NCAA Fargo Regional: North Dakota Moves On, Duluth Walks Through

FARGO, ND– The semifinals of the Fargo Regional of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship took place on Friday night at Scheels Arena. While the joy of the tournament was felt by most everyone, the day started out on a rough patch for one squad. 

On Friday afternoon, the NCAA had announced that the University of Michigan has a player who tested positive and the team has to withdraw from the tournament. That meant the University of Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the Regional Finals. They would take on the winner of the University of North Dakota and American International College. 

In the first five minutes, AIC was all over North Dakota. The plucky 16-seed wanted to revisit what they did in Fargo in 2019 when they took out the #1 overall seed St. Cloud State. At one point, AIC was outshooting North Dakota. After the first media timeout, however, North Dakota seemed to snap out of whatever jitters they had and went on the offensive. 

Jasper Weatherby started the scoring off just as the North Dakota power play expired, taking a Jacob Bernard-Docker shot off the backboards and putting it past Stefano Durante to make it 1-0. Two minutes later, Weatherby scored his second of the game, pickpocketing an AIC defender and going in to beat Durante and make it 2-0. North Dakota shored up their own zone, making sure AIC didn’t get past the red line. Three minutes after Weatherby’s second; Grant Mismash– playing his first game since late February– used Shane Pinto as a screen to make it 3-0. Collin Adams helped keep the puck alive when he lost an edge, but was still able to protect the puck and get it to Tyler Kleven so it stayed in the zone. Adams was rewarded after getting a chip pass from Riese Gaber, put it past Durante to make it 4-0, concluding four-goals in a 7:20 span. 

AIC started the second with Jake Kucharski in net. However, the offense wasn’t quite there in this frame. The ice was the biggest defenseman out there, with the puck bouncing to and fro for most of the frame, as well as creating a lot of havoc for skate blades to boot. At times it was hard to see if this was the hockey or basketball tournament. The third period was more of the same until a late North Dakota penalty gave away for AIC to score on the power play thanks to a Tobias Fladeby shot beating Adam Scheel. Twenty-nine seconds later, Adams got his second of the game off a centering pass Jordan Kawaguchi to make it 5-1. 

THEY SAID IT

“We heard it loud and clear. We talked about it right after the selection, through the week. It turned to us in terms of what we had to do. That’s a very good team over there. They’ve won a lot of games with very few losses. We just had to play our game. I thought for the most part we did. Hand it to them, they had some momentum shifts in the game and kept us in our zone a little. For the most part, we did a good job of managing the 60 minutes thanks to the leadership of our team.”– North Dakota head coach Brad Berry on being reminded of history of AIC upsetting St. Cloud two years ago.

“It was good for us to get a game in. Our last game was St. Cloud about a week and a half ago. There was a little rust there, but we knocked it off. It was beneficial to us to get that first game in and get our boots on the ground.”– Adams on either playing a game or having rest like Duluth.

“We thought calm would win the hockey game. We knew we’d have to ride the roller coaster a little bit. There’d be times where we’d have to weather some storms.”– AIC head coach Eric Lang about the plan for the game.

“I don’t personally think I was even thinking about it. But the noise in the building obviously makes a difference. I can’t really talk for other guys, but I think we rebounded from it by just calming down like coach said. And that’s really about it. We just kind of went back to our game rather than getting scrambling and making plays.”– AIC captain Brennen Kapcheck on playing in front of a live crowd.

“Our program is beyond the point of moral victories. But I can tell you, I’m as proud as this group, two years later sitting in the same room doing the same press conferences I was two years ago. It’s easy to pack it in there. And I couldn’t be prouder of what these guys have done in terms of commitment for the unknown. Since late August, we’ve been together. These guys have missed weddings, funerals, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and you’re all in all the time.” –Lang about the evolution of his program.

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