Sunday, January 20, 2008

Here come your Fighting Sioux!

Anyone who's followed Fighting Sioux hockey since Dave Hakstol took over as head coach in 2004 knows that a second-half surge is becoming trademark of his teams. In his first three seasons, Hakstol's teams got off to slow starts before ending up in the NCAA Frozen Four. All indications are that this season's surge has begun.

With 2-1 and 5-3 road victories over Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend, the Sioux broke out of another trend for the second straight weekend. Last weekend's home sweep of Michigan Tech ended the trend of splitting at home. This weekend's sweep of the Mavericks ended the trend of splitting on the road.

UND now has a five-game winning streak going. Prior to the sweep of MTU, the Sioux hadn't won more than two games in a row all season. With the lowly Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves visiting Ralph Engelstad Arena next weekend, the Sioux should keep that streak going. In fact, the way Minnesota has been playing, the road series at Minneapolis the following week looks less daunting than it once did.

When the Denver Pioneers visit the Ralph Feb. 15-16, the two teams might very well be playing for control of second place in the WCHA. Currently, while UND's fortunes appear to be on the upswing, DU seems headed in the opposite direction. Still, there's a lot of talent on the Pioneers and nobody should take them for granted.

One trend the Sioux must end if they're going to be serious contenders for their eighth national championship is their inability to come from behind to win in the third period. It's been nearly three years since UND trailed at the start of he third period and rallied for a win. That was Feb. 18, 2005, at Anchorage. Since then, the Sioux are 0-23 when behind after two periods.

This team has the talent to win it all, but it would be a mistake to pencil in the Sioux for a Frozen Four slot just yet. The Sioux are in a good position to control their own destiny, and that's exactly how Hakstol likes it.

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