North Dakota confident heading into Frozen Four

This is the second of four stories previewing each team in the 2014 Frozen Four.
(Blogging Molly)

(Blogging Molly)

It wasn’t the kind of start the University of North Dakota was looking for at the beginning of the season, going a measly 6-7-2.

But it was the Nov. 29 loss to St. Lawrence University which brought about a change in the team, though head coach Dave Hakstol believes it started months before then.

“The starting point was over last summer and through our fall camp and even into the early part of our season when we weren’t having much success,” he said. “This group has always been a hard working group. They’ve always had the will to be a good team and a pretty tight-knit team. Maybe through that early part, just didn’t know quite how to go about it and how to bring that together.

“It starts there with just becoming a good team. That process didn’t start with the loss on Nov. 29. That process has been a season-long process. Right now, our guys are a pretty good team. It’s not our most skilled team, no question, but we’re a pretty good team.”

Since that game at the end of November, North Dakota has gone on a 22-5-2(OTL)-1(T) tear to catapult them into the Frozen Four tournament next week.

But even making it through the Midwest Regionals wasn’t an easy task.

Sure, they handed the University of Wisconsin a 5-2 loss, but they needed extra hockey – two periods of overtime, in fact – to get through Ferris State to advance to the Frozen Four semifinals.

“It’s nice to have the opportunity to compete against Wisconsin,” Hakstol said. “We knew how well they were playing and the task at hand. We got a nice break late that game to break a 2-2 tie and were able to advance.”

Heading into the regionals, North Dakota ran into a tough Miami University team in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff where they were shutout 3-0, but it didn’t deter the team.

“At the Target Center our first game, we ran into a very good Miami team and for anybody that judged them by their record, they were very much mistaken,” said junior defenseman Stephane Pattyn. “I thought Miami played a great game. They took advantage of two or three errors that we made to directly score goals and we couldn’t find a way to get on our board. We played pretty well that night. We put it into perspective and came back ready to prepare for a game against Western Michigan the next day.”

Now with the Frozen Four ahead, North Dakota is clashing with the No. 1 ranked team in the nation in the University of Minnesota.

And this isn’t a team new to them as before the realignment this season, they would see each other on a consistent basis in the WCHA.

“We’re playing the team that’s been either the No. 1 or No. 1 in the nation since October,” Hakstol said. “They are a traditional rival. It’s a great scenario for college hockey for this game to be played at the Frozen Four. It’s a real tall task for us and we’re aware at that and we’ll work hard to prepare well for it.”

With the break before the tournament begins, the coaching staff knows the areas which need improving before facing their old rival.

“We’ve tried to get a little bit better in our play without the puck the entire year,” Hakstol said. “We’re not a team that scores a lot of goals. We’ve got to try to improve and continue to improve our game without the puck. Going up against a team like Minnesota that has a lot of firepower throughout their lineup … [and] they don’t give up very much.”

Even with an opponent like Minnesota, the confidence level in the locker room is at a high.

“In our locker room, we really believe in ourselves,” Pattyn said. “We know what kind of team we have and are fortunate enough to be good enough to make the tournament. This past weekend, we took advantage of that opportunity and we’re excited to be heading into the Frozen Four. We’re ready for the task at hand.”

NOTES

Head Coach: Dave Hakstol

Overall Record: 28-14-3

Streak: Win 3

Goals For / Goals Against: 126 / 100

Power Play: 17.4 percent

Penalty Kill: 83.3 percent

Top Forward: Rocco Grimaldi (Sophomore) – 39 points (17G, 22A)

Top Defenseman: Jordan Schmaltz (Sophomore) – 23 points (6G, 17A)

No. 1 Goaltender: Zane Gothberg (Sophomore) – 20-9-3, 1.99 GAA, .926 SV%, 3 SO

NHL Draft Picks: Gage Ausmus (D – San Jose Sharks), Zane Gothberg (G – Boston Bruins), Rocco Grimaldi (F – Florida Panthers), Luke Johnson (F – Chicago Blackhawks), Paul LaDue (D – Los Angeles Kings), Mark MacMillan (F – Montreal Canadiens), Nick Mattson (D – Chicago Blackhawks), Brendan O’Donnell (F – Tampa Bay Lightning), Michael Parks (F – Philadelphia Flyers), Derek Rodwell (F – New Jersey Devils), Jordan Schmaltz (D – St. Louis Blues), Dillon Simpson (D – Edmonton Oilers), Keaton Thompson (D – Anaheim Ducks)

Frozen Four Appearances: 20

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Categories: College Sports, Frozen Four, Ice Hockey, Sports

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