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Iowa Wild Ready to Make New Memories in North Dakota

Lalonde, Palmquist, Schroeder look back on college hockey experiences in Grand Forks

by Devin Lowe /

Derek Lalonde distinctly remembers the first-ever game in which he was "technically" head coach.

It was in January of 2009 while he was an assistant with the University of Denver, and it was at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

In the second period of a heated rivalry game between the Pioneers and the University of North Dakota, Denver head coach George Gwozdecky objected to a call and stood atop the boards to make his opinion heard.

That earned him a bench minor and a game misconduct, prompting his ejection, which he then objected to by hopping over the boards and striding across the ice toward the referee.

"We called it the 'Gwozdecky March,'" Lalonde remembered with a laugh.

Gwozdecky had a few parting words for some of his players, but Lalonde was on his own.

"He got kicked out of the game in the second period, and I had to run the bench the rest of the game, and it's a tough environment to do that," he said. "So technically, my first ever head coaching experience was in North Dakota."

Lalonde and the rest of the Iowa Wild will have the opportunity to make new memories at "the Ralph" when they face the Manitoba Moose there on Sunday. The preseason contest is part of a two-game swing through North Dakota before Iowa begins its regular season next Friday.

When the Wild made the same trip north last year, defenseman Zach Palmquist felt that it was a nice warm-up.

"Going to North Dakota at the beginning of the year is really big for the young guys," Palmquist said. "I know as a first-year [player] last year, it was nice to get some games under my belt before heading into the year."

Palmquist is one of a handful of players on the team who played at Ralph Engelstad Arena in college. Forward Jordan Schroeder is another. Back in 2010, North Dakota defeated Minnesota in the first round of the WCHA Playoffs, shutting out the Gophers in the first game by a score of 6-0.

"Not too many good [memories]," Schroeder said of his experiences as a Golden Gopher in Grand Forks. "[But] it's a great atmosphere to play in, really passionate fans, and they love their hockey."

Sunday's game, which will follow Saturday's preseason matchup at Scheels Arena in Fargo, won't have the same frenzy that surrounds college hockey, but Lalonde sees it as an important team bonding opportunity for a roster in the midst of being shaped by decisions made at the big club.

"It's good to get on the road, especially early on. Guys are getting to know each other, guys are transitioning from the NHL down to us, which is never easy," Lalonde said. "So I like the fact that we're going to get on the road together."

The Iowa Wild practiced at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday and will do so again Friday morning before it hits the road.

And this time, when Lalonde steps onto the bench, he'll no longer be the head coach on a technicality.

"Everything hockey in North Dakota is even bigger, so it was very grandiose of a moment," Lalonde said of Gwozdecky's exit. "[Those are] two great buildings, two great hockey communities, and we're really excited about it."

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