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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published March 08 2014

Penrose Cup opportunity slips away for UND

GRAND FORKS – The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team celebrated its seniors on Saturday after the game.

But it wasn’t an overly joyful celebration.

UND gave up a shorthanded goal during a five-minute major power play in the third period and lost to Western Michigan 2-1, giving up its chance at winning the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions.

Instead, that trophy went to St. Cloud State, which beat Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

“It sucks. You can’t really sugarcoat it,” UND defenseman Nick Mattson said. “We worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in that spot. It’s just a tough feeling to let it slip away.

“We care about each other so much. On senior night, you want to win it for them. It sucks. It’s something that could really throw you off your season if you let it get to you. So, I mean, it’s tough. It’s awful. But we have to move on. We have big things ahead of us and we have the potential to do big things.”

UND will be the No. 2 seed in the NCHC playoffs and will take on Colorado College in a first-round series beginning Friday night in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

UND had a chance to win the league for the second Saturday in a row, but once again, could only muster one goal and let that chance to by the wayside.

This time, it was a shorthanded goal by Colton Hargrove at 7:56 of the third period that cost UND the win.

With the game tied 1-1, UND got a five-minute major power play when a Western Michigan forward was called for a contact to the head major at 5:53. UND only mustered one shot on that power play and gave up the winner short-handed.

Former UND forward Mike Cichy chipped a pass to Hargrove, who had a step on UND defenseman Paul LaDue. Hargrove, who scored both goals for the Broncos, faked to the forehand and chipped a backhand past UND goalie Zane Gothberg.

“It’s a tough one to take,” senior captain Dillon Simpson said. “Credit to them. They did a great job. They did a good job building their momentum, especially starting the third period. They did a good job keeping us on our heels. At the end of the day, that one stings. There was a lot on the line being senior night for me and my classmates. It’s one we definitely wanted. Like I told everyone in the locker room, we missed out on the white banner, but our end goal is still the same. We move forward toward that.”

UND, which was 4-7-2 at one point in the season, finished the regular season 16-4-1 in its last 21 games to earn the shot at the Penrose Cup.

“With this group, I’m looking at the big picture and how good of a job those guys in the locker room have done coming together and pushing hard to become a real good team,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We are a good team. Tonight stings. It’s going to sting. But at this time of year, you have to have a very short memory and turn your focus forward now to the first-round playoff series. We worked very hard to be here at home. It’s going to be a tough series. We have to push our focus directly to that right away.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, WM, Hargrove (Kovacs, Mellor), 7:22, (pp).

SECOND PERIOD: 2, UND, Pattyn (Grimaldi, Johnson), 8:55, (pp).

THIRD PERIOD: 3, WM, Hargrove (Cichy, Oesterle), 7:56, (sh).

SAVES: WM, Hafner 9-14-5–28. UND, Gothberg 9-7-6–22.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald