GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota’s Ryan Duncan scored 3:14 into the game with visiting Minnesota-Duluth, and his goal was all the Fighting Sioux needed for the win.
UND junior goalie Philippe Lamoureux earned his second shutout of the season, stopping all 21 of the shots he faced — 12 of them in the third period.
“In a 1-0 game, I feel like Phil was our first star tonight,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol of the Grand Forks native’s goaltending.
Duncan’s 24th goal of the season and Lamoureux’s stellar play in goal enabled the Sioux to extend their unbeaten streak to 8-0-3, best in the nation.
More importantly, the win moved UND into a fourth place tie with Colorado College. Now just one point behind third-place Denver, UND’s series next weekend with the Pioneers in Denver takes on added significance in the league standings.
As with Friday’s game, time and space were in short supply as the two teams combined for nine shots in the first period. However, it was the Sioux who cashed in on their best scoring opportunity to take a 1-0 lead that held through the remaining 56:46 of the game.
UND sophomore defenseman Brian Lee held the puck in at the blue line and dished it to forward T.J. Oshie, alone in the left circle. He skated in on goal and made a centering pass to Duncan in the slot. Duncan’s backhander beat Bulldog’s senior goalie Josh Johnson to give the Sioux the early lead and the game-winning goal.
“Their D-men had good position on me,” Duncan said. “He (Oshie) just threaded it through there, and I was fortunate to kick it off my skate, get a good bounce off my skate and put it in the net.”
The second period saw continued tight defensive play with neither team able to score. The Sioux outshot the Bulldogs 9-2 and carried the play for long stretches in UMD’s zone. The Bulldogs’ best scoring opportunity came on the power play, when Lamoureux robbed center Matt McKnight at close range. Johnson also came up big for UMD when the Sioux worked the puck down low to create several good scoring opportunities.
“We had a bad second period and we were lucky to be down only one,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “I told the guys, ‘You got 20 minutes. It’s one shot — two shots to win. Stay with the defensive part and get a little more intensity on the offensive side.”
UMD came out strong in the third period, but Lamoureux kept the puck out of the net. Sioux defenders gave the Bulldogs no second chances on the few rebounds Lamoureux gave up. However, in the last five minutes of the period, UND’s forecheck dominated, and UMD was unable to pull Johnson until 48 seconds remained in the game.
Despite the extra attacker, the Bulldogs couldn’t generate any scoring chances, and the Sioux held on for an important 1-0 conference win. The victory also improved UND’s home record to 8-7-4, the first time it’s been above .500 since Nov. 25.
“I definitely play better when I see 30-plus shots,” Lamoureux said. “It’s difficult when you do only see seven shots in two periods, and then you get a barrage of some quality chances. It’s tough to stay in it.”
Each team went 0-for-3 on the power play. Neither scored a man-advantage goal in the series, despite having two of the best power plays in the league.
Hakstol said that winning a one-goal game might be good experience for the Sioux as they head into their last four league games and the playoffs.
“We scored the game-winning goal with 56 minutes to go, and that’s a hard 1-0 game to win,” he said. “Any 1-0 game is, but I thought we had good patience for 60 minutes. The combination of that with some pretty hard play by everybody in the lineup, we were able to get it done.”
Although disappointed with the loss, Sandelin sees reason for optimism in how the Bulldogs have been playing of late.
“I think we’ve played much more consistently the past 10, 11 games,” he said. “Aside from one game in St. Cloud, I think most of our games have been pretty good. I like the tight games because we’ve been in a lot of them and you’re going to be in a lot of them down the stretch and into the playoffs. You just got to find ways to win those games.”
UND’s record stands at 11-9-4 in the WCHA, 17-11-4 overall. UMD’s league record is 6-15-3 and 10-18-4 overall. The Bulldogs hosts Alaska-Anchorage for a two-game series Feb. 23-24.