ST. PAUL, Minn. — Last year, Minnesota-Duluth became the first team to win all three games at the Final Five.
This year, the Bulldogs won’t have that chance. Instead, it’ll be North Dakota, as the Sioux shutout the Bulldogs, 2-0, Thursday night thanks to a two-goal third period.
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“We live to fight another day,” said Sioux coach Dave Hakstol, “and that’s what it’s about when you come to this tournament. I’ve heard the question of, ‘Do you think you can win three?’ We’re not really worried about winning three. We were hoping to win tonight.”
The Sioux dominated the shot chart through the first two periods, 25-10, but failed to get anything past goaltender Kenny Reiter (32 saves).
“They were peppering us with shots and Kenny was coming up big and sometimes, when you’re dominating a team, kind of like they were to us in the first period, sometimes the other team gets the bounces,” said UMD captain Drew Akins. “So, we were saying, stick with it, we just got to keep going.”
The Bulldogs, buoyed by the play of Reiter, did stick with it and appeared to take a 1-0 lead 83 seconds into the third period when Akins’ shot from the point was knocked past Sioux goaltender Brad Eidsness with a high stick. However, after a lengthy review, the initial call on the ice of no goal stood.
“It’s a tough call; all I saw was what I saw out there on the ice,” said Akins. “I thought that if it was a high stick, if Cody Danberg high sticked it, then it would have had to go directly into the net to be counted a high stick, but if the North Dakota guy touched it after Cody Danberg high sticked it, then they’d waive that high stick off.”
“I made a save and it popped up off my stick, off my shoulder and kind of went up,” said Eidsness (22 saves). “I think he kind of had a downward motion off of it and from there, I think it bounced off my leg and maybe off [Andrew MacWilliam] and in. I had a feeling it probably wasn’t going to be a goal. Just from my vantage point, he came down on it from pretty high, but it was pretty close.”
Instead, the Sioux finally broke through with a goal while short-handed with about eight minutes left to play in the third period. Chris VandeVelde came down on Reiter and took the initial shot. Duluth’s Mike Connolly botched the clearing attempt and Jason Gregoire was able to sweep in and fire the puck in for the 1-0 lead.
“Kenny makes a great save on the VandeVelde short breakaway and fortunately for us, Jason Gregoire made a little bit better play on the rebound,” said Hakstol.
A couple minutes later, the Sioux had a no-goal of their own when Jake Marto knocked down a Mario Lamoureux shot with a high stick. However, that goal was waived off quickly.
North Dakota had the momentum, though, and with 1:59 left to go, Evan Trupp picked up the puck off the end boards and shot it past Reiter for his first goal in 21 games to make it 2-0.
The Bulldogs took their timeout soon after to try to regain some momentum and work their way back into the game, but to no avail.
“Until the last ten minutes of the game I think we were right there,” said Reiter. “A bounce our way and it’s a different story right now.”
“We knew what they were going to come with and we didn’t respond,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.
The Bulldogs now wait to see if they will make the NCAA tournament while the Sioux face off against the University of Denver tomorrow night at 7:07 p.m. Central.
What You Might Have Missed
With just under eight minutes left in the second period, linesman Bob Keltie received medical attention to his left eyebrow. The cut, presumably from a stick, kept bleeding and he was replaced by Jarod Moen with 4:37 to go in the frame.