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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published January 14 2011

Net frenzy: UND, Minnesota men's hockey teams boast strong goalies in net

Grand Forks - The University of North Dakota’s Brad Eidsness is a two-time all-conference goaltender and Alex Kangas is Minnesota’s all-time leader in save percentage.

That could make for a pretty good goaltender showdown this weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The thing is, though, neither of them is expected to be in net for the rivalry series between the Sioux and Gophers.

Guys who were thought to be backups this season – UND’s Aaron Dell and Minnesota’s Kent Patterson – have emerged as the go-to goalies for their respective teams.

Patterson didn’t earn a start until the sixth game of the season, but once he got in the net, he didn’t look back. The junior went unbeaten in his first seven starts (6-0-1) and comes to Grand Forks as the unquestioned No. 1 goalie on the Gophers.

Not only does Patterson have the best numbers on the team (2.50 goals-against average, .918 save percentage), he’s the only scholarship goalie that Minnesota has available. Kangas, a senior, is having season-ending surgery today to repair a torn labrum in his hip.

“I think the difference for Kent has been opportunity,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “He’s been no different this year than last year. Kent has worked hard the last couple of years. Now, he’s had the opportunity to play on a regular basis.

“It’s kind of the same thing with Dell.”

Dell only played in five games as a freshman, but UND coach Dave Hakstol worked him in a rotation with Eidsness to start the season. From there, Dell has continued to earn starts.

The sophomore from Airdrie, Alta., has played in 15 consecutive games for the Sioux and leads the country with 15 victories. His goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.922) have been improving each week.

“It feels great to have the guys’ confidence,” Dell said. “It’s good to know they’re going to play well in front of me and I’m going to do the same for them.”

Hakstol said: “In terms of consistency, we probably started seeing those things in the second half of last year and through the summer. In terms of ability, we saw that when we recruited him. He played every night and played virtually the same way every night with Calgary (Alberta Junior Hockey League). We said this summer that there would be some good competition in goal and things have gone his way. He’s played very well and very consistently.”

Both Patterson and Dell enter the series on top of their games.

Patterson has started five consecutive games for the Gophers and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in regulation in any of them. He propelled the Gophers to a three-point weekend against then-No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth.

“He’s playing great,” teammate Aaron Ness said. “He’s a heck of a goalie. We can trust him to make that first save – even a second or third sometimes. He’s quite the goalie. He worked hard all summer. He’s just a talented goalie. He performed well when he got the shot and he’ll continue to do so.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald