GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Behind two goals by senior David Lundbohm, North Dakota claimed its fifth WCHA title in eight years by defeating the Michigan Tech Huskies, 5-1.
The Sioux victory, combined with Minnesota-Duluth’s tie at Wisconsin, means that UND takes the MacNaughton Cup outright, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s league games.
For Sioux coach Dean Blais, the fifth WCHA championship of his 10-year career was especially satisfying.
“It’s as exciting now as it was for the first one, if not more, considering the tough league,” he said. “Every weekend, you’ve got a battle on your hands, and we had one tonight.
“A lot of people thought we had an easy game. It wasn’t. We had to execute, we got some breaks and some bounces of the puck.”
Lundbohm said that winning the WCHA was the first goal on the team’s list.
“We’re going to enjoy this tonight, but definitely not get too complacent or too cocky. We’re going to make sure we’re ready to go when playoff time comes,” he said.
The Sioux scored in the first period at 8:54 on a power-play goal by freshman forward Chris Porter. From along the left boards, defenseman Nick Fuher threw the puck on net and Porter tipped it past Huskies goalie Cam Ellsworth.
UND erupted for three goals in the second period to put the game out of reach. Junior center Rory McMahon netted the game winner at 7:58 when his quick wrist shot from the left dot beat Ellsworth.
At the 9:13 mark, Lundbohm and Porter broke into the Huskies zone 2-on-1. Porter feathered a pass to Lundbohm in the slot and buried the opportunity.
The Sioux went up 4-0 at 12:42 with a power-play goal by Zach Parise, his 18th goal of the season. Linemates Brady Murray and Brandon Bochenski broke Parise loose down the right side and he beat Ellsworth with a high wrist shot glove side.
UND closed out its scoring at 6:49 of the third period with a power-play goal by Lundbohm. Freshman Drew Stafford spotted Lundbohm coming down the slot and fed him the puck from behind the net. He one-timed the pass to give the Sioux a 5-0 lead.
With 1:12 left in the game, Sioux junior goalie Jake Brandt’s shutout bid ended when MTU senior wing Brett Engelhardt beat him with a quick wrister from the right circle.
The Sioux outshot the Huskies 35-23. UND was 3-for-4 on the power play while MTU was 1-for-4.
As time ran out, 11,400 fans in Engelstad Arena counted down the clock. Only when time expired was it announced that Wisconsin and UMD had tied, giving the Sioux their fifth WCHA championship in eight years.
Blais requested that the UMD-Wisconsin score not be announced during the game.
“I just wanted our guys to concentrate on the game. Whatever happened, happened,” he said. “They came down to let me know that Duluth and Wisconsin tied, so we knew we won it outright.”
League commissioner Bruce McLeod presented the MacNaughton Cup to UND captain Andy Schneider. The players then took turns hoisting the cup over their heads and skating around the ice before the cheering throng.
Brandt said that while some might have been ready to write off the Sioux after they were swept by Wisconsin a month ago, the experience actually improved them.
“Sometimes a little adversity helps a team. Now I think we’ve really become a solid team, from goaltending to defense to forward,” he said. “That’s just something you need to win championships. We feel really good about the way we’re playing right now.”
UND improved to 25-6-3 overall and 19-5-3 in the WCHA. MTU, which could move into eighth place in the league with a victory Saturday, is 8-22-5 overall and 6-18-3 in the WCHA.