Here’s a summary of UND hockey coach Dave Hakstol’s comments on tonight’s Fighting Sioux Coaches’ Show with Tim Hennessy and Scott Swygman on KFAN (1440 AM). Denver Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky joined the show later by phone.
On UND being placed in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Wisconsin:
It’s probably the one place nobody really predicted us to go. I’m not surprised because every prediction over the last two or three years hasn’t been close. Wherever you’re going, you’re excited to be there.
On UND being sent east to play Boston College and Boston University in 2005:
We felt like the sacrificial lamb being sent out there. We messed up the plan. It’s an exciting time of year. It’s what the guys in the locker room work for all year. You have to be playing well going into the tournament and then play well when you get there.
On the Sioux players being loose before last Saturday’s game against Colorado College:
Our guys were not tight before the game. Pat Swanson pointed out Saturday that our locker room was loose. That’s when we play best, when we’re loose and focused. That’s the way the team was today and we had a great practice. When you play at a high tempo and practice that way, it’s fun.
On failing to capitalize on the power play against Denver on Friday:
In the 5-on-3 power plays alone, we had eight great scoring opportunities. A couple missed the net. Mannino made a couple of great saves. A few others we just didn’t bury. We were sharp on the power plays, we just didn’t finish. For whatever reason, we were on our heels for the second period against Denver. We had a good 5-on-5 period in the first period and a good third period that we carried over to Saturday against the Tigers.
On bouncing back after the Friday loss to Denver:
At that point in time, that was our biggest game of the year. We wanted to be playing Saturday night for the Broadmoor Trophy. We were disappointed, but the guys kept it together and played for a full 60 minutes against Colorado College. At times during that game, we were outstanding. But they key was that we were solid for the whole 60 minutes.
On depth being a strength of this year’s UND team:
An area that’s been a strength has been our depth. On Saturday, everyone contributed. On Friday, there was one guy on each line who wasn’t contributing. The strength of this team is through 25 guys. If we’re going to be successful this Saturday against Princeton, it’s going to be because the 20 guys in the lineup do their jobs and contribute.
On the Princeton Tigers and their coach Guy Gadowsky:
They’ve only given up one goal in last three games and they’re the ECAC champions. They’re playing well. I’ve known Guy for a long time. I knew him growing up in Alberta. He played at Colorado College. Dixon Ward and I went on a recruiting visit and Guy Gadowsky was our player representative. Princeton has been very, very good since Christmas. Style-wise, they go. They have very good team speed throughout the depth of their roster. They’re very aggressive and play on their toes. They have good size and good puck-moving ability. Their goaltender has been outstanding for them. They’re a good hockey team. They’re not a trapping, defense-oriented team. It’ll be an entertaining game. We have to concentrate on what we’re going to do, not on what they do. We’ll learn a little bit about their tendencies, but the key for us is to play our game.
On the possibility of playing Denver or Wisconsin:
If we get there, we’ll be happy to play either one. You have to beat two good teams to keep playing. One team is on a heck of a roll and has been playing very well. One’s at home and has a lot of rest.
On playing a number-four seed:
Take the seeding and throw it out the window. There are 16 teams in the tournament and they all have the same goal. We don’t want to match their intensity. We have to match the intensity level that we expect. When we do that, we play our best.
The biggest question mark is Derrick LaPoint. The hit from behind that he took gave him post-concussion syndrome. That was from a two-minute penalty. The signs of the concussion didn’t show up until after the game. There’s no real answer as far as timeframe when LaPoint can play again. It’s probably not an injury where he’ll wake up Thursday and be 100 percent. Evan Trupp isn’t available for Saturday, but he is making great progress.
On the officials for games this weekend:
We won’t have any officials from either the WCHA or ECAC. We’ll probably have Hockey East or CCHA officials. There’s a pre-game meeting between the referee and the captains from each team. You need to pay attention and listen to the referee’s expectations and the things he’s going to key on. Hopefully, we’ll discover the level that the game’s going to be called in the first 10 minutes. He’ll say what his points of emphasis are. He’ll give the guys an idea of what to expect.
On which of the four NCAA regionals is the toughest:
Every regional is tough. I thought they did a good job this year of being fair. They had some curve balls thrown at them with Wisconsin getting in as the sixth WCHA team. There are always arguments you can make against every region. There are four pretty good regionals. They protected the No. 1 seed versus the No. 16, which they had to do.
On which regional is the toughest one to pick:
It’s probably Colorado College against Michigan State. Richard Bachman is good in goal for the Tigers and Jeff Lerg is good for the Spartans. MSU is a team that’s been through the battle of winning a national championship. CC is a team that’s been great at home and just won the MacNaughton Cup.
On predicting other regional outcomes:
Last year, two four seeds were playing the next day and two one seeds were on their way home. There are a lot of very, very good teams. If you’re in this tournament, you’re playing well and you’re a good team. The team that plays the best is going to win nine times out of ten.
On whether the NCAA selection process should factor in how a team is playing near the end of the season:
How do you add reason into the computer if two teams are so close? You could add an element of how you’re playing in the last ten or fifteen games. If you want to have the best tournament, you should find a way to include the teams that are playing the best. Wisconsin was playing well before they lost to SCSU in the playoffs, so I don’t know how I’d pick between them and Minnesota State.
George Gwozdecky, head coach of the Denver Pioneers joined the show via phone. DU will play Wisconsin in the Saturday game at the Midwest regional. Gwozdecky’s first words were: “Gopher pride, baby!”
On winning the Broadmoor Trophy at the WCHA Final Five last weekend:
We played well. It’s become such an event that every player on every team has a desire to get there. The Final Five is the highlight to cap the regular season. Everyone was very concerned when the event was first taken to the Xcel Energy Center. Everyone just assumes that if the Gophers are playing, they’ll have an advantage. That Minnesota doesn’t win every year is a testament to the parity of the league. League parity also shows in how many teams the WCHA placed in the NCAA tournament. Next to the Frozen Four, the WCHA Final Five is the best college hockey event in the country.
On whether Wisconsin should have been included:
They met the criteria and they’re in. They’re a quality team. We had our issues at some parts of the season and were struggling. It will be a terrific regional. Three of the teams playing in Madison have a lot of experience in the national tournament.
On the importance of goaltending in the playoffs:
This tournament is all about goaltending. If your goaltending is suspect, you’re not going to win all four games. Last season, Michigan State came out of nowhere because Lerg was phenomenal. Peter Mannino is playing well for us right now and he has experience playing in the NCAA tournament.
On how the Pioneers got through the adversity they faced this season:
We had some challenges, such as when Brock Trotter, our leading scorer, left the team and when Tyler Ruegsegger went down with an injury. We were challenged to figure a better way to play to give us a chance. We had to because we weren’t a team that scored a lot. We had to tweak the playing philosophy a little bit. Certain guys were able to get back into the roles they were good at. We’ve been able to score enough games and Peter’s played well enough to keep us in games. We’re playing well, but we’re not the kind of offensive team we were the first two-thirds of the season.
On the WCHA’s declining trend in goal scoring:
The problem is that the league's top goal scorers are playing in the NHL. If guys like Jonathan Toews and Paul Stastny were playing in the league, scoring wouldn’t be down as much. We’d still have Ryan Dingle and Geoff Paukovitch. The top-end players have left way early. Our team has to rely on freshmen to score. I think that’s part of the reason scoring is down. Wouldn’t you like to see Toews and Brian Lee playing for UND? There’s a ton of firepower in the NHL that could be playing in the WCHA right now.
On whether WCHA officiating is part of the problem with lack of scoring:
I think the officiating is a lot tighter in the NHL. I think the officiating in our league is similar to the way it is in other leagues across the country. It would be different if the NHL let college players get to their senior years. It used to happen in the old days when we were scoring a lot of goals. It’s a sophomore league now.