Balancing accolades and expectations

UND  forward Brock Boeser received many awards this week. Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student. 

The UND men’s hockey team experienced a lot of success during the regular season but must stay grounded in the playoffs.

While March may be synonymous with basketball to many college sports fans. But in Grand Forks, March is all about the UND men’s hockey team and the ensuing playoff tournaments.

First up for the Fighting Hawks is the start of the NCHC Playoffs. Because the team had a stellar regular season, the Hawks were able to wrap up the top seed in the NCHC tournament.

Being the No. 1 seed has its perks such as playing the first playoff series at home against the lowest seeded team in the conference, in this case Colorado College.

The Tigers enter this weekend’s series, which is best of three games, with an overall record of 6-27-1 and are limping into the playoffs, losing nine straight games.

While Colorado College seems to be an easy draw, the playoffs are a new season and UND cannot take any team for granted.

The Fighting Hawks took care of business against the Tigers this year, but it was not always without difficulty.

CC was the only team this year to force a tie with UND at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The two teams each scored five goals a piece but UND needed a last minute goal from Rhett Gardner to even force overtime. UND would eventually win the shootout to take the extra points.

This time around, both players and coaches realize that no game this time of year can be taken lightly.

“Well I think basically, we strive for that 60 minute game and for the most part I think we have been doing that,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “But I go back to the NCHC and the parody within our league and again, you look from all eight teams, they are all very similar in nature. They have a lot of skill, they’re ultra competitive and there’s a fine line between winning and losing and again we gotta drill down on the details to have success.”

Recently, success has not been hard to come by for the Fighting Hawks.

As a team, the Hawks were able to claim the NCHC regular season championship and the Penrose Cup. A sweep of Western Michigan also moved the team to No. 2 in the national polls.

This week was also a highlight for individual players.

Brock Boeser raked in the awards this week. The freshman was selected as the NCHC Player of the Week and to the NCHC All-Rookie Team and the All-NCHC First Team to go along with leading the conference in                                 goal scoring with 25.

Fellow lineman Drake Caggiula joined Boeser on the All-NCHC First Team, while goalie Cam Johnson and defenseman Troy Stetcher were selected to the All-NCHC Second Team. Forward Nick Schmaltz and defenseman Paul LaDue rounded out the awards with All-Conference Honorable Mention.

While all the accolades are a positive thing, a challenge for UND will be able to stay grounded this weekend.

If the Hawks are able to beat Colorado College this weekend, the team will advance to the Frozen-Faceoff on March 18-19 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Regardless of the team’s performance in the NCHC tournament, the team will participate in the NCAA hockey tournament on April 7 in Tampa, Fla.

Alex Stadnik is the sports editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]