DDC isn't "that guy" to criticize officiating. He's truly not. Refereeing sports is incredibly hard, having it done it at the high school level, DDC knows it's a no-win job.
This must also be said ...
DDC has never been one to question a team's leadership and/or integrity (other than maybe the Gophers ;) ).
With those things said, there were some ... we'll call it... questionable ... calls and some ... questionable ... penalties committed this Saturday night when the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs topped the UND men's hockey team 4-3 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's Frozen Faceoff championship game from the Target Center in Minneapolis.
The Green and White used a 5-on-3 power play goal to tie the game with just under three minutes to go in the third period. However, UMD would have the last laugh, netting their own 5-on-3 goal with under a minute left in regulation to take the Frozen Faceoff tournament title.
Below are some video highlights from this wild game, thanks to Goon and his blog. There are a few points to note, well, more than a few, actually ... DDC is going to take the high road and let you make the calls:
1:15 -- Neal Pionk takes out Cam Johnson; 2:00 Commentary on Previous Hit; 4:00 -- Kyle Osterberg Falls After Clear Penalty by Johnny Simonson; 4:20 -- Willie Raskob Falls After Scuffle with Hayden Shaw; 5:10 -- Dom Toninato Reacts to Call; 7:00 -- Hunter Miska Falls Down; 7:45 -- Dan Molenaar Falls Down -- Note Commentary After Fall.
With all of that said, while the Green and White aren't back in Grand Forks with a new piece of hardware, they come back with a lot of reasons to be happy.
UND topped Denver 1-0 on Friday night, holding Denver to just 21 shots on goal, a season-low total for the Pioneers, and broke a 0-3 skid in the Frozen Faceoff semifinals. The win mathematically clinched North Dakota a spot in the NCAA tournament for the 15th-straight season.
However, DDC Baby No. 2's magic ran out on Saturday night, as Duluth took the NCHC's autobid.
But hey, 5-1 ain't so bad.
Here's what stood out to DDC in his Frozen Faceoff edition of his Roses and Thorns column.
No. 1 -- Breaking the Target Center Curse
Finally, UND faithful left the Target Center in Minneapolis on Friday with smiles on their faces and not gonna lie, that felt pretty darn good. After three years of lethargic play and bad bounces, the Green and White played with pace and passion against Denver and got a bounce off those lovely, springy end boards and got a win in the Frozen Faceoff semifinals. Fans in the Target Center saw a team that was hungry and their defensive effort was tremendous on Friday night. It was a good win against arguably the best team in the country. Coupled with another great effort the next night against UMD, the Green and White showed they can hang with (and outplay) anyone in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
|UND Jr. F, Austin Poganski and Shane Gersich celebrate Poganski's goal in the third period|
of the Green and White's 1-0 win over Denver on Friday (Photo: Eric Hylden, GF Herald)
No. 2 -- Offensive Creativity
While this weekend wasn't a dynamite offensive effort, it was a very good one. What's more important in the eyes of DDC were the chances UND created, particularly on the power play. Outshooting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the PairWise on a particular weekend isn't a small feat, particularly since both Denver and UMD are among the defensive teams in the nation. In a game that was largely played with special teams on Saturday night, the Green and White scored all three of their goals on the power play. Sure, they had 10 chances, but even when they didn't score, UND moved the puck well and broke the Bulldog PK box with sharp passing and created loads of chances. The top power play unit has started to become something special with Boeser, Jost and Gersich consistently finding each other in soft spots for scoring chances. Outside of the power play, Jost and Boeser paired together at times and are showing once again why they are NHL first rounders. When UND gets this kind of effort from its top forwards, the bottom six becomes that harder to handle and those lines have been creating a lot, too (see: Trevor Olson). For the Green and White, it's all about effort and speed. They brought that game to the Target Center this weekend and it turned out two great performances.
No. 3 -- Defensive Effort
|UND Fr. D, Colton Poolman|
What would you have said if DDC told you UND would shutout Denver, the best offense in the nation since January 1st, on Friday? What would you have said if DDC told you the Green and White would lose the NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year in Tucker Poolman to injury in the first period on Saturday and that UND would hold Minnesota Duluth down for large chunks of the game and nearly win? Crazy on both accounts, right? Well, not this weekend. As mentioned previously, North Dakota's game is all about speed and effort right now and that is showing up. On Friday, the Green and White held DU to just 21 shots, a season low for the Pioneers. On Saturday, it took a goal off a teammate's skate during a 5-on-3 penalty kill to beat netminder Cam Johnson for the game winner. The D-corps' physicality was tremendous. Colton Poolman and Hayden Shaw played with an edge this blogger has rarely seen. While Tucker's injury looms large, UND's young blue line took a big step this weekend in Minneapolis.
No. 1 -- 27 Penalties and Four 5-on-3s
Simply put, this shouldn't happen. Like mentioned previously, DDC is going to take the high road and not overly criticize, but no way should a tournament championship be decided on a 5-on-3 power play. Nor should the game end up tied with less than 3 minutes to go on a 5-on-3 power play. The fact that the stripes reviewed Neal Pionk's contact with Cam Johnson and gave him a five minute penalty without tossing the sophomore defenseman is what, in DDC's opinion, let this game get away in terms of penalties. This was too good of a weekend for it to be hijacked by penalties. A bit of a shame, to say the least.
No. 2 -- An Injury and a Big One
|Jr. D, Tucker Poolman|
left Saturday's NCHC
in the first period due
to injury and did not return
Tucker Poolman is a NHL defenseman. He has the frame, the offensive skill, the skating and the defensive prowess to be playing for the Winnipeg Jets, his draft team, as we speak. So, when he went down in the first period on Saturday against Duluth and did not return to action, a collective groan could be heard across NoDak nation. Head coach Brad Berry brought fans a little solace in the postgame presser, saying that Tucker is the toughest player in the NCHC and expects him to play on Friday when the NCAA tournament starts. It goes without saying that Tucker is invaluable to UND. Cheers to him hopefully being ready to go.
There you have it, hockey fans. Welp, the conference tournaments are over, the field is set and the NCAA Tournament starts in four days. UND will be in Fargo in a pretty eyebrow raising regional, considering history and this past weekend's event.
Check back on Friday as DDC previews the West Regional from Scheels Arena in Fargo -- Minnesota Duluth ( 😁 ) versus Ohio State and North Dakota vs. Boston University.
Thanks for reading!