Gaarder embodies North Dakota’s hard-working philosophy, Hakstol says

PHILADELPHIA — Following North Dakota’s 2-1 double-overtime Midwest Regional final victory over Ferris State two weeks ago, most of the praise was heaped upon one of UND’s leading lights and also upon one of the team’s more unsung heroes.

Many have said sophomore goaltender Zane Gothberg stole that game against the favorites from Ferris State, and that isn’t at all an unfair assessment. Gothberg ended the game with a career-high 44 saves in a game in which the Bulldogs outshot UND 45-26 and looked much more threatening in front of the opposing net than their opponents had much of that night in Cincinnati.

Things fell UND’s way early in the second extra period, however, with junior forward Connor Gaarder sliding the puck through Bulldogs goaltender CJ Motte’s five-hole 88 seconds into the frame.

That goal, Gaarder’s eighth of the season, doubled his previous career high heading into this season. He’s quietly been a considerably big cog in the UND machine throughout this season, too, having surpassed previous career highs in games in a season (41), points (16) and plus-minus (plus-6).

When asked about it Wednesday at UND’s Frozen Four news conference, coach Dave Hakstol thought it was a fitting accomplishment for the hard-working junior who had initially joined UND’s program as a walk-on.

“I couldn’t think of a better guy to score a game-winning goal that gives us the opportunity to be here today,” Hakstol said.

“He kind of embodies what our team is: He shows up every single day, he’s a worker in the classroom, in and around our community and the rink, and I think if you asked the 24 teammates that he has if they could pick a guy, he would be at the top of the list because he embodies what we are as a team. And that workmanlike style paid off for him with that game-winning goal.”