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MEN'S HOCKEY: UND 5, Western Michigan 4

Bryn Chyzyk watched Western Michigan score goals on three of its first four shots. "I started going, is this how my Senior Night is going to go?" Chyzyk said. No, it would not. Chyzyk went into the locker room during the first intermission, told ...

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UND's Joel Janatuinen (25), right, takes a shot against Western Michigan's Scott Moldenhauer (15) during the first period at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, ND on Saturday, March 5, 2016. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

Bryn Chyzyk watched Western Michigan score goals on three of its first four shots.

"I started going, is this how my Senior Night is going to go?" Chyzyk said.

No, it would not.

Chyzyk went into the locker room during the first intermission, told the team: "Screw senior night. We need to win." Then he came out in the second period, scored a shorthanded goal and sparked UND to a 5-4 comeback victory in front of 11,903 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The game-winning goal was scored by another senior, Drake Caggiula, who broke a 4-4 tie early in the third period with a snipe on the power play as UND closed up a tremendous regular season at 28-5-3 overall and 19-4-1 in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play.

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The Fighting Hawks finished the conference season with 59 points, edging out St. Cloud State and Denver by six. The previous two NCHC champs finished with 50 and 48. They also moved up to No. 1 in the Pairwise Rankings, passing Quinnipiac for the first time.

After the game, the four seniors -- Chyzyk, Caggiula, Colten St. Clair and Coltyn Sanderson watched a tribute video on the big screen with their arms around each other, letting their emotions go.

"That's tough," Chyzyk said, holding back tears. "That's tough. Just thinking about four years going through your head. . . special place."

Caggiula said: "Extremely emotional. It just exceeded everything I thought it could be. Even during the game, there were lots of ups and downs. Then, obviously, with it being senior night. . . it's pretty emotional seeing my mom cry before the game, so I've got to put a little on her. It's emotional but it's a special one."

It won't be their last game in The Ralph, though.

UND will host Colorado College -- for the third year in a row -- in a best-of-three series beginning at 7:37 p.m. Friday. The winner will advance to NCHC Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis.

This was the last game in front of the students, though. They'll be on Spring Break next week.

It didn't start well.

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Star forward Nick Schmaltz, who was shaken up at the end of his four-point night Friday, tried to warm up, but it didn't go well and he was scratched. The coaching staff called Joel Janatuinen, who was still in his dorm room, to rush to the rink to play.

Then, UND goalie Cam Johnson, a candidate for NCHC player of the year, allowed three goals on four shots as Western Michigan converted its Grade A looks.

Matt Hrynkiw came in and UND rallied.

Chyzyk scored a shorthanded goal at 3:16 of the second period, Troy Stecher buried a look from the high slot at 8:14 and Shane Gersich tipped a Gage Ausmus point shot at 11:01 to put UND ahead 4-3.

"The boys responded well after the first and it ended up being a good night," Chyzyk said.

Western Michigan's Nolan LaPorte scored a power-play goal at the end of the second to tie it 4-4, but Caggiula ran UND's winning streak to six games with his power-play snipe at 5:44 of the third.

"It's definitely a goal that I won't forget," Caggiula said. "Scoring in your last regular season game at home, on Senior Night, it's a special moment. It was a big goal for the team. It gave us a boost and got us over the hump. I couldn't ask for anything more."

The players suggested that UND's lethargic start could have been due to Friday night's 8-1 blowout win or thinking that Senior Night was going to be easy.

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"I think it's a really tough weekend for a lot of people, obviously, knowing that your time here is coming to an end," Caggiula said. "This place is so good to us. . . the fans. . . it's really a surreal atmosphere all the time. You just can't be more grateful for everything that we get. It's absolutely unbelievable. I think that hits guys this weekend more than anything else. It's a challenge to manage those emotions."

UND coach Brad Berry said the team is going to have to do that going forward.

"Sometimes, it distracts you a bit," Berry said of Senior Night. "But it's a lesson learned tonight. We're going to get a lot of adversity and distractions in the next few weeks and we have to handle it the right way."

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