Oshie, Lamoureux Get Sioux to St. Paul
by Virg Foss/Staff Writer
GRAND FORKS, N.D. North Dakota senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux has a strong grasp on history — and dramatics.
After Lamoureux (10 saves) and the Fighting Sioux beat Michigan Tech 2-1 tonight to advance to the WCHA Final Five beginning Thursday in St. Paul, Lamoureux skated over to the stands and tossed his goalie stick to a kid in the crowd.
He had reason to celebrate. The victory in the deciding game of the Best-of-3 series sent the Sioux to the Final Five for the sixth straight year with an opportunity down the road of making their fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
"I remember being at (Sioux) game when Jason Blake (UND 1996-99) scored an overtime goal," Lamoureux said. "I was standing by the tunnel, and he gave his stick to a kid a couple of feet away from me. I thought it was pretty cool."
The Sioux needed to be cool tonight to handle a gritty Michigan Tech team that finished ninth in the WCHA in the regular season, but put up a strong fight against the second-seeded Sioux.
Junior center T.J. Oshie, delivered all the offense the Sioux needed with his 16th and 17th goals of the season, tops on the team.
He gathered in a saucer pass just inside the blue line from linemate Ryan Duncan and sailed in alone to deke Tech goalie Michael-Lee Teslak (22 saves) and score on a backhander at 11:27 of the first period to fire the first salvo for the Sioux, tying the game 1-1.
Then Oshie wasted little time in putting the Sioux ahead for good.
He one-timed a cross-ice pass from senior defenseman Robbie Bina just 19 seconds into the second period to make it 2-1, which proved to be the last goal of the game.
It was quite a statement goal for Oshie, who suffered a lower-body injury in a game against St. Cloud State last weekend and wasn't sure he would be able to play this past weekend.
"The kid's a helluva hockey player," Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell said of Oshie. "He's a difference-maker. He's not long in this league. He's going to be a difference-maker at the next level as well. He's a terrific hockey player. He plays hard, too. He's strong defensively, he's good on faceoffs, he's solid on his skates, he's a strong kid. He's impressive."
The Sioux had to survive a harrowing final 36 seconds after Teslak was lifted for an extra attacker. But Lamoureux shut the door, making five of his 10 total saves in the closing period.
The 11 shots the Sioux allowed on goal is their lowest of the season Lamoureux had lots of help from his friends. Sioux forwards and defensemen blocked 23 of Tech's 52 shots attempts before they reached Lamoureux.
"I thought it was a very even series," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "Various times in all three games we had an opportunity to extend the lead. Tonight in the second period, we had some opportunities where I thought we could build the lead. But they (Huskies) are so darn tough to play against. Teslak made some timely saves in that second period."
The Sioux outshot the Huskies 14-2 in the second period, but had to settle for a 2-1 lead on Oshie's early goal.
With the victory, the Sioux advanced to the Final Five semifinals, where they will play Denver University Friday at the Xcel Energy Center. The Sioux (25-9-4) won three of four games from the Pioneers during the regular season.
Michigan Tech applied a lot of pressure on the Sioux in the final period, but still managed just five shots on goal. "I'd use the word furious third period," Hakstol said. "I thought when the game was on the line and Michigan Tech was down, they made an awful lot of plays. Maybe the most plays out of any period through the nine periods. They were very good."
The Huskies buzzed Lamoureux in the closing seconds, but couldn't beat him. "We had a bouncing puck in the crease with one second to go, so absolutely it went right down to the wire," Hakstol said. "It's almost a shame one team had to lose this game, because both teams laid their hearts on the line."
But a hobbled Oshie delivered the goods. "For those who know T.J.," Hakstol said, "it was probably evident that physically he wasn't quite 100 percent. But you talk about mentally and being driven at 100 percent-plus, that's something you can't replace and that's something he brings to the table."
Oshie scored three of UND's seven goals on the weekend, none bigger than his two tonight.
"There was a little frustration there (from the injury) through the three games," Oshie said. "But I'm an older guy, I'm a leader, I've got to play through this. That's what I tried to do."
The Sioux bounced back well after giving up the tying goal with 5.5 seconds left in regulation play Saturday night, then losing 3-2 in overtime after winning Game One 4-0.
"It was a good challenge for our team," Oshie said. "They rose to the challenge. It feels good."