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Tom Miller / Forum News Service, Published February 09 2013

Miller: Long day ends with victory for UND

Omaha, Neb. - University of North Dakota defenseman Nick Mattson arrived at TD Ameritrade Park at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon ready to take part in an outdoor game against Nebraska-Omaha.

With ice conditions unplayable, though, Mattson and his teammates got back on the bus at 3 p.m. and returned to the Hilton hotel nearby.

By 4 p.m., UND reloaded the bus and returned to the ballpark – the new home of the College World Series.

At this point, a series of strange events was only beginning for UND players, coaches and fans that ended in UND earning a 5-2 victory over the Mavericks for a series sweep.

“You could take it one of two ways,” said Mattson, who scored UND’s second goal in a three-goal first period. “You could get frustrated, or you could roll with it.”

And UND rolled with it.

What was originally scheduled to be a 4:07 p.m. start, the game was pushed back to 6:35 p.m. as warm temperatures and a sunny day did its damage on the playing surface, which was beat up by a United States Hockey League game between the Omaha Lancers and the Lincoln Stars in the afternoon.

During the long delay, players and coaches walked back and forth from the locker room to the ice sheet to check on its status. For a while, there was doubt whether or not the playing surface could be resurrected in time for Omaha and UND to play on Saturday.

“The toughest part is a lot of us are superstitious,” Mattson said.

“It’s tough when you don’t know when you’re playing. (Officials) did the best they could given the circumstances.”

Even when the game started, nothing was routine. Strange became the new normal.

After the first period, the ice crew punctured one of the cooling pipes attempting to dig in the goalpost hole. As a result, green coolant poured out of the ice near the goalie crease causing a 15-minute delay.

“At that point, you’re thinking, ‘What else could go wrong?’ ” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “I’m sure some good stories will come out of this one because of what went on through the day.”

The ice crew brought out shovels and a Shop-Vac and cleared up the spill. Action resumed for the second period.

But for a game that was pushed back because of sunshine, the second period saw rain send many of the more than 13,000 fans for cover in the concourse.

“It poured a little bit,” Mattson laughed. “It seemed like what could go wrong did. But it didn’t faze us at all. We were on a mission.”

The rain eventually began to die down. And so did the insanity.

At roughly 10 p.m., with more than seven hours logged at TD Ameritrade, UND players hopped the bus and rode all the way back to Grand Forks.

“It’s been a long day,” UND captain Andrew MacWilliam said in a massive understatement.


Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald