Missed Opportunities End North Dakota's Streak
UND Looks Ahead to NCAAs After Final Five Loss
by Nick Maxson/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. With more than 17,000 in attendance for Thursday’s matchup between North Dakota and Colorado College, a sea of green and white jerseys painted the stands of the Xcel Energy Center where North Dakota sought its fourth straight WCHA tournament title.
Stunned silence is all that can describe the heartbreaking loss for North Dakota, as Colorado College won 4-3 in overtime Thursday night.
“A tough ending for us tonight, but that’s our fate, and we’ll re-group, get back to Grand Forks and work on our next project,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol.
It’s an unfamiliar spot for the team to be in, especially for senior forward Danny Kristo, who has won the WCHA tournament every season with UND.
“I’ve never felt like this before, obviously we have won the last three and that was our goal this year. It was to 'four-peat,' but we have to go ahead day-by-day," said Kristo.
A devastating loss for UND, which was not only looking to win its last-ever Final Five, but to secure a favorable seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
North Dakota looked a bit lethargic to start the game, not moving their feet well and allowing Colorado College to dictate the pace of the first period, exactly what the Tigers thrive on.
An early chance off a back-door play inched just wide, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Missed opportunities took down North Dakota on Thursday. UND dominated shots, 32-23, in the game. The eventual loss fewer than five minutes into overtime was the product of these missed chances.
“There was some missed opportunities, some great goaltending by Joe Howe and some great defensive plays by Colorado College," said Hakstol.
Even the power play was a sore spot for UND on Thursday. Six times it went up a man. And six times the two minutes passed without a goal.
“Obviously when you’re 0-for-6 on the power play this time of the year, it’s tough to win games when special teams are so crucial,” said Kristo.
At even strength, UND's typically dominant forecheck was absent for long stretches on Thursday. Paired with the inept power play, Colorado College took advantage of UND's mistakes to advance to Friday's semifinal.
It was the lack of both of those on Thursday that allowed Colorado College to complete a second-straight upset in the tournament. UND's lack of attention to the details it usually dominates resulted in a momentum-shifting shorthanded goal as well.
“We definitely let a few power plays go tonight, especially early on,” said Kristo. “ We definitely were not firing on all eight cylinders tonight.”
Bad line changes were common on Thursday, with CC taking advantage of these mistakes as well to generate offense.
“I think we took 20 minutes off between the second and third period, and got lulled to sleep,” said Kristo.
This back-and-forth style of play throughout the second continued into the third, which favored the Tigers, who clogged the neutral zone.
Even as effort remained high, UND's often efficient play looked disjointed and plainly sloppy against the opportunistic Tigers.
Persistence, however, pays off, especially for highly skilled teams like UND.
The Sioux continued to get pucks in deep and battle behind the goal line, and off an odd-man rush, Caggiula was the recipient of a big rebound that he buried to knot the score, 3-3, late in the third period.
“It’s always nice to score a couple goals in a game, especially after having a bit of a drought there,” said Caggiula. “It doesn’t mean too much when you come up short, taking a win would have been much better than the two goals.”
After Caggiula's goal, life was back inside the arena, and North Dakota was narrowly missing on some great scoring chances late in the game. Howe was huge for the Tigers, especially late, making some key saves to force the overtime.
North Dakota seemed to have better legs than Colorado College at the start of overtime, but UND failed to generate a shot on goal.
With a faceoff in UND's zone, the Tigers secured possession and worked the puck back to the point. Sophomore defenseman Peter Stoykewych threw the puck on net, and it found its way past Saunders to win the game for Colorado College.
Despite the loss, Hakstol is looking forward the NCAA tournament where UND still has a chance to earn some hardware.
“Make no mistake, we wanted to be playing (Friday), but you accept the reality of the situation," he said. "We just have to regroup and get refocused, get back, have some great practices and, hopefully, find out some good news on Sunday.”