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Best Effort: North Dakota Stays Hot, Stifles Minnesota

Team Effort Highlighted By Bina Shorthander

— In the opening game of the only regular-season series between Minnesota and North Dakota, the red-hot Fighting Sioux stayed that way.

Defenseman Robbie Bina scored a momentum-changing shorthander late in the first period; Jonathan Toews notched the go-ahead goal and added two assists; Ryan Duncan scored two goals and also had an assist; and Philippe Lamoureux stopped 35 shots as North Dakota upended host Minnesota 5-3 Friday night at Mariucci Arena.

The win extended North Dakota’s unbeaten streak to a nation-best six games as Boston University, previously the owner of a seven-game streak, lost to archrival Boston College.

The game’s opening minutes were controlled by Minnesota, which quickly built a 2-0 lead. But North Dakota (14-11-2, 8-9-2 WCHA) didn’t panic, and Bina started the charge by narrowing the edge to one with less than two minutes left in the first period.

With Minnesota (21-4-3, 13-3-3 WCHA) on the power play after a sequence of penalties to both sides, Bina netted perhaps the game’s most important tally by firing low past netminder Kellen Briggs (22 saves) at 18:05 for his seventh goal of the season.

“That was obviously a big play for us,” said North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol. “It allowed us to regroup.”

The goal was the diminutive junior’s third in his last two games, gave him his 13th point in his last 13 games, and opened the floodgates for UND. The Fighting Sioux scored three more goals in the second period, deflating the Gophers, and cruised to the win.

In all, UND scored five straight goals against a team which entered the game leading the WCHA in scoring defense and had only permitted five goals in a game twice all season — and Minnesota had managed to tie both of those.

The Gophers outshot the Sioux 38-27, but only tallied twice on 11 power-play attempts — one of them coming after the game was out of reach — while giving up Bina’s shorthander. UND went 1-for-5 with the man-advantage.

“Any time you give them a chance on the power play, they’re going to get pretty close,” said Toews. “We didn’t allow much of that tonight.”

Returning to the ice for the second period after Bina’s timely score, UND stifled the Minnesota offense. Seven minutes in, Erik Fabian, playing his 100th career game for the Fighting Sioux, knotted it up. Rylan Kaip won the draw to Briggs’ left and fired a shot-pass that Fabian knocked down and shoveled into the wide-open net.

And at 9:25, North Dakota took its first lead on a perseverance play. After a nifty diagonal pass from T.J. Oshie to Chay Genoway, Toews cleaned up a short rebound in traffic to make it 3-2 UND.

The Gophers had a chance to equal Bina’s shorthander late in the second period, but Tony Lucia was unable to step around the defense for a shot. And with Minnesota back on the power play minutes later, Kyle Okposo put a sharp move on a defender to earn a shot from point-blank range, but Lamoureux stopped the puck up high.

With seconds to go in the middle frame, the Fighting Sioux responded with the backbreaker. With Minnesota’s Jim O’Brien off for holding, Taylor Chorney’s shot from the point rebounded in the slot. Toews put it back on net, and Duncan dug it out of traffic and zipped it past Briggs with just 10.2 ticks left on the clock to make it 4-2 UND.

Toews’ assist, his third point of the game, was his 10th point in five games since returning from the World Junior Championships.

Two goals late in the third completed the scoring. Duncan notched an unassisted goal at 17:25 — his team-leading 19th — and Minnesota’s Justin Bostrom tallied at 18:42 to account for the 5-3 final.

Minnesota, which played with only 11 forwards, has now lost three of five since running off a school-record 22-game unbeaten streak.

“We’re a little disjointed,” said Gopher head coach Don Lucia, who added that Minnesota needed better decision-making with the puck.

“Two goals were the direct result of turnovers,” he said. “Overall, they were stronger on the puck than us.”

Early on, Ryan Stoa got the scoring started for Minnesota with his ninth goal of the year. On the power play, Stoa took a swipe at a puck at the edge of the crease, which was then inadvertently kicked in by a Sioux defender at 2:03 of the first period.

Skating four-on-four later in the frame, Alex Goligoski increased the lead to two. With Lamoureux nowhere near the play, Goligoski’s shot at an open net was blocked by Chorney, but Goligoski got the puck back from O’Brien and blasted it home from the edge of the right circle at 14:20.

But that was all the scoring for Minnesota until late in the proceedings, allowing the Sioux to take command.

“We’re just having more fun,” said Toews of UND’s recent play, prior to which the Fighting Sioux were below .500 overall. “It’s tough when you work all week and don’t see any results.”

Saturday’s rematch will be played at Mariucci starting at 7:07 p.m. CT. In addition to Fox Sports Net North’s coverage, the contest will be seen nationwide on CSTV.

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