ST. CLOUD, Minn. — After falling 3-0 Friday night in St. Cloud against the Huskies, North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol knew that with next weekend off, Saturday’s contest against SCSU was a must win.
“We thought this morning that tonight was a must win for a lot reasons,” Hakstol said. “Number one, sitting back for two weeks on two losses in a row would be pretty miserable. Beyond that, everything from the WCHA race and what the national rankings are looking like, you can’t go through a weekend and lose two games. When you’re in our situation, we don’t have that luxury.”
The No. 12 Fighting Sioux solved Friday’s riddle of St. Cloud goaltender Jase Weslosky, defeating the Huskies 4-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 6,170 at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud Saturday evening.
Just as the game’s first penalty had expired against UND sophomore Evan Trupp, Trupp received a homerun pass out of the penalty box and began moving the puck into the SCSU zone. After cycling behind the net, Trupp fed fellow sophomore Derrick LaPoint on the left circle, who fired a pass towards the crease that deflected off freshman Jason Gregoire’s skate for the goal.
The play went to review after it appeared the Gregoire may have kicked the puck into the net from between the circles, but after further review, the goal was upheld and awarded at the 7:47 mark of the first.
North Dakota added to their first period tally three and a half minutes later when sophomore Andrew Kozek fired a wrist shot from the top of the slot that beat Weslosky top corner on his blocker side at 11:26 of the period.
St. Cloud State battled to within one six minutes later when junior Ryan Lasch continued his second half hot streak, dangling one-on-one into the zone and beating Fighting Sioux freshman goalie Brad Eidsness from between the circles. Lasch’s unassisted tally came with 2:46 remaining in the first and gave St. Cloud a feeling of momentum heading into the first intermission.
“I thought tonight’s first period was as fast as a period I have seen two teams play this year,” Hakstol remarked. “I thought both teams were moving and making plays and no question tonight the fans got their money worth and that is how it is every night. Every night is entertaining.”
After a sluggish beginning to the second period, it was North Dakota netting the lone tally of the stanza at the 7:23 mark on senior captain Ryan Duncans 12th goal of the year, the eventual game winner.
“Can’t we keep (Duncan) here,” Hakstol joked after being faced with the question of what Fighting Sioux hockey will be like without the former Hobey Baker award winner. Hakstol continued to joke, “I thought he could stay for life, I thought we had one franchise player we we’re able to keep and if that was the case, (Duncan) would be the guy we would put the tag on. A great young man, great presence and poise in everything he does on and off the ice.”
Opening the third, the Huskies clawed back to within one goal when senior defender David Carlisle netted his second goal of his final campaign. Lasch added an assist, his second point of the night at the 4:32 mark.
Five minutes later however, the Fighting Sioux secured a series split and two points on the road as Kozek and sophomore Brad Malone connected with Lamoreux (playing in only his 11th game of the season) at 9:31 of the final period.
“Mario is what Fighting Sioux hockey is all about,” Duncan said of Lamoreux Saturday night. “He’s a guy who comes to work everyday, he battles every week in practice trying to garner a spot in the lineup and if he’s not in the lineup, he doesn’t complain. He continues to work hard and tries to get back in there and tonight he showed what he can do.”
In net, Eidsness stopped 25 of 27 SCSU shots in the win for UND while Weslosky made 27 saves on 31 North Dakota shots in losing effort.
The Fighting Sioux (16-11-3, 11-6-3 WCHA) are off next weekend before hosting MSU-Mankato February 13th and 14th, while St. Cloud (14-12-2, 9-10-1 WCHA) travels to Alaska to take on the Seawolves next weekend.