Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rose and Thorns: Shippin' Up to Boston

UND gives a stick salute to the Scheels Arena faithful after their 4-1 win
over St. Cloud State on Saturday. (Photo: Eric Hylden, Grand Forks Herald)
Two weekends ago, the UND men's hockey team entered the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis fresh off a 5-1, 3-2 sweep of Colorado College as the favorites to take home some more hardware.

Two uninspiring losses later, their first in back-to-back form in two years, the Green and White suddenly found themselves looking for answers coming into the NCAA tournament.

As noted in last weekend's preview, what a difference a week makes.

The NCAA West Regional at Scheels Arena in Fargo saw UND get back to the form that got them the No. 1 seed in said regional. North Dakota rode the emotional wave of a raucous, green and white clad, highly-partisan crowd with a pair of convincing 4-1 wins over Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State to punch their ticket to the Frozen Four in Boston.

Here's what stood out to the DDC in this week's Roses and Thorns.


No. 1 -- Scheels Arena

The aforementioned barn, just 70+ miles from the UND campus, provided a special dynamic that willed the Green and White to Boston. North Dakota sure did provide the crowd something to cheer about. The sold out arena delivered a distinct, home-ice advantage to the Green and White and UND played with a passion that could not be slowed all weekend. Every goal, big hit and timely save brought an enormous cheer from the 5,000+ in Fargo.

“It was awesome,” UND head coach Dave Hakstol said following the 4-1 win over Quinnipiac on Friday. “Right from walking in the building a couple of hours before the game right through the final buzzer. What a tremendous atmosphere for our players to have an opportunity to play in.”

No. 2 -- Tucker Poolman and Luke Johnson

DDC didn't give these two separate roses just to avoid getting too long, but, this pair certainly deserved it. Both Poolman and Johnson scored goals on Friday. Saturday, Poolman notched an assist and Johnson scored again, leading UND to the west region title. Outside of the scoresheet, these two both played uptempo, physical games all weekend. The pair led the way on the forecheck, as well. After a weekend that saw few players deliver on the energy part of the game in Minneapolis, these two set the tone for the Green and White.

No. 3 -- Andrew Panzarella

Before Saturday night's game, the senior defenseman had been a healthy scratch in 15 consecutive games for UND, so, to expect much of an impact from a player who hadn't scored all season was a bit of a long shot. In the biggest of spots, the Washington, D.C. native delivered. Playing for Keaton Thompson who was out with the flu, Panzarella scored a big-time goal in the first period that tied the game 1-1 and got North Dakota going when it desperately needed it. As it has been said many times this season, UND's strongest feature may be its depth. No stronger testament to that was the play of Panzarella on Saturday.

From Tom Miller of the Grand Forks Herald:

When UND coach Dave Hakstol was chatting with broadcasting crews before the regional, Hakstol mentioned Panzarella as one of the players who sets the bar for the team.

Before the regional, Hakstol mentioned Panzarella as one of the players who sets the bar for the team.
Hakstol said he received a few puzzling looks, because Panzarella hasn’t been in the lineup much lately.

“He sets the tone for our hockey team,” Hakstol said. “His work ethic and what type of teammate he is is what sets the bar.

“It’s not by accident that he’s able to step in and be successful. That’s not easy. That says all you need to know about the extra work that young man does to be prepared."

UND's Andrew Panzarella (22) celebrates his goal with Tucker Poolman
on Saturday. (Photo: Eric Hylden, Grand Forks Herald

No. 4 -- Zane McIntyre

Seriously. What else can be said about this kid? The Hobey Baker and Mike Richter Award finalist proved his mettle once again in Fargo. For the 14th and 15th time this season, McIntyre allowed just one goal in a game. Although not tested as much on Friday, the junior netminder certainly was tested on Saturday, making several point-blank saves against St. Cloud, leading his team to Boston.


UND's Michael Parks (15) and Drake Caggiula celebrate a goal on Saturday
during their 4-1 win over St. Cloud State. (Photo: Eric Hylden, Grand Forks Herald

No. 1 -- Rand Pecknold

Quinnipiac looked to be down its best scorer, Sam Anas, in Friday night's game and Pecknold went as far as to say that they'd be "dreaming" to have the forward play. Well, he did. Although Anas was an afterthought throughout, this was interesting talk coming into a NCAA tournament. Was he trying to fleece the UND faithful? Who knows? Then, after QU fell to UND, Pecknold took a shot at the Fargo regional selection, stating it wasn't a neutral site. He later noted that being the No. 14 seed provided them no help. Sounds like sour grapes to this blogger.

No. 2 -- The Flu

Having several players fighting illness certainly isn't an ideal situation, but UND had to fight through just that this weekend. The Green and White were without a top defenseman, Keaton Thompson, due to the flu and reportedly had another player receiving IVs during intermissions. Here's to hoping the week off can get UND back to full health.

No. 3 -- Heartbreaking Final Game for MTU's Riley Sweeney

Man, this was tough. With Michigan Tech under a minute away from its first NCAA tournament win since 1981, Michigan Tech senior Riley Sweeney skated to the red line with an open St. Cloud State net, looking to seal the victory. Sweeney missed the net. SCSU netted the game-tying goal moments later and sent the game to overtime. Then, things got worse for Sweeney. MTU carried the zone in OT and the senior held the puck, but slipped to the ice. A two-on-one rush the other way led to the game-winning goal off the stick of St. Cloud's Judd Peterson. Absolutely heartbreaking stuff. Keep your head up, Mr. Sweeney.

So, that's it. Thanks again for reading. Check back in over the next handful of days leading up to UND's Frozen Four battle with Boston University on April 9.