UND puts on one last show at The Ralph, beats Colorado College to advance

GRAND FORKS -- For the final 45 seconds, the crowd in Ralph Engelstad Arena stood and cheered.Chants soon followed.It was an appropriate salute for a UND men's hockey team that put on a show on a nightly basis in The Ralph this season.The final a...

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North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula fires a shot at Colorado College goalie Jacob Nehama in the first period of Saturday’s NCHC Quarterfinal game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. (FNS Photo by Jesse Trelstad)

GRAND FORKS - For the final 45 seconds, the crowd in Ralph Engelstad Arena stood and cheered.
Chants soon followed.
It was an appropriate salute for a UND men’s hockey team that put on a show on a nightly basis in The Ralph this season.
The final act was a 5-1 romp of Colorado College in a game that was decided before the first period was complete. Nick Schmaltz had a goal and two assists, Brock Boeser had three assists and their linemate, Drake Caggiula, had a goal as UND easily won its first round National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoff series in a sweep.
For the 14th year in a row, North Dakota is headed to the Twin Cities for the league’s postseason tournament. It will play either Minnesota-Duluth or Nebraska-Omaha on Friday (game time to be decided today).
From here, all games will be at neutral sites.
Opponents can be thankful for that.
UND went 16-2-1 in Ralph Engelstad Arena this season and is 26-2-2 (.900) in the last 30 home games.
“I think when we look back, we’re still regretting those two losses,” UND senior Bryn Chyzyk said.
Only one of those losses came in regulation - a 3-1 defeat to Wisconsin earlier this season.
Outside of that game, UND has not only dominated its opponents, but it has done so with a style that has been unmatched in the 15-year history of The Ralph.
There was the tic-tac-toe goal against Miami, where six players touched the puck in the span of four seconds before Schmaltz finished it off.
There was Caggiula’s SportsCenter goal against Alabama-Huntsville, where he flipped the puck on one side of the defenseman, skated around him on the other side and finished it off.

There was Schmaltz’s SportsCenter goal against Western Michigan, where he went forehand, backhand, forehand, backhand, forehand, putting the puck in the net from below the goal line.
There was Austin Poganski’s overtime game-winning penalty shot goal.
There was Cam Johnson breaking a 62-year-old school shutout record by blanking Huntsville at home.
There was the game-tying, extra-attacker goal against Miami, followed up by an overtime winner by Luke Johnson.
The entertaining home slate all started on Oct. 17, when walk-on goalie Matt Hrynkiw was forced to make a surprise start but ended up playing well and beating Bemidji State, thrilling the fans.
It ended with four straight offensive outbursts - the Fighting Hawks scored 25 goals at home in the last two weeks.
“It’s a proud place to play in The Ralph,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “We have loyal, passionate fans that are supportive. There’s a high bar and expectations when you’re playing here with people who are loyally devoted to your program.”
Freshman Brock Boeser, who announced his commitment by posting a picture of The Ralph on Twitter in February, saying, “Can’t wait to call this place home,” finished his first season in the building.
“There are no words to describe it,” Boeser said. “It’s unbelievable. Just coming into our first game, experiencing what everyone was saying about it, was great. The support throughout the whole season is the best in the country. I couldn’t be thankful enough for coming here.”
UND will now march to the Target Center and the NCHC Frozen Faceoff with a 30-5-3 record. It is UND’s first 30-win season since 2010-11 and only the second 30-win season since The Ralph opened in 2001-02.
In Saturday night’s series finale, Schmaltz, Joel Janatuinen, Hayden Shaw and Caggiula all scored in the first period to open a 4-0 lead and chase starting goalie Jacob Nehama, who was clearly playing through a lower-body injury.
Poganski tacked on UND’s fifth goal in the second period and the Fighting Hawks put it on cruise control from there.
The fans gave their late salute to the team and kept cheering as they skated off the ice.
“Any time you can get an early lead at The Ralph, it kind of sucks the life out of an opponent and helps us build energy,” UND defenseman Troy Stecher said.
UND will take an eight-game winning streak to Minneapolis, having not lost a game in more than a month. Although the Fighting Hawks won’t play at home anymore, they don’t expect things to change a lot.
“Minneapolis is going to be pretty packed with the green gear,” Stecher said. “We’re going to have those Sioux fans saluting us all the time.”

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