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. 

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