West Regional Preview | Grand Forks, N.D.
By Nate Ewell
Because of the lack of suitable neutral-site
arenas in CCHA and WCHA country, the NCAA hasn’t even
awarded its Midwest and West Regional bids beyond 2009.
In the meantime, we’ll face the problem of a higher
seed playing in hostile environs, as Minnesota will surely
face this weekend.
It’s not something unfamiliar to Minnesota
(which hosted regionals at Mariucci Arena in 2003 and ’05)
or Michigan (which advanced out of Yost Arena in 1998, 2002
and '03). If they wanted to complain, those teams wouldn’t
have a leg to stand on – wisely, Gopher head coach
Don Lucia has no public complaints about the No. 2 seed
hosting the event.
“They earned the right to be there,"
Lucia said. "They knew if they played their way into
the NCAA tournament they would get to host a regional. They
got it done, so all the credit to them."
But it still bears watching: if Holy Cross
can put up a fight against Minnesota Friday, what kind of
crowd support will they get from Sioux fans rooting against
the Gophers? And how will the Gophers react on Saturday,
when there should be a very large, very loud crowd supporting
Thankfully, the NCAA legislation to ban the
Fighting Sioux nickname has been tabled until April –
thus avoiding what was certain to be a sideshow at the West
Regional. Without that distraction, we can focus on the
ice, where one of the secondary stories is what to expect
from Michigan. It’s been a maddeningly inconsistent
season in Ann Arbor, where at one point the Wolverines were
in serious jeopardy of missing the NCAAs for the first time
in 16 seasons. But if the young players display all their
talents and Noah Ruden (most likely) puts in a good effort
in goal, it’s not inconceivable that the Wolverines
could advance to the Frozen Four, just as they did the last
time they were a No. 3 seed, in 2003.
(old downtown Grand Forks; 420 Demers Ave.) is the
best bet to catch out-of-town games on television.
What’s more, a five-foot wooden Indian chief
at the door and the old Chicago Blackhawks/UND hockey
logo in neon above the bar likely ensures that you
won’t be bothered by pushy NCAA types. Visitors
should be sure to try the chili -- it's Grand Forks'
best. Also, to add some extra local flavor, ask for
ripple chips with your chili – it’s a
Gino Gasparini favorite.
Another good call, also in old downtown
(118 3rd Street), would be Joe Dimaggio's. This place
is a large bar and grill with pool tables and video
games (a little more kid-friendly). Try the Jordan
Double Shot. It's the best – and largest –
burger in town.
– Jayson Hron
You absolutely must visit the Red Pepper,
a non-descript restaurant nestled in a residential
area at 1011 University Ave. in Grand Forks, for its
legendary grinders. Ordering is a snap -- your three
choices are ham, turkey or salami. Whichever you choose,
make sure you also get it with a scoop of taco meat.
It sounds crazy, but it's a borderline religious experience.
– Mike Eidelbes
ON A ROLL
North Dakota’s suddenly 9-2-0 in its
last 11, and those last two wins – against Wisconsin
and St. Cloud State in the WCHA Final Five – were
particularly impressive. Those brought the Broadmoor Trophy
back to Grand Forks, along with a piece of revisionist history.
A WCHA Final Five promotional poster which was designed
to hype the tournament mistakenly listed the school as “North
Dakota State University.” Understandably, that didn’t
go over well in the Red River Valley, so the WCHA will bring
corrected posters to Grand Forks this weekend.
We’re not sure if “clutch”
can transfer through genes – check back in 20 years,
once David “Big Papi” Ortiz’ kids are
swinging a bat – but Ryan Potulny seems to have some
of his brother’s knack for timing. Grant was the hero
at the 2002 Frozen Four, quickly establishing himself as
the man to see when Minnesota needed a goal. Ryan has inherited
that role, as seen by his game-tying goal – his fourth
of the game – with 14 seconds remaining against St.
Cloud State Friday night. On the season, Potulny has five
game-winner among his 38 goals.
SOMETHING TO PROVE
Holy Cross is making its second trip to the
NCAA Tournament in the last three years – the same
number as Michigan State, Boston University, Cornell and
Denver. Appearances alone won’t buy the Crusaders
respect, however, and you can bet head coach Paul Pearl’s
team heard the snickers about the Crusaders possibly getting
in even without the Atlantic Hockey automatic bid. They
watched last year as Mercyhurst and Bemidji State put scares
into superior opponents and earned a measure of respect.
Holy Cross’ chance to do the same comes Friday evening.
ONE TO WATCH
You better catch Jack Johnson now, because
if you think NCAA Regional tickets are expensive, they’re
nothing compared to the NHL, where he could be playing as
soon as Monday. The Michigan defenseman is a feared physical
presence, but that’s only one part of his game. He
can also move the puck, use his strength in front of the
net and play solid positionally. And he’ll see a lot
of Drew Stafford.
One thing’s for sure: Minnesota and
North Dakota can’t both return to the Frozen Four.
And as special as the all-WCHA Frozen Four was for the conference,
each team would probably like nothing better than to knock
their rivals out of NCAA contention. While non-conference
matchups carry a lot of appeal this time of year, pardon
us if we enjoy this rivalry for a moment on the national