Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Roses and Thorns: A Piece of the Penrose

NCHC Standings -- 1 Week Remaining:
1) UND, 15-5-2. 47 points
2) Miami, 13-8-1, 1 SO win, 41 pts
3) Nebraska Omaha, 11-8-3, 3 SO wins, 39 pts
4) Denver, 12-9-1, 1 SO win, 38 pts
5) Minnesota Duluth, 11-8-3, 36 pts
6) St. Cloud State, 10-11-1, 31 pts
7) Western Michigan, 5-12-5, 4 SO wins, 24 pts
8) Colorado College, 2-18-2, 8 pts

After a gritty 3-2 win on Friday, the No. 1 UND men’s hockey team led St. Cloud State 1-0 half way through the first period.

But, a pair of minor penalties shortly after brought the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s top-ranked power play to the ice for a 5-on-3 power play for two full minutes. The Huskies netted both their goals on Friday night with the extra man, so needless to say, this was an important two minutes for both teams.

Four body-sacrificing blocks (three by defenseman Troy Stecher) and a handful of saves later, the 12,000 plus at the Ralph Engelstad Arena erupted into a frenzy as UND killed off the pair of penalties.

“That’s a huge part of the game with those guys laying it on the line and everybody that was on the ice during that,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said after the game. “That’s an awful big part of the game, and those guys, probably in that two-minute span, showed what heart and character are all about.”

The huge penalty kill paced a 3-1 North Dakota win for a monster-sized sweep that earned the Green and White at least a share of the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champions.

While that penalty kill helped earn an important win, it may have brought a bigger loss for UND.

Senior assistant captain Mark MacMillan had one of those blocks on the 5-on-3 kill, but his injured the forward and forced him to miss the remainder of the game with what appeared to be a leg injury. UND announced Tuesday that MacMillan is out indefinitely with a lower body injury.

MacMillan’s injury aside, it was an eventful sweep on senior weekend for North Dakota. There’s a bunch of roses and one, glaring thorn in DDC’s Roses and Thorns from this past weekend.


Before jumping into the roses, a quick shout out must be given to DDC’s real MVP.

This past Monday, the DDC household celebrated baby (not so much anymore, unfortunately) DDC’s second birthday.  It’s hard to believe that two years have passed and more great memories of watching UND hockey will come soon enough. Cheers to Emma Jean!

UND's seven seniors (from left to right), Stephane Pattyn, Michael
Parks, Mark MacMillan, Brendan O'Donnell, Connor Gaarder
Andrew Panzarella and Nick Mattson, gather for a photo following
their final regular season home game on Saturday.
Photo Credit: UND Sports

No. 1 – Seniors

For the seven seniors on this year’s squad, their last regular season home series saw UND check off two major goals – secure home ice for the first round of the conference playoffs and clinch the Penrose Cup. While 1 point is needed this weekend against Miami for an outright title, Saturday’s win earned UND at least a share of the league championship. Four of North Dakota’s six goals on the weekend were scored by the senior class. Assistant captain Connor Gaarder was responsible for both game-winning goals. For the last group to wear the Sioux logo, this was a fitting end to an outstanding four years. Captain Steph Pattyn request UND wear the black “business suits” jerseys on Saturday for the first time at home since 2011 and UND certainly took care of business. Despite the injury to MacMillan, the leadership from this group is something special. No doubt, this class will call for the next man up with a player out with injury.

No. 2 – Zane McIntyre and UND’s Defense

For the second weekend in a row, North Dakota did not allow a goal 5-on-5.

Let that sink in for a second.

It has been 250:57 since Denver notched an even-strength goal all the way back in the third period on Feb. 14. UND bottled up an explosive Husky attack for large stretches in both games and the 5-on-3 penalty kill in the first on Saturday showed the character this team possess. It’s been a long time since DDC has seen a team sellout like that on defense and this kind of effort will be hard to beat the rest of the way.

No. 3 – UND’s “4th Line”

UND's Austin Poganski sprawls on the ice after batting in his fourth goal
of the season on Saturday night. Photo Credit: UND Sports.

Depth has been the key to UND’s success all season and the play of their “4th line” of Austin Poganski, Gaarder and Brendan O’Donnell is the epitome of this. This group has been arguably North Dakota’s best line over the past month and they did it again against SCSU, netting three goals on the weekend.

Can we please consider giving this group a name? We’ve had the DOT line and Pony Express in recent memory. DDC heard rumblings of the “GOP” line. That works for him.

Again, with the injury to MacMillan, this line and the depth of the whole team, w

ill need to continue the type of play they’ve been getting over the last handful of games.

No. 4 – The REA Faithful

Wow. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the 5-on-3 kill on Saturday and the following ovation from the REA crowd, figure out a way to watch it. The fans absolutely blew the roof off the Ralph after this PK and that energy didn’t stop for the rest of the game. Recently dubbed “America’s Best Hockey Town”, the fans at the Ralph sure did attest. Watch this as a fan and try not to get chills. This group has surely given this fanbase something to cheer about.


No. 1 – Mac’s Injury

UND F. Mark MacMillan

Not enough can be said about this. MacMillan absolutely sold out his body to block a Jonny Brodzinski shot just above his knee, which is noted as one of the hardest in the country.  While UND brass hasn’t ruled out his return, the injury and subsequent surgery, will more than likely keep MacMillan out for the remainder of his senior season. This is a devastating loss for UND as the forward is the team’s leading goal scorer and a fantastic defensive player. MacMillan is stuck on 99 points for his career at UND and here’s hoping that this injury isn’t Mark’s last memory wearing the Green and White. Here’s to a speedy recovery for one of the heart and soul players of this UND squad.

Check back later this week as UND prepares to wrap up the regular season in Oxford, Ohio. With 1 point in this series, North Dakota would close out the year as NCHC champs out right and head into the NCHC tourney as the No. 1 seed. The Miami University RedHawks look to spoil the party, as a sweep over UND would earn them a share of the Penrose Cup and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Thanks again for tuning in to DDC. It’s been one year since this blog has been going and it’s surely been a fun ride!

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