The chants started in the second period, because by then, it was over.
First, it was "Penne Rosa!"
Then, it turned to "Back-to-back!"
Just in case the trophy they hoisted at the end of the night wasn't enough evidence that UND was the best team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference this regular season, the Fighting Hawks dismantled a likely NCAA tournament-bound Omaha team 7-1 on Saturday night in Ralph Engelstad Arena to prove that point.
They scored just 89 seconds into the game.
They buried three power-play goals on a team that killed off 50 straight at one point this season.
They chased an all-conference goalie candidate, NHL draft pick Isaiah Saville, by the end of the second period.
They made sure the UND football team wasn't the only squad on campus that scored a touchdown Saturday.
Then, they grabbed the Penrose Cup, which the team has affectionately called the 'Penne Rosa' since winning it for the first time in 2015, and put it right back in the same place it has called home for the past 12 months.
"I've been here a long time as a coach -- as an assistant and a head coach -- and there's been a lot of good times here, a lot of championships, but this ranks way up there as one of the highest we've captured here," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It's a special group of guys. I'm so proud of them. They deserved all the success of winning that Penrose here. Now, we move forward to the next one."
There was a pandemic-limited crowd of 2,514 in Ralph Engelstad Arena to witness the thrashing of another opponent in The Ralph, where the team is now 26-1 in its last 27 games, and surely thousands more at home watching on TV, which has been the primary way to follow UND during the strangest of college hockey seasons.
It began in the fan-less NCHC Pod in December. UND played 10 games in the span of 19 days in Omaha's Baxter Arena. Despite playing much of the Pod shorthanded because of players at the World Junior Championship and injuries, it came out of that event in first place in the league standings.
In the second half, as the league shifted to home sites, the Fighting Hawks began rolling, despite constant shifting of schedules due to COVID-19 outbreaks around the league.
"It was a lot of unexpected turns of events," said goalie Adam Scheel, who has allowed three goals in five home starts this season. "You see the first half of the season in the Pod. . . nothing like that has ever happened. You get games rescheduled, canceled, you just have to roll with the punches and overcome adversity. I think it's a big testament to our group how we did that all year long and how we're going to continue to do that."
It marks UND's fourth Penrose Cup in the eight-year history of the NCHC and its 19th overall regular-season conference title.
"Out of all the Penrose Cups, MacNaughton Cups," Berry said, "this has to rank as one of the toughest to win, just because of the Pod, going down to Omaha, playing 10 games in 19 nights, grinding away. . . then finally getting back and being patient for the weekends of healthy teams playing in the second half and just staying focused. I think for a lot of different reasons, this one ranks way up at the top because of all of the adversity of the last few months."
On Saturday, UND (17-4-1) came at Omaha (13-8-1) in waves.
Senior Collin Adams had two goals and three points. The NCHC's top two scorers, Shane Pinto and Jordan Kawaguchi, each had a goal and two points. Jasper Weatherby scored for the sixth-straight game and added an assist. Tyler Kleven and Brendan Budy had one goal each, while defensemen Jake Sanderson and Ethan Frisch tallied two assists.
"You could feel it in the morning at the meeting," Berry said. "We had a 10 a.m. meeting and got our day going with a team stretch. Some guys skated and we had a couple of meetings. There wasn't a lot of laughing or guys being loose. It was a pretty businessman-like attitude. You kind of knew we were going to get the best tonight from our guys.
"They were pretty focused knowing that, at the end of the night, there was a chance to hoist the Penrose here. I've got to hand it to our guys. They were all digging in and they were all focused and they were all excited about trying to add to the tradition and hang another banner."
That banner will be raised next season.
For now, UND will turn its attention toward its next goals.
It will finish out the regular season with a single game at Omaha next Friday, followed by a single home game against Omaha on March 5. UND defenseman Gabe Bast and Omaha forward Noah Prokop will be suspended for the next game after getting game disqualifications for fighting at the end of Saturday's contest, when the teams piled up a combined 98 penalty minutes.
After the regular season ends, it will be onto the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, the one crown UND has yet to win since the league formed in 2013-14. The Frozen Faceoff will be held in Ralph Engelstad Arena this year from March 12-16. The location should delight the Fighting Hawks, considering they are 6-0 at home this season and have outscored their opponents 28-5.
"I think it's a testament to our program," said Kawaguchi, who didn't play the final few shifts Saturday but remained on the bench and insisted he was fine. "Obviously, the boys battled all year. It's another box that we checked tonight."
Before presenting the Penrose Cup, NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton listed off all of the challenges of playing through the global coronavirus pandemic and credited UND for persevering through it.
"I think it was just our mentality all year," Kawaguchi said. "We were pretty. . . I don't want to say easygoing. . . but we accepted whatever was thrown our way. We were ready for anything. We knew this year was going to be unlike any other."
For that, UND will have at least one new banner hanging in The Ralph next season.
"It's really exciting," Scheel said. "Every year, coming into the year, it's one of our goals. It's not our only goal. We still have a lot more to go, but we're going to celebrate this one."