Tom Miller / Forum News Service, Published March 21 2013
Miller: Is there a silver lining to UND losing?
Colorado College’s Peter Stoykewych picked up a goal early in overtime to lift the Tigers past UND 4-3 late Thursday night to spoil North Dakota’s chance at four straight tournament titles and a happy ending to the program’s time in a tournament that has become an annual pilgrimage for UND fans.
The loss, however, may have a silver lining. Will UND have fresher legs for the ultimate prize of the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh and the national championship?
In two of the last three seasons, North Dakota had to win three games at the conference tournament in order to claim the league’s tournament championship.
The question this time around is this: Does not playing in the remainder of the WCHA tournament actually benefit UND, instead of wearing down a team late in the year?
“Once we work through the disappointment of the night, we’ll turn that into a positive,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s tough. We came out of a real hard-fought series against Michigan Tech. It’s a tough road if we continue through the tournament.”
Despite its success at the WCHA tournament, North Dakota hasn’t won an NCAA national title since 2001.
Of course, a team wants to be playing its best hockey at the end of the year and take as much momentum into the regional as possible. But, on the other hand, UND has become accustomed to running through a grueling conference tournament, then being placed in the NCAA tournament regional the following weekend.
“Make no mistake, we want to be playing (today),” Hakstol said. “But we’ll accept the reality of the situation. We’ll get back, have some great practices and hopefully find out where we’re going on Sunday.”
This year, UND is a mathematical lock to make the NCAA tournament field of 16.
With parity in college hockey, earning a No. 1 seed isn’t the prize it once was. When No. 16 seed Holy Cross beat No. 1 Minnesota at Ralph Engelstad Arena, it was a shocker. Since, No. 1 seed upsets are much more common.
That’s why the extra days to recoup can be more beneficial than the wear and tear of a conference crown.
Still, that’s a tough sell of an argument to a player like Danny Kristo, who as a senior, suffered his first loss at the Final Five.
“I’ve never felt like this before,” Kristo said. “Our goal coming in was to four-peat.”