It didn't take long for Tuesday to become a historic day for the UND hockey program.

The Ottawa Senators picked UND freshman defenseman Jake Sanderson No. 5 overall, making him the second-highest drafted player in program history.

It also was a unique draft experience for Sanderson and everyone else who was selected in the opening round Tuesday.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was held virtually and not in person. UND and Ralph Engelstad Arena pulled out all the stops to try to make it a memorable night for Sanderson and his family.

Here are eight behind-the-scenes highlights from The Ralph.

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An excused absence

Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came after Sanderson's Zoom call with Ottawa media members.

On Tuesday morning, the Herald reported that Sanderson had to email one of his professors and ask for an excused absence, because he had a biology class scheduled around the time of the draft and his media obligations.

That unique storyline seemed to be a hit. Sanderson was asked twice on the call about what it was like to email a teacher to ask for an excused absence to go in the top-five of the NHL Draft.

"I had a class today on campus at North Dakota and it was right around the time I had to be at the rink for the draft and stuff -- all the videos -- so I had to talk to my teacher," Sanderson said. "She was really nice about it and excused me from class."

Sanderson was asked again about it.

"She understood the circumstances," Sanderson said. "She knows it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think she was pretty excited for me. Obviously, I'll be in class next week and I'll talk to her."

Then, the Zoom call ended.

Sanderson took off his microphone and looked up at the UND sports information staff with a very concerned look on his face.

"Is it pretty bad that I missed class today?" he asked.

Early bedtime?

UND players gathered in the south lounge to watch the draft on the big screen.

They were quite audible in two moments.

First of all, they roared when Ottawa picked Sanderson at No. 5 overall.

"That's something I'll never forget, just hearing them yell," Sanderson said. "I went to go see them after and I gave them all hugs. That's something I'll always remember."

Then, as the NBC analysts were breaking down Sanderson's game, one was conveying his dedication to hockey and mentioned that he goes to bed at 9:30 p.m. every night.

That prompted a rousing laugh from his teammates from up above.

We're still not sure whether that laugh was because it's true or because it's not.

Seated at the suite level at Ralph Engelstad Arena, incoming UND defenseman Jake Sanderson answers questions posed by international media via a Zoom conference call after being selected fifth by the Ottawa Senators during Tuesday's portion of the NHL draft. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
Seated at the suite level at Ralph Engelstad Arena, incoming UND defenseman Jake Sanderson answers questions posed by international media via a Zoom conference call after being selected fifth by the Ottawa Senators during Tuesday's portion of the NHL draft. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

The NoDak Sens

Sanderson is already very familiar with members of the Ottawa Senators organization.

Christian Wolanin, who played at UND from 2015-18, is currently with the Senators. Wolanin has been working out in Ralph Engelstad Arena since July and has frequently crossed paths with Sanderson.

"He's a UND alum and he's been around here so I've talked to him a little bit," Sanderson said.

Sanderson also has gotten to know junior defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker (No. 26 overall, 2018) and sophomore forward Shane Pinto (No. 32 overall, 2019).

"Jacob is an unreal role model for me," Sanderson said. "He's just so professional with how he carries himself around the rink and he's definitely someone I look up to."

Sanderson has been around Pinto a lot, too.

"I was in quarantine with Shane," Sanderson said without revealing whether he had Covid-19 or if he was just deemed a close contact. "So, I got to know him pretty well."

UND's Shane Pinto (left), Jake Sanderson (center) and Jacob Bernard-Docker have all been picked by the Ottawa Senators in the top 32. Submitted photo.
UND's Shane Pinto (left), Jake Sanderson (center) and Jacob Bernard-Docker have all been picked by the Ottawa Senators in the top 32. Submitted photo.

What to do with the hats?

The NHL sent hats for all 31 teams to potential first-round picks.

Both Sanderson and Tyler Kleven received the box of hats.

Sanderson had them organized behind the suite seats and out of the view of the cameras. He put them in order of the picks, so it would be easy to grab one once he goes. His older brother, Ben, ended up grabbing the Senators hat and giving it to Jake after the pick was announced.

So, what will he do with the other 30?

Sanderson's father, Geoff, left The Ralph late Tuesday carrying the large box of the other hats. Maybe that's fitting. Geoff has good use for seven of them having played for the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers during his lengthy NHL career.

The media contingent

NHL Drafts can be media circuses with writers and broadcasters present from all of the NHL team markets.

While the media aspect was different, there was still a double-digit media contingent at The Ralph.

In addition to myself, the Herald sent photographer Nick Nelson. Midco Sports Network had Alex Heinert, Marty Mueller and Jeremy Klein on hand. WDAY-TV sent Taylor Budge from Fargo. KVRR-TV in Fargo sent Kathryn Gallo. UND's media team included Mitch Wigness, Cassie Niles, Alec Johnson and photographer Russ Hons. Ralph Engelstad Arena had David Folske helping with TV interviews. Beth Hoole from Valley News Live also jumped in on a Zoom call.

On top of that, Sanderson did a Zoom call with six members of the Ottawa media.

So, Sanderson did get a full experience of dealing with a hoard of media after he was picked.

Before leaving The Ralph, Sanderson thanked UND's staff for giving him such a memorable experience.

"They made it unreal," Sanderson said. "I was really looking forward to going to an actual draft and being in Montreal with my teammates, but having it at The Ralph, it felt like an actual draft to me. Just to be with my family, it was really special. Everybody at the rink and all the media people made it feel like an actual draft, so that was really special to me."

Freshman UND defenseman Jake Sanderson waits to answer questions via Zoom conference call after being selected fifth by the Ottawa Senators during Tuesday's first day of the NHL draft. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
Freshman UND defenseman Jake Sanderson waits to answer questions via Zoom conference call after being selected fifth by the Ottawa Senators during Tuesday's first day of the NHL draft. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

1. Toews, 2. Sanderson

Sanderson became the second-highest UND player drafted in program history, only behind Jonathan Toews.

Toews has gone on to captain the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups and win two Olympic gold medals.

"I don't really think about that," Sanderson said of being UND's second-highest pick all-time. "If you think about that, it can get to your head a little bit. I just put that to the side and be who I am and play the hockey that I play and just enjoy every day coming to the rink."

Just outside the locker room, UND has a draft board that lists every player that has been taken in the NHL Draft. Sanderson has examined it before.

"I've looked at it and I've seen Jacob's name as a first-rounder to Ottawa," Sanderson said. "Obviously, I'll be pumped to have my name right next to his there."

Sanderson also became the highest-drafted player or recruit in National Collegiate Hockey Conference history, surpassing Tyson Jost, who went No. 10 in 2016. The NCHC began in 2013.

Coaches in the house

All three of UND's full-time coaches -- head coach Brad Berry, associate head coach Dane Jackson and assistant coach Karl Goehring -- were in The Ralph for the draft. They had their own suite to sit in.

The coaching staff members walked over to Sanderson's suite after he was picked to congratulate him.

Berry said he wasn't surprised to see Sanderson go that high.

"When you're around people and you see the body of work they bring each and every day, it really doesn't surprise me seeing him go that high in the draft," Berry said. "He brings it on a daily basis. He is meticulous in what he does on a daily basis. It's a focus. He's a driven young man and we're very happy for him."

UND head hockey coach Brad Berry answers questions at Ralph Engelstad Arena after the announcement that freshman Fighting Hawks defenseman Jake Sanderson was picked fifth by the Ottawa Senators during Tuesday's NHL draft. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
UND head hockey coach Brad Berry answers questions at Ralph Engelstad Arena after the announcement that freshman Fighting Hawks defenseman Jake Sanderson was picked fifth by the Ottawa Senators during Tuesday's NHL draft. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

A tight window for Kleven

Day 2 of the draft begins at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday on NHL Network.

In order to accommodate for that, UND is moving its practice up a half hour to 9 a.m. They'll be off the ice around 10 a.m. and be ready for Day 2 by the time it begins.

And the Fighting Hawks will be hoping Kleven comes off the board quickly. Otherwise, he could have an extremely odd draft experience.

Kleven is scheduled to fly out to Michigan for the U.S. World Junior Championship camp in the early afternoon and will have to head to the airport before noon.

Where could Kleven possibly go? That's anybody's guess, but the Senators do have the second pick of the second round.

Here's the Herald's guide to who else may go on Day 2.