NCAA MEN'S HOCKEY TOURNAMENT: UND 6, Denver 1Look out, St. Paul, the UND men’s hockey team and its legion of fans are coming back. One week after winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five by beating Denver in the Xcel Energy Center, the Sioux punched their ticket back with a 6-1 win over the Pioneers in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday in Green Bay, Wis.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Look out, St. Paul, the UND men’s hockey team and its legion of fans are coming back.
One week after winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five by beating Denver in the Xcel Energy Center, the Sioux punched their ticket back with a 6-1 win over the Pioneers in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday.
Six different players scored, captain Chay Genoway racked up three assists and the Sioux earned their fifth trip to the Frozen Four in coach Dave Hakstol’s seven years in front of a crowd of 3,956 in the Resch Center.
And while the Sioux fans were jubilant in the stands, there was no dog pile, no helmets tossed in the air and no wild celebration from UND. It was just another day at work for a team that has been business-like at the end of the season.
“This is a special trip, the furthest we’ve been since I’ve been here,” said UND junior Jason Gregoire, who is on a career-long 16-game point streak. “But the focus of our team is incredible. We all know that hopefully there are bigger and better things. We’ve having a blast winning and it’s a lot of fun, but we just have to remember not to get too high or too low. There are going to be a lot of emotions going to the Frozen Four in St. Paul. We just have to have a good week and a half of practice. We’re all really confident.”
UND used six different goal scorers to break open a game that was highly contested for the first half.
Mario Lamoureux scored shorthanded to start the game and Evan Trupp and Brett Hextall added goals in the second period. Then, Brock Nelson, Brad Malone and Jake Marto all scored in the final 5:17 of regulation to pull away.
Goaltender Aaron Dell stopped 26 of 27 shots and 47 of 48 for the weekend to earn tournament MVP honors.
“We were able to come out on the right side of another tough battle,” Hakstol said. “This was a tough, tight, hard-fought battle right from the drop of the puck through the majority of the game. We were able to keep pushing and once we built a lead, play a good third period and close out the win.
“The bottom line is we were able to accomplish the goal we came into this weekend with and that was to win another hockey game today. We keep moving forward.”
UND will take a 15-game unbeaten streak into a Frozen Four semifinal game against the University of Michigan at 7:30 p.m. on April 7 at the Xcel Energy Center, where UND will be seeking its eighth national championship.
Denver, which finished second in the WCHA in the regular season and second in the playoffs, ends its season with a 25-12-5 mark.
“We seemed to be chasing North Dakota throughout the regular season, the postseason and again in the regionals,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “We had a little bit of their number last year in the regular season. They had a little bit of our number this year. They are very deep. When you have a team with great leadership that they have, starting with Genoway, and the firepower throughout their lineup and strong goaltending. . . that’s a tough formula to go against.”
Denver, which played a double overtime game against Western Michigan in the first round of the tournament, seemed to tire as the game went along.
It was tied 1-1 after the opening frame. Lamoureux sniped a shorthanded goal at 14:37 but WCHA rookie of the year Jason Zucker banked a shot from behind the end line off of Dell with just two-tenths of a second left in the opening frame.
That didn’t seem to rattle UND. The Sioux regrouped in the second and got a rebound goal from Trupp at 7:06 and a one-timer from Hextall on the power play at 19:07.
Then, UND took over in the third and controlled the play. Eventually, that led to a beautiful backhand goal by Nelson from in tight, an empty-net goal by Malone and a power-play tally by Marto.
“We lost in the first round the last two years,” Genoway said. “We’ve got a lot of guys in the locker room who have lost some big games. But we’ve learned a lot from being in this tournament. We try not to get distracted. We just go out and play with confidence. We’re going out and doing that right now.”