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Union's goalie decision pays dividends in strong weekend against UND

On Thursday, Union coach Rick Bennett made the decision to start goalie Jake Kupsky over Darion Hanson.

Based solely on won-loss records, Bennett's decision looks a little strange.

Kupsky entered the weekend 1-5 on the year and Hanson was 6-1.

But thanks to a 2-2 tie with UND on Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena, Union and Kupsky escaped a non-conference series with the No. 3 Fighting Hawks with a valuable win and a tie.

A good portion of the success was on the back of Kupsky, who made 64 saves on the weekend, including 37 in Friday's 4-1 victory.

"It was a childhood dream of mine to play in an arena like this," Kupsky said. "I was really happy to be in this arena and play against this team. I was thankful for the opportunity, and I was able to run with it."

Kupsky, a 6-foot-4 junior and San Jose Sharks draft pick, struggled out of the gates this season as the Dutchmen started the year 0-5.

But Bennett said he made the goalie decision based off practice during the week and took the advice of his goalie coach.

"I rely on (our goalie coach) a lot but ultimately it was my decision to go with Jake," Bennett said. "After Friday happened, he made my decision Saturday easy for me."

Kupsky didn't think much changed in his game from his early season struggles to the strong weekend against UND. His coach agreed.

"We're helping him out a heck of a lot more," Bennett said. "That's to be expected a little bit as we get used to our systems."

Despite the win and a tie against UND, the Dutchmen didn't have a celebratory locker room Saturday night.

The Dutchmen felt they let an opportunity for a sweep slip through their fingers on a late goal by UND's Shane Gersich, who scored with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the third period to tie the score at 2-2.

"We're not happy about it," Bennett said. "We missed assignments.

"(UND) is an excellent hockey team. They're well-coached and they play hard. They're exactly what we saw on tape."

The sour mood was taken as a positive by Bennett, though.

"That's what you want as a coaching staff," he said. "If we want to be a No. 1 ranked team like the North Dakotas and others, then we have to keep battling hard. Hopefully these venues and challenges on the road can help us in the end."

Kupsky was a little more positive in his weekend assessment.

"Obviously it's not the best because it was a tie, but we got a win and a tie this weekend and I think for six periods we outworked them," Kupsky said.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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