FROZEN FOUR: UND sees a hero’s welcome
PHILADELPHIA — With the sun shining, temperatures in the mid 60s and a pregame party next to a Major League Baseball stadium, Thursday afternoon in the City of Brotherly Love didn’t feel much like hockey — at least not as it’s known in North Dakota.
However, that all changed a few hours before puck drop when hundreds of college hockey fans gathered around a red carpet at the entrance of the Wells Fargo Center.
Now, this looked like hockey as North Dakota and Minnesota band members, cheer teams and diehard fans stood elbow to elbow to show support for the Frozen Four rivalry matchup.
And, in another typical, knock-down, down-to-the-wire rivalry game that will leave fans talking for years, Minnesota prevailed as the Gophers crushed UND’s hopes for an eighth national title with a 2-1 win over North Dakota in the semifinals.
Justin Holl scored with sixth-tenths of a second to play to give Minnesota the win, which advances the Gophers to Saturday night’s Frozen Four title game against Union.
To make matters worse for UND, Minnesota scored short-handed.
As expected, the two rivals threw everything they had into the game.
As expected, fans from both programs threw everything they had in preparation for the game.
Before UND’s contingent of fans settled into the arena, they chanted “Let’s go Sioux” as both Minnesota and North Dakota team buses arrived. The two teams got to the arena within minutes of each other.
Meanwhile, the UND band and cheer teams performed the school fight song. The Gophers band and cheer teams countered with a performance on the other side of the roped-off walk-through.
Matt Ritter, an assistant director of the UND Pride of the North pep band, has been to a few Frozen Fours but this one has a different feel, he said.
“Every other one, we weren’t really the underdog,” Ritter said. “We are now, and it’s kind of nice. It’s also nice to have Minnesota back on the schedule. Hopefully, we can play really well and get a win.”
Well before the team arrived at the arena, the UND Alumni Association hosted a pregame party at McFadden’s Restaurant & Saloon, which is connected to Citizens Bank Park — home to the Philadelphia Phillies.
“We have the greatest fans in college hockey and this is the latest example,” said Kyle Doperalski, UND’s director of external operations. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re in Grand Forks, Minneapolis, Cincinnati or Philadelphia. I’m blown away. The passion the people have for this place and the hockey program is unbelievable.”
Doperalski said UND had 500 fan rally towels to give away at McFadden’s and the lot was gone within an hour.
At McFadden’s, Grand Forks native Matt Palmiscno and four of his friends discussed the game after making the 23-plus-hour drive from Grand Forks Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I think Zane can keep them in it,” he said of UND goalie Zane Gothberg.
His crew also expected special teams to make a difference.
“They need to draw some penalties and not take any,” Palmiscno said.
But in the end, Minnesota added another win to close another chapter in college hockey’s best rivalry.