Ready to run again
GRAND FORKS -- Christmas is over and the second half of the college hockey season is approaching, which raises one big question for UND. Can the Sioux put together a fourth straight second-half run to the Frozen Four? Every year under coach Dave ...
GRAND FORKS -- Christmas is over and the second half of the college hockey season is approaching, which raises one big question for UND.
Can the Sioux put together a fourth straight second-half run to the Frozen Four?
Every year under coach Dave Hakstol, the Sioux have followed a similar path. They went through ups and downs, hit roadblocks and couldn't get much momentum in the first half of the season. But come the second half, they've been a different team.
Beginning Friday, Hakstol promises to shake some things up in hope of kick-starting the Sioux, who posted an 8-6-1 mark through the first 15 games.
The coaching staff did some detailed evaluations during the holidays, breaking down among other things, production vs. ice time for each player.
"We're going to do some different things," Hakstol said. "You'll see some differences in some forward units as well as some D-pairings. Some things we haven't been healthy enough to do in practice. Others we've had a chance to see.
"The bottom line is that we need to get better."
Time will tell whether UND can put together another run. Here is a glance at the previous runs to the Frozen Four during Hakstol's tenure.
Record prior to run: 16-13-3
Origin of the run: Feb. 26
Record down stretch: 9-1-2
Description: Hakstol's first year as head coach hit a couple of bumpy stretches. The most notable came in January and February when the senior-laden Sioux won just once in a seven-game stretch.
The low point came when Anchorage blitzed the Sioux for four consecutive goals in the final 10 minutes of a game to erase a 2-1 Sioux lead. That loss dropped UND to 16-13-3.
After that, Hakstol went to sophomore goaltender Jordan Parise almost exclusively. Parise caught fire and the Sioux followed suit. They headed to the Frozen Four losing just once in 11 games. That loss was a 2-1 overtime decision to Denver in the WCHA Final Five - a game that Parise did not play in goal.
The team that was defined by five outstanding defensemen - captain Matt Greene, Matt Jones, Matt Smaby, Nick Fuher and Andy Schneider - topped Minnesota in the Frozen Four semifinals, but lost to Denver in the national championship.
Record prior to run: 17-12-1.
Origin of the run: Feb. 3.
Record down stretch: 12-3.
Description: Growing pains were to be expected in Hakstol's second year. The Sioux lost many of their core players to graduation, especially on the blue line. Meanwhile, they brought in an enormous freshman class of 13 players.
The low point for the young team was late January, when St. Cloud State came to Ralph Engelstad Arena and swept the Sioux with back-to-back 2-1 wins.
But UND's level of talent was undeniable. Once they gained some confidence with a split against Colorado College in World Arena, the Sioux caught fire with the rookies playing big roles.
The Sioux went 12-3 down the stretch behind more stellar goaltending from Parise. Up front, the lines of Drew Stafford (jr.)-Jonathan Toews (fr.)-Ryan Duncan (fr.) and Rastislav Spirko (soph.)-Travis Zajac (soph.)-T.J. Oshie (fr.) were too much for opponents.
Four players from that squad - which lost a shootout with Boston College in the national semifinals - already are in the NHL. More will soon follow.
Record prior to run: 9-11-1.
Origin of the run: Jan. 6.
Record down stretch: 15-2-4.
Description: After losing five players early to the pros, UND struggled to adjust during the first half of Hakstol's third season.
The low point came as the Sioux headed to Christmas break losing seven of eight, including back-to-back games at home against Michigan Tech.
After Christmas break, however, UND put together perhaps the most impressive stretch run of the Hakstol era. Toews, Oshie and Duncan teamed up to form an unstoppable top line. They scored in every game after Toews returned from the World Juniors in January.
The Sioux also got strong goaltending from Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and key contributions from players like Taylor Chorney, Robbie Bina, captain Chris Porter and rookie Chris VandeVelde.
The season, once again, ended at the Frozen Four. UND fell 6-4 to Boston College in a national semifinal game. It was UND's sole regulation loss after Toews returned from the World Juniors in early January.
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