March 18, 2006 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Help From the Gods?

by Gregg Paul/CHN Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Every March 17, everyone celebrates St. Patrick's Day. People don green attire and imbibe in the great tradition of consuming huge quantities of ... beverages ... along with singing and dancing.

Sports have traditions for this holiday revelry as well. Many teams will wear green jerseys despite green not being one of their team colors.

However, when you have a team whose colors include green, there is usually a mystique that goes along with it. Perhaps there are expectations that the Luck O'the Irish is a birthright for those teams as opposed to the posers who only wear the green on St. Patrick's Day. How dare they infringe upon that mantra.

Then you have the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. The Sioux pose a unique dilemma to this theory. Not only do they wear green jerseys on a fairly regular basis, they also sport what some people claim as a politically insensitive mascot figure for a logo. So which opposing force would be at work?

It seems in Friday's first period, the Sioux angered the gods, falling behind 2-0 to Wisconsin. Then things started to get a little weird.

Midway through the first period, Wisconsin's Tom Gilbert had a glorious scoring chance from the high slot. Gilbert's wicked slap shot sailed what initially appeared to be harmlessly over the top of the net. Sioux net minder Jordan Parise never saw the puck as it whistled over his head. The puck ricocheted cleanly off the seamless plexiglass straight back over the top of the cage. Parise, still not knowing where the puck was, finally reacted when it hit him in the right shoulder and lay precariously close to the gaping net. Parise was finally able to corral the puck and gain the whistle.

Late in the first period, the Sioux tied the game with two quick ones 55 seconds apart. Not all that odd, until you consider the player who scored the game tying goal, Rylan Kaip, notched his first career goal in 65 games played.

Early in the second period, more evidence of divine intervention would occur. The Badgers are well renowned for their shot blocking. A Sioux shot from the slot gets deflected off the skate of the Badgers' Josh Engel, yet still finds its way to the side of the net where Rastislav Spirko buries the loose puck. You might think that isn't so strange, except for that it was Spirko's first goal in 15 games.

Still not convinced that signs of the paranormal were prevalent? Kaip, who had gone his entire career at North Dakota without a goal, a span of 65 games, potted his second goal of the game converting a nice pass from behind the net on a sharp angle.

The curse appeared to be lifted for a brief moment as Robbie Earl converted a great tic tac toe passing play on a rocket from the low slot late in the second period. Earl's one-time blast, a shot in which he dropped to one knee to execute, snaked its way through Jordan Parise's legs to cut the deficit to 4-3.

"I was just trying to keep the puck low", Earl said.

Could we finally lay to rest this notion that mere superstitions were responsible for the oddities that occurred in this game? Not so fast my friends.

The Badgers feverishly attempted to tie the game during the third period. There were several good scoring chances, including six prime chances below the faceoff dots between the rings. Yet each time Parise would step up to make a save that perhaps shouldn't have been made.

A stick was lifted here or a shot or pass was blocked by the defense there. On one occasion, the Badgers actually got the puck through Parise who had come out high in the crease, only to see the puck swept away by defenseman Joe Finley at the last possible second.

Another glorious chance went awry when a wide open Adam Burish had the puck take a crazy bounce just over his stick.

Now the normal hockey fan would just tell you that when you play the game of hockey, there are going to be crazy bounces and not everything is going to go your way, no matter how well your team plays.

Then again the believers of the paranormal might have you believe that unknown forces had a hand in the decision.

So whether you believe that the North Dakota Fighting Sioux merely kissed the Blarney Stone and had the "Luck o' the Irish" on their side, or the spirits of the Sioux Nation conjured up the strange happenings, the bottom line is North Dakota just happened to win a gritty hockey game on St. Patrick's Day.

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