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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published March 16 2012

Sioux launch improbable rally against Gophers

ST. PAUL – Trailing 3-0 on the scoreboard and 23-7 on the shot chart late in the second period, University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol called a timeout simply to give tired legs a rest.

The coach didn’t stop coaching and the team didn’t stop playing, and it all led to the most stunning comeback of Hakstol’s eight-year tenure at the school.

The Sioux scored six straight goals, outshot league champion Minnesota 21-2 the rest of the way and came out with a 6-3 victory over their biggest rival in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association semifinals in the Xcel Energy Center.

Captain Mario Lamoureux, who entered the weekend with one goal on the season, scored twice and added an assist. Derek Forbort, Michael Parks, Brock Nelson and Corban Knight also scored goals for the Sioux, who beat first-team all-WCHA goalie Kent Patterson five times in Friday night’s decisive third period.

With each goal, the Sioux fans among the 16,738 in attendance got progressively louder and they bellowed out a ‘Let’s go Sioux’ chant as the Gophers faithful exited in the remaining seconds.

“I think that’s the story of our season,” Lamoureux said. “Early on, we weren’t playing well. A lot of people were counting us out. But we’re a team that’s not going to give up. We continue to believe in each other. We don’t care what anyone outside of our locker room thinks. We believe in everybody’s ability to get a job done. This isn’t the first game we’ve come back in the third period.

“I think it shows the character in our locker room. Everyone is proud of themselves tonight.”

The Sioux win sets up a rematch of last year’s Broadmoor Trophy championship game against the University of Denver at 7:07 tonight in St. Paul.

UND tied the WCHA’s all-time record for consecutive league playoff wins with 12 in a row and will try to become the first team in league history to win three consecutive playoff titles.

The Sioux, who secured an NCAA tournament berth with Thursday’s win over St. Cloud State, now are in position to earn a No. 1 seed when the bracket is revealed at 11 a.m. Sunday. UND is ranked No. 4 in the Pairwise, which mimics the NCAA’s selection criteria.

UND improved to 24-12-3 overall and 20-5-2 since Thanksgiving, the best record in the country during that stretch.

Hakstol credited the team’s leaders, specifically Lamoureux, who scored the eventual game-winning goal.

“He’s a pretty steely-eyed guy,” Hakstol said. “There’s a lot of belief in the things he’s about and the things he does. That carries through to our locker room. Guys believe in themselves. They play very hard for one another. Not a lot of outside things seem to affect this group.

“The fans are a huge part of this. That’s the one boost we have from the external side. The rest comes from inside our locker room.”

The game was one-sided early with the Gophers outshooting the Sioux 12-2 in the first period. Hakstol said he remembered looking up at the scoreboard midway through the second and still seeing two shots on goal for UND.

“I’ve never been part of a game where we’ve struggled so much in the first 30 minutes,” Hakstol said. “To be able to turn the energy around is a big credit to the players … to go from being so low on energy to be able to build on little things and turn the little positives into a big positive at the end of the night.”

Forbort started the comeback with a blast from the point at 14:51 of the second period, which deflected off of a Gophers defenseman and the post before going in. That made it 3-1 at the second intermission.

The Sioux scored back-to-back goals 30 seconds apart early in the third period to tie it – a Carter Rowney wraparound that went off of Parks’ skate and a Nelson snipe from the high slot.

Lamoureux put home a centering pass from Stephane Pattyn at 9:42 for the eventual game-winner. Knight tipped a Nick Mattson point shot at 10:19 and Lamoureux tacked on a rebound goal at 16:10.

“Maybe our inexperience in this environment showed a little bit,” Minnesota Don Lucia said. “It’s a great lesson for us. Congrats to North Dakota. They’ve got the championship belt for a reason.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, MN, Rau (Haula, Schmidt), 12:37, (pp).

SECOND PERIOD: 2, MN, Hansen (Haula, Schmidt), 5:55, (pp). 3, Budish (Holl, Rau), 10:01. 4, UND, Forbort (Lamoureux), 14:51.

THIRD PERIOD: 5, UND, Parks (Rowney, Forbort), 5:31. 6, UND, Nelson (Senkbeil), 6:01. 7, UND, Lamouruex (Pattyn, Parks), 9:42. 8, UND, Knight (Mattson, Kristo), 10:19, (pp). 9, UND, Lamoureux (MacMillan, Blood), 16:10.

SAVES: UND, Dell 11-9-2 11. MN, Patterson 2-8-12 20.


Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald


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