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. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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

UND Fr. F, Shane Gersich celebrates his goal giving the Green and White a 1-0 lead in the first period
of their 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the national championship game. (Photo: David Samson, The Forum)
Thanks for heading back to the blog as DDC continues his countdown of his top 10 moments of UND's banner year, 2015-16.

So far, we’ve had a new coach, the birth of a now legendary line, battles with the Pios setting up a later moment, earning back-to- back banners and all goalie questions becoming goalie afterthoughts.

It’s been a fun first five moments, but now, we’re getting into the big stuff.

If No. 10 through No. 6 were big, DDC will go as far as to say that No. 5 through No. 1 are the moments that UND fans will be talking about forever. These are the moments of history. These five moments are the ones that when everyone looks into the rafters of the REA at green banner No. 8, they will remember first and foremost. These are the stuff of legend.

So, without further fanfare, let’s get back into it.

No. 5 – Drake’s Windmill – UND vs. Alabama Huntsville, Ralph Engelstad Arena, January 2, 2016.

Up to the point of DDC’s No. 5 moment, the weekend in question as a whole had been kind of a quiet one.

UND was playing a non-conference game against a UAH team that had like 3 wins in a 50 year span (just kidding, but they were really bad) the students were still away on Christmas break, the Green and White had squeaked by with a 1-0 the night before with two-thirds of the CBS line out due to the World Junior Championship and were tied 1-1 with the Chargers in the middle of the second period while on the penalty kill.

Then, Caggiula decided to take the game into his own hands.

What DDC remembers most about this goal is the crowd.

Eight seconds in, dull roar, the shorthanded chance develops. Eleven seconds in, gasp! louder roar, Drake goes over the top, leaves the puck behind the defender. Twelve seconds in, Drake gathers the puck, louder gasp! LOUD ROAR! Thirteen seconds in, Drake dekes, undresses the goalie, buries, bye, bye REA roof.

A special player yet again making a special play. The hands, the creativity and the finishing ability. A truly dynamic triple threat.

Just for the heck of it, here's a really great video of some of Drake's career highlights with a lot of 2015-16 flavor. We've enjoyed your time here, Mr. Caggiula. You will be missed. Enjoy.

No. 4 -- "This Happens Like Once Every 10 Years" -- UND vs. UMD, Ralph Engelstad Arena, February 19, 2016

Those closest to DDC know very well that one of his favorite movies of all time is the horribly underrated Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy.

In DDC's second favorite scene (first is the McDonald's scene), Julian (or Frankenstein as he prefers to be called), Sonny's "adopted" child, wakes up from his nap in the midst of a New York Rangers game that has gone to overtime. During said overtime, the Rangers have been awarded a penalty shot. Julian wakes up and per his tradition, wants to watch "The Kangaroo Song". Sonny then explains to young Julian the importance of the upcoming penalty shot and notes "this happens like once every 10 years." Hilarity ensues. Please watch ... DDC promises it sets up his No. 4 moment (1:38 in). Watch the whole clip if you want to remember how flippin' amazing this movie is.

"ALLLLRIIIIIIIGHHHHT! GOD, you were normal yesterday!"

So great. Now... onto how it relates to the 2015-16 UND men's hockey team.

With the Green and White reeling after being swept for the first time on the road since 2011 a week earlier at the hands of Denver, UND was desperate for a home win against Minnesota Duluth. DDC was informed midway through the third period that Big Daddy just so happened to be on Comedy Central. "Good. I'll watch it after we win," DDC said to himself.

In overtime, Austin Poganski was hauled down on a partial breakway and was awarded a penalty shot.

The last time the Green and White won a game in overtime with a penalty shot? 2004 (Drew Stafford cashes in on Jimmy Howard at Maine called by the legendary Doc Emrick who calls Stafford "Dave") .... for the purposes of DDC's story... "this happens like once every 10 years."

In a seemingly Godly turn of fate, Sonny's words rang true. Pogo went to his "go-to move", beat Bulldog goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo with a backhander giving UND an incredible moment in a 2-1 win.

DDC then remembered Big Daddy was on and all was officially right with the world. Magical.

There's No. 4 and 5. Come back soon for moment No. 3 ... A CBS liner flips the narrative.

Thanks for reading.

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.