Sunday, April 24, 2016

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

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. Caggiula earned Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player honors. (Photo: Melissa Wade,
DDC had a fun recollection today.

Just in case you've forgotten...  the UND men's hockey team is national champions. Just thought you all needed a reminder :).

Anyway, thanks for coming back for Part II of DDC's Top 10 Moments of the 2015-16. In this edition of the countdown, you'll see moments No. 8 through No. 6. All three aren't necessarily single moments, but all were incredibly important in the run to national title No. 8, the Green and White's first since 2000.

Let's get it started again, shall we?

No. 8 -- Battles with the Pios -- December 4-5, 2015, Grand Forks, N.D. and February 12-13, 2016, Denver, Colo.

The NCHC is a very young conference, but it in no way lacks tradition. Outside of the battles that the conference's eight teams have developed in the first three years, the NCHC is chocked full of rivalries that have spanned decades.

UND vs. St. Cloud State, UND vs. Minnesota Duluth, Colorado College vs. Denver all have seen huge games in big time spots.

But one truly stands alone and the 2015-16 season showed why UND vs. Denver is the best rivalry in the NCHC.

In December, the Pioneers traveled to Grand Forks with both teams on a significant roll. Two dominating performances by UND later in 5-1, 4-0 fashion, Denver headed back home as their head coach Jim Montgomery heralded the Green and White as the best team in the country. The CBS line put up 10 points and were a +15. DDC noted it was possibly the most dominating performance he'd seen out of any UND team over an entire weekend.

UND Fr. F, Brock Boeser pots a goal during the Green and White's 4-0 win for
a sweep over Denver in Grand Forks on December 5th. (Photo: Unheralded.Fish)
Denver would get it's revenge in February when UND traveled west to Colorado. Much like the CBS line had dominated in Grand Forks, the Pacific Rim line of Trevor Moore, Danton Heinen and Dylan Gambrell rolled North Dakota with 18 points in a 6-4, 4-1 sweep. Friday's game was one of the most exciting he's ever seen as the two traded blows in an intense and high-paced game.

Two teams played a fifth game in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff third place game, but it was the first four that truly set the stage for the legendary national semifinal game in Tampa. We'll get back to that later.

All things considered, these two series showed again why this rivalry is one of the best in college hockey.

No. 7 -- Back-to-back Banners -- March 4, 2016 -- Grand Forks, N.D.

Heading into the weekend of February 25-26, the race for the Penrose Cup as NCHC regular season champions was as tight as it could be.

UND and St. Cloud State we're tied atop the standings with just two weekends to go.

The Green and White got a huge sweep of Nebraska Omaha on the road and saw St. Cloud State go down in a stunning home sweep at the hands of Minnesota Duluth, leaving UND with just one point left for an outright Penrose Cup title for the second year in a row.

After clinching a share of the title against Omaha, the Green and White made it clear they had no intentions of "sharing that thing" and crushed Western Michigan 8-1 to take the Cup outright.

While it was just another step towards their ultimate goal, it's certainly no small feat to win in this conference and the Green and White enjoyed their celebration the next night after sweeping the Broncos with a 5-4 win.

No. 6 -- A Question Mark Becomes an Exclamation Point

UND Jr. G, Matt Hyrnkiw
Outside of the UND having to replace longtime head coach Dave Hakstol with Brad Berry, the biggest question mark coming into the 2015-16 season was between the pipes.

Who would replace all-world goaltender Zane McIntyre, the 2014-15 Mike Richter Award winner who left following his junior season for the professional ranks?

Coming into the season, UND had one goaltender who had played any time in a Green and White sweater -- sophomore Cam Johnson. The Michigan native had played just 21 minutes in his college career, getting chased from the net after allowing three goals against Lake Superior State on just 12 shots.

Other than Johnson, UND sported freshman Matej Tomek, a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers and walk-on Matt Hyrnkiw who also had never played a minute of college hockey.

The murky situation got even more complex as Tomek suffered an injury in preseason and Johnson left with a leg injury against BSU just three games into the season.

In stepped Hyrnkiw and the walk on exploded onto the scene. The junior rolled off a stunning 8-1 record. Johnson returned in a blowout loss at St. Cloud State, relieving Hyrnkiw in the third period.

Huge props to Mr. Hyrnkiw during this incredible run, but the rest of the way, it was Cam's net.

UND So. G, Cam Johnson was a key cog in the Green and White's run to No. 8.
The Michigan native's scoreless streak of 298:25 from December 5th to January 2nd
is the second best mark in college hockey history. (Photo:
Johnson was incredible after returning from injury and was a key cog in UND's run to No. 8.

In a stretch from December 5th to January 2nd, Cam shutout four consecutive opponents, not allowing a goal until late in the second period of a 4-1 win over Alabama-Huntsville, a span of nearly 300 minutes of game time. The 298:25 scoreless streak slated Johnson with the second-best mark in NCAA history. His four-straight shutouts is also second best all time.

298:25. What a run.

From question mark, to exclamation point, the UND goaltending situation marks another historic run in a season full of historic moments.

That's it for Part II. Come back later this week for moments No. 5 and No. 4. A preview -- Caggiula dangles for a game winner and one of DDC's favorite movies of all time becomes incredibly applicable.

Thanks for reading.

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