Erik Fabian’s second two-goal effort of the playoffs may not have been expected, but it has put North Dakota just one period away from a date with Denver in the national championship game.
Fabian, a fourth-line winger, has both goals as North Dakota leads Minnesota 2-0 after two periods of a Frozen Four semifinal at Value City Arena Thursday.
The sophomore had just three goals this season entering the game, but has made a big impact in the national semifinals.
If North Dakota, the only team that made the Frozen Four as other than a No. 1 seed, can close out the victory in the third period, it will return to the title game for the first time since 2001, when it lost to Boston College in overtime.
Minnesota started to get some possession in the second period, outshooting the Sioux 13-7 in the frame, but Fabian’s second goal of the game, midway through the period, stifled that.
After linemate Brian Canady dumped the puck to him behind the net, Fabian worked his way out front and stuffed the puck past Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs at the right post.
Four of Fabian’s five goals this season have come in the playoffs. He had a two-goal game in a victory over Minnesota-Duluth in the first round of the WCHA tournament.
North Dakota had the better of the first 20 minutes in the 259th meeting between the rivals, outshooting the Gophers 15-8 and taking a 1-0 lead thanks to Fabian’s hard-work effort.
After having a shot steered wide by Briggs, Fabian tracked down Gophers defenseman Judd Stevens on the opposite side and stole the puck. He immediately turned and fired a wrist shot low past the goalie.
Each team has had a shot hit the post. North Dakota’s Drew Stafford drew iron on a drive to the net and Minnesota defenseman Chris Harrington had a shot hit the post as well, both in the first period.
North Dakota goaltender Jordan Parise, who is on an 11-game unbeaten streak, has made 21 saves. Briggs, who allowed only one goal in two games at the West Regional, has 20 stops.
Minnesota forward Tyler Hirsch returned to the lineup after a three-game absence for personal reasons following a bizarre incident where he charged an open net after a WCHA semifinal loss to Colorado College.
The Gophers also played with freshman defenseman Alex Goligoski for the first time since he was injured in the third-place game of the WCHA Final Five on March 19. He missed the West Regional with an injured hand.