Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
We've heard from a Gopher hockey fan/blogger. So what does the other side have to say? To find out, I contacted UND blogger Chad from A Tradition Of Excellence.
We've had some fun at the expense of UND and its fans this week. But there are only so many times you can shout GOON and WHIOUX. Well, that's a lie. There is actually no limit. But we try to run a semi-pro site here and while living the ELE mantra when it comes to UND isn't something I endorse, I did want to hear from the other side of the rivalry fence. So I turned to Chad (@SiouxTradition) from the UND blog A Tradition of Excellence. Chad was kind enough to answer some serious and not so serious questions from yours truly.
The Daily Gopher: I'll be honest, I haven't followed UND in great detail so far this year. I've kept up on the basics (where you stand in the WCHA, 6th in the Pairwise, etc), but if forced I couldn't tell you details like who is having a big year, who is struggling, etc. So if you had to sum up the season thus far and tell me what I should be looking for this weekend, what would you say?
Chad: In senior forwards Corban Knight and Danny Kristo, UND has a couple of guys who are really on a roll right now. Knight is riding a 17 game point streak that's seen him produce 29 points (8G, 21A) while Kristo has 16 points (8G, 8A) over his last 8. After his return from the World Juniors in Russia, Rocco Grimaldi had a bit of a down weekend last time out against CC, but I'd expect him to be back on track and be his usual speedy, dynamic self this weekend. The season as a whole has been a relative success to this point. The team got off to a slow and inconsistent start, but really started to get some things cleaned up as the holiday break arrived. They've been a little up & down coming out of the break, so it will be interesting to see how this weekend shakes out in terms of sustained, high-end performance.
The Daily Gopher: Is Andrew MacWilliam always headed to the penalty box (seriously, dude is racking up the sin bin time) because he's a goon or because that's where Hakstol hides his favorite junk food?
Chad: Big Mac does indeed spend his fair share of time in the penalty box. He plays a very rugged and physical brand of defense while dishing out a lot of big hits, and oftentimes those who play that type of edgy, hard-nosed hockey end up racking up the penalty minutes.
The Daily Gopher: If you were Dave Hakstol, what kind of gameplan would you bring with you to the U? Any weaknesses on the Gophers you are hoping UND can exploit?
Chad: I think an aggressive forecheck, making the Gopher defensemen make quick and sound decisions with the puck in their own end, will be something UND should try to establish. I expect that getting pucks and bodies to the net in concert will be a key component of the UND plan of attack. Getting a greasy goal or two usually spells success, and that's something North Dakota will try to accomplish. Also, it will be interesting to see if Mariucci's Olympic size rink affords UND's speedy forwards (Grimaldi, Kristo, Parks, etc.) a little bit more operating room to effectively get to the net.
The Daily Gopher: Any favorite Minnesota jokes or favorite targets you like to hit when making fun of the Gophers?
Chad: Not really, I'm not typically one who goes too overboard with the making fun angle. My biggest jab tends to be wearing my Holy Cross hockey tee whenever the two teams meet up. And what's funny about that is a couple of weeks ago the Crusaders visited Grand Forks for a non-conference series and my biggest fear was Holy Cross picking up a win, which, of course, would have meant the end of the line for the Crusader tee. My fears were not realized however, as UND picked up the sweep. (ED NOTE: For someone not big into making fun of Minnesota Chad sure knows how to make a pretty cold-blooded non-verbal swipe)
The Daily Gopher: What about the Gophers worries you the most?
Chad: They seem to be a real deep team without any glaring weaknesses. They are deep on D, and upfront they have some real studs in guys like Haula, Rau, Bjugstad, etc. Also, I don't think he gets an awful lot of credit sometimes, but I've really liked Nate Condon this season. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he played a big role in this weekend's series. Minnesota's biggest question mark coming into the season has been taken care of as Wilcox has stepped in as a freshman and done a very nice job filling the void in net created by Kent Patterson's departure.
The Daily Gopher: How do you feel about the rivalry going on break for a few seasons? What will you miss most about the yearly matchup?
Chad: Well, considering how much fun this series is for the fans, I will really miss it and think it's unfortunate that the rivalry will be on hiatus. That being said, UND's biggest football rival is 75 miles down I-29 and they haven't met in nearly a decade, so I've learned that life goes on despite losing a rival. And in all honestly, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if UND and Minnesota meet in the NCAA tournament before the regular season series eventually resumes.
The Daily Gopher: If you had to pick your least favorite Gopher, who would it be and why?
Chad: Wow, that's a hard one. There are so dang many outstanding candidates to choose from! But if I had to pick one, I suppose it would be Kyle Rau. He's got that knack of getting under the skin of opposing team's players, and that agitation really seems to carry up into the stands as well! It doesn't help that he's a very good player who seems to make a lot of big plays. (ED NOTE #2: This is why I love Kyle. He gets EVERYONE to hate him. He deserves the right to wear a TROLOLOLOL face patch on his jersey.)
The Daily Gopher: What are some of your favorite memories of the rivalry?
Chad: Several memories stand out. The 2007 postseason was very memorable, with Minnesota winning the Final Five championship in OT and UND turning the tables a week later in the West Regional final. Last season's Final Five semifinal comeback ranks up there as well, as you don't often see a game turn 180 degrees as fast as that one seemed to. Also, I wrote a post on this very topic last January and reposted it just yesterday in anticipation of this weekend's games. If interested you can view it here.
The Daily Gopher: In your opinion, what was the all time best fight in the rivalry?
Chad: There was a series of memorable scrums in a game at Engelstad Arena back in January of 2009. Several game misconducts were issued in what was quite an entertaining third period.
The Daily Gopher: What do you think UND should do about a nickname? I'm partial to the Whioux myself, but I could see why you all might pass on that one. Are you in favor of the school getting a new one after a few years or should they just forgo it?
Chad: I'm in favor of going without a nickname for the foreseeable future. I'd hate for the powers-that-be to adopt some sort of cheesy nickname just to try to get the school and fanbase to move on from the Fighting Sioux nickname.
The Daily Gopher: Who do you hate more, the Gophers or WCHA referees?
Chad: Hah, that's another tough one! Maybe the WCHA referees in all honestly, because while I will certainly miss the UND-UM rivalry in the years ahead, I certainly will not miss the WCHA officiating when North Dakota moves to the NCHC.
The Daily Gopher: Predictions for the weekend?
Chad: On a couple of occasions I've Tweeted about how UND's Pairwise rating will be receiving a nice bump when they sweep Minnesota this weekend, but such bold statements are born of pure gamesmanship. In all honesty, when you have two of the top teams in the nation going head-to-head it's awfully hard to predict a sweep either way, and my hunch is that the two teams split.
Thanks again Chad! Make sure to stop back tonight for the WHIOUX HATES UND? Open Thread.