Everyone seemed to agree. Danny Kristo’s goal 8:03 into the second period shifted the momentum completely to North Dakota’s side for good and drained the spark from Rensselaer’s game.
The top-seeded Fighting Sioux scored three more times and blanked RPI 6-0 in the Midwest Regional semifinals Saturday at the Resch Center. UND goaltender Aaron Dell made 21 saves in the shutout.
“It was our main focus to come in here and get that first win,” said UND’s Brad Malone. “You have to get that first one and move on. Now our focus is on tomorrow.”
The Sioux advances to Sunday’s regional championship against either No. 2 seed Denver or third seed Western Michigan at 4:30 p.m. CDT.
The Fighting Sioux had already gotten a pair of goals from Brad Malone by the fourth minute of the second period but the Engineers felt they had the energy in the first period.
“We got a big penalty kill and that gave us a lot of momentum,” said RPI senior center Chase Polacek. “Then they score and it really hurt the momentum we got from that penalty kill.”
The Engineers just finished killing off a five-on-three power play early in the second period but then Mario Lamoureux passed the puck ahead to Kristo, who toe dragged around an RPI defender and beat goaltender Allen York high at the 8:03 mark. It was Kristo’s third goal in three games since he returned from a frostbite injury that kept him out 10 games.
“It was a critical and key goal,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “Danny made a one-on-one play and then finished it off to give us a three-goal lead. I thought it was the biggest goal of the hockey game.”
The Sioux had complete control from that point on, outshooting RPI 26-13 over the last two periods.
“We didn’t come here to be happy that we made it,” said RPI coach Seth Appert. “Hopefully, people saw that by the way we played in the first period. We had too many individual breakdowns in the second period and we played a little undisciplined.”
The Sioux took the early lead right just after a faceoff in the right circle won by Malone, who then took position in front of the net before Evan Trupp got him the puck. Malone backhanded it between York’s pads 5:25 into the game.
He scored his second goal 3:58 into the second period on the power play.
UND’s Jason Gregoire returned from injury Saturday and scored on the power play on a rebound from a shot by Kristo at 13:03 of the second period.
The Sioux completed the four-goal second period when Corban Knight brought the puck along the goal line to York’s left, did a through-the-legs move around a defender and scored on a second effort.
Matt Frattin extended his goal-scoring streak to eight games and his points streak to 14 on a goal 32 seconds into the third period.
UND went 2-for-7 on the power play, killed all eight of its penalties and added Knight’s short-handed goal. York finished with 34 saves for RPI.
The Engineers have been shut out in three straight NCAA tournament games. The last time they scored in a national tournament game was the 1985 title game against Providence, covering 216:11 of game time.
Video: North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol:
Video: North Dakota’s Brad Malone and Corban Knight:
Video: Rensselaer coach Seth Appert:
Video: Rensselaer’s Chase Polacek and John Kennedy: