Goal left on the ice

It wasn’t supposed to be the last game.

The sixth-tenths of a second that separated the UND men’s hockey team from it’s chance at playing for a national championship last season aren’t easily forgotten.

“There’s a sour taste in everyone’s mouth,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “But more importantly, we left a goal out there.”

After a season that ended in a dismal 2-1 loss against rival Minnesota with a last-second goal in the Frozen Four, the feelings that accompany defeat only motivate a North Dakota team that’s hungry for the same goal.

“That doesn’t have a direct effect on today, but there is a residual effect,” Hakstol said. “What I’ve seen in this group is a real steady focus and a group that has a goal in mind. But more importantly, I think they understand they have to work every day in order to make steps toward that goal.”

The work has already started as the skaters on the 2014-15 roster have challenges ahead of them, and the seven seniors know they have one last shot of raising a banner into the rafters of The Ralph.

One last chance. But relying on the experience of veteran players isn’t the mindset of a team that watched different heroes emerge after each game last season.

“They’ve got to do their part,” Hakstol said. “I think that’s a real key … We’re not going to have one or two or three people that carry this hockey team. Everybody is going to have a job to do.

“Everybody’s role, whether it’s small or large, will be very significant, and that’s what I want our seniors to do. I want them to do their job and I want them to convey that message on a daily basis that everybody is accountable for their own area and their own job.”

North Dakota was chosen as the preseason favorite in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and tabbed No. 2 in the first USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. Minnesota rose as the lone team above UND.

The polls may show favor for UND, but Hakstol knows it’s going to take enormous effort to fulfill those expectations.

“At the end of the day, now we can go and play,” Hakstol said. “We can prove what we are as a team and earn any accolades that there are out there. In this league, boy, you’re going to have to earn everything you get.”

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