Here’s my top ten list of games, stories, and memorable moments from this year’s North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey team. Follow the highlighted links to articles and video clips from this season.
Number 10: The Pact
This year started out with so much more promise because T.J. Oshie, Taylor Chorney, Joe Finley, and reiging Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan all turned down pro contracts and returned for their junior seasons. The four returning players combined for 43 goals and 81 assists this season, 36 percent of North Dakota’s scoring for the year. Check out Patrick C. Miller’s great story, “The NHL Can Wait“.
Number 9: The Hall of Fame Game
The defending national champion Michigan State Spartans came to Ralph Engelstad Arena in a much-anticipated matchup, and North Dakota came to play. The Sioux scored early and often, as six UND players scored in a 6-0 rout. Senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux looked sharp, turning aside all 23 shots he faced after struggling in exhibition action against Manitoba (2 goals on 2 shots). Lamoureux’s shutout would be one of four in his first five games of the season.
Number 8: The Fog
In a game called after two periods due to poor ice conditions, North Dakota and Boston College skated to a 0-0 tie at Conte Forum. If only the first period of the Frozen Four semifinal could have counted as the completion of this game from October 19th…
Number 7: The Donnybrook
After losing 4-0 on Friday night in Madison despite peppering Badger goaltender Shane Connelly with 43 shots, the Sioux came out firing in Saturday’s rematch. The key goal was Oshie’s game-winner with three seconds remaining in the first period, but this tilt will be remembered for the line brawl which came with four minutes remaining in the hockey game. Oh, and by the way, North Dakota won, 3-1.
Number 6: The Streak
After falling to St. Cloud State on January 4, 2008, North Dakota embarked on an 18-game unbeaten streak (15-0-3). This run put them in a position to capture a #1 seed in the national tournament (see #3, below). The Fighting Sioux lost only four games in 2008 after finishing 2007 at 9-7-1.
Number 5: The Trupper
February 1, 2008. North Dakota and Minnesota were locked in yet another epic battle. The teams traded first period goals and then went scoreless for the final 52 minutes of regulation. Enter Evan Trupp. The freshman from Anchorage, Alaska scored a spectacular game-winner at 2:23 of the overtime and North Dakota prevailed, 2-1. For the season, Trupp had five game-winners and his scoring punch was sorely missed down the stretch after he went out with a broken leg.
Number 4: The Comeback at the Ralph
Someone should tell the Denver Pioneers that second periods last twenty minutes, not just nineteen. The Pios held a comfortable 4-1 lead with but sixty seconds to go in the middle frame, but the Sioux would not go quietly into the locker room. UND scored not one but two late goals, drawing to within one on Andrew Kozek’s nice feed to Ryan Duncan. Kozek would add two goals in the third to complete his hat trick (check out the three goals here, here, and here) and the single greatest comeback ever witnessed at the new Ralph Engelstad Arena. Emotions from this game spilled over into Saturday’s contest, as the two teams scuffled after the second period. North Dakota would sweep the series and move into second place in the WCHA.
Number 3: The Battle for a #1 Seed
This is the reason that the WCHA teams play for third place at the Final Five (well, this AND money). North Dakota and Colorado College went head to head in a showdown that many felt would take place in the championship game. In any event, the Fighting Sioux put together their most complete performance in a month and locked up the top seed at the Midwest Regional in Madison, Wisconsin. North Dakota was blistering on the power play, scoring three times in seven chances against a very good Tiger penalty kill. Colorado College, meanwhile, limped into the West Regional after losing both games at the Final Five and fell to Michigan State 3-1 in its NCAA tournament opener.
Number 2: The Hobey Hopefuls
After Ryan Duncan won the Hobey Baker award last season (becoming just the second Sioux player to capture the elusive trophy), junior forward T.J. Oshie and senior goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux were named as two of the top ten finalists. Oshie didn’t have the statistical season of some of the other candidates (18 goals and 27 assists put him in twelfth place nationally), but his complete game resonated with the voters. Oshie also battled through injuries for much of the season.
Lamoureux put up staggering numbers, leading the nation in goals-against average, save percentage, and shutouts while playing the country’s most difficult schedule. In my opinion, JPL deserved to be in the Hobey Hat Trick. He was the best at his position, played the toughest competition, and brought his team to the Frozen Four.
Number 1: The Comeback at the Kohl Center
This will go down in the annals of Fighting Sioux hockey history as one of those “I remember where I was when….” games. North Dakota survived (yes, survived) the first two periods of hockey against the hometown Badgers in the Midwest Regional Final. UND was lucky to be down only 2-0 (thank you, Lamoureux, and your trusty sidekicks, the pipes). And then the captain did what captains do: they leave it all on the ice. Rylan Kaip netted just his eighth goal of the season at 3:33 of the third (and how perfect is that?), and 47 seconds later, Ryan Duncan took a brilliant pass from T.J. Oshie and tied the game at two. Andrew Kozek completed the UND comback at 1:47 of the overtime, and North Dakota was headed to Denver.
So there you have it – my top ten from 2007-08. It was a wild ride and one I wouldn’t have missed for anything.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions as well as items you feel should be included on this list.