University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
2 seed vs. New Hampshire, Northeast Regional (Manchester, NH)
WCHA Regular Season Champions
Coach: Dave Hakstol (130-70-19)
One of the WCHA's traditional powers, the Fighting Sioux built off last season's Frozen Four appearance by winning MacNaughton Cup, awarded to the WCHA's regular season title for the first time since 2003-04. This was a dramatic change from the three game losing skid to open the season, which included a 5-1 drubbing by Boston University in the season opener. Standing 5-8-1 at the end of November, the Sioux put together a nice four game run in early December, only to bottom out with a fourth place finish at the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit, losing to Michigan State and Michigan Tech. This down point was combined with the loss of senior defenseman Joe Finley, who had missed two months due to the lingering effects of a concussion.
But, in classic North Dakota fashion, the Sioux have rallied in the second half of the season to put themselves right in the mix of the NCAA playoff picture. In the 19 games since 2009 began, the Sioux have won 14, against two losses (to Saint Cloud and Wisconsin) and three ties. The Sioux's defense is not their hallmark, but they also clearly score enough goals to make you pay for any lapses they may have on the blue line. The return of Finley, a first round NHL pick, has galvanized the leadership positions of the team while providing stability on defense. North Dakota's WCHA playoff run in Minneapolis, however, hit the stellar goaltending of Minnesota-Duluth's Alex Stalock, sending the Sioux to the consolation game.
Close, but no cigar. In Dave Hakstol's four seasons as a player for the Fighting Sioux (1988-1992), he made the NCAA tournament just once. In his first four seasons as the bench boss for his alma mater, the Fighting Sioux have made the Frozen Four each season, but have not won the title, a drought that extends back to 2000.
All in the Family. College hockey is no stranger to family legacies, and North Dakota's team this year is no exception. It features, among others, David Toews, the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks' rising star (and former UND player) Jonathan Toews as well as Brett Hextall, the son of Ron Hextall, and great nephew of Dennis Hextall, who played at North Dakota in the 1960s. Unlike his dad and great uncle, Brett plays forward. Finally, freshman forward Mario Lamoureux is the younger brother of Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, the Sioux netminder from 2004-08, and the son of Pierre Lamoureux, NoDak's netminder from 1979 to 1982. Lamoureux's sisters Monique and Jocelyn are freshman forwards at Minnesota.