Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's Time to Reload -- DDC's Look at the 2016-17 Squad

For the first time in 16 years, it's been a celebratory offseason.

It's been 172 days since we saw the UND men's hockey team skate around Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL with the National Championship trophy. Before DDC takes a look ahead, let's all reminisce, one more time, shall we?

One last time ... what a team.

While the pressure of once a seemingly unending, unbearable streak of frustration is over, the goal for the 2016-17 version of the Green and White remains the same as all previous incarnations of UND hockey -- to win a national championship.

The 2015-16 team was special. A squad stuffed with scoring, defense and tenacity, they finally cashed in on their all-time UND legacy. While many of those special players are gone, many remain and the expectations are still as high as ever in Grand Forks. Losing players like Troy Stecher, Drake Caggiula, Nick Schmaltz and Paul LaDue, all key cogs in the run to No. 8, will force the 2016-17 squad to look for answers as to who will step up into key roles.

However, let DDC make one thing clear -- UND doesn't rebuild. We reload.

Here's a look at what remains and who will be there to restock the talent load lost from the tremendous 2015-16 squad.

Who's Left?

UND's Top Returning Players

Sophomore Forward, Brock Boeser

Without a doubt, Boeser is the most important and dynamic returning player for the 2016-17 Green and White. The first-round NHL draft pick was arguably the best forward in the country last year, ending last season as the nation's third-leading scorer with an impressive 42 goal, 27 assist -- 60 point season. Boeser was pegged by USCHO as the top returning forward for the 2016-17 season, and for good reason. If you need a refresher as to why, here you go:

Boeser's unique blend of effort, power, speed and scoring touch led to one of the best freshman campaigns in UND history. Last year's NCHC Rookie of the Year is a Hobey Baker candidate and will wear an 'A' for the Green and White as they look to repeat. 

Junior Forward, Austin Poganski

The big-bodied power forward really came into his own last year as a part of UND's Heavy Line with Rhett Gardner and Luke Johnson. Poganski was a force in the middle of the ice, owning the front of the net and anchoring a line that was matched with opponent's top lines down the stretch. The St. Cloud, Minn., native notched 10 goals and added 15 assists last season. This year, Poganski has been named an Assistant Captain and will greatly factor again into UND's success. Another step forward for the St. Louis Blues draft pick will be an important piece in the Green and White's run to No. 9, this season.

Jr. D, Tucker Poolman
named an Assistant Captain
for the 2016-17 season.

Junior Defenseman, Tucker Poolman

Much like Poganski, Tucker Poolman took another big step in his development as one of UND's most important defensemen last year on a squad chocked full of important defensemen. Poolman was fifth in the NCHC in defenseman scoring and notched career highs in assists (19) and points (24). The East Grand Forks, Minn., product will wear an 'A' for the 2016-17 team. Armed with a lethal slap shot from the point, Poolman is also incredibly steady on the back end and will anchor a great returning corps of D-men along with two-time Captain Gage Ausmus and sophomores Christian Wolanin and Hayden Shaw. Defense was the backbone of the 2015-16 title team and with Poolman on the back end once again, UND should be stellar, once again.

Who's New?

UND's Top Newcomers

Freshman Forward, Tyson Jost

As DDC noted earlier, UND doesn't rebuild ... it reloads. Bringing in the talent the likes of freshman forward Tyson Jost, the Green and White will look to do just that. The St. Albert, Alberta native was selected No. 10 overall in this year's NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche, becoming UND's second Top 10 pick of all time with the legendary Jonathan Toews. The comparisons to the former Fighting Sioux superstar isn't just due to his high draft status. DDC was recently told by a local media member that Jost reminds him very much of Toews in that he just simply does everything right. Last season with Penticton, Jost was named the BCHL MVP, the CJHL National Player of the Year, MVP and forward of the year with an eye-popping 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists) in 48 games. He has been tabbed as ISS Hockey's Top Incoming Freshman. Take a look at UND's new prized blue chipper:

Oof. Anyone else licking their chops? Looks like a special player. Hands, playmaking ability, vision and scoring touch, anyone? With Nick Schmaltz and Drake Caggiula gone, look for Mr. Jost to make an immediate impact.

Freshman Forward, Ludvig Hoff

The Oslo, Norway native had a stalwart career with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, posting 57 points last season. Hoff was eighth in the league in points and fifth in assists (37) and was named a USHL Third-Team All-star. Hoff, UND's first Norwegian-born product, twice captained Norway's World Junior Championship team. Hoff will certainly have his chance at Top 6 minutes in UND's effort to reload.

Fr. D, Casey Johnson adds
to UND's local talent pool.

Freshman Defenseman, Casey Johnson

Johnson, a Grand Forks native and former Central High Knight, continues a trend of local flavor that has spotted the Green and White over the last handful of years. The defenseman spent the 2015-16 season with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints and tallied nine goals and 13 assists, helping Dubuque to the Clark Cup Final. A solid defenseman, Johnson will have the opportunity for minutes as UND looks to find a pair to join a returning corps.

Poised for a Breakout?

DDC's Breakout Player for 2016-17

So. F, Shane Gersich
is DDC's pick for UND's
Breakout Player of 2016-17.

Sophomore Forward, Shane Gersich

Losing the likes of Schmaltz, Caggiula, Stecher and LaDue, who will be the man to take the biggest step for the 2016-17 Green and White? Along with the previously mentioned Austin Poganski and Rhett Gardner, Shane Gersich showed flashes of greatness last year for UND. Gersich scored 9 goals and added two assists last season and scored the Green and White's first goal in their 5-1 National Title winning victory against Quinnipiac. The Chaska, Minn., product has tremendous top-end speed and a noticeable scoring touch in space. With that speed and touch, Gersich could very well have the opportunity to play on the top line with Boeser and potentially Jost, setting up a group that's loaded with a dynamic scoring knack. With opponents having to contend with Boeser and with what looks to be elite-level playmaking ability in Jost, Gersich should have time and space and DDC thinks big things are in store. DDC sees Gersich jumping up into the 30 point range and becoming a huge factor for the Green and white.

It's good to be back, folks. Thanks again for reading and keep coming back for DDC's takes on UND hockey all season.

Later this week, visit DDC as he looks at UND's biggest storylines for 2016-17, delves into his NCHC and NCAA preseason rankings and predictions and previews the season-opening exhibition against the Manitoba Bisons.

We're just three days away from the glory of another banner raising as the Green and White hoist Green Banner No. 8 into the Ralph Engelstad Arena rafters on October 3 to kick off the 2016-17 season. 

Cheers and Fight On, Green and White!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DDC's Top 10 Moments of 2015-16 -- No. 1 -- Raise It

UND celebrates with it's eighth national championship trophy after being Quinnipiac 5-1. (Photo: Associated Press)
As DDC puts cursor to blog, it has been almost exactly one day and one month since the UND men's
hockey team pasted the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 on April 9 in the national championship game to earn the Green and White its eighth national title.

DDC's Top 10 moments of the 2015-16 season ends with this final memory and it's one that was 16 years in the making.

This moment is the culmination of a lot of pain and relative suffering. This pain and suffering was throughout the program. From the players and coaches, both former and current, to the fans, this moment was for everyone.

Without further ado, here's DDC's No. 1 moment of the 2015-16 season -- The Celebration.

No. 1 -- Raise It -- UND wins title No. 8 -- UND vs. Quinnipiac, National Championship game, Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL., April 9, 2016.

Looking back at what this team did this season since April 9th has been incredibly enjoyable for DDC. Being a fan of this team since he moved to Northwest Minnesota in 1996, it's hard to fully grasp what this year's squad meant to this blogger.

DDC grew up on Sioux hockey. The highs of the 1997 and 2000 teams and the lows of disappointment after disappointment in the 16 years since 2000 only increased DDC's affection for this team.

DDC had the opportunity to cover UND hockey for the Dakota Student for four memorable seasons during his college days. During that time, the Sioux won MacNaughton Cups, Broadmoor Trophies, made the national tournament each season and competed in Frozen Fours.

Each great moment, however, was a bit overshadowed by the letdown of not being able to check that last box.

As the seconds ticked down while watching the game at his home in the Minneapolis suburbs, DDC started to realize that this moment was finally coming to fruition. He couldn't help himself from looking at the clock and reminiscing.

The seconds ticked. The pain was being washed away. The demons were being exercised.

Ten, nine, eight.

Krys Kolanos ends UND's title defense.

Seven, six, five.

Nathan Gerbe and BC rip out the hearts of Sioux fans, once again.

Four, three, two.

Shawn Hunwick's 40 saves denies the Pony Express.



It's was time to forget it all. It was time to Raise It. It was time to check that final box. It was our time.

And finally, it was time to celebrate.

Some awesome stuff there. Thank you to all who put videos on YouTube.

While DDC was not able to partake in person, he, along with a close friend, did celebrate in DDC's backyard, Stone Cold Steve Austin style. 

And finally, as the beer dripped off his Sioux jersey, DDC joined UND fans around the world in a collective smile, cheer and one last moment, that will go down as one of the best in the history of our beloved program.  

Check that final box. Raise it.

Thanks again for reading.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

DDC's Top 10 Moments of 2015-16 -- No. 2 -- The Best Hockey Play He's Ever Seen

UND Sr. F, Drake Caggiula celebrates one of his two goals in the Green and White's 5-1 win over Quinnipiac
in the national championship game. (Photo credit: Associated Press)
Thanks again for checking back in to DDC's Top 10 moments of the 2015-16 season for the EIGHT-time NCAA hockey national champion, UND men's hockey team.

Nearly a month later and that still feels so good to say.

National. Champion.

*Deep breath* *Smile*

Soak it in, once again.

Ok, so back to it. We're down to the final two and this particular play, DDC has no shame in saying it, is the best single hockey play he has ever seen.

In a season full of memories and history, this play will be the one that fans of the Green and White talk about for generations to come.

This play is the first play that DDC will show baby Emma and all future DDC babies when telling them how special this 2015-16 squad was.

No. 2A -- The Tic-Tic-Tic-Tac-Toe Goal -- UND vs. Miami, Ralph Engelstad Arena, Grand Forks, N.D., November 13, 2015.

Sports fans all have those plays that will forever be etched into their minds. The beauty of sports often provides unforgettable ones that will span the test of time. Those plays that will be shown on highlight reels for all time. The plays that cause that "remember where you were, when..." feeling.

Being raised a New York professional sports fan, DDC's lean heavily to the east. Yankee captain Derek Jeter's dive into the stands to make a catch against the Red Sox. David Tyree's sticky-helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII against the Patriots. Stephane Matteau's double OT goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils. These are the pro clips he will show his children. DDC remembers where he was for all of these plays.

For his beloved UND hockey team, DDC's most memorable plays elicit the same feelings. Evan Trupp's diving game-winning goal against the Gophers. Robbie Bina's full-sheet goal, also against Minnesota. Chris Porter's regional-winning overtime tally... again... against the Gophers. These are the UND version of the "remember where you were, when..." goals.

Simply put, this goal passes all. DDC thinks you remember this one very well.

Remember this one? Yeah, DDC isn't surprised. He watched this goal on a 26" TV at one of his best friend's new house, while standing up as he had yet to bring chairs downstairs. DDC remembers giggling as he ran into the other room to explain the goal while he worked on his newly-bought home. It will be a moment DDC never forgets. It's the appropriate feeling for a play like this.

Schmaltz to Boeser to Caggiula to Stecher to Boeser to Schmaltz. Tic-tic-tic-tic-tac-toe.

Watching it again for the possibly millionth time, DDC starts to giggle when Boeser taps it to Stecher. By the time Schmaltz finishes the play, DDC's smile is a big as humanly possible and the laugh is now emanating from his belly. 

The buzz this goal created was unreal.

"I don't think I've been in a play with so many passes tic-tac-toe on the tape," Nick Schmaltz said in the postgame presser.

“In the moment, you didn’t think it was as cool as everyone was saying,” Boeser added. “But the bench just kept saying “wow’.”

“Those are special,” head coach Brad Berry said. “Those are things you like to see.”

From Bleacher Report to Twitter to TSN, this play reached college hockey legend. 

Another incredible moment from the CBS line. What a joy. Thank you, men, for giving us a play for the ages.

Friday, April 29, 2016

DDC's Top 10 Moments of 2015-16, Part IV

Cam Johnson and Paul LaDue celebrate after UND defeated Quinnipiac 5-1 in the national championship.
The title is the Green and White's eighth in team history and first since 2000. (Photo: Associated Press)
As we inch towards the top spot in the countdown, it’s becoming a bit crowded at the top.

These three remaining moments are the best of the best and DDC thinks most, if not all, will agree.

Some may think DDC’s pick for No. 3 should be a bit higher as it is possibly the most important singular moment/play that UND has had since 2000. The selection of this play as No. 3 does nothing to undersell it. In fact, you know what… we’re going to make this 2b.

Let’s head back to the countdown with DDC’s No. 2b moment – Nick Schmaltz’s game-winning goal in the national semifinal.

No. 2b – Schmaltz Flips the Narrative – UND vs. Denver, Frozen Four national semifinal, Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay, Fla., April 7, 2016.

For 16 years, the narrative following the UND men’s hockey team was simple. They were a fantastic program, that had tremendous players that for whatever reason, could not get it done in the biggest games. With the exception of two of these 16 years (2000-01, 2004-05), UND couldn’t find a way to get to the title game, much less win it all.

The moments were heart wrenching.

Krys Kolanos denies back-to-back titles in OT, 2001. Peter Mannino’s 44-save epic, 2005. BC outguns UND, 2006. BC holds off UND, DOT line, 2007. Nathan Gerbe, BC gut punches the Green and White again, 2008. Shawn Hunwick stuns the Pony Express, 2011. 0.6, 2014. Jack Eichel paces BU, 2015.

Think of the names that couldn’t find a way to raise No. 8 while at North Dakota… Brandon Bochenski, Matt Greene, Zach Parise, Drew Stafford, Travis Zajac, Ryan Duncan, T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews, Chay Genoway, Chris VandeVelde, Matt Frattin, Brad Malone, Evan Trupp, Jason Gregoire, Brett Hextall, Corban Knight, Danny Kristo, Brock Nelson, Dillon Simpson, Rocco Grimaldi, Stephane Pattyn, Zane McIntyre, Jordan Schmaltz.

These aren’t just names. These are UND legends, Stanley Cup winners, Olympians and NHL all-stars. All of these 23 names and dozens of others, contributed to the narrative.

The 2015-16 team brought their own names and their own legend to the edge of glory, once again.

Frozen Four semifinals. It was the sixth meeting on the year for UND and Denver and man, this one was a dandy.

UND is up 2-0 and seemingly coasting into the title game as they had not lost in over 70 games when leading after two periods of play.

Denver came roaring back, knotting it 2-2 on a fluke play that bounced off the stick of Captain Gage Ausmus and between the legs of Cam Johnson and into the net.

The air, once happy and hopeful, filled once again with dread and nervousness. Here it is. Here’s where we blow it. Here’s where the heartache again takes over. The ghosts of Nathan Gerbe, Shawn Hunwick and 0.6 were haunting.

Then with a one minute to go in the third period, tied 2-2, those names, those moments, that narrative. Nick Schmaltz flipped it.

From pacing the room nervously with bile twisting and churning in his stomach to pure elation and excitement, DDC could physically, tangibly feel the change.

Those dozens of players who couldn’t find a way, those eight heart-wrenching moments that crushed UND players and their fans from around the world, those 16 years of frustration … all were replaced with relief and exuberance in less than two seconds.

A simple play. Get the puck to the net and get greasy. Sioux hockey. Shot, block, gather, deke, goal, victory.

Schmaltz had scored the biggest UND goal in these 16 years and had given the Green and White their shot at glory. 

A moment that DDC will never, ever forget. 

Thanks again for reading! Check back soon for DDC's No. 2 moment -- This single play is the best DDC has ever seen. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

DDC's Top 10 Moments of 2015-16, Part III

UND Fr. F, Shane Gersich celebrates his goal giving the Green and White a 1-0 lead in the first period
of their 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the national championship game. (Photo: David Samson, The Forum)
Thanks for heading back to the blog as DDC continues his countdown of his top 10 moments of UND's banner year, 2015-16.

So far, we’ve had a new coach, the birth of a now legendary line, battles with the Pios setting up a later moment, earning back-to- back banners and all goalie questions becoming goalie afterthoughts.

It’s been a fun first five moments, but now, we’re getting into the big stuff.

If No. 10 through No. 6 were big, DDC will go as far as to say that No. 5 through No. 1 are the moments that UND fans will be talking about forever. These are the moments of history. These five moments are the ones that when everyone looks into the rafters of the REA at green banner No. 8, they will remember first and foremost. These are the stuff of legend.

So, without further fanfare, let’s get back into it.

No. 5 – Drake’s Windmill – UND vs. Alabama Huntsville, Ralph Engelstad Arena, January 2, 2016.

Up to the point of DDC’s No. 5 moment, the weekend in question as a whole had been kind of a quiet one.

UND was playing a non-conference game against a UAH team that had like 3 wins in a 50 year span (just kidding, but they were really bad) the students were still away on Christmas break, the Green and White had squeaked by with a 1-0 the night before with two-thirds of the CBS line out due to the World Junior Championship and were tied 1-1 with the Chargers in the middle of the second period while on the penalty kill.

Then, Caggiula decided to take the game into his own hands.

What DDC remembers most about this goal is the crowd.

Eight seconds in, dull roar, the shorthanded chance develops. Eleven seconds in, gasp! louder roar, Drake goes over the top, leaves the puck behind the defender. Twelve seconds in, Drake gathers the puck, louder gasp! LOUD ROAR! Thirteen seconds in, Drake dekes, undresses the goalie, buries, bye, bye REA roof.

A special player yet again making a special play. The hands, the creativity and the finishing ability. A truly dynamic triple threat.

Just for the heck of it, here's a really great video of some of Drake's career highlights with a lot of 2015-16 flavor. We've enjoyed your time here, Mr. Caggiula. You will be missed. Enjoy.

No. 4 -- "This Happens Like Once Every 10 Years" -- UND vs. UMD, Ralph Engelstad Arena, February 19, 2016

Those closest to DDC know very well that one of his favorite movies of all time is the horribly underrated Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy.

In DDC's second favorite scene (first is the McDonald's scene), Julian (or Frankenstein as he prefers to be called), Sonny's "adopted" child, wakes up from his nap in the midst of a New York Rangers game that has gone to overtime. During said overtime, the Rangers have been awarded a penalty shot. Julian wakes up and per his tradition, wants to watch "The Kangaroo Song". Sonny then explains to young Julian the importance of the upcoming penalty shot and notes "this happens like once every 10 years." Hilarity ensues. Please watch ... DDC promises it sets up his No. 4 moment (1:38 in). Watch the whole clip if you want to remember how flippin' amazing this movie is.

"ALLLLRIIIIIIIGHHHHT! GOD, you were normal yesterday!"

So great. Now... onto how it relates to the 2015-16 UND men's hockey team.

With the Green and White reeling after being swept for the first time on the road since 2011 a week earlier at the hands of Denver, UND was desperate for a home win against Minnesota Duluth. DDC was informed midway through the third period that Big Daddy just so happened to be on Comedy Central. "Good. I'll watch it after we win," DDC said to himself.

In overtime, Austin Poganski was hauled down on a partial breakway and was awarded a penalty shot.

The last time the Green and White won a game in overtime with a penalty shot? 2004 (Drew Stafford cashes in on Jimmy Howard at Maine called by the legendary Doc Emrick who calls Stafford "Dave") .... for the purposes of DDC's story... "this happens like once every 10 years."

In a seemingly Godly turn of fate, Sonny's words rang true. Pogo went to his "go-to move", beat Bulldog goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo with a backhander giving UND an incredible moment in a 2-1 win.

DDC then remembered Big Daddy was on and all was officially right with the world. Magical.

There's No. 4 and 5. Come back soon for moment No. 3 ... A CBS liner flips the narrative.

Thanks for reading.