UND fans are expected to fill the Target Center in Minneapolis in the NCHC’s inaugural tourney
UND fans filled the Target Center at the NCHC’s inaugural tourney
A huge sigh of relief could be felt coming from the heart of Minneapolis on Sunday night.
That's because, as the final seconds ticked down in the deciding match of the University of North Dakota men's hockey best-of-three playoff series with the Colorado College Tigers ― UND holding on to a one-goal edge ― it finally was evident that UND and its legions of hockey-loving fans would be filling the Target Center ― as well as nearby businesses ― this weekend for the inaugural National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Frozen Faceoff Tournament.
UND was the closest school of the four-team tournament field at the Target Center, giving the Green-and-White and its fans a bit of a "home-ice" setting. UND used the crowd momentum to win the third-place game 5-0 over Western Michigan on Saturday night to put itself in position to make a 12th-straight bid to compete in the NCAA National Hockey Tournament.
The NCAA announced on Sunday that UND made the 16-team national tourament and will be playing in the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati, Ohio, against old Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) rival, the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
As for this past weekend's NCHC tournament at the Target Center, the short travel distance between North Dakota and Minneapolis and number of UND alumni that live in the Twin Cities metro area will present the UND hockey team with a home-away-from-home atmosphere. It was much like what often happened in the WCHA at its perennial conference tournament site, the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
And tournament organizers, area hotels managers and restaurant owners couldn't have been more happy about that. UND Hockey played its final games in the WCHA last year, before transitioning to the NCHC.
The other teams in the tournament are the University of Denver (Denver; distance/duration of travel = 950 miles/ 15 hours); University of Miami (Oxford, Ohio; 700 miles/11 hours 15 minutes); and the University of Western Michigan (Kalamazoo, Mich.; 580/9 hours 15).
For reference sake: Grand Forks to Minneapolis is about 315 miles / 5 hours, according to Mapquest.com.