DULUTH, Minn. — The most pressing question at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center on Saturday afternoon was not: When will Minnesota Duluth score again, but when will North Dakota lose again?
North Dakota defeated UMD 2-0 to open a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series and stretched its unbeaten streak to 14 games (13-0-1), the best in Division I, before a sellout crowd of 5,356. It ‘s the third-longest unbeaten streak in program history.
The Fighting Sioux (22-8-2 and 17-7-1 in WCHA), No. 4 in the PairWise Rankings, haven’t lost in 57 days, since giving up a third-period lead in a 3-2 defeat Jan. 4 at St. Cloud State.
UMD (12-13-6 and 8-12-5), No. 12 in the PairWise, was shut out for a third straight game, a first in the program’s 56 years. All three blankings have come at home for a record scoreless streak of 181 minutes.
North Dakota senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux earned his fifth shutout of the season, ninth of his career and 54th win overall, tying Lefty Curran of International Falls for third on the school victory list. He made 28 saves, 13 in the third period.
“We played good solid, mistake free hockey and when Duluth came after us in the third period, Phil stepped up,” said North Dakota sophomore center Chris VandeVelde. “When he plays well, we find a way to win. His statistics speak for themselves, he’s right at the top of the list.”
Lamoureux, getting attention as a Hobey Baker Memorial Award candidate, leads WCHA goalies in goals-against in all games at 1.70 and is second in save percentage at .933. Another star, junior center T.J. Oshie, gave North Dakota a spark offensively with a goal and an assist.
The Fighting Sioux hurt UMD with goals in the final seconds of the first and second periods, and compiled a 35-28 total shots-on-goal edge. The goal margin could’ve been wider if not for UMD sophomore goalie Alex Stalock.
UMD hasn’t scored since freshman defenseman Evan Oberg connected for the winning goal at Michigan Tech on Feb. 16 with 60 seconds to play, and has lost three straight games for the first time this season.
“You can talk about being snake-bitten or goalies making great saves, but what it comes down to is we have to start putting the puck in the net,” said UMD winger Michael Gergen. “It’s about bearing down and getting to the net.”
Two skillful plays led to North Dakota’s goals. Oshie won a centering draw in the UMD zone, getting the puck to defenseman Chay Genoway at the right point. Genoway cranked from there and Oshie tipped in front for his 14th goal of the season and 55th in three seasons, coming with 45 seconds left in the first period.
After killing five straight penalties, four in the first period, the Bulldogs gave up a power play goal with 24 seconds to go in the second period. VandeVelde took an Oshie pass and scored from close range.
“It’s all about execution at this time of the year, considering how tight the WCHA is. You can’t afford to have an off night,” said Lamoureux. “Duluth played well and Stalock played fantastic, and we had good energy and played extremely well. The goal at the end of the second period, especially, gave us some momentum.”
North Dakota, second in the WCHA, has a shutout streak of 145 minutes, 32 seconds over three games. The Fighting Sioux have allowed just 18 goals total during their 14-game streak, 1.29 per game.
UMD did have chances, and has been outshot just 91-88 the last three games. Andrew Carroll had a scoring chance in the first period, then Matt Greer, Jordan Fulton, Josh Meyers, Gergen and Carroll in the third. Stalock had amazing back-to-back saves in the second including a diving stop on 2007 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner Ryan Duncan.
“We just have to keep shooting,” said Carroll. “If you keep banging away, maybe a fluke one will go in, or a tip through a screen, or a second, third or fourth chance. We have to take what we can from a good third period and keep going.”
The Bulldogs, tied for seventh in the league before Minnesota played a late game at Alaska Anchorage, know they need to get untracked soon with just three games left in the regular season and their stock dropping with the PairWise computer.
Coming into Sunday’s 2:07 p.m. rematch, North Dakota is 15-2-1 the last 18 games against UMD (9-1-1 the last 11) and 9-2 the last 11 at the DECC. The Bulldogs have just four goals total the last six home games in going 0-4-2.
We had a good, solid effort and got some opportunities,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “You have to keep your head up and know that the goals will eventually come. I’m not saying we’ll get five, six or seven, but they’ll come. I’d be more concerned if we were getting just 10 shots on goal a game.”
The victory was the 100th in four seasons for North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol, a former Fighting Sioux captain, who has a 100-53-13 record.
“The common theme we’ve had all season is that we work hard together and get some breaks,” said Hakstol. “There wasn’t much difference between the teams [Saturday], both played extremely hard.”
North Dakota was playing in Duluth for the first time since Nov. 12, 2005.
Kevin Pates covers Minnesota-Duluth for the Duluth News-Tribune in Duluth, Minn.