Friday, February 08, 2013

North Dakota Too Much For Mavs on Friday

With about 2,000 North Dakota fans nearly outshouting 7,000 UNO fans in their own barn, the no-longer Sioux skated to a 2-1 victory over the Mavs in the prelude to the outdoor "Battles on Ice" game. UNO got on the board with a Ryan Walters goal about midway through the first period only to surrender the lead when Rocco Grimaldi forced home the tying goal a minute later.

North Dakota dominated the Mavs in the second period, thanks in no part to a five-minute major power play after Tony Turgeon leveled NoDak's Dan Senkbeil in front of the benches.  Watching it live, I didn't see anything illegal, but I wasn't focused on it either.  North Dakota blogger Eric Burton watched it on replay and he didn't see anything bad on it.

ESPN's John Buccigross went on Twitter to express his outrage over the call.
Judge for yourself.
UNO was able to kill off the penalty, but the Mavs had to extend way too much energy fending off the ferocious North Dakota pressure.  A scrum in front of the net resulted in two Mavs falling on top of UNO goalie Dayn Belfour, giving Danny Kristo an easy rebound goal for the game winner.

Belfour had a solid game in his first start of the season. It was a curious choice in the pregame, but solid in hindsight. Perhaps Dean Blais thought Belfour would be extra sharp and motivated in facing off against his father Ed's alma mater.  Perhaps he thought that with the short turnaround for tomorrow afternoon's game, he wanted John Faulkner to have a night off.   Frankly, I don't know that Faulkner could have done much better.  North Dakota was simply the better team on the ice tonight.

And North Dakota's 2,000 fans were the louder fans on the night.  Credit the students for showing up tonight.  It was a good UNO crowd.  But the North Dakota fans that headed south in advance of the upcoming blizzard showed Omaha what they need to aspire to in support.  Tradition.  Enthusiasm.  Dedication.  That's what North Dakota fans showed us with all of those green Sioux jerseys in the concourse.
Some will claim that tonight was proof that UNO had better limit themselves to a 7500 seat arena.  There's only one problem with that idea.  North Dakota fans would find their way into Tranquility if UNO decided to play in a Muni rink. I speak from experience with a rabid fan base.  Ask Notre Dame about Husker fans.  Ask Northwestern. So hey...if you want to sell your program short to try and keep out the invading hordes from Grand Forks, be my guest...but don't be surprised if you find out it backfires miserably.

There's a better solution out there.  Don't worry about the other team's fans.  Worry about building your own home ice advantage.

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