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UND SPORTS: UND's bitter loss in Frozen Four brings memories of other gut-wrenching games

Apr 10, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; North Dakota's Derek Rodwell forward (11), forward Colten St. Clair (17) and defenseman Andrew Panzarella (22) react on the bench after loss to Minnesota Gophers during the third period in the semifinals of the Frozen Four college ice hockey tournament at Wells Fargo Center. Minnesota defeated North Dakota, 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

UND’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night in the Frozen Four had at least three printable adjectives:

  •  Heartbreaking.
  •  Unimaginable.
  •  Bitter.
  • When Justin Holl scored with less than a second to play, Minnesota advanced to Saturday night’s Frozen Four title game and left UND to pick up the pieces of a shattered dream — one that resulted from an underdog team that made its way through much of the postseason on grit and determination.

    “Disbelief. That’s about the only way to explain it,” said UND’s Mark MacMillan after the game.

    UND largely outplayed its longtime rival for most of the game. And when UND went on the power play in the final two minutes of regulation, North Dakota had the momentum with the feeling that the worst that could happen would be overtime.

    Holl shattered that expectation when he put a shot just inside the right post with six-tenths of a second to play.

    The Gophers went from hanging on to jubilation, while UND went from confident to devastated.

    The following day, the Gophers prepared for the title game against Union, while UND could only look forward to next season — yet with the fog of one of the program’s most gut-wrenching losses in history still lingering.

    The stunning outcome, not surprisingly, raised this question:

    Was UND’s last-second 2-1 loss to its biggest rival on a national stage the most difficult in the school’s history, regardless of sport?

    With the loss still fresh in the memory bank, yes is probably the answer for many. But it’s a question that likely will be debated for years.

    UND has been on the national stage before in a number of sports. That’s nothing new. And despite winning national championships in football, basketball and hockey, UND has had its share of devastating losses as well.

    Which loss is the most gut-wrenching? It’s open for interpretation.

    Here are a handful of other difficult losses UND has suffered on the national stage:

    Men’s hockey

    •  Michigan 2, UND 0: UND entered the 2011 Frozen Four as the top-ranked team in the country. It played like it, too, outshooting Michigan 40-20 in the game.

    UND was unable to get one past goaltender Shawn Hunwick, though, and a first-period goal by the Wolverines stood up as the winner. Michigan tacked on an empty-netter for the final margin and UND’s dream season ended with a loss. It was UND’s only loss in the last two and a half months of the season.

    •  New Hampshire 6, UND 5, OT: In the 2009 NCAA tournament, UND appeared headed to the regional final, but New Hampshire’s Thomas Fortney scored a game-tying goal with one-tenth of a second left to send it to overtime. Then, the Wildcats won it in the first minute of the extra session.
    •  Boston College 3, UND 2, OT: In the 2001 national championship game, UND scored two extra-attacker goals at the end of regulation to send it to overtime, but Krys Kolanos gave the Eagles the national title in the extra session.

    Women’s hockey

    • Minnesota 3, UND 2, 3OT: In the 2013 NCAA quarterfinals, the undefeated Gophers won an triple-overtime epic against UND on a power-play goal with 1:09 remaining in the third overtime. The Gophers went on to win the national title. Gopher coach Brad Frost said he believes UND would have won the title if it won that quarterfinal game.

    Men’s basketball

    •  Virginia Union 64, UND 63: In the 1991 NCAA Elite Eight quarterfinals, UND — the No. 1 team in the country — led Virginia Union 57-39 with 9:50 to play. The team was regarded as one of UND’s best in the Division II era. But Virginia Union went on a 25-6 run in the final 9:50 to win.

    “I’ve never had one disappear quite that quickly,” said former Sioux coach Rich Glas of an 18-point lead.

    Scott Guldseth’s shot with two seconds to play was blocked by Virginia Union, sending the Panthers into the semifinal round. UND closed at 29-4.


    •  Grand Valley State 10, UND 3: In the 2003 NCAA Division II title game, UND was on the move late in the game. But John Bowenkamp’s pass intended for Caleb Johnson was intercepted at the Grand Valley 5-yard line with 20 seconds to play. UND confidently marched from its own 25 to the Grand Valley 17 before the interception.

    Had UND scored in the closing seconds, North Dakota coach Dale Lennon said his team would go for the two-point conversion and the win.

    UND, which had won five games in the final seconds in the 2003 season, was shooting for its second national title in three seasons.

    Wayne Nelson
    Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
    (701) 780-1268