Minneapolis, MN – The University of North Dakota Hockey team came into the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s Frozen Faceoff third place game with their NCAA playoffs hopes on life support. First, they needed to win the third place game, if they had any chance of getting an at large NCAA bid. UND also needed help to make the NCAA tourney.
UND took care of their own end of the deal by shutting out the Western Michigan Broncos 5-0.
Leading the way for UND, was sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg and junior forward Connor Gaarder. Gothberg was rock solid between the pipes, stopping 25-of-25 shots, to earn his third shutout of the season. That was also the second time Gothberg had shutout Broncos in the last month.
A day after being shut out by the Miami RedHawks, UND came out of the gates with a lot of energy. UND was a buzz saw, they came out and pushed the pace. Gaarder scored the first of his two goals at the 01:42 mark of the first period. Gaarder would score his second marker 10:00 minutes later. With his two goals, Gaarder pushed his season total to seven goals, a career high for the junior from Edina, Minnesota.
UND would never let Western Michigan into the game.
After scoring goals in bunches during the month of February, UND has had trouble scoring goals in the month of March. Today, UND would erupt for five goals.
UND head coach Dave Hakstol reflected on his team’s win today and the situation that his team was in.
“We fought hard for our 23rd win of the year today,” Hakstol said. “That puts us in a situation where although we don’t control our destiny, we gave ourselves a chance. We did what we had to do today. We played a good hockey game. It’s going to be a long three, four hours, sitting, waiting and watching.”
Hakstol continued. “Waking up on November the 30th, with five wins, as a staff, I couldn’t be prouder of this group. The type of team they have become. Working hard continuing to build and grow. This win gives us a chance to wake up tomorrow morning to prepare for a regional tourney. We will see where the cards fall.”
“I think the biggest thing after the game yesterday, we were kind of disappointed in our locker room,” assistant captain Stephane Pattyn. “We knew we had to win a game this weekend. We really wanted it to be that first one, then we’d have a chance at a championship tonight. Right after the game, we had to turn the page and make sure we won that one today. I think our team did a good job at doing that.”
WMU head coach Andy Murray was the only representative from his team to speak to the media after the game.
“They’re (UND) a quality group and a solid coaching staff, certainly deserving of the win today,” Murray said. “Our kids competed. Maybe it’s my Canadian background, but I have never been very good playing for third place. Not normally used to it.”
Western Michigan ends their season with (19-16-5) record. UND improves to (23-13-3) and with the Wisconsin Badgers winning the Big Ten Hockey Conference tournament, UND “should” make the NCAA tourney.