Our opinion: Fight on Sioux

Anything can happen when it's "one and done." Bad luck has knocked more than a few great hockey teams out of past Frozen Fours, including the Fighting Sioux.

Anything can happen when it's "one and done." Bad luck has knocked more than a few great hockey teams out of past Frozen Fours, including the Fighting Sioux.

But what a spectacular job Coach Dave Hakstol and his team have done this year of stacking the odds in their favor. Whatever happens this week, the team's history to this point has been an inspiring story of focus, drive and dedication -- one that any leadership school could study, maybe even the U.S. Army's own at West Point.

Start with the coaching staff's careful recruiting over the years. Even casual fans can't help but notice the team's depth, the power it shows no matter who's on the ice. That started years ago when Hakstol and his staff tracked the would-be recruits and started penciling them in to different slots, thinking ahead two, three and four years down the road.

The result this year is a perfect storm of hockey skill: "an experienced lineup complete with 16 NHL draft picks," one that "can generate scoring from all four lines and have arguably the deepest defensive corps in the conference, if not the nation," a University of Wisconsin sportswriter wrote as far back as November.

"You said it, it's basically their depth," UW head coach Mike Eaves agreed at the time.


"They are an upperclassmen team with some good depth, and they have the experience that can help them get to a high level."

But there's much more to this team than that. On Saturday, The New York Times profiled Hobey Baker Award finalist Matt Frattin. Frattin, as Herald readers know, clawed his way back to the game's upper reaches after being kicked off the team in disgrace.

In the story, Hakstol described Frattin's remarkable turnaround this way: "Talent doesn't take you to an elite level. Focus, an absolute driven mentality, along with talent, take you to an elite level. That's what Matt has been since he came back."

Of course, that "absolute driven mentality" is exactly what the team has shown, too. And that's the element that's most worth a leadership case study.

Sioux fans know the particulars: Even after winning the honors, the team members didn't touch the MacNaughton or Broadmoor trophies. They didn't celebrate winning the Midwest Regional or the Final Five. They barely pause to acknowledge their teammates' winning individual honors, so focused is everyone on the Frozen Four.

Those choices look inevitable only in hindsight. In fact, they resulted from smart decisions by coaches and captains, leaders who knew where the team had to be and how to make every player get there.

One more quote, this one from sports columnist Ryan Lambert. It describes the on-ice effects of that focus:

In last week's game against Denver, Sioux fans will recall, a Denver player tied the score with just 0.2 seconds left on the first-period clock.


"Prior to that, the Sioux had kind of lazily pushed their way through the first period," Lambert wrote.

"But what Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said during the intermission, after what must have been seen as an unforgivable lapse in so-called compete level, clearly put a scare into his club.

"They came out in the second period flying, hitting everything that moved, and exhibiting the lethal touch around the net that has become the hallmark of the greatest squads to ever pull on North Dakota sweaters."

North Dakota won, 6-1.

It's a team for the ages. Best of luck to them in St. Paul, where there's a very good chance that two more teams will yield before the Fighting Sioux's relentless drive.

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