on UND’s exhibition

The UND women’s team played its first exhibition game of the season Saturday night and beat the Toronto Junior Aeros 9-1. It’s difficult to judge the level of competition, but for reference, St. Cloud State beat them 3-0 a day earlier.

Anyway, here are a few impressions from the team’s first outing:

  • Offense is going to be the big question mark for this team, so putting up nine goals is a good start, especially considering the fact that the team was missing three of its top players — Meghan Dufault, Becca Kohler and Halli Krzyzaniak — who are all at the Canadian National Team camp.
  • Gracen Hirschy is going to do a little bit of everything for this team. Hirschy is going to play both forward and defense. Coach Brian Idalski said he’s not sure how he’s going to list her. “She’s a hybrid,” he said.
  • One reason for moving Hirschy up is because UND is so deep on the blue line. With Northeastern transfer Jordan Hampton joining the D-corps, UND had six strong blue liners Saturday night, and it will add Krzyzaniak next weekend.
  • Leah Jensen is finally healthy and that’s a good thing for UND. She’s been injured much of her time at UND, but was one of the team’s top forwards this season.
  • Amy Menke’s minutes were limited, likely to keep her healthy for this week’s upcoming nonconference games.
  • One play that Idalski and the coaching staff is really going to like is Kayla Gardner’s goal. She drove the net hard, went to the far post and was rewarded for it. In the past, not enough players would go hard to the net like that.
  • It was tough to get any sort of read on the goaltenders. All three of them played but faced very minimal work.

Saturday night rewind

CINCINNATI — After 81 minutes and 28 seconds, Connor Gaarder picked up a rebound, moved the puck to the top of the crease, patiently waiting for goalie C.J. Motte to open his pads, then slipped the puck five-hole to send UND to the Frozen Four.

After the goal, Gaarder slid on his back toward the boards, where his teammates piled on top of him.

On the bench, Stephane Pattyn turned and hugged trainer Mark Poolman. Right beside them, the three coaches embraced.

After exchanging hugs and handshakes on the ice, UND skated over to a section of UND fans, acknowledged them, then crowded in front of them for a team picture.

Gaarder is the improbable goal scorer and Philly is the improbable destination for the 2013-14 team.

There was plenty of coverage of the Midwest Regional. Here are some stories:

Grand Forks Herald gamer

Grand Forks Herald sidebar on Zane Gothberg

WDAZ’s breakdown with Dan Corey and myself

Big Rapids Pioneer

USCHO gamer

USCHO story on Gaarder

College Hockey News on Gothberg

College Hockey News on Gaarder

Some other thoughts and stats on the regional final:

  • This was the longest NCAA tournament game in UND history. It also was the first double overtime game since the 2011 Final Five title game against Denver. Matt Frattin scored the winner for UND in that game.
  • Gaarder will now go down in history along with Chris Porter and Andrew Kozek for scoring a dramatic overtime goal to send UND to the Frozen Four. One common theme among the three: All of them scored five-hole. Porter beat Minnesota’s Jeff Frazee five-hole on a wraparound. Kozek beat Wisconsin’s Shane Connolly on a rebound through traffic.
  • Saturday was also the birthday of Gaarder’s father, Tim. Solid birthday gift from his son.
  • On Twitter, I saw a photo of Gaarder’s grandparents (former Vikes coach Jerry Burns) watching the game from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Apparently, they made a restaurant open early so they could go watch.
  • UND has now reached the Frozen Four as a No. 1 (twice), No. 2 (twice), No. 3 (once) and No. 4 (once) seed under coach Dave Hakstol, who is 14-4 in NCAA regionals (six Frozen Fours, eight regional title games in 10 years).
  • I thought that the Cincinnati regional would be a flop. It wasn’t, though. I was very impressed by how many local hockey fans showed up. I saw lots of Cincinnati Cyclones jerseys. That was not the case last year in Grand Rapids. Someone told me at the hotel that they just talked to a father, who drove four hours with his son from Cleveland to introduce him to college hockey. They were treated with three great, down-to-the-wire games.
  • This doesn’t happen often at regionals, but UND’s fan base was probably the third largest there. Ferris State and Wisconsin both had good crowds. Ferris fans could drive there.
  • One other positive is that downtown Cincinnati really seemed to embrace the tournament. There were lots of signs around town. They had a member of the visitor’s bureau at our hotel to help people. Maybe that’s part of why they got locals to come out. Miami University hosted it and, not surprisingly, did a nice job.
  • The biggest downside was that the ice clearly was getting bad at the end of the UND-FSU game. Players were falling down all over the place when they tried to turn. It was one of those games where you hoped the game-winner wasn’t going to come when a player fell.
  • I thought Ferris State was outstanding in this game and probably deserved a better fate. I don’t expect any UND fans to be apologizing. They’ve been on the other end of these games multiple times.
  • Ferris was as advertised — they blocked a ton of shots and made it very difficult for UND to generate offense. In the third period and overtime, the Bulldogs really started to crank up the offense. That’s when Zane Gothberg was so clutch.
  • The all-tournament team certainly should have included Gothberg, but we have to vote on it with 10 minutes to go in the third period. Gothberg’s best play was after the ballots were already in. At the time of voting, Motte had allowed 1 goal in six periods.
  • Dillon Simpson now leads the nation with 107 blocked shots and nobody will catch him in that category this season. To illustrate how impressive that number is, Jordan Schmaltz is second on the team in blocked shots with 58.
  • And in case you were wondering, Skyline Chili > Gold Star Chili.

UND marches on

CINCINNATI — For the third week in a row, UND played a must-win game in order to keep its season alive. And for the third time, UND was able to do that thanks to a 5-2 win over Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional. Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald

WDAZ (Dan Corey and I discuss the game)

Wisconsin State Journal

College Hockey News

USCHO

Cincinnati Enquirer

Other notes:

  • With the win, UND will play in its ninth regional final in 11 years, and its eighth in 10 years under coach Dave Hakstol.
  • UND’s last meeting against Ferris State was the 2003 regional. Ferris, with star forward Chris Kunitz, won that game 5-2. The Bulldogs are 5-2 all-time in the NCAAs.
  • Surprisingly, this was Rocco Grimaldi’s first multi-goal game at UND (two of his three goals were empty netters). He joked in the press conference afterwards about it. “Because the goalie was out, that really helped me. I guess that was my issue. There was a goalie in net for the last couple years.”
  • Mark MacMillan had a terrific game for UND with a goal and two assists. Linemate Michael Parks had a goal and an assist. Players complimented Parks’ zone entry on the GWG in the third period.
  • I thought that Wisconsin controlled the first period of the game and that Zane Gothberg kind of kept UND in it. But after Grimaldi scored to make it 2-1 at 6:45 of the second period, the game changed. UND outshot the Badgers 27-13 in the final two periods.
  • UND’s penalty killers did a terrific job on Wisconsin’s big first unit of Jake McCabe, Nic Kerdiles, Michael Mersch, Mark Zengerle and Tyler Barnes.
  • Mersch, Wisconsin’s top goal scorer and a guy who has hurt UND in the past, had a couple of Grade A chances, but missed the net, including one after Nick Mattson fell at the offensive blue line.
  • Faceoffs were 33-33, but MacMillan won a couple of key ones at the end. One led to Grimaldi’s first empty-net goal.
  • Dillon Simpson is tied for second nationally with 101 shot blocks. He’s only two behind the national leader now.
  • This was clearly a tough loss for the Wisconsin players. This was a year they had anticipated since 2011 being a great one, and they wanted to make a run at a national championship. They will lose nine seniors and possibly a couple to early to the NHL.

A writer’s perspective of Saturday night

MINNEAPOLIS — I have been covering college hockey for nine years now, and as a writer, game days are quite routine.

Get to the rink at a certain time. Watch the game/live blog/etc. Go get quotes. Write the game story. Go home.

Not the case Saturday night.

It ended up being the strangest process to filing a game story in my time at the Herald. So, I’ll take you through it from my perspective.

5:57 p.m. — UND game ends. Final score: UND 5, Western Michigan 0. I head downstairs for the press conference. Before Western Michigan takes the podium, Goon makes the gigantic journalist mistake of saying the ‘O’ word in reference to the night games. I immediately thank him for guaranteeing that Wisconsin and Ohio State would go into overtime (yes, that’s the O-word), and in turn, crush my deadline.

6:20 p.m. — UND takes the podium. It’s Dave Hakstol, Connor Gaarder and Stephane Pattyn. I get a few quotes about the game. But most are along the lines of: “We did our part, now it’s time to sit and wait and see if we get in.”

Obviously, I cannot use that type of a quote in my game story for Sunday morning’s paper, because by then, we’ll all know whether they got in or not. So, I knew I would have to try to track down quotes before the team left for Grand Forks. I knew they were going to stick around downtown for a while and I figured I would seek them out after the results of the Wisconsin and Lowell games.

6:32 p.m. — Pressers are over. I grab dinner at the Target Center and head back upstairs to the press box to start writing my story. I fill in details about the game at the bottom of my story, but leave the top completely blank. The angle of my story is whether the team is getting into the NCAAs or not and I have to wait for the results. By this time, Lowell takes a 2-0 lead on New Hampshire.

7:38 p.m. — By the start of the Denver-Miami game, I have my quotes transcribed and I start writing what I can. I’m also quite distracted by the game and the free Skittles in the press box. That slowed my progress considerably. I post something on the web saying that UND beat Western, the highlights of the game and that it is waiting for Lowell and Wisconsin to determine its fate. By this time, Lowell is in full control of the game and we all know it’s going to come down to the Badgers.

8:51 p.m. — Ohio State leads 3-2. I’ve done all that I can at the Target Center. I decide to leave the NCHC title game late in the second period go to back to the Marriott, where I hope to be in position to track down the coaches after the Badger game ends.

9:05 p.m. — I arrive at the Marriott, where the lobby is on the fifth floor. There’s a very large open lounge area there with lots of TVs. I see all of them are on the OSU-UW game and the lounge is filled with UND fans. I walk over there to watch a little bit of the game. Within a minute, the Buckeyes score to go up 4-2 with 6:52 left. I said, “That’s it,” and I turned to head back to my room and start writing the UND-misses-the-NCAA-tournament-for-the-first-time-in-12-years story. A UND fan nearby heard me and said with a disgusted look, “No, it’s not.” I turned and looked at him like he had three heads and said, “Yeah dude, it is.” He angrily interjects again, “No, it’s not!” I think he is delusional and I head to the elevators.

9:06 p.m. — I walk on the elevator. Dane Jackson happens to be on it. I inform him that Ohio State just scored again and it’s 4-2. He looks dejected knowing how close UND came to making the NCAAs.

9:07 p.m. — I get to the room, open up my laptop and prepare to write. But the first tweet I see says, “Wisconsin, Ohio State tied up 4-4.” What? Are you kidding? Wisconsin scored not once but twice during my 30-second elevator ride? No chance. I flip on Big Ten Network and sure enough, it’s tied. Crazy.

9:20 p.m. — Overtime. Thanks, Goon.

9:21 p.m. — It’s probably going to be a tight deadline, so I know I better start writing. Since I already looked up some good stats about UND missing the tournament — and how the team would have been in the NCAAs had Omaha beat Bentley in the opening game of the year or if CC won just a single nonconference game this season — I decided to start the UND-misses-the-NCAA-tournament-for-the-first-time-in-12-years story first.

9:36 p.m. — Overtime begins. My OSU-wins, UND-is-out story is complete. I just need to insert a couple of quotes from coach Dave Hakstol about things not working out.

9:50 p.m. — Zengerle scores. Control-A delete.

9:51 p.m. — I knew the lobby must be going nuts, so I went to check out the scene and try to find players/coaches for quotes, knowing the team is probably leaving pretty quick now. I get in the elevator on the 15th floor. I can hear the fans in the lobby. Yes, from the 15th floor.

A couple of Purdue women’s swimmers were on the elevator with me and looked a bit frightened. One said: “Oh my God, what is going on at this hotel right now?” As Chris Dilks tweeted, “The worst night of your life is happening right now, Purdue swimming girl.” They probably didn’t get much sleep.

9:52 p.m. — I reach the lobby. It is, indeed, chaos. The “Let’s Go Sioux” chants are ringing out. Fans are still cheering. A couple players watched the game with them in the lobby. Others starting coming down.

As each group of players reached the lobby, they embraced. Captain Dillon Simpson hugged just about everyone he saw with an excited, relieved look on his face, knowing he hasn’t played his last game yet. Senior Clarke Saunders sat alone in the corner, smiling from ear to ear, taking in the scene around him.

The lobby/lounge area is open there and you can see the elevator bank on the other side. When all the fans saw Hakstol walk out, they erupted and cheered again. Hakstol gave them a fist-pump.

Former UND coach Dean Blais happened to be standing nearby and walked up to Hakstol and said: “Cheering for Wisconsin? You’ve got to be (kidding) me!” They had a good laugh. You could tell that Blais was genuinely happy about UND getting in.

Amid their celebrations, I cut in to get some quotes. Simpson said the game took three years off his life. Pattyn held out his hands and said, “I’m still shaking.”

Our web/multimedia manager Lori Weber, who made the trip, finished up loading video and photos to the website at Target Center and headed back to the hotel, but missed the chaos by about 5 minutes. So, unfortunately, no video of it.

A group of about 20 players walked out of the hotel together. The fans saw them leaving and started chanting again.

I was told that at the Target Center, there wasn’t much happening on the ice, when all of the sudden, fans started cheering all over. They were following the games on their cell phones. A “Let’s Go Sioux” chant also erupted there during the middle of the third period of the Denver-Miami game.

Others tweeted at me that the same repeated at bars in downtown Minneapolis.

10:13 p.m. — I head back to the room to type the new, UND-is-in-the-NCAA-tournament-for-a-12th-straight-year story. I file that as quickly as possible to make deadline. Here was the end result.

10:32 p.m. — Story is filed. I double check to make sure I e-mailed the UND-is-in story and not the UND-misses-the-NCAA-tournament-for-the-first-time-in-12-years story. That would have been bad.

11:25 p.m. — Two blog posts complete. Bracket nerding is done. I can finally take a break from this chaotic night and relax. That means one thing. Pepperoni pizza in the lobby.

Midnight — The UND fan who heard me say, “It’s over,” stops by to remind me that the UW-OSU game was, indeed, not over. I concede.

Sunday night rewind

In what was one of the most challenging first-round series for UND in the last decade — and that probably shouldn’t be a surprise to close followers of the NCHC — UND emerged victorious with a 4-3 win over Colorado College in Sunday’s Game 3.

It’s the 10th straight first-round victory for UND, which I believe is second only to Michigan nationally. Miami is the only other NCHC team that has made multiple appearances at the conference tournament. The RedHawks are going to their fifth straight.

Stories:

Grand Forks Herald gamer

Grand Forks Herald sidebar on the decision to put the Pattyn-Gaarder-Rodwell line back

Colorado Springs Gazette

USCHO

UNDsports.com

Other notes:

  • UND moved to No. 13 in the Pairwise Rankings with the win. More analysis on that coming later.
  • I actually thought this was Colorado College’s best game of the weekend. It was really a toss up. The big difference? Goalie Josh Thorimbert, who was the No. 1 star and the difference in Saturday’s game, wasn’t nearly as sharp in the first period. He may want two of those back.
  • For good measure, Alexander Krushelnyski had to score once again against UND. He finished his outstanding career with 101 points. It felt like 89 of them were against UND. His line was tremendous in Game 3. He and Cody Bradley combined for 11 of CC’s 30 shots.
  • Jaccob Slavin ended up leading CC in scoring. He’s the first defenseman to lead the Tigers in scoring in at least a decade. On another note, can anyone remember a freshman defenseman leading any team in scoring?
  • Since Thanksgiving, Zane Gothberg has made 19 starts. He has only allowed more than two goals three times. Strangely enough, it was CC (one of the country’s lowest scoring teams) that did it all three times.
  • UND dominated in the faceoff circle again, going 45-26. Its leaders were Rocco Grimaldi (15-7), Mark MacMillan (11-4) and Colten St. Clair (8-1). Faceoff wins on the PK were big.
  • No matter what happens at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, coach Dave Hakstol has clinched at least a .600 winning percentage again. His worst season as head coach has been over .600.
  • I think Andrew Panzarella earned another start with his play. He added physicality. He was reliable. He made one great tip that nearly went in. And I had to double check the number on his jersey after he dangled a defenseman twice on that rush at the end.
  • After the game, Stephane Pattyn lamented the fact that he couldn’t score on one of his two breakaways at the end of the game and make it a three-goal game.
  • Every player in the lineup Sunday night registered at least one shot on goal except for St. Clair. Michael Parks and Keaton Thompson led the way with four.
  • UND heads to the Frozen Faceoff going 18-5-2 in the last 25 games.
  • Derek Rodwell registered the first multi-point game of his career (two assists). It came in his final game at The Ralph.