UND advances to Frozen Four


Virg Foss

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UND advances to Frozen Four

Courtesy: Virg Foss, UNDsports.com

When ESPN TV analyst Dave Starman was previewing the NCAA West Region men's hockey championship game between North Dakota and fellow NCHC foe St. Cloud State tonight, he made mention of the fact this would be the sixth time the two teams have played.

He said that the teams know everything about each other.

"The game will be decided more on will than skill,'' Starman predicted.

How right he was.

Rooted on by a roaring sellout crowd of 5,307 at Scheels Arena, the largest crowd in the facility's history, UND battled its way to the NCAA Frozen Four for the second straight year and 21st time in school history, where it will seek its eighth NCAA title.

As predicted by Starman, it seemed like North Dakota willed itself to victory, beating the Huskies 4-1 to capture the region title and advance to the Frozen Four in Boston April 9-11.

UND surrendered a goal off a faceoff to St. Cloud's Jimmy Murray just 1:29 into the game before scoring the next four goals to advance to the Frozen Four for the seventh time in Dave Hakstol's 11 years as head coach.

In Boston, UND will enter as the No.1 seed and will face Northeast Region champion Boston University in the NCAA semifinals at a time to be determined on April 9.

UND's fourth win over the Huskies in the six meetings this season came in front of a racous, electric sellout crowd, mostly cheering wildly for home state team North Dakota.

Little-used senior defenseman Andrew Panzerella, inserted into the lineup to replace an ailing Keaton Thompson, provided the spark to ignite UND and its fans.

Panzarella, playing in just his ninth game this year, scored his first goal on a wrist shot from the blue line at 8:59 of the opening period to tie it at 1-1. It was just the second goal in 77 career games for Panzarella.

The timing of it was superb.

Drake Caggiula's second goal of the tournament at 6:49 of the second period put UND ahead to stay. He toe-dragged around a SCSU defenseman, and wristed a shot that bounced off SCSU goalie Charlie Lindgren, deflected off the back side of another SCSU player and rolled into the goal.

Sophomore center Luke Johnson banked a wrist shot from a sharp angle off the left shoulder of Lindgren and off the crossbar at 2:53 of the third period to give UND some room to breathe.

"A little bit luck on that one,'' Johnson said.

Colten St. Clair keyed the final victory celebration when his empty-net goal at 19:19.8 of the third period put the final 4-1 score on the scoreboard.

It was the third goal of the year for St. Clair, who like McIntyre, played his junior hockey with the Fargo Force in this same rink. UND, which outshot the Huskies 26-20, received 19 saves from McIntyre, who was named the West Region Most Outstanding Player, stopping 48 of the 50 shots he faced over the two games.

"They're an extremely hard-working hockey team and we ran into that tonight,'' St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko said. "We wish them the best representing our conference at the Frozen Four.''

Said Hakstol: "It was a great battle with St. Cloud State. Another game with a ton of pace. It comes down to making key plays at critical times of a hockey game.''

UND ? now 25-0-2 this season when leading after two periods ? wasn't about to let this one slip away, not with a roaring crowd supporting every play it made. And whether it was another standout performance in goal by McIntyre, a rare goal from Panzarella, or key players Johnson and Caggiula delivering big goals at critical times, the formula described by Hakstol worked for UND.

The early goal hardly rattled McIntyre, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the country.

"Just stop the next one,'' he said, of his mindset after allowing Murray's opening salvo. "Caught me off guard, caught the whole team off guard,'' McIntyre added.

Nobody expected Panzarella to come into the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous 15 games and nail the goal to start the rally.

Well, maybe Panzarella did.

"I actually told, kind of joking around, told (UND defenseman) Troy Stecher that I was going to score and do the sword through my belt,'' Panzarella said.

UND takes a 29-9-3 record to Boston. St. Cloud's slate closes at 20-19-1.

Game notes: McIntyre, Caggiula, Johnson and defenseman Troy Stecher were named to the all-tournament team, as were SCSU forward Jonny Brodzinski and defenseman Ethan Prow ... UND, after blocking 28 shots in Friday's 4-1 win over Quinnipiac in the region semifinals, blocked 21 St. Cloud shots tonight . . . Gage Ausmus had 4 blocks, with fellow defensemen Stecher and Paul LaDue adding 3 each . ..Brendan O'Donnell led UND in shots on goal with 6, followed by Caggiula and Bryn Chyzk with 3 each ... Caggiula, Michael Parks, Panzarella, Johnson and Jordan Schmaltz all finished plus-2 in the plus/minus rating . . . UND won the faceoff battle 38-28, led by Stephane Pattyn (6-0) and Connor Gaarder (7-4) . . . Besides the illness for Thompson, a number of other UND players were battling illness this weekend as well, but Hakstol declined to talk about that at the post-game press conference. He did say he generally doesn't like the week off between the regionals and the Frozen Four, but that the extra time will give UND time to get healthier.

Virg Foss covered UND hockey for the Grand Forks Herald for 35 seasons until his retirement. He's now in his 10th season of reporting on UND games exclusively for UNDsports.com.

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