Sioux Shake Off Fatigue, Win WCHA Title
by Scott Stone/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. Last season, Minnesota-Duluth became the first team in the history of the WCHA Final Five tournament to win the play-in game on Thursday night en route to a Broadmoor Trophy as tournament champs. It was said previously that winning three games in the tournament was impossible. The Fighting Sioux may now be making it a trend.
North Dakota took the crown as WCHA Final Five champions with a hard-nosed, gutsy 5-3 win over St. Cloud State in front of 16,414 fans at the Xcel Energy Center.
Tonight’s game was the Fighting Sioux’s sixth in nine days and the tanks were empty up and down the bench, but North Dakota simply would not be denied on this night.
“The energy level was not going to be an excuse for this team,” said North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol. “Second effort, extra effort, and good goaltending did the job for us tonight.”
For the third game in a row, sophomore netminder Brad Eidsness came up large and helped his team to a victory. He was spectacular, especially with his team running on empty in the third.
“I looked up at the clock at somewhere around the eight- or nine-minute mark and kind of took another look at our bench and I kind of had a feeling that I shouldn’t let in another goal,” said Eidsness jokingly about his team’s tiredness in the third. “The boys wouldn’t have been too happy with me if I would have let in another goal.”
Eidsness, and teammates Chris VandeVelde and Ben Blood were named to the all-tournament team, but it was the tourney’s runaway MVP that once again showed up.
Junior forward Evan Trupp recorded two primary assists on back-to-back North Dakota goals to tie the game after the Fighting Sioux were down two just one minute into the game.
St. Cloud came out on fire out of the gates, racking up a 2-0 lead within the game's first minute, as North Dakota showed its fatigue on goals by Garrett Raboin and David Eddy.
From then on, the Fighting Sioux settled in and battled back.
“I kind of took a look around and looked down our bench and I just saw kind of a steely calm on the bench,” said Eidsness of his team’s response to a bad start. “We knew we didn’t come out well but I think it’s just kind of the story of our year. We’ve been able to battle through adversity and get back to the job at hand.”
North Dakota then took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play in the second, scoring twice on goals by Danny Kristo and VandeVelde to put North Dakota up for good.
With the legs running wary for North Dakota, St. Cloud made it a game again with just over three minutes to go in the second, but the effort was too strong for the Fighting Sioux to let St. Cloud tie it up. North Dakota finally got a chance to breathe when junior Matt Frattin notched an empty-net goal with 40 seconds to go.
“That was the only time that I actually took a breath,” said Hakstol of the empty netter. “Rather than a sense of relief, I was just happy for the players.”
One of the players that Hakstol referred to was injured defenseman and North Dakota’s captain Chay Genoway. Genoway, who hasn’t played since Nov. 13 due to post-concussion syndrome, came out on to the ice to accept the Broadmoor Trophy after the coaxing of fellow seniors VandeVelde and Darcy Zajac.
“He really didn’t want to go but we knew how big a moment it was for him,” said Zajac, whose brother Kelly lost his ECAC title bid with Union on Saturday. “He wanted to be out there more than anybody. It was just a special moment. Me and Vandy (VandeVelde) knew it wasn’t our turn, it was his turn.”