ST. PAUL, Minn. — The only other team to do it is a team is a former and future member of the WCHA. The team: Northern Michigan. The “It:” winning six consecutive games at the WCHA Final Five.
When North Dakota beat Minnesota 6-3 in Friday’s semifinals at the Xcel Energy Center, the Sioux made it seven straight Final Five victories.
“Our coaches emphasize playing our best hockey at this time of the year,” said UND captain Mario Lamoureux. “It gets embedded in our mind.”
UND advanced to the WCHA championship game, where it will face Denver at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday in a rematch of the 2011 championship game, which the Sioux won in double overtime.
UND last lost in the Final Five when Minnesota-Duluth beat them in the 2009 semifinals. Since then, the Sioux won three straight games against UMD, Denver and St. Cloud State to claim the 2010 championship. UND beat Colorado College and Denver to win it in 2011.
“This is a special tournament,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “We fight real hard to get here and once you get here you go day by day to play the next night, and the goal is to eventually play for the title. We have that opportunity now and we’re going to make the most of it.”
The Sioux opened their run this year by beating St. Cloud State 4-1 in Thursday’s quarterfinals and then knocked off the Gophers on Friday. With each goal the Gophers scored to build a 3-0 lead in the second period, Minnesota fans made the Xcel Energy Center sound like Mariucci East.
But as the Sioux mounted their comeback, UND’s fans took over the arena, just like they did the past two years when they didn’t have to share the capacity with as many Gophers fans because of Minnesota’s tournament hiatus.
“What helps us out a lot is the fan support we have down here,” Lamoureux said. “Everywhere we go in the nation, we have fans. It gives everyone shivers down their spine when they hear that ‘Sioux’ chant at the end of the anthem.”
Added Hakstol: “Our fans are a huge part of this. They’re probably the one boost and influence we have from the external side. Everything else comes from inside that locker room.”