North Dakotans hope to make it four years in a row on NCAA title team
There's been an interesting common theme among the last three college hockey national championship teams.
They've all had a North Dakotan on the roster.
In 2016, UND won it with four North Dakotans on the roster—forward Luke Johnson, defenseman Paul LaDue and forward Johnny Simonson of Grand Forks and defenseman Keaton Thompson of Devils Lake.
In 2017, Denver won it with defenseman Matt VanVoorhis, who grew up in Grand Forks, on the team.
And last season, Minnesota Duluth won it with Minto, N.D.'s Jade Miller, who played prep hockey at Grafton-Park River.
This current stretch of three-straight years with a North Dakotan on the national championship team ended a 13-year drought without one since Grant Potulny won it in 2002 and 2003 with Minnesota.
The NCAA tournament opens this weekend with several chances to extend that run to four years in a row.
Five of the 16 teams in the NCAA tournament have North Dakotans on the roster, including three of the four No. 1 seeds.
Jacob Benson, Jon Lizotte, SCSU
St. Cloud State seniors Jacob Benson and Jon Lizotte have already won one state championship together. They teamed up to lead Grand Forks Red River to the North Dakota boys state title in 2013.
Now, they'll make one last run at an NCAA title.
St. Cloud State enters with the tournament's No. 1 overall seed for the second year in a row.
Lizotte plays defense on St. Cloud State's top pairing alongside Hobey Baker Award finalist Jimmy Schuldt. Lizotte has one goal, nine points and a plus-13 rating for the Huskies this season.
Benson, who has four goals and seven points this season, plays right wing on the fourth line alongside center Nolan Walker. The left wing on their line has changed in the second half of the season.
The Huskies, who were upset in the first round by Air Force last season, open the NCAA tournament at 6:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN3) in Fargo.
Jade Miller, Minnesota Duluth
Miller ended his streak of runner-up finishes (in bantams, at state, in junior hockey and in college hockey) in the 2018 Frozen Four in St. Paul. Now, he's back looking for another title.
Defending national champion Minnesota Duluth is the top seed in the Allentown, Pa., regional.
Miller has been a key player for the Bulldogs down the stretch. After tallying one point in his first 16 games of the season, the Minto product had nine points in 10 games.
During that 10-game stretch, Miller was the top point-producing forward on Minnesota Duluth's team.
Miller's status for Saturday's regional opener against Bowling Green (3 p.m., ESPNU) is in question, though. He's listed as day to day after sustaining an injury in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff.
Alec Rauhauser, Bowling Green
Going head-to-head with Miller in the first round will be former Bismarck Century star defenseman Alec Rauhauser.
These two played head-to-head twice at the high school level—both times in the North Dakota state semifinals. Miller's Spoilers beat Rauhauser's Patriots in both of the semifinal games—5-2 in 2012 and 6-4 in 2013. Miller had two points in each meeting, while Rauhauser scored in both.
Rauhauser has developed into one of the top defensemen in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
He led Bowling Green in scoring as a sophomore defenseman with 39 points in 41 games. He's followed that up by piling up 26 more points this season.
Bowling Green is making its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1990 and looking for its first NCAA win since 1988.
Jared Spooner, MSU-Mankato
The tournament's No. 3 overall seed, MSU-Mankato, also has a North Dakotan on the roster.
Former Bismarck High forward Jared Spooner is having a breakout sophomore year. He has tallied 27 points in 40 games for the Mavericks after tallying 19 as a rookie.
Spooner is the team's top scorer outside of its big top line.
MSU-Mankato takes on fourth-seeded Providence in Providence at noon Saturday (ESPNews). The Mavericks are looking for their first-ever tournament win.
Cody Haiskanen, Cornell
Former Fargo Davies defenseman Cody Haiskanen is on the roster of third-seeded Cornell, but Haiskanen won't be playing this weekend. He suffered a gruesome season-ending injury on Feb. 8 after a skate cut him on the arm.
Haiskanen had emergency surgery after the game, but the Cornell Daily Sun reported that he's expected to regain full use of his right hand in three or four months.
Cornell takes on Northeastern at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPNews).
Recent national champs from N.D.
• 2016—UND, Luke Johnson (GF), Paul LaDue (GF), Johnny Simonson (GF), Keaton Thompson (Devils Lake)
• 2017—Denver, Matt VanVoorhis (GF)
• 2018—Duluth, Jade Miller (Minto)
North Dakotans on NCAA tournament rosters
• St. Cloud State - Jacob Benson, Jon Lizotte (GF Red River)
• Duluth - Jade Miller (Grafton-Park River)
• MSU-Mankato - Jared Spooner (Bismarck)
• Bowling Green - Alec Rauhauser (Bismarck Century)
• Cornell - Cody Haiskanen (Davies)