Conventional wisdom was that the University of North Dakota wasn't going to be a huge factor in college hockey this season. UND was fielding a young team with only three seniors.
Plus, things didn't work out with a couple of promising freshman: J.T. Miller ended up signing a pro contract with the Rangers and Rocco Grimaldi blew out his knee four games into the season.
Through all of the troubles, which included a slow start, UND ended up winning the WCHA's Final Five and getting the No. 1 seed in the West Regional before its season came to an end against the Gophers on Sunday at the X.
"It was a hell of a ride," coach Dave Hakstol told the Grand Forks Herald's Tom Miller.
Also in that article, UND forward (and Eden Prairie grad) Danny Kristo said: “I don’t think anyone thought we’d go far except for the guys in this room. That made this team so close."
For many, the team's dramatic season was a secondary story to the ongoing controversy over North Dakota's logo-and-nickname issue, which took away attention from the overachievers.
It can be interesting to see how players who are loathed in one town are cherished in another. In North Dakota's case, that would be defenseman Ben Blood, the senior from Plymouth and Shattuck-St. Mary's. For those unfamiliar with college hockey, consider Blood to be something of an A.J. Pierzynski-to-Twins-fans figure. Blood was the player who went after the U's Kyle Rau during the handshake line at North Dakota in January, a move that cost him the alternate captain's "A" from his sweater.
After Sunday's loss, Blood was being heralded as one of the three seniors on the roster -- along with captain Mario Lamoureux and backup goalie Brad Eidsness -- who were largely responsible for North Dakota's surprising success.
“They are just tremendous people,” UND coach Dave Hakstol told the Herald. “That’s where it starts. Everyone evaluates the product of their play on the ice. I evaluate the people. You’ve got three high-quality individuals there."
Gophers fans are celebrating a trip to the Frozen Four, and breathing a sigh of relief that yet another season didn't go bad. In North Dakota, most fans aren't complaining, either.
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