UND men's hockey: It's rivalry time once againThe Sioux will play the Gophers for the 274th time at 7:37 Friday in Ralph Engelstad Arena. The series has long been sold out.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
UND goalie Aaron Dell grew up in near Calgary, not knowing anything about the UND-Minnesota rivalry.
It didn't take him long to learn.
"Gophers week starts early here," Dell said with a laugh. "Everyone's been talking about it in my classes. They've been talking about getting their white-out shirts. I think everybody is pretty excited." It's time for rivalry and white-out weekend once again.
The Sioux will play the Gophers for the 274th time at 7:37 tonight in Ralph Engelstad Arena. The series has long been sold out. Most ticket scalpers are charging more than $100 for them online, double face value. Many are charging triple face value ($150-plus).
Ralph Engelstad Arena director of booking Chris Semrau said without hesitation that they could sell "easily double" the number of tickets for this series.
While there will be nearly 12,000 on hand each night, not the 25,000-plus that REA thinks it could sell, it might sound like there are that many in the building, anyway.
Minnesota coach Don Lucia has called it "a series for men." UND coach Dave Hakstol calls it another intense Western Collegiate Hockey Association weekend.
"This is what it's all about," Hakstol said. "You get into WCHA play and you get into these highly intense weekends. We go through these weekends several times a year. To me, it's a matter of staying within a routine. You don't alter your week from that.
"To everybody else, there's a lot of frenzy that comes with this week. To our team, it's staying with our routine. That's not a cliché. That's the way we approach these weekends." The approach has worked.
UND has controlled the series recently, posting an 11-4-3 mark in the last 18 meetings. The Sioux ended Minnesota's season a year ago by beating the Gophers in a first-round playoff series.
In Grand Forks, it has been even more one-sided. The Gophers have just one win in their last seven meetings here. Several of the losses were blowouts.
It hasn't always been like this, though.
Minnesota won the first-ever game in Ralph Engelstad Arena, rallying for a 7-5 victory in October 2001. A few months later, the Gophers swept the Sioux in a regular-season series in the new building.
That prompted Twin Cities radio hosts to dub Engelstad Arena as "Mariucci West," a reference to Minnesota's home arena. The success continued as the Gophers won six of the first nine games in The Ralph.
Then, the 2006 NCAA West Regional happened.
Fourth-seed Holy Cross stunned top-seeded Minnesota 4-3 in overtime in the first round, turning the Gophers' fortunes in Grand Forks. They are just 2-7-1 in their last 10 games here, including the Holy Cross loss.
Will it continue?
Since Penn State announced it was going to add Division I hockey in 2012, all signs have pointed to the formation of a Big Ten Hockey Conference.
If that happens, Minnesota and Wisconsin will leave the WCHA. Would that mean the end of the rivalry between the Sioux and Gophers?
"If the Big Ten happens, and that's a big if, we'll probably have an alliance with the WCHA teams," Lucia said. "It would be very easy for us to play four to five WCHA teams a year, along with other games. There would have to be a willingness on both sides."
One player that will have Minnesota's attention is senior forward Matt Frattin, who is placing himself deep in the record books with his current scoring streak.
Frattin has scored a goal in eight straight games, which ties for the longest stretch in the last 25 years of UND's program.
Only three Sioux players have ever racked up longer goal streaks. Chris Jensen had a nine-game streak in January 1986, Ben Cherski had a 12-game streak in 1952 and Ginny Christian had a 12-game streak that spanned from the end of 1948 to February 1949.
Frattin has scored 30 goals in his last 35 games dating back to Feb. 13 of last season and currently leads the country with 20 goals this season. It has been four years since UND has had a player tally more than 20. That was Ryan Duncan during his Hobey Baker campaign of 2006-07.
While Minnesota sits at 9-8-3 overall, the Gophers have had a lot of success against top teams.
The Gophers are 5-3-3 against ranked opponents this season. They took three points against Minnesota-Duluth, beat Michigan and swept Colorado College.
"Early on, we had some you guys struggle," Lucia said. "We play seven or eight freshmen a night. Four of them came right out of high school hockey. The young guys have improved a lot. We're not a real high scoring team. We have to win 3-2. Finding guys that can score is at a premium."
- UND forward Jason Gregoire is questionable for this weekend's series. He's missed the last seven games due to injury.
- Minnesota is 8-1-2 when scoring the first goal of the game and 1-6-1 when it does not.
- The Pony Express line of Frattin, Brad Malone and Evan Trupp has a combined 31 points in the last seven games and a plus-25 rating.
- Corban Knight went 29-7 on draws last weekend against Robert Morris, improving his team-leading percentage to 63.5.
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to email@example.com.