GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway wasnt supposed to be on the ice and was worn out from logging extra time as a result of an injury in the first period to fellow defenseman Derrick LaPoint.
That didnt stop him from making an end-to-end rush to set up the play leading to freshman forward Jason Gregoires game-winning goal with 2:52 remaining.
Its a big-time player making a big-time play, UND coach Dave Hakstol said of Genoways effort. Off tired legs, he found enough energy to turn the corner, protect the puck and get it to the net.
The come-from-behind 4-3 victory and series sweep of the visiting Mankato State Mavericks puts UND in a tie with Denver University for the WCHA lead.
Upset-minded MSU had the Sioux on their heels, erasing a 2-1 UND lead 53 seconds into the third period on a goal by forward junior Geoff Irwin. A shorthanded goal by junior forward Trevor Bruess at the 10:47 mark gave MSU a 3-2 lead.
UNDs eight game unbeaten streak at Ralph Engelstad Arena appeared in jeopardy, as did the opportunity to move from third place to first in conference standings.
It was a battle, we knew it was going to be tough Gregoire said of the series against MSU. Theyre a nitty gritty team. We needed all four points to put ourselves in a tie for first.
The Sioux tied the game 3-3 on a power play goal by junior center Chris VandeVelde at 13:40 of the third. With about 3 minutes left on the clock, Genoway took the puck behind UNDs net and began his dash up ice. Speeding down the left side of MSUs zone, he gained enough separation to get off a wrist shot.
MSU senior goalie Mike Zacharias made a pad save, deflecting the puck up the slot and directly on to the stick of Gregoire, who fired it into the back of the net.
The loss of LaPoint half way through the first period meant that UND had to rotate five defensemen for most of the game. A mix-up on the bench caused a tired Genoway to hit the ice sooner than he expected.
Sporting the hard hat the team awards to the hardest working player, Genoway explained his decision to carry the puck nearly the entire distance.
It was just kind of an adrenalin play, he said, We work on that a lot in practice, trying to hit the goalies pads. I was just trying to get it on net. Credit Gregoire with going to the net and banging home a rebound.
I was just at the right place at the right time, Gregoire said. That play goes to Chay for sure.
The Mavericks pulled Zacharias for the extra attacker with about 40 seconds left, but couldnt get the puck past Sioux goalie Brad Eidsness, giving UND fans in the sellout crowd of 11,842 the best Valentine of all–a stick salute at center ice for the series sweep.
MSU coach Troy Jutting felt that 29 minutes in penalties ultimately cost his team the game.
I thought our kids played very hard tonight, he said. We took some dumb penalties, but Im proud of the effort. We battled hard in a rink thats tough to play in against a very good hockey team.
Its a problem when you spend 20 minutes killing penalties over the last two or two and half periods of the game, he added.
LaPoint went off the ice on a stretcher after going into the end boards awkwardly with Bruess at 10:31, appearing to seriously injure his lower right leg. Hakstol said he didnt expect LaPoint back in the lineup any time soon.
No penalty was called on the play, which inflamed emotions on the Sioux bench. But until games end when Irwin had to be restrained by an official from going after UNDs Darcy Zajac, both teams played under control.
I just tried to tell everybody to keep it on an even keel, said Duncan, the Sioux captain. Obviously, when you see one of your teammates go down like that and you know the injurys pretty serious, the human reaction is to go out there and get redemption, get some revenge. We had to do our best to keep our emotions in check.
The Mavericks got on the board in the first period by taking advantage of an opportunity that eluded them in Fridays 4-1 loss. It took MSU just nine seconds to cash in on a two-man power play advantage.
From the right side of the net, junior forward Kael Mouillierat put a centering pass into the crease that Eidsness blocked, but couldnt corral. Irwin got his stick on the puck and knocked it in to give MSU its first lead of the series at 11:57.
UND tied the game with just 2.4 ticks on the clock. Andrew Kozeks cross-ice pass from the left boards found senior forward Matt Watkins alone in the slot. His wrister trickled through Zacharias pads and just crossed the line to knot score 1-1.
If that goal doesnt go in with 2 seconds left in the first period, its a different game, Duncan said.
Jutting said it was a bad goal to give up at that time of the game.
Youve got two seconds to go. You just got to eat it or chip it out, he said. Unfortunately, we turned it over. To their credit, they took advantage of it.
A power play goal by UND senior forward Ryan Duncan at 1:53 of the second period put the Sioux up 2-1. Duncan skated into the right circle and fired a wrist shot that beat Zacharias short side.
The Sioux had several good scoring chances in the period in which they outshot the Mavericks 15-9, but Zacharias made the saves to keep it a one-goal game, including two point-blank chances by Watkins. He also got some help from the pipes when forward Matt Frattin hit a post for a second time in the game.
Each team scored two goals in the third period, but it was Gregoires goal set up by Genoways rush that won it for UND.
I thought our team was very determined tonight, Hakstol said. Physically, I dont know if it was one of our best efforts. But mentally, it was as good as any weve had this year.
We had a lot to deal with throughout the game, he added. I thought our guys did a very good job of sorting things out and getting the job done.
Zacharias made 38 saves on 42 shots while Eidsness had 21 saves on 24 shots. MSU went 1-4 on the power play and UND went 2-10.
The Sioux, who improve to 18-11-3 overall and 13-6-3 in the WCHA, next go on the road to Alaska Anchorage for a two-game series Feb. 20-21. MSU ” 13-15-3 overall and 9-13-2 in league play–travels to Nebraska Omaha for a nonconference game Feb. 24.