GRAND FORKS, N.D. — North Dakota fans who braved a raging blizzard to watch the Fighting Sioux take on Michigan Tech were treated to twin hat tricks by forwards Matt Frattin and Jason Gregoire, as well as a shutout by goalie Aaron Dell.
Playing the Huskies for the third straight time, UND showed no mercy in an 8-0 drubbing that it dominated from start to finish. The WCHA champion and top-ranked Sioux (27-8-3) extended their unbeaten streak to 9-0-1 in winning the opening game of the best-of-three conference playoff series against MTU (4-29-4).
“Our scoring probably wasn’t as balanced as it has been on different nights,” said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “But I thought our play was balanced. I thought everybody played hard and everybody chipped in and did their part, whether or not they were on the score sheet.”
The Huskies got right wing Milos Gordic, their leading scorer, back in the lineup, but it made no difference. UND has now outscored MTU 25-3 in three games. Sioux senior defenseman and captain Chay Genoway collected four assists in his second game back from injury, making him the fifth highest scoring defenseman in UND history.
“We’re just trying to build, play at a high level,” Genoway said. “It’s kind of been out motto all year not to worry who’s on the other end and worry about ourselves.”
Frattin said that with a team deep in upper classmen, maintaining focus after last weekend’s blowouts against the Huskies wasn’t difficult.
“I think our leadership kept everybody on their toes at the start of the game,” he noted. “The mental focus we had today was unbelievable.”
The Sioux picked up where they left off last weekend, scoring two goals 29 seconds apart and then notching three more in the opening stanza to stake a 5-0 lead. At 3:11, Gregoire tipped in Genoway’s slapper to give UND a 1-0 lead. At the 3:40 mark, junior forward Brett Hextall made it a 2-0 game when he found the puck in a scrum in front of the net and shot it past MTU sophomore goalie Kevin Genoe.
“We played hard from the drop of the puck,” Hakstol said. “We had the start that we needed in this building. We were able to score a couple goals and that got us started on the right foot.”
Frattin, named the WCHA’s player of the year this week, scored back-to-back goals to give UND a 4-0 lead. His first came at 5:12 off a centering pass from linemate Brad Malone. Then, with the Huskies on the power play, Frattin battled through a check at the MTU blue line, collected the puck, flew down the left side and beat Genoe shorthanded with a wrister.
The Huskies had good scoring chances on the power play, including 26 seconds with a two-man advantage. But Dell came up big, especially when MTU had multiple scoring opportunities on the doorstep.
“He made a couple real good saves on our penalty kill, and there were a couple of goal-mouth scrambles that we was very solid on,” Hakstol said of Dell’s play.
Gregoire tallied at 18:41 to make it a 5-0 game. The play started with Genoway carrying the puck deep into the MTU zone and attempting to center it. With the puck bouncing around the crease, Gregoire finally got his stick on it and shot it in.
“We did a good job of getting to the net,” Hakstol said. “They’re a hard team to get to the net on, but we worked hard to get pucks there. We scored a couple ugly goals down there, and they were key goals.”
MTU junior goalie Josh Robinson replaced Genoe in net to start the second period. Gregoire notched his hat trick on the power play at 5:22 when he fired in the rebound off freshman center Brock Nelson’s shot. Frattin followed suit with the man-advantage by one-timing a pass from Genoway past Robinson at 15:17 for his nation-leading 32nd goal of the season.
“It’s being in the right spot at the right time,” Frattin said. “Things are clicking.”
UND closed out the scoring in the third period on senior defenseman Jake Marto’s seventh goal of the season at the 4:23 mark. From deep in the MTU zone, Frattin found Marto all alone coming down the slot. His wrister beat Robinson cleanly to make the final score 8-0.
After giving up 11 shots on goal in the first period, UND held the Huskies to just five shots for the remainder of the game.
“They played well in the first period, and we knew we had to respond,” Genoway said.
Dell made 16 saves to earn his fifth shutout of the season. The Sioux were 2-3 on the power play while MTU went 0-5.
The two teams meet at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena for the second game of the series.