No Hak Job: Close Again, But No Title For Sioux
by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer
DENVER With his team's most recent — and most embarrassing — Frozen Four loss, again at the hands of Boston College, Dave Hakstol's patience in winning a national championship must be wearing thin.
After all, his three fellow coaches at the 2008 Frozen Four — Red Berenson, Jeff Jackson, and Jerry York — all have won not one but two titles behind the bench. What's more, it's not like Hakstol hasn't had opportunities.
In the process of leading North Dakota to four Frozen Four appearances in each of his first four seasons as head coach, some players that Hakstol has coached: Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Drew Stafford and Jonathan Toews, all of whom play in the NHL, just to name a few.
But each and every year the storyline seems to be a carbon copy of the year that preceded it:
1) North Dakota comes to Frozen Four;
2) North Dakota loses to Boston College;
3) North Dakota goes home.
Recent results aside, however, Hakstol was quick to dismiss any notion of a BC-curse after the team's 6-1 loss to the Eagles in the semifinal game on Thursday night.
"Tonight, no, I'm not looking back to the last two years' games because every game's been different," said Hakstol, "Last year, it was a tie game with four minutes left to go in the hockey game, so it was a much different game. But tonight, they built a lead we just couldn't come back from. They did a very good job after they had that built that lead in preserving it, and tonight, we simply couldn't get back into the game."
Thus, with his perfect record in Frozen Four appearances as head coach, the question then becomes: How much more can Dave Hakstol do?
Aside from putting on a uniform himself, the answer appears to be not too much.
Had he put on a uniform, his best bet in Thursday night's game would have been to shadow BC's Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe, a Hobey Baker finalist, picked apart a UND squad that all year prided itself in its team defense. What's more, Gerbe picked apart Sioux goalie, Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, arguably college hockey's premier goaltender coming into the contest, notching a hat trick before the second period's end.
"He [Gerbe] played well," Hakstol said, in his usual succinct, to-the-point way. "He made some high impact plays and was certainly the difference in the hockey game."
This now the fourth consecutive year in which Hakstol has left the Frozen Four trophy-less, one can't help but wonder, with the likely departures of T.J. Oshie, Taylor Chorney, Joe Finley and even possibly Ryan Duncan, what are the chances that 2009 will be his year to end the goose egg?
In all likelihood, if all four were to go pro, the chances don't seem too promising. After all, it was only a year ago this time when the four — Oshie, Chorney, Finley and Duncan — made the collective decision to resist the temptation of signing a professional contract and come back to UND for their junior season to try and win a national championship.
Their plan, of course, didn't exactly work like they had wanted, but for the players' act of selflessness in the face of the ever-increasing business aspect of college hockey, Hakstol expressed his appreciation.
"Tonight was not the way we had envisioned to end the year, but that doesn't take away from the character and class of this group of guys on this hockey team," said Hakstol. "They're going to be a special group to us as a staff for a long time to come."
They might even be more special consider the possible circumstances for UND in the upcoming season, a season in which Hakstol will likely be absent a first round draft pick on his roster for the first time since becoming head coach.
Maybe, however, for Hakstol, 2008-09 will be a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to finally prove that he's as good a coach as his record indicates, even if that record is yet to include winning a national championship.