Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Evan Trupp's magic moment

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.

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.