April 06, 1997

If the Final Four is the Big Dance, last week's NCAA Division I
men's hockey championship, held at the Bradley Center in
Milwaukee, was the Little Polkafest. Contributing to this
ambience was the North Dakota pep band, whose hops-heavy
repertoire included Beer Barrel Polka, The Beer Song (In Heaven
There Is No Beer) and the Budweiser theme song.

Countering with its own rendition of the Bud song was the pep
band from Boston University (enrollment 15,568), whose team met
the Fighting Sioux in Saturday's final. In the same way
politicians angle for the votes of soccer moms, these bands
battled for the allegiance of local puckheads.

The battle was won by smaller and less-talented North Dakota
(enrollment 9,490), which, with the crowd of 17,537 behind it,
clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Terriers 6-4. The
title was the Fighting Sioux's first in 10 years, and among the
celebrants was university president Kendall Baker, who on Friday
had spent more than a few minutes expounding on the academic
sophistication of his institution. Baker's message was undercut,
somewhat, by a young man in a UND LAW SCHOOL sweatshirt who amid
the postgame euphoria held up a sign that announced I JUST WET

Outside the arena, the proceedings caused less of a splash. In
this state the biggest sports story--check that, the biggest
story--of the week was the unveiling of the Green Bay Packers'
1997 schedule. The front page of last Saturday's Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel had not a word on the hockey final, although
its lead story was sports-related. The headline: WE'RE NO. 2:

There was no question who was No. 1 at Milwaukee's downtown
Holiday Inn. Kelly green and white--North Dakota's
colors--reigned supreme, and the hotel lobby served as the
staging area for all activities of the Fighting Sioux and their
fans. Last Friday one group of North Dakota boosters boarded a
bus for a tour of the Miller brewery, while another covered for
them by attending Good Friday services at a nearby church.
Eschewing both tours was coach Dean Blais, who leaned against
the hotel's front desk and explained the climatic differences
between Grand Forks, N.Dak., and his native International Falls,
Minn. "In International Falls you get the cold," said Blais, who
has worked wonders since inheriting a losing team three years
ago. "In Grand Forks, you get wind and blizzards."

You don't have to warn Marina and Robert Hoogsteen, parents of
North Dakota stars David and Kevin, about bad weather, living as
they do in Thunder Bay, Ont. The Hoogsteens were somewhere
outside Madison, Wis., 10 hours into the 11 1/2-hour drive to
Milwaukee, when they noticed a red warning light on the
dashboard. The alternator belt in their '91 Topaz had snapped,
but, determined to make it to Milwaukee, they pressed on and
arrived at the Holiday Inn just before the car conked out.

Fortunately for the Fighting Sioux, the Hoogsteen sibs can turn
on red lights, too. Both David, a sophomore forward, and Kevin,
a senior forward, scored in North Dakota's 6-2 semifinal romp
over Colorado College on Thursday. (BU upset defending champ
Michigan 3-2 in the other semi.) David, the smaller of the
brothers, is 5'7" and 138 pounds--compared with 5'10" and 170
for Kevin--and is in the habit of rounding the latter figure up
to 140. The Fighting Sioux were the only team to offer him a
scholarship, a gamble that paid off on Saturday when he scored a
pair of second-period goals, the second just five seconds before
intermission. That morale-crusher stood up as the game-winner.

Afterward David stood on the ice in a daze. "This hasn't sunk in
yet," he said. "It's like a dream." When it comes to hockey
players, hockey schools and postseason dances, obviously, size
is overrated.

--Austin Murphy

COLOR PHOTO: TOM LYNN [University of North Dakota hockey players and coaches piling on each other on the ice]