Sioux draw New Hampshire

GRAND FORKS -- One commonality between each of Dave Hakstol's teams is that they've all made it out of arguably the most difficult region to reach the NCAA Frozen Four.

GRAND FORKS -- One commonality between each of Dave Hakstol's teams is that they've all made it out of arguably the most difficult region to reach the NCAA Frozen Four.

If Hakstol and the University of North Dakota want to make it five-for-five in Frozen Four appearances, they'll have to do it again.

The Sioux were placed in a loaded NCAA Northeast Regional that has them playing the University of New Hampshire in the first round at noon Saturday in Manchester, N.H., a city located just 35 miles away from the Wildcats' home of Durham.

If UND gets by New Hampshire, either Ohio State or Boston University, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, will be waiting.

"Every pairing is going to be tough," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's going to be a challenge going into Manchester to play New Hampshire. They have pretty good balance. (James) vanRiemsdyk is leading them in scoring. He's a premier player, no doubt about it. He was a first-round pick for a reason. But he also has a lot of good players around him."


The tall task ahead has become commonplace for UND.

In Hakstol's first season, the Sioux had to beat Boston University and Boston College in nearby Worcester, Mass., to get to the Frozen Four. The next two seasons, UND was placed in the same regional as powerhouses Michigan and Minnesota. And last year, the Sioux had to beat Wisconsin in its raucous home Kohl Center to advance.

When this season's bracket was revealed Sunday morning on ESPN2, there were no surprises. UND, a No. 2 seed, appeared destined for Manchester after a pair of losses at the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five over the weekend.

UND (24-14-4) is one of just three teams from the WCHA to get in the tournament. Denver (No. 1 seed) and Minnesota-Duluth (No. 2 seed) both were placed in the West Regional, which will be held in Minnesota's Mariucci Arena.

The Gophers were left out of the tournament for the first time since 2000, and defending national champion Boston College also failed to make the 16-team field. The Eagles have knocked the Sioux out of the last three Frozen Fours, but their elimination obviously hasn't made UND favorites.

The Sioux weren't mentioned during the 30-minute selection show, which saw ESPN broadcaster Barry Melrose pick Minnesota-Duluth to make the national championship game. Both analysts picked Boston University to get there, too.

"I don't think anybody even knows we're in the tournament," Hakstol said. "We'll see if we can introduce ourselves."

Hakstol said the Sioux have plenty of motivation coming off back-to-back losses at the Final Five. It was the first time UND lost two straight since late December.


"We're coming off a weekend where we didn't play well," Hakstol said, "and maybe that's for the best for us. I don't think we've played at the top of our game for six games. The last outstanding game we played was that Saturday-Sunday series against Colorado College in Grand Forks. We've won some games, but we've been able to get away with slightly sub-par performances.

"This weekend, we got slapped in the face. That, coupled with the challenge of going into Manchester to play New Hampshire, is a great challenge set in front of us."

The Grand Forks Herald and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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