College Hockey:
Final play difficult for North Dakota to digest

North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg gets consoled after a loss to Minnesota on Thursday (photo: Melissa Wade).

PHILADELPHIA — Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal between Minnesota and North Dakota was just about the perfect game on a lot of levels, but it’s difficult to see it that way when you’re a part of the losing side.

North Dakota lost 2-1 at Wells Fargo Center to its archrival, but the last team into this year’s NCAA tournament did many things right in the game.

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Two particular things that UND did right Thursday stand out.

First, after Sam Warning finally broke open a scoreless deadlock 10:51 into the third period, UND’s heads didn’t go down.

Instead, UND struck back almost immediately in tying the game just 32 seconds later through a ninth tally of the season from UND walk-on forward Connor Gaarder.

The junior found an initial shot saved by Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox. However, although Gaarder’s momentum deep in the Golden Gophers zone took him beyond the goal line with the puck in the air after Wilcox failed to secure it, Gaarder’s hand-eye coordination won out as he swatted his own rebound into the net.

UND eventually lost the game on a short-handed goal from Justin Holl with 0.6 seconds remaining in regulation, but up until that point, UND controlled large portions of the game.

Holl finished a prior scoring chance, just as Gaarder had, and both teams following their shots at key times will only strengthen this game’s ability to stand the test of time in the minds of those in the college hockey community.

If you’re a UND fan, however, it’s tough right now to appreciate that final flash of inspirational play.

That final play was a bear for those in UND’s dressing room to process, too.

“I don’t know if it was just the momentum of that last power play,” UND senior forward Stephane Pattyn said after the game, visibly stunned as he sat with a pair of teammates and coach Dave Hakstol on the news conference dais after Thursday’s instant classic of a game.

“I thought our whole third period was very hard, very fast, very good paced, and I thought momentum was, I guess you could say, in our hands. A couple of close calls, a couple of good saves by their goalie, and the puck going the other way, it just hit a couple skates, hit a couple sticks and then it was in the back of our net. There’s not much more I can say.”

Hakstol was asked later in the news conference about the teachable moments for younger players watching that filled Thursday’s second game in Philadelphia to the proverbial brim. He suggested that while he could agree with that idea in time, it was difficult to do so Thursday under the circumstances.

“It was good playoff hockey. I think both teams played extremely hard, both teams played disciplined,” Hakstol said. “I know our team played within the way we want to play.

“I’m sure there’s some teachable moments in there for the youngsters, and in a different time and a different place, I’ll be able to answer that a little bit better. I’m happy with the way our team played, but that doesn’t bypass the fact that our season ends tonight.”

Fair as it is for Hakstol to say that he may later be able to better appreciate what these border rivals both accomplished Thursday, though, even he brought up the second-to-last action of the game — the following faceoff was forgettable — that cemented its status of a tilt that neither team’s fans or personnel will forget any time soon.

“You get into these games [where] if you walk away on the end of it that we’re walking away on,” Hakstol said. “It’s real important to know you left everything out there, and our guys did that today.

“It felt like our group played an excellent 60 minutes, and it’s obviously a bit of a numbing feeling to be walking away at this point in time on a good bounce of the puck that our opponent took advantage of right at the buzzer.”

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  • reardensteel

    Of course it’s hard to digest; it seems like a terrible way to lose.
    But really, it’s not a bad loss at all. It was a fantastic game.

    We knew it was going to come down to something like that.
    And, if you think about the two teams’ style of play, UND out-played MN. They did exactly what they had to do: keep the pace down, keep the body-to-body pressure up, and dig in on defense. That’s what they did, and I was really impressed there was no fighting or nasty penalties.
    I was very worried about OT; it looked to me like NoDak was going to pull it off.

    One team had to win, and I was prepared to be on the other side of the teeter-totter. I don’t think we could have asked for a more hard-fought, well contested game than that.

  • ExiledGopher

    I realize this isn’t much of a consolation, but congratulations to UND and their fans on a great game. I would have given them the edge for much of the game, and thought, as reardensteel said, NoDak would win in overtime. Once again, great game and hopefully we’ll get some more those when UND is back on Minny’s schedule.

  • sgjsdad

    Yeah I would think having your heart cut out of you with less than one second to go in regulation would be hard to digest. It is of course little consolation to UNoDak fans but last night’s game was an all-time classic and coming from this Gophers fan who NEVER gives an ounce of quarter to NoDakers, there is nothing for UNoDak fans or players to hang their heads about.

    Its a heck of a way to lose a game but I don’t think there is anything more either team could have put out on the ice last night. A great game … an all-time great game. A game that even a hard partisan like me must admit is a shame that either team had to lose.

    • stod_2

      Well said.

    • Adam Frey

      I don’t feel one bit sorry for UND fans as I recall they were the ones cheering when Holy Cross knocked off the Gophers at the Ralph and also last year when Yale beat the Gophers in the regional semis they were the ones cheering the loudest.
      Great game, well played but the best team did win!

      • collegehockeyfan

        That was a Classic game that nobody will ever forget. This game was also a classic, although we were on the losing end, the game could have gone either way, and I wish the Gophers luck in the Final. Going to be tough to push through an emotional win like and get up for the Final, would have been for either side. I will ultimately remember this game forever, and all we can do is look forward to what will be an even better, more experienced team next year! #rolltribe

      • david

        UND was the better team last night, Wilcox was the better goalie

        • Adam Frey

          I’m happy they were the better team last night. That’s why it was only 2-1 and not 6-1 right? Glad you feel happy about that. I’d rather win.

          • david

            No, not happy about it at all but proud of the boys for the effort. It would’ve been cool to beat the gophs. But glad you guys are happy, enjoy it. Just stay out of jail!

          • nogofer

            I recorded Saturday’s gofer collapse. I will keep it FOREVER…

          • Goldenchild

            wow, you are pathetic

  • Mark Decker

    It was a instant classic game. There is nothing for ND fans to hang their heads down for. It was a bounce of the puck that decided the game. It could have gone either way.

  • shogdog

    The NHL-sized rink kept ND in the game. The gophers would have annihilated with their speed on an Olympic sized (15 feet wider) rink. College hockey should be all about speed and finesse. Playing on an old school NHL rink is lame…

    • Correcting morons

      Your an idiot just wanted to point that out

      • inthenorth

        actually, he is correct. The small rink takes away from a game of speed and skill. I wish all hockey could be played on the big rinks.

        • david

          Olympic ice slows the game down. Too much time and space along the wall. There’s a reason the NHL plays on a 200′x85′ size rink, it’s much more exciting too watch.

          • inthenorth

            No. NHL plays on smaller rinks because:
            1. Big rinks reduce # of seats available to sell.
            2. Small rinks increase contact. Dumb hockey fans prefer contacts and fights. Fights increase sales. Unfortunately.

            I guess if you prefer guys grabbing each other and grinding their bodies into the backsides of other players, you must like play on small rinks.

          • david

            Haha I’m glad I got to talk to a smart hockey fan. Checking is dumb, got it

      • shogdog

        At least youre not bitter… ;-)

      • shogdog

        Wider rink = more wide open game, favoring skating and finesse. If you don’t know that, you should watch basketball…

    • david

      That, my friend, is communist

  • http://twitter.com/dirtysconsin #1 Wisco SportsFan

    Maybe they should try stool softener? Just an idea.

    • Brian

      Wisco, no need to rub it in. It was a heart breaking way to lose. Well played game NoDak, just no puck luck this game.

      • http://twitter.com/dirtysconsin #1 Wisco SportsFan

        I was being serious.

      • inthenorth

        brian – hard to digest-stool softener. Just a pun. Nothing more.

        • http://twitter.com/dirtysconsin #1 Wisco SportsFan

          thx for backing me, man

        • Brian

          LOL. I’m a Gopher fan, so I was just trying to get Wisco to lay off the NoDak followers.

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    • Brian

      Get this crap off of here!

  • ndhockey

    Hack is still perfect at putting up goose eggs.rather be a gopher than a 0-fer

    • david

      Don’t you live in Grand Forks?

      • ndhockey

        Yes I do why?

        • david

          Just confused by the meme. You should move man you must be miserable!

          • nogofer

            Yes, he is a miserable…

    • nogofer

      I recorded Saturday night’s gofer collapse. I will watch it FOREVER…

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