Grand Forks, North Dakota
After driving from Grande Prairie, Alberta to Regina, Saskatchewan I made the executive decision to make the run to Grand Forks, NoDak to catch a game at the Ralph. As a student at Minnesota, I had been to the old home of the Fighting Sioux. Back in those days when Minnesota played at North Dakota, the NoDak faithful would throw, presumably dead, prairie dogs onto the ice when North Dakota scored its first goal. In a great interview with former Gopher Coach Doug Woog, Wooger said it was their goal going into that old arena, to make those fans hold onto those dead rodents for as long as possible, hopefully until they started to stink.
Now that’s a rivalry.
The New Ralph Engelstad Arena is a Taj Mahal to everything Fighting Sioux. It is one hell of a hockey venue. When the long battle over the program’s nickname finally comes to a close , the Fighting Sioux era will be thoroughly represented at The Ralph. It is, quite simply, a beautiful hockey arena. I loved the history, with team photos going back to 1905, and former players lining the walls.
Despite the fact that I am genetically predisposed to have a strong distaste for anything related to NoDak Hockey, I was thoroughly looking forward to a game at The Ralph. I did not have a dog in this fight, and I, surprisingly, did not go there hoping to see North Dakota lose. I went to see what I hoped would be a good hockey game, and to get The Ralph hockey experience.
North Dakota provided The Ralph experience, while Miami fell way short of offering a good game.
NoDak came out with a quick power play goal by Paul LaDue to take the very early lead. The fans had not even stopped dancing from that first goal when they were sent into a frenzy with a goal by Brock Boeser which sent them doing their little Do-Wop dance immediately after the first one.
North Dakota looked good in what was really a cruise to a 6-2 win. Now, I fully admit that I did not partake in any goal dance, since that would just be wrong in so many ways, and I didn’t get into the whole “North Dakota Scoooorrrrring” thing, but it was amusing to listen to. But I will confess to applauding Hrynkiw’s better saves, and I couldn’t help but applaud that tick-tack-toe goal #6 by Nick Schmaltz, because the set up and execution was just beautiful to watch. I think Parise playing for the Wild may have caused some sort of seismic shift which has me off balance, but goal #6 was damn pretty.
The Ralph was a sellout with 11,662 in attendance. Schmaltz was the top star of the game with a four point night, I believe. Boeser had a three point night. Roslovik and Melnick scored the two goals for Miami, with Louie Belpedio getting an assist on both of those goals.
A special shoutout goes to Liz, the usher in front of section 315. I spoke with her prior to warmups, and what a wonderful experience that was. Kudos to REA, I would be hard pressed to find a more knowledgable, friendly, professional and welcoming representative for your arena, not to mention a great advocate for North Dakota hockey, North Dakota and Grand Forks. Liz, thanks for taking the time to educate this wandering Alaskan on The New Ralph. It was a pleasure.