Yes, that time has come again this year. A recap of last season. Since we have like a month until the puck drops, I figured I better get cracking, since I really haven't done a lot of blogging this summer. Yeah, I have a life outside this. Not much of one, but I digress.
In any event, the season last year opened up with some questions. Oshie left for the big leagues, there were glaring question marks at the goaltender position, and really, aside from Finley, who was there on defense? Nevertheless, with Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan leading the offense, the Sioux were still looking to have a decent season.
It got off to a rough start as the Sioux lost their first 3 games of the season. The losses were not just tough losses, but the goaltender question was looking even more glaring. Watkins, who had only started one game in his collegiate career was struggling and it looked like early on the Sioux would be using Brad Eidsness as their go-to-guy. The Sioux won their next game in Mankato by scoring 4 goals in the 3rd period, including the game winner by VandeVelde at 19:51.
The Sioux split their next 3 series against Wisconsin, CC, and Alaska-Anchorage, respectively. Hakstol continued to try to split the time with the goalies, but it was becoming pretty clear that Walski wasn't the answer. I didn't have the greatest confidence in Eidsness, but at that point, Dirty would have been a better goaltender than Walski.
After a loss and a tie to eventual WCHA champion Minnesota-Duluth, many fans were ready to write the team off, including me. This team didn't seem ready for a 2nd half turnaround that we have all become accustomed to under Hak. They pulled together a good win against Cornell and swept both Harvard and St. Cloud, but at the GLI, they came crashing back to earth quickly, losing to both Michigan State and Michigan Tech.
At this point, nearly every Sioux fan was saying the season was over. They were looking at the top of the standings from 9th place. 9th! Granted, at some points in the 2nd half, 1st and 9th were separated by 9 points, but still! The Sioux needed to start that 2nd half turnaround fast. And get it started they did!
Sweeping both Bemidji and the hated Gophers, the Sioux vaulted in the standings. They took 3/4 from Michigan Tech and 3/4 from Denver, causing Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky to get thrown out of the game by dancing on the dasher AGAIN! Check out the video for hilariousness! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNumTfae7Z0
Along with splitting a series against St. Cloud and sweeps of Mankato and UAA, North Dakota was riding a 5 game win streak into the most pivotal series of the season...a home series against CC. The first night was played to a 4-4 tie. The 2nd night, CC tied the game at 3 with a crucial goal in the 3rd period. It appeared in overtime that the game would be a tie and the Sioux would have a share of 1st place in the WCHA...then this play happened...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOROJlNPCL0
Anyway, the Sioux were now not only in sole possession of 1st place but could clinch the MacNaughton cup with a win over Wisconsin...and that's exactly what they did. On the Kohl Center ice, the Sioux were presented with the trophy for the first time since 2004. Now they were looking at playing last place Tech for the playoffs.
They took care of Tech with a convincing 5-1 win and a not-so-convincing 4-3 win. Then it was off to St. Paul for the WCHA Final Five. They would have to wait until Friday night to find out who they played...Minnesota-Duluth or Minnesota. Minnesota played an uninspired game and Minnesota-Duluth took amazing 2nd half momentum and a heavily-laden senior class and beat the Gophers. The Sioux played an uninspired game and some mistakes led to a 3-0 victory for the Bulldogs. The Sioux would play in the consolation game and lose to the Badgers 4-1. Some rumblings about the lackluster performance popped up and the fact that the Sioux shot themselves in the foot and would most likely be in a rough bracket for the NCAA playoffs. And that's exactly what happened.
The Sioux got sent out to New Hampshire, where they would face the Wildcats. Even if they won the game, they would be going up against undisputed #1 Boston University.
The Sioux had a 2-1 lead going into the 2nd period, where we finally got to see the game thanks to ESPNU playing a REGULAR SEASON lacrosse game that went into like 11837891372871 overtimes. The Sioux looked decent, but there was just something off. I couldn't put my finger on it, but being that I have probably watched over 1000 hockey games in my lifetime, I could sense it.
In the 3rd period, it was 5-4 North Dakota. Face-off was in the UND defensive end. About 5 seconds left. All they had to do was win the face-off and the game was over. Or fall on the puck. Or anything. But none of that happened. And with .1 seconds left, UNH tied the game. That's right....1 seconds left. I was dumbfounded. And I knew deep down that the season was over.
In overtime, UNH quickly ended UND's season with a goal :45 seconds in. Just like that, the Sioux were sent home. No 5th Frozen Four for Hakstol. No 8th championship for UND. The Sioux were left wondering "what went wrong?" My theory is they ran out of gas too early. They peaked just a tiny bit too early. Too much catch-up. Too much emotion. Regardless of the why, I had to endure a Frozen Four with 0 WCHA teams. Seeing Bemidji in the Frozen Four was really special, and the championship game was as exciting as you'll ever see. Plus my girlfriend's alma mater got their 5th championship. :-)
In any event, time to dust ourselves off and prepare for the next season.