To go from being a few minutes away from advancing to the Frozen Four to getting beaten 4-1 by the final team to make the NCAA tournament field is heartbreaking. To wonder “what if?”—What if that goal wasn’t disallowed? What if those three shots didn’t hit the post but went in?—is maddening. To say goodbye to a wonderful group of seniors—Corban Knight, Danny Kristo, Andrew MacWilliam, Carter Rowney, Joe Gleason, and Tate Maris—is downright sad.
For the first time in ten years, UND did not win a trip to the Frozen Four, the Broadmoor Trophy, or the MacNaughton Cup.
Yet, despite that disappointment, there is much to be proud of. The team made the WCHA Final Five for the 11th consecutive season, which tied the league record set by Minnesota from 1999-2009. This season also marked UND’s 11th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, the longest active streak in the nation.
And between Oct. 6 and March 30, there were plenty of memorable moments. I’ve chosen my top five, presented here in chronological order.
UND faced an early 3-1 deficit after one period against Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 17. UND still trailed 3-2 until Mark MacMillan scored his first goal of the game at 5:53 of the third period.
The game went into overtime, where with time ticking down, Danny Kristo made a pass to MacMillan who scored his second goal of the night on a one timer with 34 seconds left in the extra period to give his team the win.
Highlights from the game:
With under a minute left in regulation at Colorado College on Dec. 1, UND faced a 2-1 deficit and a possible sweep by the Tigers for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
Then with 13.4 seconds remaining, Dillon Simpson scored to send the game into overtime.
It didn’t take long for UND to find the net in overtime, as Drake Caggiula scored 51 seconds into the extra period, his third goal of the weekend.
The first outdoor game in UND history will be memorable for many reasons.
After a 2 ½-hour delay due to poor ice conditions, the North Dakota faithful who took over TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha were treated to a dominating performance by the green and white. Jordan Schmaltz, Nick Mattson, and Mitch MacMillan each scored in the first ten minutes of the Feb. 9 game, which ended in a 5-2 victory over Nebraska Omaha. The team left the ice to a standing ovation and thundering applause.
And then there was, of course, the adventure that the team and fans faced to make it back to North Dakota, as Interstate 29 closed right in front of the team bus due to poor road conditions. The team was stranded in Sisseton, S.D., while the student bus was stranded in a Summit, S.D., gymnasium. Other fans were stuck in various South Dakota towns, doing everything from bowling to having rubber duck races down a hotel water slide to pass time.
Video of the fans saluting the team after the game:
With its streak of consecutive WCHA Final Five appearances on the line, UND needed a game three win over Michigan Tech on St. Patrick’s Day. And win they did, in a dominating fashion. Six different players scored to lead UND to a 6-0 win.
The large lead meant that senior walk-on goalie Tate Maris, who had never played a second of non-exhibition action, got to enter the game to a standing ovation with 4:02 remaining in the game. Maris made one save to finish his career with a perfect 1.000 save percentage and 0.00 goals against average.
Video of Maris entering the game:
After watching rival Minnesota make an early exit from the NCAA tournament earlier in the day on March 29, UND was a period away from meeting the same fate against Niagara. Enter the unlikeliest of goal scorers, Andrew MacWilliam, who scored only his fourth career goal to tie the game at one at 1:56 of the third period.
It didn’t take long for UND to strike again, as just 57 seconds later, Danny Kristo scored his 26th goal of the season to put his team ahead for good. UND advanced to the West Region finals, where the team… well, I won’t go there.
UND had some great moments with a very special group of players. Best wishes to Knight, Kristo, MacWilliam, Rowney, Gleason, and Maris in their future endeavors.
And for the fans, it’s now a long 186-day wait until the next season and the memories that will come with it.