NCAA Hockey: North Dakota Embraces Underdog Role

The UND coaching staff celebrates the Midwest Regional Win (Eric Classen /UND Athletics)
The UND coaching staff celebrates the Midwest Regional Win (Eric Classen /UND Athletics)

The final weekend of the college hockey season is almost upon us. A week from Thursday, Boston College, Minnesota, North Dakota and Union College, will take to the ice to play for a national championship. This year’s Frozen Four takes place at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

Four teams, four different paths

Union College (30-6-4) enters the Frozen Four on a roll. The Dutchmen are currently on a 15-game unbeaten streak (14-0-1). That’s the longest unbeaten streak in the nation. The Dutchmen won the ECAC’s regular season and playoff titles.

The University of North Dakota (25-13-3) qualified as the NCAA tournament as the last at-large bid. UND needed a win by the Wisconsin Badgers against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship, in order for them to qualify for the NCAA tourney.

Boston College Eagles (28-7-4) has been a juggernaut this season. The Eagles won the Hockey East regular season title.  They lost to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Hockey East Quarter Finals. Loss aside, the Eagles didn’t miss a beat, they rolled through the North East Regional beating Denver and UMass-Lowell.

The University of Minnesota (27-6-6) was one of the top teams in the nation all season long. The Gophers won the inaugural Big Ten Hockey Conference regular season championship.

Of the four teams in the Frozen Four, three are number one seeds. UND is the only four seed still playing in the NCAA tournament. Some have claimed that UND backed into the NCAA tournament. However, good teams don’t win 25 games and just back into for the Frozen Four.

2014 Midwest Regional Champs (Eric Classen/UND Athletics)
2014 Midwest Regional Champs (Eric Classen/UND Athletics)

Players discuss underdog role

Coming into the Frozen Four, UND is definitely the underdog. Some of the UND hockey gave their thoughts about being the underdog.

“Whatever role they give us we’re going to have to take (it),” sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re the underdog or the top seed, or whatever. As long as were in it, anything can happen.”

“I think in our locker room we obviously believe in ourselves,” junior forward Stephane Pattyn said. “We know what kind of team we have. We know what kind of character we have. Maybe to everyone else in the country we are the underdog. We understand that obviously. Just sneaking in, as some are putting it and upsetting two teams. Yeah, we will embrace it, for sure.”

UND's on-ice celebration after Connor Gaarders goal (Eric Classen /UND Athletics)
UND’s on-ice celebration after Connor Gaarder’s goal (Eric Classen /UND Athletics)

“I don’t know so much if we’re embracing it,” Mark MacMillan said. “Obviously, the other three teams going to Philly are all one seeds. All year we worked hard and prepared for this. This is our goal, all year, to get to Philly and win a national championship, and we’re that much closer now. I don’t know if so much if it’s an underdog.  It’s exciting to be there with the best teams in the country. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best teams in the country. So, it’s exciting to go there with three of the best teams in the country for sure”

No matter how their season ends, the UND hockey team went on quite a run to make the NCAA tournament. They’re not just there to enjoy the moment. The UND hockey team is on a mission to finish their season with a national title. They don’t really seem to care if they’re seen as being the underdog. UND is focused and ready to play, with one thing in mind.