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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published March 13 2010

Sioux stomp Gophers in WCHA men's tourney opener

GRAND FORKS – The season opener was a rough one for Minnesota – a blowout loss to rival University of North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

If things don’t drastically change tonight, the Gophers’ season could end in the same way it began.

UND handed the Gophers their worst opening-round loss in program history Friday night, a 6-0 blowout that leaves the Sioux one win away from their eighth straight trip to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five.

Danny Kristo scored on the third shift of the game to send 11,677 fans into a frenzy, and his teammates followed with goal after goal. Matt Frattin scored twice, while Chris VandeVelde, Brad Malone and Mario Lamoureux each had one to extend the country’s longest winning streak to eight games.

The victory pushes the Gophers (17-18-2) to the brink. If they do not win two straight in this best-of-3 series, their season will be over earlier than any other in the last 26 years.

Ralph Engelstad Arena continued to be a house of horrors for the Gophers and goalie Alex Kangas. The junior has been pulled in three of his last four starts here, all of them six-goal nights for the Sioux.

He was shelled again in the WCHA playoff opener, allowing four goals on 25 shots before giving way to Kent Patterson, who didn’t fare much better. He gave up a pair of goals in the third on nine shots.

On the other side, UND goalie Brad Eidsness stopped 27 shots and earned a shutout – his second of the season. Both have come against the Gophers.

Minnesota had five power-play opportunities, but was not able to quiet the sellout crowd at any point in the game.

“When you have that many people being that loud, it’s going to be a tough road atmosphere for anybody,” Malone said. “I think the rivalry sticks out. It’s a little extra loud in here and you can’t put a price tag on this kind of atmosphere. It’s unbelievable.”

UND coach Dave Hakstol said that the home-ice advantage was a difference.

“The building had a lot of energy to start with,” he said. “That’s part of what you fight so hard for during the regular season is a little bit of the home-ice boost.”

Only once in the last 32 years have the Gophers lost in the first round of the playoffs. That came in 1998 to Minnesota-Duluth and it took overtime of the third game.

UND will be looking to become the first team to sweep Minnesota in the first round since 1974, when Herb Brooks was the coach of the Gophers and Dean Blais was the leading scorer.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, UND, Kristo, 1:39. 2, UND, VandeVelde (Gregoire), 16:07 (sh). 3, UND, Malone (Hextall, LaPoint), 19:05.

SECOND PERIOD: 4, UND, Frattin (Marto, LaPoint), 18:50.

THIRD PERIOD: 5, UND, Lamoureux (Toews, Rowney), 7:46. 6, UND, Frattin (LaPoint, Gleason), 15:33.

SAVES: M, Kangas 9-12-x–21; Patterson x-x-7–7. UND, Eidsness 4-9-14–27.


Brad Schlossman is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.