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MEN'S HOCKEY: Sioux sweep Mankato

So far, it has been another happy new year for the UND men's hockey team. The squad known for its second-half surges has some momentum brewing after Christmas break, moving to 3-0-1 in 2010 after a grind-it-out 3-2 victory over Minnesota State-Ma...

Cichy
UND's Mike Cichy (left) battles over the puck with Minnesota State-Mankato's Joe Schiller during the first period Saturday night in the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

So far, it has been another happy new year for the UND men's hockey team.

The squad known for its second-half surges has some momentum brewing after Christmas break, moving to 3-0-1 in 2010 after a grind-it-out 3-2 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato on Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

One weekend after Carter Rowney and Brett Bruneteau scored their first-career goals, Corban Knight and Mike Cichy broke lengthy goal droughts that dated back to the first weekend and the Sioux won their first one-goal game since that October series against Merrimack.

Cichy scored in the first period and Jason Gregoire continued his brilliance with a pair of goals -- making it four for the weekend -- as the Sioux improved to 12-6-4 overall and 8-6-2 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play.

"That's a huge weekend for our team," said Gregoire, who has seven goals and 14 points in the last 11 games. "Our first couple of games back in our rink in the new year, it's huge for us, huge for the fans and it's huge for the maturing of our team."

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The injury shuffle continued for UND this weekend as Knight -- the star of Friday's win with two goals -- was sidelined with a leg injury. He isn't expected back for a minimum of four-to-six weeks. With forward Brett Hextall (leg) and defenseman Chay Genoway (concussion) already out, the Sioux are a depleted squad.

But several players in the lineup have picked up their game to make up for the absence of key players. David Toews broke a seven-game point drought with an assist. Matt Frattin picked up his first two assists of the season. And Derrick LaPoint extended his point streak to five games.

"We need that," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "I think that was a trademark of our success early in the first half and a little bit of that went away for a few weeks. Hopefully, that will be a trademark of our team again in the second half."

Hakstol joked that he hopes Gregoire's four-goal weekend will be another trademark. The sophomore from Winnipeg had the game-winner in both contests against the Mavericks (11-11-2, 5-10-1 WCHA). He now leads the team in goals (12), points (19), power-play goals (five) and game-winning goals (four).

"Jason doesn't do anything different in the second half from what he does in the first half," Hakstol said. "He shows up and works. He's absolutely a pro in his approach to the game and practice. He does find a way to elevate his game at the end of the season. There's a little more than coincidence to it. It's something throughout his career that's continually happened. That's a credit to him.

"He understands that every game becomes more and more important. He's a guy who wants to be on the hot seat and he's a guy who is a difference-maker."

UND got off to a good start in both games against the Mavericks.

They were up 2-0 within eight minutes on Friday and went on to win the game 4-1. In the series finale, they were up 2-0 by the five-minute mark thanks to goals by Gregoire and Cichy.

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Hakstol credited the sellout crowd of 11,722 for helping the Sioux get off to a fast start.

"I think it's the excitement of the building," Hakstol said. "A lot of guys were excited to play here. That's part of it. We come out and we're on our toes ready to play. That helps us build a little bit of momentum. It comes back to how our guys feel about playing at home. They love playing here."

The Mavericks received goals from Geoff Irwin and Channing Boe.

"We played way better," MSU-Mankato coach Troy Jutting said. "They're a good hockey team. We spotted them two goals in the first five minutes and we beat them the rest of the game. We beat them 2-1 for the rest of the game."

Notes: Saturday's game was Military Appreciation Night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. . . LaPoint's streak is the longest current streak for a Sioux player. . . Darcy Zajac, returning from hernia surgery this weekend, led all players with eight shots on goal. . . Brad Eidsness was the third star of the game for making 20 saves.

UND 3, MSU-Mankato 2

Key play: Jason Gregoire's power-play goal for a 3-1 lead midway through the third.

Key player: Gregoire, 2 goals.

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UND 3, MSU-MANKATO 2

First period -- 1. UND, Jason Gregoire 11 (Matt Frattin 1, Derrick LaPoint 9) 3:29; 2. UND, Mike Cichy 2 (David Toews 9, Corey Fienhage 2) 4:38; 3. MSU, Geoff Irwin 6 (Kael Mouillierat 5, Ben Youds 19) 19:00 (pp). Penalties -- Ben Blood, UND, tripping, 6:38; Blood, UND, interference, 18:20

Second period -- No scoring. Penalties -- Ben Youds, MSU, roughing, 6:43; Youds, MSU, hitting after the whistle, 6:43; Cichy, UND, roughing, 6:43; Brad Malone, UND, cross-checking, 8:05; Kael Mouillierat, MSU, contact to the head roughing, 16:38

Third period -- 4. UND, Gregoire 12 (Frattin 2, Jake Marto 7) 9:42; 5. MSU, Channing Boe 2 14:36. Penalties -- Youds, MSU, hooking, 8:18; Mouillierat, MSU, cross-checking, 19:32

Goalie saves -- UND: Brad Eidsness 5-8-7 --20; MSU: Austin Lee 4-16-11 -- 31

Penalties-minutes -- UND 4-8, MSU 5-10

Power plays -- UND 1-4, MSU 1-3

Attendance -- 11,722

Referees -- Marco Hunt and Derek Shepherd

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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