Historic Upsets and Wins: Memorable Moments in North Dakota History

North Dakota

North Dakota may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about sports or hockey in particular. However, this Northern state has a rich history of memorable hockey moments that have left fans in awe and pride. From upsets against powerhouse teams to unexpected wins, North Dakota has seen it all. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most notable upsets and wins in the history of North Dakota hockey.

The Beginning: The First University Hockey Championship

In 1959, the University of North Dakota (UND) made history by becoming the first university in the state to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hockey championship. The team, led by coach Bob May, defeated Clarkson University in a nail-biting game that went into overtime. The win was especially significant because at the time, UND was still a relatively new team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and was not considered a top contender.

The 1963 Team: Solidifying UND’s Position

Four years after their first NCAA championship win, UND made headlines again with their 1963 team. Under the leadership of coach Barry Thorndycraft, the team won a second NCAA championship, solidifying their position as a top contender in the league. This team was known for their skill and teamwork, and their win was a testament to their hard work and determination.

The Legendary Gasparini Years

In the late 1970s, UND’s hockey team had a remarkable run under the guidance of coach John “Gino” Gasparini. From 1978 to 1994, Gasparini led the team to a total of six NCAA championships, making him one of the most successful coaches in college hockey history. During his tenure, he also produced several notable players who went on to have successful careers in the National Hockey League (NHL).

The 1980 Miracle on Ice: A Historic Upset

In 1980, the world was captivated by the “Miracle on Ice,” where the United States Olympic hockey team, made up of amateur and collegiate players, defeated the powerful Soviet team in a shocking upset. What many people may not know is that this game was played on North Dakota soil, at UND’s own Ralph Engelstad Arena. The victory was celebrated by hockey fans across the country, but it was particularly special for North Dakotans who were able to witness it firsthand.

The Year of the Swoop: UND’s Historic Season

In the 1986-1987 season, the UND hockey team made history with a 40-game winning streak, the longest in college hockey at the time. Coached by Gino Gasparini, the team, affectionately known as the “Year of the Swoop,” went on to win their sixth NCAA championship, defeating Michigan State in a 5-3 victory. The season was a perfect blend of skill, determination, and teamwork, leaving a lasting impression on fans and the hockey world.

The Rise of the North Dakota High School Hockey Dynasty

While UND may have had a stronghold on hockey in North Dakota, the state saw a rise in high school hockey in the 1990s. Grand Forks Central High School and Fargo South High School became the top contenders, with numerous state championships between them. The rivalry between these two schools was fierce and brought a new level of excitement to high school hockey in North Dakota.

The 1997 Team: Redefining Perseverance

In 1997, UND was once again placed in the spotlight after winning the NCAA championship against Boston University. The team was led by legendary coach Dean Blais, who had been with UND since 1994 and was determined to bring home another championship after losing in the finals the year before. What made this win even more special was the adversity the team faced throughout the season. Several key players were injured, and the team had to push through various challenges to emerge as champions, redefining the meaning of perseverance.

The 2016 Frozen Four: A Memorable Win on Home Ice

In 2016, the University of North Dakota hosted the Frozen Four, the semi-finals and finals of the NCAA men’s hockey championship. The UND hockey team, fueled by the energy of their home crowd, went on to win the Frozen Four, adding another championship to their already impressive record. The victory was even more significant as North Dakota natives Brock Boeser and Luke Johnson played prominent roles in the team’s success.

Closing ideas

North Dakota may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about hockey powerhouses, but the state has had its fair share of historic upsets and wins that have left a mark on the sport and its fans. From the first university championship in 1959 to the recent Frozen Four win, North Dakota has continuously produced teams that have exhibited skill, determination, and resilience, making them a force to be reckoned with in the world of hockey.


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