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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published March 17 2013

UND advances to Final Five with shutout of Michigan Tech

GRAND FORKS – Sure, it was St. Patrick’s Day, but the green team didn’t need any Irish luck Sunday.

The University of North Dakota earned its 11th straight trip to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five with a convincing 6-0 win over Michigan Tech in a decisive third game in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Six different players scored goals and 12 ended up on the scoresheet for UND, which started junior Clarke Saunders in goal, then put senior walk-on Tate Maris to finish off the shutout in the last four minutes and complete the trip to St. Paul.

“I thought the level of play was our most complete of the year, without question,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We played at a playoff level for three periods tonight and that started right at the drop of the puck.”

UND, the three-time defending WCHA playoff champion, advances to play Colorado College at 7 p.m. Thursday in a quarterfinal. The winner will play Minnesota in a semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday.

Wisconsin will take on Minnesota State-Mankato in the 2 p.m. quarterfinal game Thursday. The winner of that one will get St. Cloud State at 2 p.m. Friday.

UND’s win over Tech also solidified UND’s position in the NCAA tournament.

UND was ranked No. 7 in the Pairwise Rankings late Sunday night and figures to advance to the national tournament for an 11th-straight year.

“It’s so important to advance,” Hakstol said. “All you have to do is look at this series to understand how hard it is to advance and get to St. Paul. We felt like we had maybe the toughest draw in the WCHA first-round playoffs with how well Michigan Tech was playing. We knew it was a big challenge in front of us, but our guys got it done in the three games. That’s a great credit to them. We earned the trip down there.”

Defenseman Dillon Simpson gave UND the lead with a goal midway through the first, then Corban Knight, Carter Rowney, Mitch MacMillan and Colten St. Clair all scored in the second to blow the game open.

Brendan O’Donnell finished off the scoring in the third for UND, which improved to 21-11-7.

All four lines and all three defensive pairings ended up on the scoresheet for UND. Every player had a shot on net and 17 of the 18 skaters ended with plus ratings.

“We have to have different people chipping in at this time of year,” Hakstol said. “I thought all four of our lines looked the same tonight. On any given night, you’ve been able to pick out one or two guys up front and one or two guys on the back end that stood out. I didn’t think that was the case tonight. I thought everyone went out and did their job.”

One night after losing 2-1 on a late Michigan Tech goal, UND blitzed the Huskies in the first period, outshooting them 18-5 and building a lead on Simpson’s goal. It was a key tally considering that the

Huskies didn’t win a game all year when they allowed the first goal.

UND turned it into a rout in the middle frame, starting with a highlight-reel goal by Knight, who walked Ryan Furne and scored 5-hole on Pheonix Copley (38 saves) at 4:45. Rowney tipped a Rocco

Grimaldi shot at 9:24; MacMillan one-timed a pass by Connor Gaarder at 13:54 and St. Clair provided the dagger with a shorthanded breakaway.

“For me, it was a huge relief,” said St. Clair, who last scored in December. “For the team, we just put the pedal to the metal and kept going. We didn’t let up the whole game. That’s the way we need to play from here on in.”

With four minutes left and the fans chanting for Maris to get his first-career appearance, Hakstol motioned for the senior to go in. The 10,384 in attendance roared as he skated to the crease, then let out another roar when he made his first-career save.

The fans weren’t done as they let out another cheer of approval after Maris finished off the shutout and the team did its stick salute at center ice.

“I think we set the bar pretty high tonight with the way we played,”

Knight said. “For us to be successful, we need to keep that bar pretty high and make sure we’re working hard.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald