GRAND FORKS, N.D. — It’s a college hockey tradition to recognize seniors during the final regular season home game, but how often does every senior player score a goal on that special night?
That’s what happened in North Dakota’s 5-1 win over visiting Michigan Tech as all three Sioux seniors chipped in goals to help sweep the series. Forwards David Lundbohm, Ryan Hale and Tyler Palmiscno each scored after being recognized with their parents during a pre-game ceremony.
“It’s pretty special for me, coming in and playing four years with these guys,” Lundbohm said. “We all got a chance to play and all got a goal. It’s pretty emotional, pretty special for us.”
Because the Sioux clinched the WCHA title outright on Friday, the game had little meaning for them. But a victory for the Huskies would have moved them into an eighth-place tie with Alaska-Anchorage.
“It was tough to make sure that we were ready for tonight after having such a momentous night last night and hoisting the cup,” Hale said. “We had a little slow start, but our guys came around. Everybody was working hard toward the end.”
Instead of traveling east to face Wisconsin in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, the loss means that last-place MTU will stay in Grand Forks for next weekend’s best-of-three series against first-place UND.
“We needed to get two points to jump up to eighth place, which would have been big just for team morale,” said MTU captain Brett Engelhardt. “We didn’t want to play these guys four times in a row. That gets a little old.”
Although Saturday’s score was exactly the same as Friday’s, MTU coach Jamie Russell was more satisfied with his team’s performance. Unfortunately, the bounces and the calls didn’t go the Huskies’ way.
“I thought we played a good hockey game tonight, in contrast to last night,” he said. “I thought we won some battles and competed much harder. We made some plays. We didn’t get any breaks tonight — not one.”
Video replays showed that the game-winning goal probably shouldn’t have counted. Palmiscno’s goal came on a centering pass that went in off the skate of MTU defenseman Marek Dora.
“It’s a big momentum swing when we’re tied 1-1 half way through the second and they get a goal that’s questionable,” Engelhardt said. “And then to look up at the replay and see that it obviously was not in — everyone in the place knew it — that hurts. It’s hard to overcome that.
“They got another one after that that went in off our skate. That’s a tough momentum swing.”
MTU gave UND all it could handle in the first period. Sioux defenseman Andy Schneider kept the Huskies off the board when he scooped up a puck just before it crossed the line that had trickled through goalie Jordan Parise’s pads.
At 15:24, Lundbohm gathered in a drop pass high in the slot from freshman forward Chris Porter and whipped a shot past MTU goalie Cam Ellsworth. The Sioux held a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period.
“We weren’t prepared mentally,” said UND coach Dean Blais. “We got shocked into playing after the guys realized that we only had 15 (shot) attempts the first period when we average twice that. Give Michigan Tech credit, too. They battled and competed.”
In the second period, MTU sophomore wing Chris Conner tied it 1-1 at 5:59, scoring his 25th goal of the season. With the Huskies on the power play, Engelhardt hit Conner with a cross-ice pass that he slammed home.
Blais said Conner’s goal jump-started the Sioux.
“You could feel it on the bench: ‘Hey, this game cannot slip away’” Blais said. “We know what’s at stake for them, and we don’t want to give them any momentum going into next week’s playoffs. If they beat you once, there’s a psychological effect that they can beat you again.”
The controversial game-winning goal came at 12:37 with UND on the power play. Junior defenseman Nick Fuher fired a hard shot from the left circle that clanged off the far corner and bounced out. The goal light came on and referee Bill Mason signaled the goal.
After conferring with the assistant referees and the goal judge, Mason allowed the goal to stand, even though a replay from directly above showed that the puck never went in. However, video replays are not consulted during regular-season games.
“He [Mason] said he checked with the goal judge and the goal judge wasn’t sure it went in,” Russell said. “He checked with both ARs and neither AR was sure it went in or not. He did have good position. In his point of view, he thought it went in.”
Palmiscno gave the Sioux a 3-1 lead with 3:56 left in the second period. In a two-on-one rush with Hale, Palmiscno faked the shot and then fired a centering pass that deflected in off Marek’s skate.
Two UND goals in the third period snuffed out any hope of an MTU rally. Three minutes into the period, Sioux freshman forward Brady Murray flipped in a backhand off the rebound of Quinn Fylling’s shot.
Hale closed out the scoring at 17:56 when he fought through a check along the boards and walked in on Ellsworth. He got the goalie down and then slid a back hand past him.
Parise stopped 27 of 28 shots he faced while Ellsworth stopped 26 of 31 shots. UND converted on one of two power play opportunities and MTU was 1-4.
The Sioux have played the Huskies four times this season and defeated them by a four-goal margin each time.
“We need to play almost a near-perfect game to beat these guys,” Engelhardt said. “We haven’t put up the goals against them that we should be.”
The Sioux end the regular season with an overall record of 26-6-3 (20-5-3 WCHA). MTU is 8-23-1 overall and 6-19-3 in the WCHA.