The University of North Dakota and the Denver Pioneers faced off in the third-place game of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s Frozen Faceoff, and neither team had anything to play for but pride. Both teams had lost by identical 4-2 scores in the semi-finals. Usually, this leads to a boring matchup where both teams are more concerned about getting injured than playing hockey.
It only seemed right that the game ended in a 1-1 tie. Ironically, that’s how the season series ended (2-2-1). It’s possible that the two teams could end up facing off in the NCAA’s Frozen Four.
Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery was asked if it was a fitting end to the series between the two schools.
“I don’t know if [the tie] is fitting,” Montgomery said. “It would have been more fitting if DU had won it.”
Montgomery’s response drew a chuckle from the media in attendance.
Pacific Rim Line versus the CBS Line
The Pioneers and Hawks both have prolific, high-scoring first lines with fancy names. The Pioneers have the Pacific Rim line. This line consists of Dylan Gambrell (15g-28a—43pts), Trevor Moore (9g-33a—42pts) and Danton Heinen (19g-23a—42pts).
Both of these forward lines are very exciting, dynamic lines that lift fans out of their seats with their play on the ice. It only seemed right that both forward lines accounted for the game’s only points.
To Play or Not to Play
When the NCHC was formed, the league decided to have a third place game. Currently, the NCHC is the only league that still has a third place game. Three seasons ago, UND needed the third place game to make the NCAA tourney. There’s been some question on whether the NCHC should play the third place game or not.
As of today, both teams were already in the NCAA tourney and really didn’t need to play in third place game. Both teams rested key players that were banged up.
For now, head coach Jim Montgomery is in favor of keeping the third place game.
“I think it’s important for us to build our brand and our league, and for us to be able to sell tickets first of all,” Montgomery said. “For us to be able to… a lot of people think there’s nothing in the consolation game. Our players are used to playing back-to-back games. So when we go to the NCAAs, we have to be in that kind of condition. If you get out of that rhythm it does affect your body physically.”
At times, it’s tough for the players to get up for a third place game. Especially, when both teams are already in the NCAA tourney.
“Regardless of the situation, you’ve just got to show up and play the game,” Caggiula said. “You don’t look it as it doesn’t mean anything. It has an effect on the Pairwise (Rankings) and it has an effect on your momentum heading into the national tournament. It doesn’t really matter what the circumstances is, you just go out there and play like it’s any other game.
“It shouldn’t affect you, but it’s tough. Like Coach Berry said, it’s a third place game and both teams are in the tournament. It’s a tough situation.”
“Whenever you put the North Dakota jersey on, you go to battle and our guys did tonight. It doesn’t matter if it’s the third place game or a first-place game,” Berry said. “Our guys put their hearts on the line tonight.”
Next weekend, the games all matter. Lose a game and your season is over. It’s that simple.
Target Center Needs Major Facelift
After college hockey realignment, the NCHC needed a place to hold their conference tournament. The Xcel Energy Center was already occupied by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and Big Ten Hockey Conference, so NCHC signed a five-year deal with the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Keep in mind, that deal was signed by the previous NCHC commissioner Jim Scherr.
From the minute, the NCHC signed the contract with the Target Center, ice conditions have been a concern. During the first two Frozen Faceoffs, the ice conditions and the boards were very questionable. This year, it appears that the ice was a little better than the previous two seasons.
Another main concern of the fans is the condition of the Target Center. The Target Center is a basketball-only facility that opened on October 13, 1990. The arena is in dire need of a major facelift. I have been to a lot of hockey arenas and stadiums over the years, and the Target Center needs a lot of work. The general consensus I got from talking to the fans was they don’t like the Target Center all that much and would rather attend a conference tourney at the Xcel Energy Center.
Maybe some NCHC fans are spoiled because they’re used to attending games in nice, modern venues. The Target Center has a higher rate of traffic in and out of it over the past 26 years. Renovations worth are set to begin in May and will be completed in the summer of 2017. That’s good news for the fans attending next season’s Frozen Faceoff.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.