PHILADELPHIA — The last time North Dakota met archrival Minnesota in a NCAA tournament game, things could’ve gone quite a lot better for UND than they did.
UND never led in that 2012 West Regional final in St. Paul, Minn., an eventual 5-2 win for the Golden Gophers. It was just as brutal for the game’s de facto visiting team, too, as even after Minnesota opened up a 4-1 lead 14:28 into the second period, the Gophers never let off the gas.
These two teams met last season, too, with similar results as Minnesota picked up a win and a tie on home ice against UND last January in Minneapolis. Even then, though, attention was drawn to that 2012 NCAA tournament game when players met the gathered press Wednesday ahead of UND’s national semifinal Thursday night against the Gophers.
When asked about that loss at Xcel Energy Center, two of the UND upperclassmen that were on the ice that night said they’ve moved on but haven’t forgotten what happened.
“That was a tough game, and obviously it ended our season so it wasn’t an easy one to swallow,” UND junior forward Stephane Pattyn said. “But hockey’s a kind of game where you have to forget things earlier, and I think for us we had a summer to think about it, but I think last year already we had to go into the [new] season and forget about it and try to move on.
“Obviously, we faced them last year, as well, so it’s an extra little chip on your shoulder about the team that ended your season, but it’s so far in the past now that we’re just focused on the team we have now. We have a completely different team than the team we had two years ago, and we’re just ready for tomorrow night.”
UND senior defenseman and team captain Dillon Simpson echoed Pattyn’s sentiments on the matter.
“I think, more than anything, that game kind of stung us throughout that summer and pushed us into the next season,” Simpson said. “But as far as this year goes, like Pattyn said, we’ve got a lot of new players on this team and a lot of new personnel.
“You look back at that game and, yeah, you use it as motivation as a part of the past, but I don’t think it has a whole lot of bearing on the players we have in that locker room right now. Like any game, it was a big game, and like in any rivalry, the guys will be ready to go tomorrow.”