The North Dakota Fighting Sioux have rolled their way through the 2011 NCAA mens hockey tournament so far, crushing both Denver and RPI on their way to the Frozen Four. Those wins were part of a still-in-progress 15 game unbeaten streak.
But when the Sioux face off against the Michigan Wolverines at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday evening at 8:30 p.m. Eastern in the National Semifinals, their recent success doesn't mean they'll tread lightly.
"I have a significant amount of respect for their team this year and the accomplishments they've had over the long haul of this year," Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol told reporters, including SB Nation Minnesota's Nathan Wells, earluer this week. "They're a complete hockey team in every sense of the word and a complete hockey team that is playing very well. We're looking forward to the challenge tomorrow night and a great hockey game. We're going to have to be at our best at the drop of the puck tomorrow night."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the puck, the Wolverines aren't backing down from the scary-looking North Dakota team, even if he knows they're more skilled. Or, as he puts it, "better."
"Stranger things have happened," coach Red Berenson said about the potential of beating North Dakota. "You need good goalkeeping, good penalty killing, good back checking, good play coming out of your zone and you need to be opportunistic. We know they are a better team, but we are going to come and play hard."
Not exactly a vote of confidence, but nevertheless. The Wolverines are prepared to have the Xcel Energy Center crowd behind them (since, you know, Minnesota fans aren't really fond of North Dakota), and like Berenson said, it's a possibility. The Sioux are the odds on favorite to not only win this game, but to win the entire thing this weekend.
We'll see if Michigan can hold them back.