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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published March 14 2010

Gophers victory gives men's hockey rivalry with Sioux a jolt

GRAND FORKS – Minnesota isn’t ready to be done yet.

One night after getting plastered 6-0 by the University of North Dakota, the Gophers rallied from a third-period deficit to beat the Sioux 4-2 on Saturday night, forcing a decisive Game 3 in the first round Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.

The victory keeps the season alive for the Gophers, who are in risk of becoming the program’s second team of the last 32 years to lose a first-round series. It would also end Minnesota’s season earlier than any other in the last 26 years.

Now, UND must win tonight’s series finale in order to make an eighth straight trip to St. Paul and the Final Five.

Jacob Cepis made a couple of tripping calls look good, then made UND pay by setting up one power-play goal and scoring another, the second of which tied the game with 7 minutes, 50 seconds remaining.

Freshman defenseman Seth Helgeson, who was a healthy scratch in the series opener, scored the game-winner 48 seconds later on a point shot through traffic. It was his first college goal.

“I thought it was a hard-fought battle,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “There wasn’t as much flow to the game as (Friday) night. It was a hard-fought 60 minutes.

“I think we can be sharper in several different areas. We lost the special teams battle. That’s obviously one area. Overall, you have to come back and play a real, solid, strong hockey game.”

The Gophers got much better goaltending Saturday as well. Junior Alex Kangas, who was pulled after two periods on Friday, stopped 41 shots to help the Gophers improve to 18-18-2.

UND dropped to 21-12-5.

Minnesota, which fell behind on the third shift in the series opener, was able to take the early lead Saturday.

The Gophers took advantage of their first power-play opportunity – a tripping call on goalie Brad Eidsness drawn by Cepis. They converted that opportunity in just 12 seconds. Cepis, holding the puck in the right circle, found Mike Hoeffel in the slot.

Hoeffel slid the shot past Eidsness for his sixth-career goal against the Sioux at 17 minutes, 20 seconds.

The Gophers went to the first intermission leading 1-0, despite being outshot 14-3.

UND evened it in the second.

Senior Darcy Zajac cleanly won a draw back to freshman Danny Kristo, who quickly released a shot to the net. Kangas was there to make the initial stop, but Knight found the rebound and knocked it in for his fifth goal of the year.

UND had a great chance to take the lead later in the period when Chris VandeVelde found Brett Hextall streaking to the net, but Kangas made a great save, sliding from right to left. The puck trickled behind him, but he laid down on it.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, M, Hoeffel (Cepis, Fairchild) 17:20 (pp).

SECOND PERIOD: 2, UND, Knight (Kristo, Zajac) 7:03.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, UND, Frattin (VandeVelde, Marto) 10:44. 4, 4, M, Cepis (Hoeffel, Hansen) 12:10. 5, M, Helgeson (Sacchetti) 12:58 (pp). 6, M, Schroeder (Lucia, Kangas) 19:59.

SAVES: M, Kangas 14-13-14–41. UND, Eidsness 2-11-9–22.

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