Like I mentioned in another article, this is most wonderful time of the year. It’s also very stressful. There is a finality, which surrounds the college hockey tourney. Seasons and careers end, with losses in the National tourney.
There are college players that will sit in the locker room with their jersey still on hours after a loss, and not want to take off their jersey, for the last time.
I like many others UND fans are trying to find answers, a day after UND’s season ended for a 13th year in a row without winning an NCAA title. Many in the UND fan base are getting restless.
Monitoring the twitterverse last night was interesting.
When that first national title finally comes, and I believe it’s a matter of time before that first one comes, that second one might not take as long to replicate.
After watching our favorite team get beat at their own game, by a gritty, hungrier Yale team, I don’t know if there are any short, quick answers.
Hockey is a funny game and things don’t always play out the way that you think that they should. If you would have told me that B.C. would have gotten beaten the past weekend by Union, I would have told you that you were nuts.
Think about this, UMass-Lowell, Saint Cloud State, Yale and Quinnipiac are going to the Frozen Four. Yale and Saint Cloud State barely made the NCAA tourney. I am pretty sure that there aren’t many people that predicted that bracket. If there is, I am that person picking my lottery numbers as well, because I have a new retirement plan.
Some might point their fingers at the season schedule, which was the 12th toughest in the country, and say that the physical grind finally caught up with them and took it’s toll on them. I don’t know, maybe. The new NCHC isn’t going to be much better, if anything it’s going to be worse.
I do, find it interesting that some want to throw a head coach under the bus that has never had a losing season in nine years as head coach and has a record of 235-119-37 (.648). Sure, this season record of 22-13-7 (.607) is the worst of Hakstol’s nine seasons, but let’s put things into perspective.
While UND night not have won an NCAA title, the season wasn’t a total loss, UND did make the NCAA tourney for the 11th straight season in a row, that’s the longest current NCAA streak. Also, UND again, had home ice for the WCHA playoffs and advanced to the WCHA Final Five, where it has a chance to win a fourth straight Broadmoor Trophy. This time falling short, in their bid for a fourth straight, after the quarter final game, senior forward Danny Kristo said, “I have never felt like this before,” Kristo continued. “Obviously we won the last three. That was our goal coming in this year. Obviously, we wanted to four peat, or what not. You just go day-by-day. I thought we took about 20 minutes off there, between the second and third period and kind of got lulled to sleep, maybe we deserved to win the game, but we didn’t play to our potential, so at this time of the year you’re not going to win games. You can’t leave the game to a bounce of the puck.”
Looking back on that statement, we didn’t play to our potential, it kind of explains UND 2012-13 season, and they just didn’t, for whatever reason fire on all cylinders. For whatever reason, UND didn’t get any puck luck, and if four of five of Rocco Grimaldis pipes or crossbars goes in, UND might win a couple of more games over the course of a season.
The UND hockey teams also kind of fell asleep for periods of games and never really put together a string of games where they played really good after the Christmas break. For the first time a Dave Hakstol team didn’t go on the patented second half run, they played at a (.583) clip and yet they almost won the league title.
Lastly, UND made the NCAA West regional final before bowing out to Yale, but in the end they just didn’t seem to have it, when they needed to.
Traditionally Hakstol’s teams have been known for being a bear to play against after the first of the year going an impressive 95-30-13 went 9-5-2 (.625). Again, that’s not a bad record.
What I am trying to say here, is the man is a good hockey coach, no matter how you slice it.
This team was not your usual UND hockey team, they were more of a finesse team built for speed and the big ice and wasn’t built to blow a team out of the building like years past. This takes some getting used to from a fans perspective.
Down the stretch, at times it looked like teams were beating UND at its own game. They were beating UND by being tough to play against and limiting their time-and-space and capitalizing off of their turnovers.
Also, the game is changing and the on ice officials aren’t allowing the big hits anymore as we have seen with Andrew MacWilliam being assessed two major penalties, for what appears to be two legal shoulder-to-shoulder hits.
Looking at this year’s roster, there isn’t as many of the physical type players that UND has had in years past, that are going to check you out of the building.
What I am trying to say, is that I think that UND hockey is evolving and might have experienced some growing pains this season. This is just from what I have seen from covering the team this year.
Finally, the 2012-13 UND hockey team was a pleasure to cover and I will miss this year’s senior class. All of them are character people and amazing young men and I think that all of them will be successful in whatever they do in life.
Cross-posted at the Hockey Writers Combine.