GRAND FORKS, N.D. — While the world’s been watching twin sisters Jocelyn and Monique Lamoureux play on Team USA at the Olympics, their older brother Mario reminded Fighting Sioux fans that he’s a pretty good hockey player, too.
Lamoureux, who served a one-game WCHA suspension Friday for violating the league code of conduct, came back with a vengeance against Minnesota-Duluth Saturday, scoring two big goals in a 5-1 Sioux win and an important sweep of the Bulldogs.
“I’m happy for him; I’m proud of him,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “He handled the entire situation extremely well. And most importantly, he showed that he can focus on the right things. He came back and showed that he was an impact player for his team tonight.”
UND improves to 16-11-5 overall and 11-10-3 in the WCHA. The sweep of UMD, combined with Minnesota’s sweep of Colorado College, puts the Sioux in fifth-place tie with the Tigers. That sets up a battle for home ice next week at World Arena where UND and CC play Feb. 26-27.
Lamoureux broke a 21-game scoring drought after sitting out Friday’s 5-2 Sioux win, which featured three power-play goals and a short-handed tally.
“It was tough to watch,” the Grand Forks native said. “We didn’t have our best game, but we played well enough to win and our specialty teams carried us through. I definitely had some extra fire after the suspension. It felt good to be back on the ice and be part of the lineup.”
UND sophomore goalie Brad Eidsness played a key role in both wins. On Saturday, he limited the Bulldogs to one power-play goal while making 22 saves. He robbed UND’s Rob Bordson on a partial breakaway in the second period and made numerous saves on shots and tips through traffic.
Eidsness said he’s done extra work on making saves through screens.
“Fighting around screens a little more, looking for pucks, that was a big thing this weekend,” Eidsness said, “especially with a team that has as many quick sticks up front as (the Bulldogs) do.”
“I don’t think it’s any secret that Brad had a few ups and downs over the last month and a half, but he showed what kind of mental strength he has,” Hakstol said. “You can talk about a lot of things in a hockey game, but you’d find it a pretty tough argument to say that he hasn’t been our best player.”
After Friday’s game, Hakstol said the Sioux had to perform better at even strength. They did that in the first period, failing on three power-play opportunities, but scoring four-on-four and five-on-five to build a 2-0 lead.
With both sides skating a man short, forward Matt Frattin outmuscled two Bulldogs in the left corner of UMD’s zone and got a pass to sophomore forward Brett Hextall unmarked in the slot. His quick wrister beat UMD sophomore goalie Kenny Reiter at 4:16.
UND junior forward Jason Gregoire notched his 15th goal of the season at 8:15 to give the Sioux a 2-0 lead. He carried the puck out of UND’s zone, weaved through traffic in the neutral zone and then beat the Bulldogs’ defense wide. Gregoire sniped the corner from the bottom of the left circle, causing UMD coach Scott Sandelin to call a timeout and replace Reiter with sophomore Brady Hjelle.
“I thought we gave them two easy goals at the beginning of the game on defensive breakdowns,” Sandelin said. “You need a save or two. I thought our goaltending was kind of average.”
In the second period, two straight UND penalties opened the door for the Bulldogs to cut UND’s lead. Eidsness stopped Mike Connolly’s blast from the point, but in an attempt to clear the puck as it lay in the crease, Sioux defenseman Derrick LaPoint knocked it in. That made it a 2-1 game at 2:42.
However, UND answered less than a minute later when Lamoureux broke into the UMD zone two-on-one with Danny Kristo. He looked to pass, then rifled in a wrister short side to restore the Sioux two-goal lead at 3:28.
“The defenseman took away the pass for the most part, so I knew I had to shoot,” Lamoureux said. “I’m confident on that side to go upstairs there. I was confident I could make that shot.”
“The goal that hurt was the third one,” Sandelin said. “We get it to 2-1, then we go out there and give them another goal.”
UND has had difficulty maintaining two-goal leads, but they held the Bulldogs to eight shots in the final stanza and limited their quality scoring opportunities.
“I thought their third period was their best period,” Sandelin said. “They didn’t give us any chance to get back in it.”
With time running out and UMD desperate to cut the Sioux lead, Lamoureux struck again, pouncing on a turnover in the Bulldogs’ zone and rifling a wrist shot past Hjelle to put UND up 4-1 at 17:27.
“Spending his time in the USHL and leading his teams down there, he (Lamoureux) really learned what it takes to win, and he’s obviously brought that here,” Eidsness said. “He scores big goals at big times.”
Sandelin pulled Hjelle for the extra attacker, but Sioux senior Chris VandeVelde scored into an empty net at 18:12 for the 5-1 victory.
“When you look at our success tonight, I think we had a lot of jump and good energy in the third period,” Hakstol said. “It was because we were able to go with four lines through the entire game. That created a small advantage for us in the third period.”
UMD is 18-13-1 overall and 14-9-1 in league play. The Bulldogs fall to fourth in the league, two points behind Wisconsin. Next week, UMD plays a two-game series at home against Minnesota Feb. 26-27.
“We’re a good team, but right now, we’re not playing as well as we were, so we’ve got to find a way to get that back,” Sandelin said. “Hopefully at home next week against Minnesota is a good remedy.”