Sunday, March 20, 2011

Post-Final Five thoughts

Congratulations to the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux men's hockey team for bringing home its second consecutive Broadmoor Trophy. UND won the tournament championship in St. Paul by defeating two highly skilled teams -- Denver and Colorado College -- in games that should serve as a good tune-up for the upcoming NCAA playoffs.
  As should be expected this time of year, UND's seniors made the big plays when they were most needed to earn the wins. It was senior Matt Frattin with the game-winning goal for the championship, assisted by seniors Chay Genoway and Evan Trupp. What impressed me most about the play Trupp made to set up the goal was the fact that when he passed the puck back to Genoway, Genoway had just come off the bench and hadn't even entered the DU zone yet.
  Genoway not only used his speed to intercept the puck before it left the zone, but he also had the presence of mind to one-time Trupp's pass without breaking stride. It was the speed at which the play happened that gave Frattin the best look at an open net that any Sioux player had seen since the second period. As Colorado College learned on Friday night, if you give Frattin that type of opportunity, he's not going to miss.
  In Friday's game against the Colorado College Tigers, it was Genoway's pass that sprung Frattin shorthanded and led to senior Brad Malone's goal after what appeared to be a momentum-changing 5-minute major penalty against UND. And it was Trupp's no-look, behind-the-back pass to Frattin in the slot that gave the Sioux their 4-3 victory over Colorado College.
  Senior Brent Davidson deserves recognition for scoring big goals in both games. Just when you're wondering how the Sioux will make up for the loss of Jason Gregoire, along comes Davidson and sophomore Danny Kristo back from a serious bout with frostbite to add some offensive punch. Denver coach George Gwozdecky correctly noted that throughout the season, UND has found a way to roll with the punches whenever key players were out with injuries.
  That brings me to another point: Where would this team be without players like senior Jake Marto and sophomore Joe Gleason who have demonstrated their willingness and ability to change rolls from defenseman to forward and back again? Beginning with former Sioux Kyle Radke and Brad Miller, players with that type of versatility have become a staple of UND's teams the last several seasons.
  Senior Derrick LaPoint has quietly become the unsung hero on the blue line. Although he was considered an offensive-defenseman when he came to UND, he has turned into a defensive force who's seldom noticed simply because he rarely makes a mistake. Nobody should forget that he suffered a concussion at the end of his freshman season and a devastating leg injury in his sophomore season that would have ended the careers of many players.
  Turning to goaltending, I was disappointed that Aaron Dell was not named to the Final Five All-Tournament Team. It was Dell who kept the Sioux in the championship game when they were being outplayed and heavily outshot by the Pioneers. He made many saves on shots through traffic that perhaps were not as spectatular as some of the saves by Denver's Sam Brittain, but were nonethless difficult stops. He was also the goalie on the championship team that won two games against quality opponents. Dell was a major part of UND's tournament success and deserved recognition for it.
  Finally, the Sioux coaching staff -- Dave Hakstol, Cary Eades, Dane Jackson, Karl Goehring and Pierre-Paul Lamoureux -- all deserve kudos for keeping the team focused, prepared and motivated. Leadership from the upperclassmen no doubt makes their jobs a bit easier. However, in the ten season I've covered Fighting Sioux hockey for U.S. College Hockey Online, I've never seen Hakstol so determined to have the team forget the last game and concentrate on the next one. From a sports writer's perspective, it's a little annoying at times, but if it brings UND an eighth national championship, I won't complain.
  There are many others, such as UND trainer Mark Poolman, who work behind the scenes to help assure the continued success of the team throughout the long season. They, too, deserve kudos for putting the Fighting Sioux in position to win another championship. It's been a great run so far, and I suspect the best is yet to come.


Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Pat. I also enjoyed your entry in the Live Chat about Gwoz's head exploding if Hextall got the OT winner.


Anonymous said...

Nice article. I would have to agree with everything you said. I think Dell's saves didn't look as spectacular as Brittain's because Dell was and has been so positionally sound. Another thing I saw this weekend that you touched on is that the Sioux got goals from the 3rd and 4th lines both nights. Add Gregoire to the line up and probably goals from all 4 lines. Every year I think the Sioux have a chance to win it. I would even get butterflies in my stomach before the games come NCAA time. This year I don't. I expect them to win. I understand they may not in a one and done deal, but I do expect it this year. Go Sioux