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UND struggles to generate offense again in loss to St. Cloud State

UND's Joel Janatuinen, center, tries to take control of the puck against St. Cloud's Daniel Tedesco, left, Nick Poehling, center right, and Jimmy Schuldt during a matchup at the Ralph Engelstad Arena Friday, February 3, 2017. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
UND's Gage Ausmus. Right, checks St. Cloud State's Jacob Benson during the second period at the Ralph Engelstad Arena Friday, February 3, 2017. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

Somebody may want to inspect the UND men's hockey locker room for a broken mirror.

Maybe there's a black cat scurrying around the rink.

For the second time in the last week, the Fighting Hawks couldn't catch a break and lost a winnable National Collegiate Hockey Conference game.

St. Cloud State scored a goal on a shot from below the end line and another one off of a player's forehead in beating UND 3-1 in front of 11,682 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The loss came one week after UND lost to Colorado College on a pass that went off of a UND defenseman's skate and in the net.

"We've got to figure something out," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We've got to find a way to dig ourselves out. Things aren't going the right way for us. There's only the players and staff in the locker room that can do that. We have to come to work tomorrow and try to dig our way out of it."

Once again, nearly every statistical category was in favor of UND. But what has become an all-too-familiar storyline this season, the Fighting Hawks have lacked the ability to finish.

On Friday night, shot attempts favored UND 64-40. Shots on goal were 29-19.

It wasn't nearly as lopsided as last Saturday's loss to the Tigers (91-37 shot attempts, 45-20 shots on goal), but it left the players just as frustrated.

"I think we're snakebitten a little bit," UND captain Gage Ausmus said. "The goals aren't coming. That's the way hockey goes sometimes. I think in CC Saturday night, I thought we played well enough to win. I thought we played well enough to win this game tonight. That's the way hockey goes. They got the bounces."

It was another way to add to the misery in UND's home rink this season.

The Fighting Hawks, who dropped to 14-11-3 overall and 7-9-1 in league play, have now won just two of the last 11 home games. Prior to that, it lost just twice in 35 home games.

It is also putting UND at risk of finishing in the bottom half of the league standings for the first time since 2001-02 and going on the road in the first round of the playoffs.

UND is tied with Omaha with 23 points for fourth place and the final spot of home ice. St. Cloud State lurks one point back with a chance to pass UND at 7:07 tonight.

"It's definitely frustrating," UND forward Rhett Gardner said. "I thought we played another good 60, just like we did Saturday last week. We aren't getting bounces right now. We've got to stick to our game and just find a way to get a couple more in the net. We've just got to stick to it and it will come."

UND dropped to No. 12 in the Pairwise Rankings immediately after the game—still in position to get a spot in the NCAA tournament for a 15th year in a row. UND needs to, at a minimum, stay in the top 14 to get to Fargo, which hosts the West Regional.

After a strong start by UND—Shane Gersich tipped a shot that grazed over the crossbar on the first shift of the game—St. Cloud State took the initial lead.

Grand Forks native Jacob Benson got a hometown bounce in his first game in The Ralph since winning the 2013 state championship by firing a shot from below the goal line that hit UND goalie Matt Hrynkiw's hand and went behind him.

The Huskies extended the lead at 6:05 of the second, when Jimmy Schuldt fired a point shot through a screen.

Tucker Poolman prevented UND from getting blanked in back-to-back games for the first time in program history when he buried a rebound of a shot at 8:16 of the third, but the Huskies came down and answered just 28 seconds later when Robby Jackson's shot hit Ryan Poehling in the forehead and went in the net.

"You have to create your breaks," Berry said. "Some goals are going in at inopportune times in unconventional ways in our net and we're not getting bounces going the other way, but you create your own bounces. We have to get back to work and make sure we come out on the right end of it."

Berry stressed to his team to stick with it, despite the loss.

"That's where mental resiliency comes in and staying with it," Berry said. "I thought our guys did stay with it. They were upbeat and positive. It's something we're going to have to grind out. We have a lot of grit in the locker room. We have a lot of character. We have to make sure we come to work tomorrow and work our way out. Nobody is going to do it for us. It's up to the guys in the locker room and the staff together here . That's what we're going to do."

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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