The North Dakota/Minnesota Hockey Rivalry: A Trip Down Memory Lane

After sorting through and reading hundreds of comments about the North Dakota/Minnesota hockey rivalry from fans on both sides, several memories rise to the top.

From the Minnesota side of things, here are the top three:

#3: Neal Broten’s Diving Game-Winning Goal To Win The National Championship (March 24, 1979)

@Ironrane7 (X-Twitter): Neal Broten’s game-winning goal in the 1979 Championship game.

#2: Blake Wheeler’s Sprawling Overtime Winner In The WCHA Final Five Title Game (March 17, 2007)

@hockeybias (X-Twitter): Blake Wheeler’s OT “Jai Alai” winner in the 2007 WCHA Final Five Championship at the X was moderately superb. As was Neal Broten’s game-winner in the 1979 National Championship!

@FollowThePuck (X-Twitter): Blake Wheeler’s diving game-winning goal was iconic.

@RuggersJohn (X-Twitter): Crazy winning goal, and I was there with my dad for our annual Final Five series to watch our Gophers!

@Hockeytherapy13 (X-Twitter): Blake Wheeler’s diving goal in 2007 at the Final Five, then a week later Chris Porter scores in overtime to end the Gophers’ season and send UND to the Frozen Four.

#1: Justin Holl’s Shorthanded Goal With 0.6 Seconds Remaining In The NCAA Frozen Four Semifinals (April 10, 2014)

Chuck Carlson (Facebook): I know you want the “favorite”, typically a good memory. I will give you most memorable, but in a negative way. In Washington, D.C., watching the Frozen Four at a sports bar. Game tied 1-1, less than ten seconds to play. Gophers win the faceoff and score the winning goal with 0.6 seconds to play. Made me sick to my stomach with all the chances we had to win this game.

@TrentPilger (X-Twitter): Holl’s goal and destroying them on opening night of the new Ralph. (Editor’s note: the score was 7-5.)

Kim Ostlie (Facebook): In Philadelphia for the Frozen Four… Gophers beat us with like .6 seconds left. Championship game is Gophers vs. Union. We get U tattoos for Union to win! Gopher fan asks me, “You aren’t cheering for us?” Me: “No, we hate you guys.” And Union wins!!! Yay!!

Of course, given the green tint of my collective audiences on, Facebook, and X-Twitter, many more memories came flooding in from the North Dakota side of things…

First, some Honorable Mentions:

Many, many people remember deceased gophers being thrown on the ice, and even live gophers (or chickens!) from time to time…

Dave McSparron (Facebook): The guy at the “Old Ralph” throwing a dead gopher onto the ice and reeling it back on a Pocket Fisherman. Refs had a tough time catching the speedy rodent!

@mgwirtz (X-Twitter): When I was at UND from 1978-1980, I was a member of the Farce. We sat next to the opponent’s penalty box and wore the yellow Radio Shack construction hats with a red siren strobe on top. We would turn the light on when we scored a goal. One guy had dead frozen gophers.

Todd Jacobson (Facebook): The old Ralph, when it was still The Winter Sports Center. Someone threw a live chicken on the ice. I remember Denny Gunderson (Zamboni driver extraordinaire) chasing it around in his work boots, then shoveling up the droppings.

Physicality is at the top of the list for some hockey fans…

Spehar Visits The UND Bench (March 19, 1999)

Blackheart ( I kinda liked it when Aaron Schneekloth put Dave Spehar into the North Dakota bench during the 1999 Final Five…

Handshake Line Brawl (February 2, 2008)

Philip Nelson (Facebook): Joe Finley and Blake Wheeler rivalry. These giants hated each other after years of youth hockey in the Twin Cities.

@FightingCheese (X-Twitter): Joe Finley pulling the Gopher out of the handshake line for a gentleman’s talk…

Eric Burgess (Facebook): The brawl during the handshake after a Saturday tie in Minnesota. The night before, Evan Trupp had a dazzling overtime goal to win it for the Sioux. (Editor’s note: Trupp’s goal will make our Top Ten List below!)

Wehrs Corner (March 14, 2010 and January 14, 2011)

Dru Jordheim (Facebook): Matt Frattin hit on Kevin Wehrs, and then the next year Brad Malone smoking him in the exact same spot!

Blackheart ( Kevin Wehrs gets blown up TWICE in the same spot at Ralph Engelstad Arena…once by Frattin and once by Malone.

Mike Obach (Facebook): Malone’s hit at the end of the 2nd and the ensuing scrum. At the start of the 3rd, it took the announcer like 90 seconds just to read off all the penalties. Crazy atmosphere in the stands.

Pat Sweeney (Television Play-By-Play): Kevin Wehrs will never go down in that corner again.”

Our Top Ten List

#10: Knocking The Gophers Out Of The NCAA Frozen Four (April 7, 2005)

@RyanStieg (X-Twitter): Robbie Bina’s goal at 3MAM in 2007 and UND beating Minnesota at the Frozen Four in 2005 are probably my most favorite memories.

Blackheart ( Knocking them out of the Frozen Four in 2005 in Columbus (Ohio). Travis Zajac and Erik Fabian with two goals each in the 4-2 North Dakota victory.

#9: Peter Armbrust’s Overtime Goal To Win The WCHA Final Five Championship (March 15, 1997)

@JD-DLB (X-Twitter): Peter Armbrust catching a bouncing pass and scoring the game-winner at the (St. Paul) Civic Center.

And another note about this game to put it in historical context…

farce poobah (SiouxSports): Not all of my most memorable Sioux-Gopher games are wins.

November 9, 1996. Sioux 6, Gophers 10. A defining characteristic of Dean Blais‘ teams was “never say die”; they gave a full 60 minutes effort every night. On this night, we got 3 late goals to chop a 10-3 deficit to 10-6. Later on, those “meaningless” goals got UND the #1 seed in WCHA playoffs, after we shared the conference title with the Gophers (season series split 2-2, but total goals were like 20-19). That got us last change in the WCHA Final Five title game, which Peter Armbrust won in OT. And led to a higher seed in the NCAA regionals. We only had to beat Cornell, whereas the Gophers got stuck playing two games, including a loss to #1 Michigan in Michigan. And eventually, a very memorable NCAA title in Milwaukee. But it all starts with “never say die”.

#8: The Stick Toss Game (October 22, 2022)

Michael Bingham (Facebook): How about just last year?! was there! Rhett Pitlick throws his stick in the crowd after going up 2-0. Gets a ten-minute penalty. We score three power play goals! Mark Senden had two on the night including the game-winner in overtime! One of the best games I’ve seen him play. Great response by the boys from the previous game.

@Fnhawksforever (X-Twitter): My first time making the trip to Minneapolis for a series, being one section over from the hero who threw Pitlick’s stick back and watching a nice comeback by UND.

#7: A Five-Goal Third Period Comeback On Home Ice (February 15, 1998)

Siouxperfan7 ( Down 3-0 to start the third period. UND scores five goals to complete the sweep of Minnesota.

Tony Trimarco (Facebook): Was at this game in the old Ralph. Most exciting game ever!

Walsh Hall ( Was a college student at the time. From standing in line for hours with a bunch of friends, snowballs at the bus, etc. The crowd during the timeout in the 3rd was crazy. Instead of settling things down, it cranked the crowd up several notches.

petey23 ( One of my favorite games I have attended and favorite period of hockey. I turned to my Gopher fan buddy when we scored and said UND is going to win this. Just felt the buzz. After the second goal he wanted to leave. I did feel bad for Steve DeBus (Minnesota goaltender) a little bit though because I think his wife and kids were at the game.

#6: The First Las Vegas Game (Orleans Arena, October 27, 2018)

Donald Frye (Facebook): Vegas game with almost no Minnesota fans at the game!

@claybow34 (X-Twitter): Sioux/Gopher game in Vegas. 98% green in the stands. Vegas had the Sioux something like +180 to start as they were unranked and the Golden Chokers were top-10. Enough money rolled in that the line moved to -140ish. The Orleans Casino, where the game was held, took a bath.

#5: Evan Trupp’s Overtime Winner In Midair At Mariucci (February 1, 2008)

Blackheart ( Evan Trupp with a spectacular goal to beat Minny at Mariucci.

Brucesky02 ( This was my favorite memory – it was my first game at Mariucci. My friend and I were in the SRO up at the rail in the offensive zone for the goal. We danced around the concourse as the Minny fans filed out.

#4: The Thanksgiving Beatdown (November 28, 2019)

Topher Casanova (Facebook): I enjoyed the Vegas game in 2018 and the Thanksgiving Slaughter of 2019 (a 9-3 UND victory).

@DavidTrnka3 (X-Twitter): 6-3 comeback in the 2012 Final Five is always good. But watching UND steamroll the Gophs 9-3 on Thanksgiving weekend at the Ucci in 2019 was pretty fun, too.

Ami Paulson Peruzzo (Facebook): Historic beatdown at Mariucci over a Thanksgiving weekend. Again, barely any Gopher fans in their own arena.

#3: Chris Porter’s Overtime Wraparound Winner In The NCAA Regional Final (March 25, 2007)

Dan Smith (Facebook): 2007 West Regional Championship at the Pepsi Center. Gophers score first and I had to take it from a bunch of Gopher fans sitting to my left. We win in overtime on the Porter wraparound, and before I could give it back to the Gopher fans to my left they were gone.

@cosmoops (X-Twitter): I was about two days post-surgery for the Chris Porter overtime goal in ’07, and I yelled and jumped around so much I almost had to go in again.

#2: Robbie Bina’s Shorthanded Bomb (January 26, 2007)

@DStarmanHockey (X-Twitter): We called a game back in the CSTV days when I think Robbie Bina scored a 190-foot shorthanded goal against I believe Jeff Frazee. Poor Fraz; kid was a hell of a goalie who I got to work with later on in the USAH goalie development program.

Dawn Kosobud Johnson (Facebook): Bina’s goal – my brother and I were there, and the noise was incredible!

Katelyn Bohan (Facebook): Robbie Bina’s LONG shot for a goal in 2007. Instant classic.

#1: The Timeout Game (March 16, 2012)

Sweethockey ( The “timeout” game was my favorite, getting ribbed by Gopher fans while the team was getting beat. The timeout, what an amazing change in the team’s play and the Gopher fans’ demeanor. It was great!!

@helge14 (X-Twitter): Favorite memory is the infamous timeout game at the X. Being there in person was like no other.

David Adresen (Facebook): We had Gopher fans behind us that laughed and said, “no one comes back from a 3-0 deficit.” They ended up leaving before the game was over.

The Sicatoka ( I was in a Fargo eatery and there was some maroon and some ‘SU yellow in the room and they were yuckin’ it up good toward my table and guests. Not so much an hour later.

@CHSEnviroSci (X-Twitter): The March 16, 2012 “Time Out” game. Gophers up three, timeout, Sioux score six in a row. This was the first full day after my daughter was born, and I was tasked to stay silent. I took her on a baby warmer lap around the maternity ward every time UND scored. both of us in Sioux jerseys.

Robb Ramsay (Facebook): In St. Paul at the Frozen Four, we were losing 0-3 and came back and we won 6-3. I was so excited I went into a-fib and had to be checked into United Hospital.

And a few more nuggets to complete our trip down memory lane..

Dustin ( A series of games that stand out to me happened in 2009. In January, the Gophers come to the Ralph highly ranked (maybe top 3?) and I believe the Sioux were unranked and about to start one of their famous second-half turnarounds under Hakstol. Sioux put on a clinic and unleash on ’em: 6-3 Friday and 6-1 Saturday. Tons of scrums in the Saturday game. Then the next season, in October 2009, in the Friday night game, the Sioux won 4-0 in similar style and the crowd is chanting “Just like last year.”

siouxforce19 (, replying to the comment above): I think they were ranked #1 at that point that year. UND was probably barely above .500. That series led to an absolute meltdown by Minnesota the rest of the season and they missed the NCAAs.

farce poobah ( December 3, 1982. The Best Birthday Present Ever.

I’ve seen over 90 Sioux-Gopher games in person over the last many years, but my favorite? A birthday present.

At the creaky old Mariucci, seats in the front of the balcony were amazing, for two reasons: the view of the ice, obviously, but the swaying and rocking when the locals started jumping and bouncing made it a little scary, like a roller coaster is.

The game was also a roller coaster, tied at 4-4 late in the third. An old school brawl breaks out, and somehow the Sioux get called for two extra majors vs two minors to the Rodents. (Still can’t figure out why those calls were made, except to note that most of the officials in those days seemed to be former Gophers players (?). Anyway, its 3×3 for the final bit of regulation, then the Gophers will get three minutes of a 5×3 major power play into overtime. Basically, a must-score situation.

3×3 starts and Jon Casey makes an easy save off a long shot, and James Patrick pulls the puck off his pads, then carries the puck all the way down the ice, and fires a wrist shot past the Gopher goaltender for a 5-4 lead.

UND survives the 6×3 in the final minute (which prevents the 5×3 major PP in overtime) and wins 5-4.

SJHovey ( There is another series that is a personal favorite of mine. In 1995-96, Dean Blais was still trying to lead the program back to the top. That February, on the 2nd and 3rd, the #1-ranked Gophers visited the old arena. I traveled back to Grand Forks with three friends from Minnesota, two of whom were U of M alums and were diehard gopher fans. The other friend was just a casual sports fan with no rooting interest.

Minnesota was on a twenty-game unbeaten streak (19-0-1) and a twelve-game winning streak. Furthermore, they were on a three-game shutout streak.

That weekend was also one of record cold in Minnesota, with Tower, Minnesota setting the record at minus-60 on February 2nd. During the entire five-hour drive to Grand Forks, I had to endure an endless barrage of questions like, “will ND even score this weekend,” “will you generally be happy with one goal losses, if ND can manage them,” etc… Candidly, I didn’t say a lot in response because I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

We had planned to get in the car and drive back to the Twin Cities after the Saturday game.

Friday, North Dakota won 8-2, and it wasn’t that close. So much for the shutout streak. Saturday, Minnesota put up a better fight, but UND completed the sweep, 7-5.

We got in the car and started the drive. The fourth member of our group tried to engage our Minnesota friends who were sitting in the back seat, but nothing. Five hours of complete silence until we arrived home, which ended with “thanks for the ride.” It’s hard to imagine five hours of complete silence in a car with someone until you’ve done it, but it’s something to behold.

Classic. Every time someone mentions the Tower, Minnesota record temperature around those guys, I still get to rib them about that weekend.

Chad Noyes (Facebook): One of my favorite Sioux/Gopher memories is being on deployment and getting up at 3 a.m. to have a watch party and the Sioux getting the win! Made us feel like we were back at home. (Thank you for your service, Chad!)

Abe Winter (Facebook): My favorite memory wasn’t something on the ice or during a game. In 1979, I came from Bismarck to a Sioux-Gophers series and sat in the stands with my wife as fans. It was a cold, windy night and after the game we got out ahead of the crowd and headed for the parking lot in front of Engelstad Arena — a quick anticipated jaunt to The Red Pepper. But I heard an unfamiliar voice holler, “Hey Abe.” I turned around and it was Herb Brooks. That he remembered me made my day. He had snuck into town to watch, but when I asked if he’d be able to have breakfast, he politely said no because he had a 6 a.m. flight and wasn’t staying for Saturday’s game. And you know what happened that winter, some kind of “Miracle on Ice.”

@ZGalo35 (X-Twitter): As a Bulldog fan I always loved watching the games at the WCHA Final Five. I hated both teams so much, but was able to just watch good hockey and the atmosphere was always insane.

@dagies (X-Twitter): Sitting behind the goal in Mariucci with my buddy, Jim, many years ago. Two pucks go through my hands in the same period. The crowd “sieves” me.

@TheRube33 (XTwitter): There was a Sioux fan that ran with the @GopherPuckLive crew, road trips. Known as “The Sioux Fan” to opposing crowds. They were all confused on why we “let him in.” He was the exception to the rivalry. RIP Mike @5mnmjr @mikeflah

Point is, even with the rivalry, some fans rise above.

Well said.

And a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to this article.

For a complete preview of this weekend’s series at Ralph Engelstad Arena (October 20 and 21, 2023), please click here.

Enjoy the games!

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