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MEN'S HOCKEY: Sioux leave no doubt

The season started in rough fashion for Minnesota -- a blowout loss against rival UND in Ralph Engelstad Arena. If things don't change in a hurry, it might end the same way. UND handed the Gophers their worst opening-round Western Collegiate Hock...

The season started in rough fashion for Minnesota -- a blowout loss against rival UND in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

If things don't change in a hurry, it might end the same way.

UND handed the Gophers their worst opening-round Western Collegiate Hockey Association loss in program history Friday night, a 6-0 blowout that leaves the Sioux one win away from their eighth straight trip to the WCHA Final Five.

Danny Kristo scored on the third shift of the game to send 11,677 fans into a frenzy and his teammates followed with goal after goal. Matt Frattin scored twice, while Chris VandeVelde, Brad Malone and Mario Lamoureux each had one to extend the country's longest winning streak to eight games.

"When you have that many people being that loud, it's going to be a tough road atmosphere for anybody," Malone said. "I think the rivalry sticks out. It's a little extra loud in here and you can't put a price tag on this kind of atmosphere. It's unbelievable."

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The victory pushes the Gophers (17-18-2) to the brink. If they do not win two straight in this best-of-three series, their season will be over earlier than any other in the last 26 years.

Ralph Engelstad Arena continued to be a house of horrors for the Gophers and goalie Alex Kangas. The junior has been pulled in three of his last four starts here -- all of them six-goal nights for the Sioux.

He was shelled again in the WCHA playoff opener, allowing four goals on 25 shots before giving way to Kent Patterson, who didn't fair much better. He gave up a pair of goals in the third on nine shots.

On the other side, UND goalie Brad Eidsness stopped 27 shots and earned his second shutout of the season. Both have come against the Gophers.

Minnesota had five power-play opportunities, but was unable to quiet the sell-out crowd at any point in the game.

"The building had a lot of energy to start with," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "That's part of what you fight so hard for during the regular season is a little bit of the home-ice boost."

Only once in the last 32 years have the Gophers lost in the first round of the playoffs. That came in 1998 to Minnesota-Duluth. It took overtime of the third game.

The Sioux (21-11-5) are threatening to take care of business in two games, something that hasn't been done since 1974. Herb Brooks was the coach of that Gopher team and Dean Blais was the leading scorer.

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While UND is also threatening to end Minnesota's 11-year run of Final Five appearances, it hopes one streak does continue: the Gophers' playoff struggles in Grand Forks. Minnesota is now 0-10 all-time in postseason games here.

Things went poorly from the start for the Gophers in this one.

The UND fans, which stand until the game's first whistle, were still on their feet when Kristo converted a turnover by Nick Larson at 1 minute, 39 seconds.

Kristo knocked the puck off of Larson's stick as he was attempting to break out of the zone, the puck went on goal and Kangas made the save. But Kristo picked up the rebound and buried it.

"When Danny gets the puck in the slot, he doesn't miss much," Malone said. "That was huge for momentum and it got the building rocking. That's why you want home ice in the playoffs."

The rest of the period was dominating by the Sioux, no matter the situation. Twelve minutes in, the only shot on goal for the Gophers was a mid-ice dump in that trickled to Eidsness.

The Sioux extended their lead with two goals in the last four minutes of the first.

A blocked shot by Jason Gregoire led to a shorthanded goal by Chris VandeVelde at 16:07 and Brett Hextall sent Malone on a breakaway for a 3-0 lead at 19:05.

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Minnesota created far more chances in the second period, but had nothing to show for it. Eidsness turned away all nine shots in the frame and was sharp throughout.

"I don't think they got very many second chances," Eidsness said. "I saw pretty much everything I stopped tonight."

UND put the game away with a goal late in the second and two more in the third.

Frattin scored on a one-timer and a rush, while Lamoureux's persistence paid off for a goal in the slot. Frattin now has seven goals in eight games, while Lamoureux has four goals in the last six.

"Whether you win by one, lose by one or like we did tonight, it doesn't matter," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "You just got to try to come back and win tomorrow."

Notes: Derrick LaPoint had three assists and was a plus-four, while defensive partner Jake Marto had an assist and was plus-three. Those two are a combined plus-24 during UND's eight-game winning streak. . . Brent Davidson played his third straight game at defense. Corey Fienhage was scratched. . . . This was the first meeting between the rivals in the open-ing round of the playoffs since 2002, when Minnesota swept UND in Mariucci Arena. . . Inside College Hockey named UND's Kristo the WCHA rookie of the year. Kristo is on an eight-game point streak.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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