NCAA MEN'S HOCKEY WEST REGIONAL FINAL: Minnesota stops UND short of Frozen FourST. PAUL — It was the same building, in the same locker room. And many of the same emotions came up for the UND men’s hockey team after its season ended in the same place as last year with a 5-2 loss to the University of Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional final on Sunday.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
ST. PAUL — It was the same building, in the same locker room.
And many of the same emotions came up for the UND men’s hockey team after its season ended in the same place as last year with a 5-2 loss to the University of Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional final on Sunday.
Despite playing a third of the season — and the entire playoff run — without enough healthy players to fill out a lineup, it was clear that a young Sioux team expected to contend for a national championship just as much as last year’s juggernaut squad.
“Everyone outside this locker room says we overachieved,” captain Mario Lamoureux said. “But I think everyone in here from Day One believed we’d be a great hockey team. I think the last month, we came back and showed that. We didn’t get to where we wanted to be, but we showed the nation that a lot can be accomplished when you have character and heart like we do. I hope the guys can carry that forward into the future.”
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We didn’t expect it to end tonight.”
UND entered the region final on an eight-game winning streak, with the Broadmoor Trophy as Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champs in hand and with a ton of momentum from a 22-5-2 charge down the stretch.
But in a poor second period against the MacNaughton Cup champ Gophers, things got away from the Sioux.
Minnesota outshot UND 12-2 in the middle frame and used goals by Erik Haula, Taylor Matson and Travis Boyd to extend its lead to 4-1 after 40 minutes. And unlike last weekend in the WCHA Final Five, the Gophers didn’t cough up this three-goal lead.
“I thought we needed to get one (early in the third),” Hakstol said. “Whether or not we could have rattled them at all, I don’t know. I don’t know what we had for shots on goal in the third period, but I know we had some great opportunities. I thought if we could get this to two by the 10-minute mark, our team would be in great shape. We’d have a shot at it. We weren’t able to do that, but I don’t think the mentality changed all the way down to the final faceoff.”
Danny Kristo, who was named to the all-West Region team, and Lamoureux scored the goals for the Sioux, who finished the season with a 26-13-2 overall record. Junior goalie Aaron Dell finished with 19 saves.
Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson, named the regional’s most outstanding player, stopped 24 shots. The biggest one may have been a toe save on a doorstep chance by Mark MacMillan in the first period to keep the game scoreless.
The Gophers took the first lead of the game when Ben Marshall’s slap shot on a rush went off of the stick of Lamoureux and into the top corner of the net at 12:19 of the opening frame.
Just 20 seconds into the second period, Haula was left alone on top of the crease and made it 2-0 with a power-play goal. Kristo got the Sioux back into it, snapping a shot from the slot past Patterson’s blocker at 1:43, but Minnesota scored a backbreaker midway through the frame. Defenseman Nate Schmidt’s breakaway attempt was stopped, but Matson followed up on the rebound.
“I think the difference was in the second period,” Hakstol said. “They took advantage of some momentum after we made it 2-1. Had we been able to push that to 2-2 or take a one-goal game into the third period, it would have been much different.”
The Sioux pushed hard in the third period — outshooting the Gophers 15-4 — but that’s when Patterson was at his best.
The Gophers will make their first trip to the Frozen Four since 2005, when they lost to UND in the semifinals. They will play Boston College at 7 p.m. on April 5.
Meanwhile, UND returned home from St. Paul with disappointment from the loss but with a lot of memories from the stunning stretch run.
“We played for each other every time we stepped on the ice,” Lamoureux said. “That’s what I’m most proud about. We won some championships here. We didn’t accomplish our final goal. But I can look back and say I’m extremely proud. We battled all season long through ups and downs. I’m extremely proud of the guys.
“We had defensemen playing forward and we were playing 11 forwards for the last month and we didn’t use it as an excuse. We battled up for those injured guys. I’m extremely proud that we battled. I can’t think the guys enough for battling all year long the way they did.”