MINNEAPOLIS — For North Dakota, it was another victory in a second-half run that has become a trademark. For Minnesota, it was another frustrating loss in a season full of them.
The Fighting Sioux (17-8-1, 14-7-0 WCHA) won 2-1 Friday night before a capacity crowd at Mariucci Arena on Evan Trupp’s overtime goal, moving closer to the top of the WCHA standings and sending the Gophers (12-12-5, 6-10-3) further back in the pack.
Trupp’s winner came at 2:23 on a spectacular play. Ryan Martens collected the puck behind the Minnesota goal and flipped it high around the net, where a diving Trupp whacked it out of midair past Gopher netminder Alex Kangas to give the Fighting Sioux their nation-best eighth straight win.
“I was just trying to get it on net, maybe get a rebound,” said Trupp. “Luckily, it went in.”
“It seems like every goal he scores is a highlight goal,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol of Trupp. The bench boss also complimented goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, who was his usual steady self, stopping 21 of 22 Minnesota shots on net.
“It was typical of what we’ve kind of been all year — everybody chipping in at the right times,” added Hakstol.
The Gophers’ performance, meanwhile, mirrored their recent fortunes, as Minnesota was unable to mount a strong finish.
“It’s kind of been the story of the season, trying to figure out how to close a game,” said Minnesota’s Evan Kaufmann. “I don’t think it’s a physical thing at all — it’s obviously a mental thing.”
“Their kid beat our guy out of the corner and made a great play, and that was the difference,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, whose team is 1-3-3 in its last seven. “We’ve lost three overtime games of late, and they kill you.”
With the score knotted at 1 to start the third period, UND closed out a power play by peppering Kangas, who performed creditably with 32 saves on 34 shots in his eighth straight game in net. Minnesota returned the favor with a shot off the post behind Lamoureux on the return trip up-ice, but the tie held.
With five minutes left in regulation and Minnesota on the power play, Lamoureux made the saves of the game, stacking the pads to deny Tony Lucia’s one-on-one and then slapping away Mike Carman’s rebound attempt to keep the score tied.
Despite the lack of scoring, the Sioux controlled play in the third, with a 17-8 advantage in shots and a jump that carried into overtime and eventually to the win.
“It was just fresh legs,” said Hakstol.
Early on, matters seemed much different. Minnesota’s penalty kill got the Gophers on the scoreboard when Tony Lucia chipped the puck up the boards for Kaufmann. The senior cut in from Lamoureux’s right before backhanding the puck off the far post and into the net at 3:16. Minnesota nearly managed two goals on the same PK with a two-on-one a minute later, but Lamoureux stopped Mike Hoeffel from short range.
The Sioux evened it up at 7:49. Skating four-on-four, Joe Finley took a rink-wide pass from Chay Genoway and blasted a long slapshot through a screen and past Kangas to tie the score at 1. Shots on goal after 20 minutes favored Minnesota 8-2, a shocking total given North Dakota’s three power plays.
“I thought we were sloppy on the power play,” said Hakstol. “Most of the opportunities were shorthanded.”
North Dakota appeared to take the lead midway through the second on the power play. T.J. Oshie had the would-be tally on a nifty play, swatting the rebound of Chris VandeVelde’s shot out of midair baseball-style. The puck trickled through Kangas, who appeared initially to have made the stop, and was eventually tapped in by VandeVelde.
But referee Don Adam, losing sight of the puck, blew the play dead before it crossed the line, and the no-goal ruling was upheld on video review.
Late in the middle frame, Jay Barriball had a chance to put Minnesota back on top on a breakaway, but Lamoureux made the stop. For the second period, UND had the edge on possession and an 11-6 advantage in shots.
“I thought we started skating in the second period,” said Hakstol, whose Sioux didn’t stop skating for the rest of the game.
Minnesota, on the other hand, was left looking for a way out of its offensive doldrums. The Gophers have scored two goals or fewer in each of their last five games and are averaging just 2.5 goals per game on the season.
“If we have to do it a different way this year, maybe that’s good for us,” said Kaufmann. “We have to find a way to win these close games.”
Minnesota held UND off the scoreboard on the power play, as the Fighting Sioux went 0-for-6 on the evening, but the Gophers were 0-for-4 as well.
“If you can’t score five-on-five, usually it’s not going to get better on the power play,” said Don Lucia.
North Dakota and Minnesota rematch Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. CT at Mariucci.