Oshie succeeds in Sochi

Former UND skater T.J. Oshie posts victory, remembered back home

T.J. Oshie scores on Sergei Bobrovsky in an eight-round shootout against Team Russia last Saturday to send Team USA to the next round. Photo submitted.

The pressure was on.

With three of his five shots already finding the back of the net for Team USA in the shootout, T.J. Oshie eagerly skated toward the net to attempt to make a fourth — Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky remaining the only barrier to punching a ticket to the quarterfinals.

Bobrovsky extended an effort to block the UND alumnus’ shot, but the roaring crowd’s reaction to the goal signaled otherwise.

After 60 minutes of regulation prior to overtime that produced no winner, the Team USA vs. Team Russia matchup featuring the same teams and result as the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ game favored the Americans. Oshie’s repeated efforts were enough, perhaps with thoughts running through his head of Herb Brooks’ words to his players after the Norway game en route to Lake Placid nearly 34 years ago — “again.”

The eight-round shootout ended in a 3-2 victory for Team USA and sent it to the quarter finals, where it defeated the Czech Republic before it will face Team Canada on Friday in the semi finals in hopes of advancing to the gold medal game that will take place Sunday.

But before the curtain opened to Oshie’s performance on the world stage, the Warroad, Minn., native spent his time skating in front of loyal fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena during his three seasons at UND from 2005 to 2008.

His personality distinct and his talents apparent, Oshie left a memorable impression on his former coach.

“He’s one of the guys that did things, and you just laugh and shake your head,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “He could do so many things, like we saw today. Today’s a little different stage, but I think that’s just Oshie competing and having fun. And I think you saw that in him today.”

With 12 UND alumni and current students represented in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, the impact of current and former products of the university has been positive.

Oshie skates alongside former UND assistant captain Zach Parise, who wears the “C” for Team USA in Sochi, and will play against former UND linemate Jonathan Toews.

“I’m sure our guys really look up to those guys — T.J. and all the guys that are doing well,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, the representation we have at the Olympics with T.J. and Zach (Parise) and Jonathan (Toews) — there’s a lot of pride in that for our guys in the room.”

Support from home

Despite the thousands of miles between the sheet of ice on the coast of the Black Sea and the frozen North Dakota tundra, the UND men’s hockey team supported its representation in the Olympics.

That same day, UND continued its momentum from a 3-2 victory over Miami on Friday evening to a 9-2 blowout of the RedHawks on Saturday with some inspiration from Oshie.

“That was pretty early, but I woke up and watched the replay with some of my roommates,” junior defenseman Nick Mattson said. “That’s been the talk of the team the whole day and our coaches have kept tying in that message back in — just what a competitor he is and how he went out with a lot of guts and just let it all hang loose. That’s something I thought we carried into the game tonight.”

With one goal and three assists Saturday, sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi said his teammates took motivation from the showing.

“I don’t know how the Canadians felt about it,” Grimaldi said with a laugh. “It was incredible to watch that. You’re not going to see that — maybe ever again — so that was unbelievable.

“It was something coach was talking about a lot, saying he scored one, but he didn’t end it with one. He wanted more and more, and that’s kind of how we looked at this weekend. We got one, but that wasn’t enough. We wanted both wins and we went out there and we did that.”

Now rivals at perhaps the highest level of competition, Oshie and Toews’ days as linemates at UND isn’t the only factor the two share in common.

Oshie’s shootout last Saturday was reminiscent of Toews’ performance at the 2007 World Junior Championship semi-final game. He participated in an eight-round shootout where he claimed the shootout victory with three goals for Canada over the United States.

“It’s a similar stage,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, you can argue different stages of their lives, but they both were in high pressure situations for their countries, and both on large stages. And today, there’s no stage bigger or brighter than today’s.”

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].