St. Paul Minn. – Back in November, who would have thought that the Fighting Sioux would face off against Denver University and win the championship game of the Red Baron WCHA Final Five?
Especially on Sunday the 20th of November 2011. The Fighting Sioux had just suffered an unimpressive 1-0 loss to the Bemidji State Beavers at the Sandford Center in Bemidji, Minnesota. After that loss, the Fighting Sioux had a lackluster record of 4-7-1 overall and 1-5 in the WCHA. That record was good for 11th place in the WCHA standings.
After the game, the Fighting Sioux took the two hour bus trip down highway two back to Grand Forks, they regrouped and on Monday morning the Fighting Sioux coaching staff conducted a bag skate on the Fighting Sioux hockey team at six o’clock.
Since that early morning bag skate, the Fighting Sioux have gone an impressive 21-5-2. That is the best overall record in Divison I hockey since November 26 , 2011.
Coming into the game, the Denver Pioneers had played five games in eight days and there was the question of fatigue, the last three games the Pioneers played in, had gone to overtime including yesterday’s double overtime win against the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. You had to wonder how much was left in the tank for the Pioneers.
The Sioux would test the Pioneers tired legs early and often.
The Fighting Sioux got on the board first and broke the 0-0 dead lock at the 17:43 mark of the first period when sophomore Brock Nelson scored his 27th goal on the power play.
Before the public address could announce the first goal, the Fighting Sioux would score again with a goal from junior forward Carter Rowney at the 18:29 mark of the first period. That was the 18th goal of the season for Rowney.
The Fighting Sioux never looked back as they added a power play goal by Michael Parks in the second period and a shorthanded goal in the third period by Mark MacMillan.
Pioneers Head Coach George Gwozdecky was very complimentary of the Fighting Sioux after the game.
“Congratulations to North Dakota,” Gwozdecky said. “They did a nice job tonight, they are a good defending champion, they took advantage of a couple of leg weary defensemen and they did a nice job. They were better than us, pretty much in every area of the game and they are a good champion.”
The Sioux took advantage of the Denver Pioneers being a step slower and they kept moving their feet and making plays
In the third period, the Fighting Sioux didn’t miss a beat, with Carter Rowney in the box for cross checking the Sioux cashed in shorthanded as well with a goal from Mark MacMillan to seal the game for the Fighting Sioux.
Goaltending was the story in this game as Fighting Sioux junior goalie Aaron Dell was the difference stopping all 22 shots that he faced, to record his second shutout of the season. Dell ended up securing a spot on the all-tournament team and was also awarded the WCHA Final Five tournament MVP.
With tonight’s win, the Fighting Sioux have won three Broadmoor Trophies in a row for the Fighting Sioux. No other WCHA team has ever done that.
Overall, Fighting Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol seemed pleased his team’s effort after the game.
“I am really proud of my team,” Hakstol said. “We tried to come into today and play a complete hockey game, right from the drop of the puck, try and play 60 minutes, third game in three days, energy levels aren’t going to be necessarily at the top end. We won the game through small details, plus one, five on five, we score two power play goals and a short hander, and we got very good goaltending. That’s a pretty good formula for a playoff time especially going in to a championship game.
“Denver has been one heck of a run here, in terms of the battles they have been through; maybe they ran out of gas just a little bit with the amount of hockey that they played. That was one of the things that we had try to exploit if we possibly could by being a really tough team to play against. We are proud to be Broadmoor Cup Champions.”
With the win tonight, the Fighting Sioux improve to 25-12-3 and will find out where they are going in the first round of the WCHA tourney.