I have been following UND hockey for 50+ years. I went to games at the Old Barn when I was very little and Rube Bjorkman was the coach. Since that time, UND hockey has progressed to the point where it is a perennial national power, thanks in part to the generous gifts of Ralph Englestad. I saw underachieving teams when Rube coached, up to the time that they got the old Ralph and Gino Gasparini was hired. Gino brought UND to national prominence, and I attended the national championship game in 1987 in Detroit. They were horrible in Gino's later years, but after the hiring of Dean Blais, became a national power again in 1996, winning the title in Milwaukee in 1997, which I attended. Since that time, they have been consistently good, except for the 1st year they moved into the new REA. I was in Providence when they won in 2000, and attended a number of other Frozen Fours during Dave Hakstol's tenure. They came up short a number of times, but at least were always in the NCAA tournament, and usually in the Frozen Four (7 of Hakstol's 11 years as coach). I have seen ups and downs, but the current state of UND hockey is concerning. After 15 consecutive appearances, UND missed last year. That is not insignificant because UND also hosted in Sioux Falls. I strongly suspect that they will miss again this year, and this one will hurt even more because we are the host team in Fargo.
It is not unfair for persons to question whether Brad Berry is the correct coach for this program. UND has the best facilities in the country, great tradition, a long history of winning, and probably sends as many student-athletes to the pros as any program in the country. Before the weekend at Canisius, I preached patience. I was always a fan of Dave Hakstol, who is an excellent coach who always at least had us in the conversation for a national championship. He is also a very classy guy and represented UND very well. I'm not one to react to firing every coach who has a tough year and fans who suggested Dave Hakstol should be fired was laughable to me. However, I have to say that the sweep by Canisius was probably the most embarassing weekend of UND hockey that I have ever experienced. To lose to an Atlantic Hockey team is one thing (UND was 26-0 before this weekend against Atlantic Hockey teams), but to get beat by a weak team like Canisius is difficult to comprehend. To get swept by Canisius is almost incomprehensible. I understand that the great team of 1986-87 with Hrkac and Joyce lost to a bad team from San Diego coached by Buetow, but that happens occasionally with a very talented team. They still finished 40-8. Since the Canisius weekend, they have blown 2 goal leads to CC and Omaha, 2 weak teams. It cost them on Saturday in a must-win game. If that is not a product of coaching, I don't know what it is.
I truly believe that Brad Berry should be on a very short leash. Hockey is the lifeline for UND sports. I realize that he has top end recruits coming in, but I see a trend. UND underachieved 2 years ago with Tyson Jost and Brock Boeser in the lineup and barely made the tournament. Last year, they missed the tournament with better players than most of the teams in the tournament. They almost certainly will miss the NCAA tournament again this year after going 0-2-1 against Bemidji State and Canisius. I'm not confident that this team will make it to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. If they don't, the subject of replacing Brad Berry should be seriously considered.
I also understand that Brad Berry is a good guy and has a 4 year contract that makes it difficult to replace him. Frankly, that shouldn't matter if this team misses the tournament again, especially with the team hosting in Fargo again. We don't want to become Minnesota where the stands have been 1/2 empty for several years. We can't afford to let this program suffer for long. If they don't turn this around and make the tournament this year, UND needs to seriously look at replacing Brad Berry or at least having him on a very short leash. I know this opinion is not popular among all of the faithful UND hockey fans, but when people stop showing up for games, and revenue starts shrinking, they will see why some feel the way that many of us do.