On Inside College Hockey's latest podcast, Evan Trupp’s lacrosse-style carrying of the puck on his stick during North Dakota’s Friday game against Colorado College was compared to a move Denver University forward Ryan Dingle tried against the Tigers during the 2005 Frozen Four.
Other than the fact that both players did something similar, in terms of sportsmanship, there’s a great deal that sets them apart. Based on what I’ve read and remember about the Dingle incident, DU was leading 5-2 with about 2 minutes left in the game. Dingle had a chance to score on a breakaway. Rather than skating in on the CC goalie and shooting the puck, Dingle elected to show off by using a lacrosse-style move that didn’t come close to working.
Denver coach George Gwozdecky chewed out Dingle and benched him. After DU won 6-2, Pioneers' captain Matt Latsch apologized to CC coach Scott Owens and the Tigers’ captain.
There was good reason for Gwozdecky and Dingle’s teammates to be embarrassed by his actions. The Pioneers had the game won and Dingle was attempting to rub salt in the wound of his team’s biggest rival by showboating on national television. Nobody would have criticized him if he’d deked CC’s goalie and scored on the breakaway. But attempting to humiliate an already-beaten opponent went too far, and everyone knew it.
When Trupp did his bit of puck-toting wizardry, it was with more than 15 minutes remaining in the third period of a tie game. He used his incredible hockey skills in a novel manner with the objective of putting his team ahead. He wasn’t all alone on a breakaway in a game that had already been decided. There were three Tigers players between him and the CC goalie.
Had Trupp scored or even set up an opportunity that led to a goal, it would have been widely praised and celebrated by hockey fans, just as the goal scored by Michigan’s Mike Legg during the 1996 NCAA tournament today is considered one of the most famous goals in college hockey history.
The answer to INCH’s question of why Trupp did this is easy: It was to create confusion and gain the element of surprise for the purpose scoring -- just as Trupp did when me made a no-look, behind-the-back pass to set up Matt Frattin's game-winning goal. The lacrosse move nearly worked because not even Trupp’s own teammates, who’d seen him do similar things in practice, knew how to react.
If Trupp tried the same move again in one of UND’s remaining games, it likely wouldn’t work because the element of surprise is gone. However, at that moment in that game, it was worth a try. Although Trupp didn’t succeed in scoring, even INCH had to admit that “…his trick play with the puck re-ignited his team and the crowd in a tough third period when energy levels had begun to wane.”
Late in the season during the playoffs, players are expected use every arrow in their quiver (within the rules) to help their teams win. Just as nobody criticizes Frattin for shooting the puck too hard and too accurately, nobody should criticize Trupp for using the creative hockey skills he possesses when the outcome of a playoff game is in question. He would be shortchanging himself and doing his team a disservice if he didn’t.
While I'm at it, INCH's criticism of the Fighting Sioux players not wanting to touch either the MacNaughton Cup or Broadmoor Trophy is silly. This hockey superstition didn't begin with UND, nor will the Sioux be the last hockey team to practice it. Singling out UND makes about as much sense as complaining about the time-honored practice of growing playoff beards.