With his team trailing top-seeded and forever-loathed Minnesota 3-0 with less than eight minutes to play in the second period of its WCHA Final Five semifinal game last week, North Dakota goaltender Aaron Dell instigated a tide-turning sequence few, if any, had ever witnessed.

The echoes of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” had barely ceased to reverberate throughout St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center when Dell thwarted consecutive quality scoring efforts by Minnesota’s Mark Alt, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau to maintain what, at the time, was still believed by most to be an insurmountable deficit.

But a timeout called by Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol and a seeing-eye Derek Forbort shot through traffic a short time later, and the lead was cut to 3-1. North Dakota was on its way to scoring six unanswered goals to defeat its rival and earn its place in the conference title game the following night against Denver.

Dell, whose 3-0 record, 1.33 goals against average and .948 save percentage in the Final Five earned him tournament MVP honors, shut out the Pioneers on 22 saves in a 4-0 win that gave North Dakota the Broadmoor Trophy for a third straight year.

Hakstol said Dell carried his team in the tournament and that his role in the comeback could not be underestimated.

“He kept us in the hockey game … and gave us the opportunity to get through that game and, obviously, to get into the championship,” Hakstol said of his goaltender, who bore little, if any, culpability for North Dakota’s initial predicament.

“If we go from 3-1 to 4-1 late in the second, that takes away all of our momentum, but he didn’t let that happen.”

No, he didn’t, and a glance toward the calendar reveals why as North Dakota’s junior goalie has made a habit of guarding, if not providing, his team’s momentum, particularly in the month of March.

In 12 career March games overall in his college career, Dell is 12-0 with three shutouts, a .950 save percentage, and a 1.21 goals against average. Staggering numbers to say the least, but Dell is as adept at deflecting praise as he is pucks.

“I think as a team we just turn it up a notch,” Dell said of his late-season success. “Our season’s on the line, it could be done at any point, so it’s that level of desperation that we get when it comes down to it.

“It’s kind of everybody’s job to turn their game up as much as they can and it starts back with me and goes all the way through the ranks.”

“Aaron has been steady,” said Hakstol, whose team plays Western Michigan on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. “He’s made the odd big save when we’ve needed it, he’s made all of the saves that he’s supposed to and he’s done that on a very consistent basis. I think that’s good playoff goaltending.”

Dell seized the starting role from Brad Eidsness early in his sophomore year and proceeded to have a record-setting season. Not only did he capture the WCHA’s goaltending title by the largest margin since 2001-02, he led the nation in wins (30) and goals against average (1.79) and tied for the national lead in shutouts with six.

In addition, his 30 wins set a UND single-season record, eclipsing the previous record of 29 set by Ed Belfour in 1986-87.

Dell returned to Earth a bit this season, however, in posting a 13-9-2 record with a 2.87 goals against average and .893 save percentage.

“His season has been a work in progress,” Hakstol acknowledged. “He came off of a tremendous year last year and he struggled early with his consistency.”

But Hakstol said those numbers are not all on Dell’s shoulders.

“We couldn’t find consistency as a team and as individuals,” Hakstol said of his team’s early season struggles which landed the Sioux in a tie for 10th in the WCHA with a 4-7-1 mark in late November. “We couldn’t find consistency in putting Friday and Saturday night performances together.”

Dell was no exception to that rule as his statistics (6-6-1, 3.17, .885) in back-to-back starts this season clearly indicate. In fact, since being pulled from a Feb. 11 game in Duluth at 1:26 of the second period after allowing five goals on just 17 shots, Dell did not play in consecutive games until his outstanding back-to-back-to-back performance at the Final Five.

But Hakstol said his decision to enter into a rotation system with his goalies late in the year was not a knee-jerk reaction to Dell’s Duluth performance.

“The fact that we didn’t go back-to-back an awful lot with either goaltender in the second half was mostly a case of that Brad Eidsness was doing a great job and we had a real good tandem going,” said Hakstol.

A native of Airdrie, Alberta, a community located just north of Calgary which Dell said is, “actually a lot like Grand Forks, minus the college,” Dell epitomizes the calm, cool, collected goaltender in the Miikka Kiprusoff mold, which is ironic considering his boyhood idol was the dynamic and fiery Hall-of-Fame goalie Patrick Roy.

It is that even-keel approach that allowed Dell to turn a potential negative into a positive.

“I think it helped me to get a little rest as well as it helped me miss the game a little bit,” Dell said of his additional time off leading into the postseason. “It brought back a little extra desire that I didn’t know was there.”

Spend any time watching him play or interacting with Dell in any way and you are left to wonder if there is anything, be it on or off the ice, that might rattle him.

“It might take a lot, but I’m sure there’s something,” said Dell.

  • Scpa0305

    Keep it up buddy! The Sioux need him more than ever now!

  • Nyquist77

    The Fighting  Sioux are rolling right now………..and that is coming from a Maine fan!!

    • Jouren

      I would argue the Sioux are in a better position than last year.  They might not have the same level of talent (on paper), but they seem to be playing as a team more.  UMD proved last year that you need a team to win a title, not a handful of elite players.  

      • Scpa0305

        I would not go that far….this team is definitely not better than last year’s team (at least not yet).

      • DG

        They played like a team last year. I think last years squad was playing much better hockey at this time of year than our current one  but they come up short in April. The Sioux are playing well but to say they are in a better position than last year might be giving them a little too much credit. 

        • Philipvanschepen

          No way the green team is better this year than last. Check out Dell’s stats from last year vs. this year. He doesn’t have a Hobey Baker winner and two all WCHA defensemen in front of him.  As goes Dell, so go his team. If he plays this weekend like last weekend, the green team will be in Tampa. If he comes back  to reality, it’s the Gophers sitting on the dock of the bay.

  • siouxhockey33

    In the start of the season I had my doubts about Dell for his very inconsistant play, and was frustrated as a fan because of the season he had last season. However, much like the rest of the team, turned it up after the holiday break and wowed us all again like he did last season. Aaron Dell is a beast in the nets and will keep his brickwall preformance throughout the NCAA’s. I am 100% positive it will happen. Keep it up Deller you make us Fighting Sioux proud!

  • Fan Man

    Nice to see an article on Dell!  He has been a beast lately and I am confident he will keep the ball rolling…   Also, nice to see an article on the Sioux…  Was beginning to think this site was turning into the Star Tribune lol

    • Nwo4life58203

       lets see if he can win it all or choke like they always do in the chockstol era

      • Fan Man

        At least I’m not a Minnesota fan! Talk about a state that REALLY knows how to choke in all sports…Do u really want to get into it with me and gopher athletics? Probably not

        • Nwo4life58203

           luchia has 2 ncaa titles chockstol has 0 in 8 or 9 year

          • Nwo4life58203

             it must suck to get there all the time and lose should i bring up michigan and bc

          • Nwo4life58203

             your last title was with dean blais and he wants to coach minnesota

          • Fan Man

             Nwo4life= Getalife!  honestly, if you dont have anything to contribute to the conversation on here other than boneheaded 12yr old talk..  Dont say anything!!!!   I feel dumber for even arguing about titles and who’s the better coach all the Fn time   Im done with that crap

          • Fan Man

             Hmmm.  not done.  And being out coached (which I am humble enough to say we were) by Red, who regardless of age is a legend, doesn’t really make for a good diss!  Come up with something more creative so I dont have to say 7<5, 6-3 last friday     Comon' Man!   Your better than this aren't you?  Be more creative please

          • Philipvanschepen

            My god, deal with reality. Blais turned down the Minnesota job twice! He was offered the gopher job before Lucia, and in 2010 a group of boosters offered to buy out Lucia if Blais would leave Omaha. Lucia won with mostly Woog’s players! I can’t stand Hackstol, but he out coaches Lucia every year.

          • SIOUXFAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            congrats on having a whole state to choose from…..and of course both those titles cam from two different players carrying each champ team. one was Vanek (Europe) and a traitor from grand forks…..good luck winning another…

          • Philipvanschepen

            HOLY CROSS!

      • MPLS Sioux

        I don’t get it…chockstol? I feel like it’s a hybrid between HACK-stol and CHOKE-stol. 

        Your message is muddled.

        I’m a Sioux fan and I’m a bit disappointed at your terrible effort at a putdown. 

        Now I just feel bad for you…

        • Nwo4life58203

           hey your team has a coach who was out coached by a 60 sum year old man last year

          • SIOUXFAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

             lol….that was worse the your previous attempt….maybe being a troll isn’t exactly for you.

    • Philipvanschepen

      As a Gopher fan I must admit Dell was MVP of that game. He is the only reason the green team was able to get back in the game. It should have been 6-0 after two, a defict the North Dakotas could not have surpassed.

  • suesucks

    ohhh so HES the reason they won the title last year, oh wait. THEY DIDNT. Nor will they. Western Mich. will beat SUE in the first round in St Paul.

    • Sara

      So you’re saying I’ll be watching BU and Western Michigan play on Sunday? Okay. Good to know.

      • collegehockeyrocks

        I didn’t know they had a 3rd place game in the regionals.

        • Nice one


        • Nwo4life58203

           yea sue and bu

          • nogofer

            When does Schroeder Middle School start classes again so you’ll be busy doing something productive?

    • Hockey God

      Just wondering, how many titles has western michigan won?

    • Kljamer

      Hey suesucks,  I imagine your a gopher choker fan?  Remember no one has had a more disappointing loss as they did when they lost to Holy Cross in the first round of the playoffs a few years ago.  The SIOUX will be marching on to Tampa with two wins from a good young team!    GO SIOUX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Nwo4life58203

         and when they choke like they do every year the sue fans will not be heard from for a year

        • collegehockeyfan

          the sane sioux fans will be here still, just not ones like that haha… the sane sioux fans know that they are not the favorite and for the sioux to come out of this side of the bracket is going to need a GREAT weekend of hockey again.

        • MPLS Sioux

          Kinda sad you can’t even pick a team to represent..but i do know that you live in Grand Forks…way to sneak your love of wrestling and your zip code all in the same username.  Now I know you’re special…

        • Chickeng

          yeah not heard from for a year until we are deep in the playofffs again, year after year. and choke just like they do every year (except all those NCCA CHAMPIONSHIPS)

  • Union Tampa

    He’s no Grosenick..

    Go Union!!

    • TRJ1998

      “Pump your breaks” Union Tampa. How could you possibly know that?

      • Union Tampa

        Education – I went to an ECAC school..

        • collegehockeyfan


        • Nice one

          Here’s a quarter…call someone that gives a $%^

  • gimuis

    I definitely would not rank this Sioux team as high as last year’s squad.  That team last year was potentially the most stacked team I’ve seen the past 10 years around college hockey, except for maybe a few years ago when BU won their NCAA title.  This UND team doesn’t have the depth but you don’t necessarily need that to win.  Sometimes hard work and grit get you farther (plus a hot goalie too).

    • stickontheice

      Exactly – the ‘right’ guys will take the ‘best’ guys more often than not. At the FF, all teams have the talent to win, it just comes down to chemistry, communication and simple team work. To win a national title takes the unwavering focus of 15 or more players all working as one.  It really is as simple as that.  Now, pulling it off is where it gets tricky.  Good luck to all 16 teams.  Win or lose, play with passion and dignity.

      • Fan Man

         Well said stickman!

  • siouxp

    hey suesuck. Dell let in one goal in the game that knocked them out. maybe if he could score they might have won. get your facts straight

  • CrockOGrimaldi

    too bad his resume is April failures

  • Jeffhead44

    Headofthepond      Good luck  WMMU and the Fighting Sioux. You both had great seasons. I will be at Worchester cheering on my Maine Black Bears and hope to see some of my ND or WMU friends in Tampa. GO BLUE!!!