Back In The Spotlight

Jeff Panzer is not a picky man. He’ll take another 2-0 final in the national championship game Saturday night.

Just as long as North Dakota has the 2.

Panzer and the Fighting Sioux could only find the back of the net twice in their national semifinal against Maine on Thursday, though that was enough to get them here. But against Boston College in the NCAA title game, most expect there to be quite a bit of skating, with offense still at something of a premium.

“I don’t know if we want to start swapping goals, make it an 8-7 game or something like that, because that’s not really our style,” Panzer said. “We like to score goals but we play pretty good defensively too.”

The usual assumption in matching speed with speed is that scoring chances will arise. In a national championship, however, teams aren’t going to risk taking a good chance if there’s a chance for another good chance to result on the other end.

That was evident in the semifinal, when North Dakota’s goals came on a power play and while shorthanded. Both occurred in a similar fashion, with the scorer beating the defenseman to the outside and firing a quick shot.

But it was obvious to all what made those plays happen — the Sioux’s ability to transition out of their own zone and the speed of their players.

However, the thing that kept coming up from Blais and the Sioux players at a news conference on Friday was that they had to get to the net to create chances.

“All year long we’ve been having success driving to the net, getting rebounds, tip-ins, so-called garbage goals, but that’s how we’re going to have to score,” North Dakota coach Dean Blais said. “There’s not going to be a lot of pretty plays, not a lot of 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s, outnumbered situations by either team.

“We’re going to try to shoot the puck from everywhere and hopefully get some bounces.”

And don’t expect either team to get much of a jump on the other, Sioux senior Peter Armbrust said.

“Best-case scenario, we’d like to get a big jump going, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a tight game. It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be back and forth. Both teams have so much firepower that you’re going to see it go back and forth. It’s a matter of who’s leading with the last minute left.

“And who knows, something might happen after that.”

The Sioux have more than just a national title to play for against the Eagles. Payback is also on the table. In Madison last season, BC knocked UND out of the NCAA tournament in the quarterfinals.

“We’re trying to avenge that loss,” Blais said. “We seem to play on a lot of that this year. Wisconsin beat us twice in Madison in overtime and we beat them in the [WCHA] Final Five. We were looking forward to playing New Hampshire in the quarterfinal but Niagara beat them.”

One of the things North Dakota can’t afford to do against BC is take many penalties. That very easily could have cost them against Maine.

The Black Bears had a pair of 5-on-3 power-play chances but the Sioux were able to get by. But Blais doesn’t want his team to even be in that situation.

“I thought last night we were just totally off our game as far as penalties,” Blais said. “I watched them play Michigan State and I think they went five out of six on the power play. We were lucky last night to get away with two 5-on-3s to a very good Maine team.”

They were lucky, with the help of Sioux goaltender Karl Goehring, who made 30 saves for his first NCAA tournament win. Another shutout from the junior goaltender who has broken many of North Dakota’s goaltending records would be unheard of. But not out of the question.

“It’ll be tough to hold that team to a zero on the board,” Sioux forward Lee Goren said. “But with Karl in the net, anything’s possible.”