In previous regionals, former Fargo Force players have had success in their old building
Cary Eades' former players have excelled in NCAA regionals in Scheels Arena.
Less than 30 minutes into Scheels Arena's first-ever NCAA regional, UND forward Bryn Chyzyk picked up the puck in the corner.
He fired a no-look shot from behind the end line toward the net. It hit something and bounced in behind Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig. You could chalk it up as a home-arena bounce for Chyzyk, who played junior hockey in Scheels Arena for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League.
The next night, it was Colten St. Clair who sent the puck into an empty net, his second point of the night, to clinch UND's trip to the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four. St. Clair also played junior hockey in Scheels Arena for the Fargo Force.
Two years later, Fargo again hosted a regional and Minnesota Duluth took advantage of the Fargo Force magic in Scheels Arena.
The Bulldogs scored six goals en route to winning the regional and earning a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four. Former Force players had 10 points on those six goals, including an overtime goal from defenseman Willie Raskob.
As the NCAA regional returns to Fargo's Scheels Arena again this weekend -- Michigan plays Minnesota Duluth at 3 p.m. Friday, while UND takes on American International at 8:30 p.m. Friday -- a spotlight turns to those who played junior hockey in the building.
Michigan has goalie Strauss Mann and forward Garrett Van Wyhe, who were part of Fargo's 2018 Clark Cup championship team.
UND has 2018 Clark Cup-winner Mark Senden, who is questionable with an arm injury, and defenseman Ethan Frisch.
American International has forwards Aaron Grounds and Hunter Johannes.
Minnesota Duluth has defenseman Matt Cairns.
They all could play pivotal roles as they try to bring their teams to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
Clutch players in Fargo
Mann, a 6-foot, 180-pound junior, is having a dominant year for the Wolverines. He has a .930 save percentage, a 1.89 goals-against average and is a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as college hockey's top goaltender.
"Strauss had a lot of success in our building," Fargo Force general manager Cary Eades said. "He's a super competitor. He reminds me of Phil Lamoureux. They're very similar. They're not 6-4, so they have to make it up by being tremendous athletes and having a tremendous understanding of the game. Their anticipation of the game has to be better than a 6-foot-5 goalie. Strauss has just won everywhere he's been."
Van Wyhe, Grounds and Senden are all similar style players.
"Those three fit the same mold," Eades said. "They're not guys that look to score, but they can add to the scoresheet. They're guys that can contribute in so many other ways with physicality, penalty killing, shot blocking. . . they're kind of over-achievers. They're really motivational to the bench. They're guys who fire the team up."
Senden was the captain of the Clark Cup-winning Force team. He also captained Wayzata High School to a Minnesota boys state hockey championship.
"He just has that inner drive," Eades said. "You have to be careful about setting limitations for him. He's never going to be a leading scorer of a team, but there are areas of his game that continue to grow. He just out-wills and outworks people. He does that every day in practice. He gets a little bit better every day.
"We knew what he was, because we saw him every day. We had to do a little convincing of the UND staff that didn't see him every day into knowing what they had as a player and a person before he got there. Now, they know."
Eades made a trade to get Frisch during the 2018-19 season and played the right-hander on the left side because the Force were heavy on right-handers.
"He was a guy we always wanted," Eades said. "We watched him growing up. I know he was Minnesota bantam player of the year. We were able to acquire him from Green Bay during a playoff run one of those years. He's just so smart and steady. He does the simple play. He's reliable. You can't have enough of that on a hockey team.
"He probably said three words in the two months he was here. He lets his play do the talking."