There is a certain sense of pride to be included in something that makes history, like winning a national championship or being a part of a historical rivalry. UND hockey alumnus Andy Kollar has checked off both boxes.
Kollar was a part of the 1999-2000 UND National Championship team, and while that was a memory he’ll never forget, he also recalls memories of playing the Minnesota Golden Gophers that still moves him to this day.
“The Sioux-Gopher rivalry to me is something that gives you goosebumps,” Kollar said. “As an athlete every game is suppose to be the same, same emotions same prep, but this one is the one where your blood starts pumping a bit faster. When the schedule was released it was the first series you look for.”
During Kollar’s time in the UND program, playing the Golden Gophers was guaranteed since both teams belonged to the WCHA, so the rivalry was hot all year around.
“You find out real quick from the older leaders that it’s a big deal. You find out it’s a town thing and it seems bigger than just a game,” Kollar said. “I remember my first year driving into the rink parking lot on a Tuesday and there was tents set up outside lined up at the doors and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I thought ‘I better play unreal if I get in.’”
Though Kollar admits that he spent a lot of time as a backup for Karl Goehring, when he did get the chance to start against the Gophers he felt like he could’ve been better.
“I finally got to start against the Gophers opening night of the new Ralph. Been waiting and working for this moment… and totally shit the bed. I let the whole city down (in my mind),” Kollar said. “Something I try not to talk about that much but still get questioned here and there.”
With the unfortunate result Kollar still looks on the bright side, the privilege to be there and be a part of the historic rivalry. Playing in both arenas and knowing that no matter where he went, the fans followed and they were loud and proud.
“The difference of home rink was incredible, I remember at home how loud it got in that rink. ‘Old Ralph’ deafening when welcome to the jungle came on,” Kollar said.
Along with the deafening cheers, UND fans partook in perhaps the most peculiar tradition in college hockey that Kollar to this day still cannot believe.
“No one told me about what happened when we scored the first goal,” Kollar said. “I was laughing and shocked the first time I saw all those dead gophers come flying into the ice. That right there showed me a lot of how the town looked forward to this game as well. Catching and storing gophers in your fridge for months.”
Recounting the final years as a “Fighting Sioux,” Kollar was appreciative of the time he spent with one of the most storied hockey programs in college history and playing the Gophers as a final send off.
“My last game as a Sioux was against the Gophers in Mariucci and my first start there against them,” Kollar said. “Another crazy atmosphere but didn’t hold a candle to the Ralph. I’m happy to say that even though that game and that year didn’t go as I wanted, that game was one of the best games I ever played in college and I’m very lucky to have been apart of the whole rivalry and honored to play a very small role in it.”
Allyson Bento is the sports editor for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]