Sweep moves UND closer to next goal

Men’s hockey team honors seniors, clinches home ice for playoffs and at least a share of NCHC Penrose Cup

UND seniors Stephane Pattyn and Mark MacMillan smile while watching the UND men’s hockey senior tribute video at the conclusion of the game Saturday night. Photo by Nicholas Nelson/The Dakota Student.

Mark MacMillan was on the ice during a North Dakota 5-on-3 disadvantage. He took a St. Cloud shot hard to the leg to avoid a potential chance for the Huskies to clinch a goal — the crowd continued to roar.

Those two minutes set the tone for the rest of the game.

MacMillan went down the tunnel following the play, not returning until his teammates helped him onto the ice after the UND men’s hockey team defeated the Huskies on Saturday night.

They stood together near the bench, watching a video tribute to their class during the team’s last regular season home game. After the video, the seven seniors skated around the rink saluting fans, MacMillan unable to walk without the help of his teammates due to the injury he sustained during the first period.

“That’s a huge part of the game with those guys laying it on the line and everybody that was on the ice during that,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s an awful big part of the game, and those guys, probably in that two-minute span, showed what heart and character are all about.”

The crowd knew how big that penalty kill was, too.

The arena was loud — louder than it’s been in a while — and the players fed off the energy of loyal fans in the stands.

“That was awesome,” UND senior captain Stephane Pattyn said. “Our fans are the best. I say it every day, and that’s just obviously how hockey smart they are, how much they understand the circumstance and how much they understand how big of a kill that was, and how much guys sacrificed in that penalty alone.”

Perhaps what energized North Dakota earliest was its reaction to seeing black jerseys hanging in the locker room before the game. The “Business Suits” that UND has worn a total of three times this season were what North Dakota would wear in its last regular season home game.

“Everyone tells you when you come in you’ve got to win in black,” Pattyn said. “There’s no ifs ands or buts about it, so it was just one of the biggest things. We’ve worn them for three years now, and every time we put them on, there’s just that extra little jump that it gives you.”

It was the first time UND wore them at home in five years. The idea came about a month or two ago, and the tradition behind the sweaters led to high expectations.

“It was awesome,” Mattson said. “Not like we needed much extra motivation tonight, but I wish everybody could have seen the look on everyone’s face when we walked into the locker room and saw that. It was just electric the whole time before the game and we almost knew we were going to win because of how excited we were.”

That jump eventually led to a 3-1 victory Saturday following a 3-2 win over the Huskies. With the sweep, North Dakota clinched home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals and at least a share of the Penrose Cup pending the outcome of next week’s Miami series.

North Dakota’s unbeaten streak extended to seven games, and the team kept its unbeaten Saturdays this season alive.

The seniors watched their four years fade by on the screen after the game.

As they slowly skated around the rink, fans saluted them and chanted “Sioux Forever.” This senior class was the last to a Fighting Sioux logo on their jerseys during their freshman season.

They’ll still have playoffs on their home rink, and after that, they’re planning to continue on the road to Boston.

“It’s kind of four years flying through your eyes,” Pattyn said. “I love every one of those seniors and I love everyone on this team. It’s sad to see that it’s our last regular season series in this rink, but we know that we have a lot of hockey left and we know that we have the team to do it.”

The bittersweet feeling hasn’t quite sunk in yet for Mattson, but going through the experience with this class is easy to sum up.

“It’s going to take a while to really process it,” Mattson said. “But it’s just an unbelievable feeling, unbelievable experience. And I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be able to be here for four years, that’s for sure.”

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