Fighting Sioux Seek More Hardware
MacNaughton Cup Champs Seek Final Five Title, Top NCAA Seed
by Dan Myers/CHN Staff
ST. PAUL, Minn. Just the fact North Dakota enters this weekend as the No. 1 seed in the league playoffs is an accomplishment.
During a dismal first half, UND wallowed in ninth place in the league standings, among the worst in scoring and featured a freshman goaltender that was as inconsistent as he was young.
But as Dave Hakstol-led teams are prone to be after Christmas, The Sioux caught fire down the stretch.
The ninth best scoring offense became the top scoring offense and freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness seemed to play his way into a rock solid, WCHA Third Team and All-Rookie piece of the puzzle.
All of those elements allowed UND to rise from the ashes, all the way to the top of the league standings.
"Four lines — that's been the key for this team right from day one," Hakstol said. "Early on, we weren't getting it done with balance, and since we've been able to turn the corner, that's been what our strength is."
It's also helped that Eidsness, locked in a battle for the starting goaltender position early on, nailed down the spot by the holidays. Hakstol said the young netminder impressed him with his demeanor despite a rough start.
"Brad Eidsness is quietly steady," Hakstol said. "He goes about his business in a quiet way. He's given us great stability throughout the year."
With the MacNaughton Cup already in tow and a number of league awards already in the bag, including a Coach of the Year award for Hakstol and a Defensive Player of the Year award for Chay Genoway, UND will try to gain a bit of revenge on Minnesota Duluth, the play-in game winner over Minnesota on Thursday. The Bulldogs took three of four points in the only meeting between the two teams this season and Hakstol knows it won't be an easy task this weekend.
"The game of hockey is based on a collective group, on team play. Every series we've been involved with in the last six weeks, we've had unbelievable battles," Hakstol said. "That tells me we have a bunch of pretty darned good teams. And those kinds of teams, given the opportunity in postseason, you never know what could happen."