Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published April 07 2014
Analyst's pick for UND comes trueGRAND FORKS – About two months ago during a CBS Sports national broadcast, analyst Dave Starman said on the air that he thought the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team had what it took to be an NCAA Frozen Four team.
It sounded ridiculous at the time.
UND was a middle-of-the-pack National Collegiate Hockey Conference team and needed to go on a big surge just to make the NCAA tournament, period. But Starman liked what he saw.
Perhaps his statement wasn’t so farfetched, after all.
UND will play in Philadelphia this week in the Frozen Four, and Starman will be watching the game from ESPN’s studios in Charlotte, N.C., where he will host intermissions alongside Michigan State coach Tom Anastos and ESPN’s Matt Schick.
Before leaving for North Carolina, Starman talked to the Herald about what made him think UND could reach the Frozen Four as well as other topics surrounding the Frozen Four.
Q: I know CBS broadcasted eight UND games this season, so you saw them quite a bit.
A: I watched 24 of their games.
Q: That’s quite a bit. What made you think this team could make a run to the Frozen Four?
A: Part of it was a hunch. Here’s the funny thing. For a long time, I always thought North Dakota had good goaltending, but I didn’t know if it had thee goaltending. I felt like they did this year. I liked (Zane) Gothberg last year. I loved him this year. I saw a kid that was really confident. When he gave up a bad goal, he could shake it off. He could have a bad game and put it behind him. He’s a kid who understands the position.
I always said that playing goaltender at North Dakota is like playing goalie for the Montreal Canadiens. You are in such a spotlight because of how much passion there is there (with the fans). You have to have a certain mentality and he’s never backed down from it. He has a loose, goofy personality, but he knows when to turn it on.
Q: What else stands out to you about this North Dakota team?
A: I’ve seen a lot of teams this year and I’m still waiting to find a D-corps that matches up with this group. (Dillon) Simpson is the forgotten guy. He’s a great leader. He’s a good offensive player, a good defensive player. He’s a 200-foot player. He has great skills, but he also leads the team in blocked shots and does all the little things. He’s not grabbing headlines. He doesn’t have people calling him nicknames or comparing him to his dad. He just goes about his business really well. Paul LaDue is as underrated of a shutdown D-man as there is. He’s rangy, long and fluid.
Q: What do you like about this team up front?
A: This is the ultimate sum of parts group. I think Hak (coach Dave Hakstol) has done a great job with the rest of his staff balancing out lines, fitting square pegs into round holes and making it work. They are doing a good job finding interchangeable thirds. A guy like (Stephane) Pattyn can play with (Rocco) Grimaldi’s line or (Connor) Gaarder’s line and he feels comfortable in both places. All of the lines have a role and a purpose.
Q: Were all of these factors in thinking that UND could get to Philadelphia?
A: I just looked at all of this coming together and how utterly dominant they were against some good teams. . . how they could take a kick in the shorts and come back from it. I think being scared to death of missing the NCAA tournament almost helped. Being pushed to the brink against Colorado College probably helped. Losing to Miami (in the Final Faceoff), in a round-about way, probably helped. They’ve answered the bell on every occasion.
Q: For fans who haven’t seen much of Minnesota, what should everyone expect?
A: They are kind of like North Dakota in a way – they are a sum of the parts group. They are smaller than some Minnesota teams I’ve seen in the past, but they are really fast. I think Kyle Rau is the biggest little person I’ve ever seen. In the past, some people weren’t buying what he was selling, but I think everyone is buying this year. He has great hands, great feed, great separation. Hudson Fasching, back at home this year, is a completely different kid than what I saw at the National Program. He’s a ball of energy.
Q: What are your thoughts on Gopher goalie Adam Wilcox?
A: They are a team who I never really bought their goaltending, but they’ve got a goalie now. With Wilcox, they can make something happen. He’s solid with his rebounds in front, he helps out his defense, he’s smart and understands the ins and outs of the position.
Q: A lot of fans here have never seen Union. What can you tell us about the Dutchmen?
A: Union will remind you a little bit of Western Michigan. They are probably a little more high-end, but they are hard as hell to play against. They give you no time and space. They swarm the puck. They have totally bought into the fact that the next goal is the biggest goal of the game and they play like it.
Q: Boston College loves time and space. If Union takes that away, could that make for an interesting matchup?
A: Here’s the thing with BC – it has a wonderful ability to go up and down and skate with anyone. BC’s Achilles’ Heel is against teams that like to clog. I saw three of their last four games against Notre Dame and they couldn’t get out of their own way. They couldn’t find any room. If BC gets punched in the mouth a bit, they have to rely on their individual skills. The first line has it. But Union could make for an interesting matchup with them if they can slow things down.
Q: Is ESPN expecting strong ratings considering the teams involved?
A: You’ve got sexy programs in there. You have good teams in there and two really good matchups. I think BC-Union is going to be really interesting to watch. North Dakota-Minnesota sells itself.
Q: And lastly, does UND have a shot to beat top-seeded Minnesota?
A: I think they can beat them. I really, really do. I feel like they’ve got something bubbling.
Schlossman is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald