Facing North Dakota

     Three straight Frozen Four appearances, secured by supremacy in the second half of the season, marked coach Dave Hakstol’s first three years at North Dakota.
     His fourth season is following form.
     North Dakota comes to the DECC on Saturday with a 13-game unbeaten streak, the best among Division I teams. In going 12-0-1 since Jan. 5, the Fighting Sioux (21-8-2) have moved to second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and No. 4 in the PairWise Rankings.
     They face No. 14 Minnesota Duluth (12-12-6) in the second-to-last series of the regular season with much on the line for both teams.
     "We haven’t changed our mentality since September, but now we’re finding ways to win, and we want to keep building on that," said Hakstol, who is 99-53-3 at North Dakota. "We’re all battling to finish as strong as we can."
     While North Dakota is all but guaranteed a spot in the NCAA field of 16, UMD is seventh in the WCHA and on the bubble to make the Division I tournament. The Bulldogs, coming off consecutive shutout losses at home to Colorado College, could help themselves immeasurably by doing well against North Dakota.
     "You have to bounce back after last weekend, and this team has done that all season," said UMD coach Scott Sandelin, a former North Dakota defenseman. "Our players know we still have a great chance to get into the [NCAA] tournament."
     The Fighting Sioux went 16-3-3 their final 22 games last season and ultimately lost to Boston College 6-4 in the national semifinals. In 2005-06, they were 12-4 down the stretch, losing to BC 6-5 in the semis. In 2004-05, they were 11-5-3 the last 19 games and lost to Denver 4-1 in the national title game.
     This season, North Dakota split eight straight series, including at home against UMD on Nov. 23-24, and was 9-8-1 on Jan. 4. Since then the Fighting Sioux have been seemingly unbeatable, although there have been some difficult times.
     There were three contentious moments near the end of periods or after games — at home against Denver on Feb. 16, at Minnesota on Feb. 2 and at Wisconsin on Nov. 10. In those games, North Dakota compiled 59 penalties for 242 minutes and the opposition had 55 for 212. North Dakota is No. 2 in penalty minutes per game in Division I (21.4).
     During a 1-1 tie at Minnesota, Hakstol was unhappy with the officiating of Don Adam, said so with a hand gesture and was suspended for two games by North Dakota’s administration after apologizing.
     "It’s not something we talk about throughout the week, like, ‘Oh, let’s go out and get in a couple fights this weekend,’ " North Dakota assistant captain Taylor Chorney, a defenseman, told the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald after the Feb. 16 Denver game.
     Eleven penalties were assessed after the end of the second period in that game, six to Denver.
     "I guess it’s just the situation. This past weekend, [Kyle Radke] is out there and a couple guys on our team get jumped and we were outnumbered," Chorney told the Herald. "When you get put into a situation like that, you’ve got to have your teammates’ backs. Maybe this year, more than in the past, we"ve been in a couple different situations like that. We"re the type of team that"s going to stand up for each other no matter what.
     "We’re going to keep playing the same way. We probably won’t drop the gloves any more or anything like that. But I think we’ve maybe sent a little bit of a message to everybody that we’re the type of team that’s going to have each other’s backs through everything."
     Last weekend, against Bemidji State, the Fighting Sioux had just nine penalties in two games. Associate head coach Cary Eades filled in while Hakstol served his suspension.
     Despite a successful and volatile season, Hakstol says his team has not been distracted while playing the toughest schedule in Division I.
     "We’ve been very focused and have played hard, straight up and with a lot of pride," he said.
     UMD’s focus will be to spark its offense. The Bulldogs have scored just two goals total the past four home games and face North Dakota goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, ranked No. 3 in goals-against average (1.76) in Division I.
     In the previous meeting between the teams, UMD beat North Dakota 4-2 in Grand Forks.
     "There’s no big secret about scoring. You shoot the puck more and get to the net. You bear down in practice and pay attention to the little things," said junior center MacGregor Sharp, UMD’s leading scorer. "We want to get an [NCAA] bid and we need some wins to get there. It’s definitely still there for us and it’s a big motivator."

3 thoughts on “Facing North Dakota

  1. WARNING!

    The Leap Day hockey game tonight between the Fighting Sioux and the beleagured Bulldogs has dogfight potential. The Sioux enjoy their aggressive status and the Dogs are ready to bite off somebody’s ear to scrape into the NCAA tournament. I would expect penalty ridden play and plenty of band-aids.

  2. Um, the game isn’t tonight. It’s at 2:07 Saturday…
    They ahd to make room for the women’s potential 3-game playoff series..

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