North Dakota Learns Lessons in Friday Loss
by Virg Foss/Staff Writer
With seven straight wins and an 8-0-1 record in its last nine games, North Dakota has dished out some lessons in sound hockey in moving into first place in the WCHA race and second in the national rankings.
Friday, the Sioux learned a valuable lesson in seeing the streaks end against their biggest rival. The Minnesota Gophers built a 2-0 lead after one period and hung on to beat the Sioux 3-2 in front a sellout of 11,844 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"I thought the difference was the first 20 minutes,'' UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "We gave up a 2-0 lead and we never did play the type of game we wanted in the first period.''
It proved to be a costly lesson for Sioux. Mike Hoeffel converted a rare offensive faceoff win by Minnesota with his blast from the top of the faceoff circle to put the Gophers on top 1-0 at 11:22 of the first period.
Jake Hansen knocked in a rebound at 15:51 on a power play with UND's Brett Hextall serving the first of three penalties he collected tonight. That staked the Gophers to a 2-0 lead after one period.
"We tried to fight back, grind back after that,'' Hakstol said. "We played a pretty good two periods. But we made too many mistakes along the way that led to penalties. We couldn't come all the way back.''
Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson, playing his first game since goaltending partner Alex Kangas was lost to season-ending hip surgery, made 35 saves in the win.
“The guys came in and executed the way we wanted them to,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “Kent obviously gave us a good game in the net and we scored a couple of power-play goals, which we had to have. I thought defensively, for the most part, we played well.
UND did come back to tie the game, but missed a couple of great chances to go ahead.
Brad Malone got the Sioux on the board at 13:54 of the second period on a power play. He flipped a backhand past Gopher goalie Kent Patterson (35 saves), scoring on a rebound of his initial shot from the slot.
Earlier in the period, UND's Mario Lamoureux was stopped on a clean breakaway on a right pad save by Patterson.
And less than two minutes after Malone scored, the nation's leading goal scorer, UND senior Matt Frattin hit the inside of the pipe with his rocket of a shot. His streak of eight straight games with a goal ended tonight, four shy of the school record of 12.
Linemate Evan Trupp saw the rebound come off the pipe directly to him with an open net staring at him from Frattin's pipe-chimer, but the puck hopped his stick and Trupp had nothing but air to swing at.
Junior Jason Gregoire who had missed the last seven games with an injury, made a big splash in his return.
Gregoire converted a pass from Hextall on a power play at 1:31 of the third period to tie the game at 2-2. It was the 10th point in 10 career games against the Gophers for Gregoire.
But the penalties Hakstol mentioned came back to hurt the Sioux, who took all three minor penalties called in the third period.
With Sioux freshman Derek Rodwell serving a tripping penalty, Minnesota's Nico Sacchetti beat Sioux goalie Aaron Dell short side high on the power play at 4:45 and a 3-2 Gopher lead.
It proved to be all the offense the Gophers 10-8-3, 7-6-2 WCHA) would need to beat the Sioux (16-6-2, 11-4 WCHA), only Minnesota's fifth win in the last 19 meetings with UND.
"We didn't play good from the drop of the puck tonight,'' Hakstol said. "It cost us two points. Minnesota played well, played hard. They're a good team, we knew that. It puts the onus on us coming back tomorrow night.''
The Sioux outshot the Gophers 37-29 and attempted 83 shots to 55 for Minnesota. But the Gophers blocked 31 Sioux shots before they reached the net.
"We got to do a better job getting pucks through,'' Hakstol said. "They clogged it up. They packed it in around their net and blocked a lot of shots.''
Gregoire made an impact after his long absence, scoring a goal and managing four shots on net.
But he couldn't solve the first-period blues for the Sioux. "All our rushes were one-and-done,'' Gregoire said.
Gregoire says the Sioux need to change their play Saturday. "We need better first couple shifts, better first period, get them on their heels,'' Gregoire said. "Definitely more physical within our limits, without taking penalties. We took some bad penalties at bad times in the third period, and we can't be doing that.''
Malone said the first period was the downfall as well. "To win games in this league, you've got to play a full 60 minutes,'' he said. "It's tough to deal with as a veteran team. But it's time to learn and just kind of move on it from it."