March 29, 2009

.3 seconds....3

.3 seconds folks. .3. That's how much time was left on the clock when UNH scored the game tying goal. .3. Digest that for a second. .3.

In an ever-dramatic heartbreaking game, the Sioux's season ended yesterday at the hands of UNH. 6-5 in overtime. Just like that, we don't watch our beloved team play anymore for the 2008-2009 season. Just like that, Ryan Duncan, a beloved senior who has been a fixture of this team the past 4 years is done. Just like that...

A lot of people are playing the what-if game today. What if Duncan scores on that tip in front? What if Duncan wins the faceoff with 5.9 seconds left? What if Finley bounces the puck off the glass? Well you know what? What if the Sioux don't turn it around in the 2nd half? What if they don't win the MacNaughton? What if, what if, what if. I'm tired of hearing about what ifs. I'm not a believer in them. The Sioux played hard and lost. Plain and simple. I'm sad that the season is done, but in all honesty, someone had to win that game and someone had to lose. Personally, hats off to UNH for a job well done.

I'm really proud of this team and what they accomplished this season, and I think every Sioux hockey fan can be. Let's face it...they aren't the only team to suffer a heartbreaking loss in the postseason this year.

March 25, 2009

A take on the Terriers part II

At the beginning of the season, I had a BU fan write a take on the upcoming season for BU. I had her do another one, this time recapping everything and kind of a preview of the weekend. Thanks to Sarah Gutherz for the write-up.

The Terrier faithful have cautiously started to become hopeful again after a long drought between sustained NCAA successes. This year’s team, while posting a strong 31-6-4 record, has struggled down the stretch of the season and has their freshman phenom, Kieran Millan, to thank for much of their recent success. Millan currently has a GAA of .184 and a .923 save percentage. He was recently named Hockey East’s Player of the Week and was named MVP of the Hockey East Tournament after holding the University of Massachusetts Lowell to a shutout and stopping 53 of 55 shots on the weekend.

On offense, there has been much talk about Hobey Top 10 Finalist Colin Wilson, who is expected to depart for Nashville after this season. After coming back from the World Junior Tournament with a renewed energy, Colin seems to have slowed a bit and has taken a backseat to several other members of the team. Senior (and co-captain) John McCarthy has surprised many Terrier fans with not only his production this season, but also with his speed. Junior Zach Cohen, who at the beginning of the season was fighting for playing time, has solidified his place on the ice and contributed 10 goals (up from 2 last season) this season and gained significant speed. Both Chris Higgins and Brandon Yip now boast over 100 career points, 125 and 104 respectively.

Defensively, the positive impact of Matt Gilroy’s decision to stay at Boston University can’t be overstated. Both on and off the ice, Gilroy, who is also a Hobey Top 10 Finalist, has shown that he is capable of leading the team. An offensive defenseman, he has been paired with several different defensemen due to injuries and healthy scratches and has adjusted well each time. Junior Eric “SMASH” Gryba, BU’s Goon from Saskatoon, has started to come into his own on the ice. Taking advantage of his size in a positive way, Gryba delivers brutal hits and has started to take better control of the puck. Unfortunately, sophomore Colby Cohen has been a bit of a defensive liability of late, but expect him to play as BU does not feel comfortable with their only other defensive option, senior forward-turned-defenseman Steve Smolinsky.

As a team, the Terriers seem to play down their opponents. Since the Beanpot (the first two Mondays in February for you out-of-towners), the Terriers blew out a struggling the University of Maine 7-2, only to struggle to a 2-2 tie the following evening. Following the tie at Maine came two overtime ties against a sliding Northeastern team. Convincing wins against the University of Massachusetts and Providence were followed by a dreadful three game series against the 8 seeded University of Maine in the Quarterfinals and uninspired play by much of the team in the rest of the Hockey East Tournament.

Heavy hitters for this team are Gryba and Yip, PIM leaders on the team at 98 and 110 minutes. Wilson and Bonino are considered the two best puck handlers on the team. Like most teams in this post-season, injuries have started to wear down the team. Sophomore Joe Pereira, a hard hitting and hard skating forward, sustained a ruptured spleen in the Hockey East Finals and is out for the remainder of the reason. Senior Chris Higgins is playing with a broken hand.

March 23, 2009

Final Five is done...Sioux facing tough road

Back from the Final Five. I don't have a lot of reflection on it, except that our team played lousy, UMD winning it was pretty neat, and it was nice to not have Minnesota and Wisconsin make the NCAA's. Now, a couple days after, I can finally chew on what UND has been tossed.

The Sioux are facing IMO an uphill battle. Traveling to New Hampshire, the Sioux will first play UNH. A team that while stumbling down the homestretch, is still dangerous and will have the home field advantage. The Sioux, if they win, will face the winner of Boston University/Ohio St. Boston University is a great team who dismantled the Sioux early on.

I'm nervous and excited for this weekend.

March 17, 2009

Reflections on the regular season

It's been a wild ride, to say the least. Looking at sole possession of 9th place, it was unfathomable to consider this Sioux team to even have a chance at home ice, let alone 1st place. But they somehow pulled it off.

On Saturday, after the Sioux swept the Huskies, I watched the team at center ice. Every single one of them was watching the video screen and seeing highlights of the season. It got me to thinking about some of my highlights of the season, and I decided to compile my own top 5 moments of the 2008-2009 Sioux Hockey Regular Season. There's a lot, but for me, these are my top moments of the season.

5. Sweeping the Gophers
In January, the Gophers and Sioux met up for a crucial series for both teams. UND showed up to play and pummeled the Gophers both nights. I'm sure this was a huge booster for the rest of the Sioux's season and a killer for the Gophers season.

4. Jones gets his first college goal
In his senior season, and having gone a ton of games without registering a goal, Zach Jones finally scored his first, on the powerplay against Harvard. What a moment. Sure he hasn't scored since, but that's ok.

3. Clinching the MacNaughton Cup
A hard fought game against Wisconsin, at the Kohl Center. Sioux are tied and seem content to play for it. Then VandeVelde gets the puck and puts it in, giving the Sioux a win and clinching the MacNaughton outright. It was truly a special moment, especially after so many people wrote the Sioux off.

2. Darcy Zajac scores in overtime to put the Sioux in 1st
CC had played hard all game. The game was in overtime. The Sioux were fighting for first place. When a 3 on 2 rush occured...Kozek fires the puck on Bachman who kicks out a rather large rebound that Zajac corraled and didn't miss. The Sioux were vaulted into sole possession of first place. I can't describe it as good as the video shows it

1. The Sioux sweep Michigan Tech and finally get to hold the MacNaughton Cup
It was a hard fought game. It almost had a feel to last year's Saturday night game, where Tech tied it up with 5 seconds left and then won it in overtime. But the Sioux held on to a 4-3 lead and finally got to skate with the MacNaughton cup for the first time since the 2004 season.

There you have it folks, my top 5 Sioux highlights of the year.

Runners up included Hextall drawing 47 penalty minutes by himself, George dancing on the dasher AGAIN, and Eidsness getting his first collegiate shutout.

March 15, 2009

Sweep...MacNaughton cup presentation...we'll see you Friday night

In what has been a very topsy-turvy season, Saturday night all seemed right with the world. The Sioux beat Michigan Tech 4-3 Saturday night and finally got to hold the MacNaughton cup.

Watching the game Saturday night, I noticed Tech was a desperate team (obviously, season would be over after this game if they lost) and they were very very aggressive. The Sioux matched the intensity, but Tech got on the scoreboard first.

In the 2nd period, former Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan scored 3 goals in 3 minutes, 15 seconds, propelling the Sioux to a 3-1 lead. Hats rained down on the ice. For me, it was an incredible moment. Duncan is a kid who is overlooked every single year as a great player. He never gets kudos for his Hobey Baker award (99% of the hockey community thinks Eric Ehn was robbed) yet last night, Duncan put his team on his shoulders and carried them.

The Huskies brought it within a goal to close the 2nd period. In the 3rd period, Matt Frattin, a guy who has really impressed me all season, scored a nice wrister to make it 4-2. Tech scored again with 3:25 left and I'm sure every Sioux fan, including me, was thinking oh no, not again. But UND held their own and won the game.

After the handshakes and passing out the WCHA champion hats, the Sioux gathered at center ice. The lights were dimmed and a video started playing. The Wallflowers song Heroes playing in the background, the fans were treated to picture highlights of the Sioux season. Then the moment came that some of us have waited years for. Bruce McCloud handed the MacNaughton cup over to Ryan Duncan and the Sioux celebrated like they deserved to.

I'm sure they will enjoy this moment for quite a few days. But the task ahead is important. Friday night's game against either UMD or...the Gophers.

Thank you to Dirty for some of these pictures.

March 13, 2009

Huge win for the Sioux

After calming down a bit, I put together some thoughts on what is a huge night for North Dakota.

The first period started off a little funny. I didn't think the Sioux were off, per se, but I think they were expecting Tech to play a little more timid. Tech was pressing early and the Sioux seemed thrown off by this. However, I had the feeling they smelled blood in the water and they were the sharks. They seemed to almost be toying with Tech, letting them get a false sense of confidence. IMO, that's what led to UND's first goal.

In the 2nd period, UND dominated, plain and simple. 2 quick goals and the Sioux had the game in control. Here's where things get really good.

In the 3rd period, the Huskies scored to cut the lead to 3-1. I thought how UND responds would show me what type of team this really is. And respond they did, with a shorthanded goal and a quick wrist shot that trickled past Nolan. 42 seconds apart, and the game was out of reach for the Huskies.

A great overall game for North Dakota. A few things they can improve on for tomorrow, but I'm impressed. This series shouldn't go to 3 games.

March 11, 2009

Wednesday musings

I'm sure we're all excited about the fact that UND is playing Michigan Tech this weekend. And why not? I mean, they were the crappiest team in the WCHA this year, by a long shot. 3 conference wins?

I overheard the WCHA Writer talking to Hakstol this morning. He said that Michigan Tech is a solid team capable of beating anybody in the league. He also complimented their style of play. I take this as Hak is not overlooking Tech at all. He also said he doesn't compare this years series to last years series at all.

Personally, I think Tech will be challenging, and this matchup is no gimme for the Sioux. However, I do believe that the Sioux will take care of business and we'll see them Friday night in St. Paul

March 8, 2009

Season wrapped up...chewing on my pre-season picks

1-10 have finally been figured out. I'm sure the league was giddy last night that there was a tie, therefore avoiding the dreaded tiebreaker scenarios that everyone thinks are really complicated. Really, we need to have a bake-off or something. See which coach can make the best peach pie or something...

Regardless, here's where we stand at the end of the season:

1. UND
2. DU
3. Wisconsin
4. CC
5. Minnesota
6. St. Cloud
7. Minn-Duluth
8. Mankato
9. UAA
10. Tech

Here were my picks at the beginning of the season:

1. CC
2. Denver
3. UND
4. Mankato
5. Minnesota
6. St. Cloud
7. Wisconsin
8. Duluth
9. Tech
10. Anchorage

I guess 3/10 isn't terrible? What do you all think?

March 7, 2009

The Sioux did it!!! everyone is well aware by now! :-p

Yes the Sioux have risen from 9th place to 1st in the WCHA, and this time, no one will catch them. A gritty 2-1 victory last night over the Wisconsin Badgers gave the Sioux 38 points, sole possession of 1st place and the MacNaughton Cup.

A very grinding game, the Badgers appeared to be frustrating the Sioux last night, clogging the passing lanes, shooting lanes, and skating lanes. The Sioux were really unable to generate a lot of good offensive pressure early on. But what struck me as interesting was how Wisconsin refused to keep the pressure on as well. They definitely could have had more offensive pressure, but once they got their 1 goal they seemed content to play with that one goal lead. I noted several times that the Sioux broke it out and already 3-4 Wisconsin players were back to stop the Sioux's offensive attack. I had a good feeling that North Dakota would be able to win the game; it would just take a Wisconsin mistake. And it came in good ol Jamie McBain, the "glorious" player of Wisconsin, who leads the WCHA defensemen in +/- on the - side. Watkins was given a gift and took full advantage of it. Shorthanded, nonetheless.

In the 3rd, the Sioux took advantage on the PP, with VandeVelde beating Connelly and sending the Sioux to a 2-1 victory. A hard fought game, a grind. As my buddy Steve said to me, good teams win the games they are supposed to, great teams find a way to win the games they shouldn't.

I hope the boys don't let up tonight. Keep 'Sconni at bay, and keep the momentum going into the playoffs.

March 3, 2009

Ohhhh Baby!!!!

It's taken me a couple days to get my thoughts together. Which is why I waited to blog until today.

What to say about Sunday's game? A lot. The Sioux and the Tigers put on a very entertaining show on Sunday. I thought the Sioux had the game in the bag after the first, quite frankly. Bachman seemed off, CC seemed slow, and UND pretty much dominated play in the 1st. But the 2nd period brought CC to life. They scored two goals to get back into the game. Fortunately, 45 seconds after that, the Sioux took the lead again.

I don't know about anyone else, but the 3rd period was one of the most tense periods of hockey I have seen in awhile. Neither team was playing to win. CC was just waiting to have the Sioux make a mistake in which they could score a goal, and they did. Tied it at 3 to send it into extra hockey AGAIN!

In the OT period the Sioux were down a man for nearly two minutes, as Hextall had been called for charging with 9 seconds left in the 3rd. The Sioux did a good job killing the penalty and then for about another minute the teams traded the puck back and forth. Until about 2:20 left in the OT

The Sioux winning that game proved the doubters wrong, again. It vaulted them into 7th place in the pariwise and into sole possession of 1st place in the WCHA. The Sioux simply control their own destiny.