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UND Ready To Play "Rocky" Role - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

UND Ready To Play "Rocky" Role

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Beth Hoole

Valley News Live Sports

 

UND and Minnesota are restoring their storied rivalry on the biggest stage in college hockey. It's the top-seeded Golden Gophers taking on fourth-seeded North Dakota, and there's maybe no city better for this to take place in than Philadelphia. It's here that Rocky took down Apollo Creed and it's here that UND looks to take down Minnesota.

One of the greatest underdog stories in movie glory took place right at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and where Rocky left his footsteps atop those stairs in Philly, out-ranked by Apollo Creed, North Dakota men's hockey looks to claim their own upset Thursday in the Frozen Four.

"They want to say we're the underdog that's fine," said sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi. "We're here. It doesn't matter if you're the top seed or the underdog. Anything can happen at this point of the year. All you have to do is one win game on Thursday night and then you've got a shot to win one more on Saturday."

UND spent a majority of the regular season unranked and unrecognized for the product they delivered in the new National Colligate Hockey conference. Still they've earned their spot at the Frozen Four and bring with them a great deal of confidence.

"We've been playing every week where if we lose our seasons done," said junior defenseman Nick Mattson. "So we have that experience in these situations. And at the same time we gain confidence from that. We've stepped up to the challenge every time."

According to senior captain Dillon Simpson, UND has "built a lot of self-confidence in that locker room and I think that's carried a long way for us, as far as the nerves go. We're coming in, a lot of people are considering us the underdogs. For us, there's not a whole  lot of pressure. Have to tell the guys to embrace it, have fun with it and use it as motivation."

Despite just two current players boasting any Frozen Four experience, UND appears calm and ready.

"If you get too tight and start gripping the stick too tight this early you're doomed come game time," says junior forward Mark MacMillian. "I think it's important to keep a good mentality and keep the jokes high and the tension loose to make sure you're ready to go for the next night."

With that confidence high and nerves minimal North Dakota is embracing their underdog role but more importantly they're remembering what got them here.

"As big as the game is it's just a game," Grimaldi said. "We've done it many times before, we don't want to make it more than it is, we just want to treat it as a game."

According to Mattson: "It's a great time of year. We're excited to be here, might as well enjoy it and go for it. We're going to throw everything we've got at it and that's fun.

In talking with the guys on Wednesday it turns out a majority of them have actually never even seen "Rocky". A group of them did take trip to the art museum today though to check out the famous steps. Some told me they might check out rocky Wednesday night on netflix but the truth is these guys don't need to watch the movie to understand the connection. They've been the underdog all post season and they're ready for the next test. After all this is the land of opportunity: Every underdog just needs his shot.

Thursday we'll talk Minnesota and the UND rivalry renewed! 

 

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