Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Roses and Thorns: The Legend Continues

Results from NCHC first-round:
No. 1 UND sweeps No. 8 CC
No. 2 Miami tops No. 7 WMU in three games,
No. 6 SCSU upsets No. 3 Omaha with a sweep
No. 4 Denver sweeps No. 5 UMD
For the 13th season in a row, the UND men’s hockey team hosted a first-round conference to
urnament series from Ralph Engelstad Arena.
And after a 5-1 and 3-2 series sweep of Colorado College, for the 13th season in a row, UND fans will have the opportunity to follow the Green and White to the Twin Cities while they vie for a conference tournament championship.
No. 1 ranked UND shook off a slow start on Friday and netted two goals late in the second period before coasting in the third period.
On Saturday, CC brought their A game as a team that was playing for their season and stood toe-to-toe with North Dakota, tying the game in the third period.
But, the legend of Connor Gaarder would not let this series go past Saturday.
The senior assistant captain added to his growing list of big-time, late-season goals, notching the game-winner on a terrific back-handed, net-crashing one-timer with just over a minute left in the game.
After a nice play from Bryn Chyzyk in the neutral zone to turn over the puck, Austin Poganski came in from the right wing with Gaarder barreling towards the net. The freshman made a nifty saucer pass to the slot and Gaarder did the rest, sending the REA faithful into a frenzy and UND to the Target Center.
Gaarder’s goal was his fifth in his last six games – and fourth game-winner in that span.
The Edina, Minn., native’s penchant for scoring big goals started last season in the Frozen Faceoff as he potted two in a pivotal, third-place game victory over WMU, including the game winner that kept UND’s season alive. Then, in the NCAA tournament, Gaarder sent the Green and White to the Frozen Four with a dramatic double-overtime winner. In Frozen Four, Gaarder did it again, scoring UND’s lone goal against Minnesota, less than a minute after the Gophers took the lead in the third period.
The senior leader doesn’t have much to say about this knack for big goals, however.
 “It’s just puck luck and hard work, I guess,” Gaarder said on Saturday. “If you work hard, you’re just going to get the bounces.” 
Whatever it is, DDC hopes to see the tough-minded senior continue his flare for the dramatic.
Here’s what stood out to DDC in this week’s Roses and Thorns.
UND's Connor Gaarder nets the series-clinching goal with 1:22 left in the third on Saturday. (Photo: UNDsports.com)


No. 1 – Connor Gaarder

See above.
Gaarder came to UND four years ago as a late addition to the roster following J.T. Miller’s decision to de-commit from the program and bolt for the Canadian Juniors. While this move crushed DDC at the time as Miller was set to be UND’s first New York Rangers draft pick to don the Green and White,  there are certainly no reasons to be upset now. While Miller has seen success in Broadway, much to DDC’s liking, Gaarder has become a living legend for UND. Fair trade.

No. 2 – Nick Mattson

After bouncing in and out of the lineup during the first half of the season, the senior defenseman took Christmas break to reevaluate his play. Since then, Mattson has been arguably UND’s best defenseman and he showed up big time against CC. Mattson netted the game-winning goal on Friday and added two assists in the 5-1 added an assist. Mattson has been a force for UND, leading the team with 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in the last 14 games. The senior had often been a source of frustration for fans for parts of his career, but he’s brought his game to a new level during a special run.

No. 3 – Johnny Simonson, Bryn Chyzyk and Trevor Olson

These three were grouped together on the fourth line this weekend and found immediate chemistry. With senior Mark MacMillan officially out for the season and forward Colten St. Clair out for the weekend with injury, Simonson and Olson stepped into the lineup in the playoffs and made a heck of an impact. While trio only notched one point on the weekend, Chyzyk’s second assist on Gaarder’s game-winner on Saturday, the line played with energy and created many chances. Simonson may have had his best game with UND on Friday night, tallying three shots on goal. DDC expects this line to be together this weekend in Minneapolis and is certainly all for it.
UND's Nick Mattson celebrates his game-winning goal in front of the REA faithful on Friday. (Photo: UNDsports.com)


No. 1 – No Coverage of Penrose Celebration

DDC did not have the opportunity to see UND parade the Penrose Cup around the REA following Saturday night’s win and he’s not happy about it. Ok, DDC gets it, there are timing constraints and other TV programs to be shown, but c’mon, not even a snippet?! C’mon Midco. This was a pinnacle regular-season celebration for the fans of the Green and White and you cut to other programming?! Fail. Well, here’s to hoping for more important trophy celebrations in the coming weeks.
Thanks for tuning in once again. Come back later this week for the breakdown of the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis.

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