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Dave Hakstol brings the second-half surge to the NHL

Feb 6, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dale Hakstol looks on from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in the overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

There's something brewing in the NHL right now, and it may not come as a shock to those in Grand Forks.

Dave Hakstol's team, after an early season slump, is suddenly one of the NHL's hottest squads.

Since losing 10 games in a row in November and early December—five in overtime—the Philadelphia Flyers are 20-8-2 and have the league's third-best record since Dec. 3. Only the Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights have been better in that span.

The Flyers have surged into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 65 points—five points back of first-place Washington.

If the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs for the second time in three years.

The latest victory was a 4-1 win at Vegas, the NHL's best home team this season, on Monday night. It came less than 24 hours after beating the Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix.

It was just the fourth home loss in regulation for Vegas this season.

"That's a hell of an effort," Hakstol said after the game.

Does this pattern sound familiar, UND fans?

In Hakstol's first year as head coach in college, UND started the season 16-13-3. Then, it went 9-1-2 down the stretch en route to the NCAA national championship game. The trend continued throughout the years.

In 2005-06, UND started 18-13-1, then went 11-2 en route to the Frozen Four.

In 2006-07, UND started 9-11-1, then went 15-2-4 en route to the Frozen Four.

In 2007-08, UND started 9-8-1, then went 19-2-3 en route to the Frozen Four.

In 2008-09, UND started 9-10-1, then went 15-2-3 down the stretch.

In 2009-10, UND started 13-11-5, then went 12-1 en route to the NCAA tournament.

In 2010-11, UND had a strong 18-8-2 start, but still caught fire and went 14-0-1 en route to the Frozen Four.

In 2011-12, UND started 12-10-2. Despite being so inundated with injuries that it couldn't fill out a full lineup, it went 14-2-1 down the stretch and won a third-straight Broadmoor Trophy as Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champs.

In 2012-13, UND started 13-8-6, then had a modest improvement of 9-4-1 down the stretch.

And in 2013-14, UND started 4-7-2 before running off a 21-6-1 mark en route to the Frozen Four.

It was a remarkably consistent trait of Hakstol's teams. They always got better as the season progressed.

That's one of the reasons why general manager Ron Hextall hired Hakstol as the head coach three years ago. He saw firsthand how Hakstol developed players and teams when Hextall's son, Brett, played at UND. Ron wanted to bring the same culture to the Flyers organization, which was in the middle of a rebuild.

This year's Flyers are now following the same pattern that fans in Grand Forks saw year after year. Philadelphia started the season 8-11-7. Since then, they are 20-8-2.

"Our goals remain in place," Hakstol said after his team's fourth straight win Sunday night. "They remain behind closed doors. The only one we'll talk about is coming out and competing hard for one another and sticking together. It's no different than four or five months ago or at any point in the season.

"For a night like tonight, to win on a back-to-back, you have to have good goaltending and you have to have a whole bunch of guys who are willing to lay it on the line and scratch and claw and find a way. And I think that sums up a little about our hockey team."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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