GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Jamie MacQueen wasn’t going to let his Bemidji State career come to an abrupt end without a fight.
The senior forward scored two late goals to pull the Beavers to within one goal of the No. 12 North Dakota Fighting Sioux, but it wouldn’t be enough to extend BSU’s season.
North Dakota clinched its tenth straight Final Five appearance after weathering a late Bemidji State surge, defeating the Beavers (17-17-3) 4-3 in front of 11,140 at Ralph Engelstad Arena Saturday night.
UND’s second line (Mark MacMillan, Carter Rowney and Michael Parks) dominated for the second straight night. The line followed up a seven-point performance Friday with a six-point night Saturday to pace the Sioux to their fourth straight victory heading into the WCHA’s conference tournament.
“I think that’s been a long time coming for us,” MacMillan said. “I think we’ve been playing well lately – all three of us. I think as you play more and more with two guys, you’re going to build chemistry and I think that’s a lot of what’s happened with me, ‘Rowns’ and ‘Parksy’ there.”
Sioux coach Dave Hakstol is encouraged by the contributions from all over the lineup, especially for a team that once relied so heavily on its top line.
“Early in the year, we weren’t really getting contributions from a lot of different places consistently in our lineup,” Hakstol explained. “That’s starting to grow and build. And now, on a night like tonight, when those three guys don’t have points, everybody else has chipped in.”
For the second straight night, Connor Gaarder drew first blood for the Sioux. He followed up his power-play goal Friday night by picking up a loose puck in the slot, skating out in front and wristing one past Dan Bakala (28 saves) at 13:48.
Jordan George got the Beavers on the board at 6:25 of the second by tipping a Brad Hunt point shot.
But North Dakota took the lead right back 65 seconds later when MacMillan made a defender miss badly and dropped a great pass across to Rowney, who buried it for his 17th goal of the year.
Parks then pushed the lead to 3-1 at 18:17 when Rowney’s centering attempt deflected off his stick, off Bakala’s shoulder, and in.
Dillon Simpson added a goal at the 5:06 mark of the third to make it 4-1 and the Sioux looked to be running away with the series.
With four minutes left in the game, his season and his Bemidji State career, MacQueen took to the ice and turned the tides.
“This [could be] my last four minutes, possibly, as a Beaver,” he said.
MacQueen scored at 16:04 by burying a rebound from the right slot. Then 19 seconds later, he got another goal past Brad Eidsness (26 saves) to spook the quiet and content crowd.
“As a senior [and] as a leader, I just wanted to go out there and get something going and I did,” MacQueen said. “But it was a little too late.”
Bakala was pulled for the extra attacker at 18:38, but the Sioux fought off the late rally and hung on for the victory.
“I thought our guys just showed a lot of resiliency in the third period right there,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “We made it a tight game. Jamie MacQueen just took charge right there. He was just relentless and he scored a couple big goals. It was an interesting last few minutes, that’s for sure.”
“I wish it would have been a little less exciting than it was,” Hakstol said.
Now, North Dakota heads off to St Paul in hopes of defending two straight Broadmoor Trophy titles.
“We’re excited,” Hakstol said. “It’s such a great weekend to go there and be a part of it. It’s a nice reward for a lot of work the guys have put in this weekend.”
Meanwhile, it’s a disappointing end to what Serratore called a great season for his squad, which finished its second season in the WCHA.
“Everybody gauges their seasons differently, but this is a tough league,” Serratore said. “We know it’s a tough league. We had 17 wins, we were over .500 in the regular season [and] we had more points than last year. Those are the things we have to look at right there. We made progress and we’re hard to play against.”
UND found that out firsthand, but even amidst playing shorthanded for the ninth time and trying to absorb that late Beavers rally, they found a way.
“We can’t really do things in an easy way,” Hakstol said. “We just find a way to get it done. I guess that’s the best compliment probably. We find a way. It’s a nice reward to head to St Paul.”