ST. PAUL – For a while Thursday night, it appeared Minnesota Duluth might’ve carried some magic from 2009 into the 2010 Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five at Xcel Energy Center.
Sophomore Kenny Reiter was playing the role of Alex Stalock in goal and for more than two periods he held No. 5-ranked North Dakota without a goal. However, defending champion and No. 11 UMD was also scoreless.
After not allowing a goal for more than three full Final Five games, spanning two seasons, the magic ran out. Sophomore winger Jason Gregoire scored a shorthanded goal with 7:38 to play and Evan Trupp added his first goal in 21 games with 1:59 remaining as North Dakota won 2-0 before a crowd of 15.292.
It was the first time the Bulldogs had been shut out in 83 games the past two seasons. UMD was 1-4 against North Dakota this season.
“That has to rank right up there with my best performances. I knew I had to raise my play [after 5-2 and 5-1 losses in Grand Forks last month] and I just tried to give us the best chance to win,” said Reiter, who has three shutouts in his first season as a starter. “In a one-game format anything can happen. One bounce our way earlier in the game and it could’ve been a different story.”
Last season, UMD became the first team to win three games in three days at the Final Five, and did so with tournament MVP Stalock, now with Worcester (Mass.) in the American Hockey League. The Bulldogs finished with two shutouts and that streak went to 186 minutes and 14 seconds before Gregoire got the game winner.
A UMD turnover in the defensive zone allowed center Chris VandeVelde to get a good shot on net, Reiter made that save, and Gregoire put in the rebound from the slot for his 20th goal of the season. That left goalie Brad Eidsness backing the WCHA’s best defensive team for the final 7:38. Eidsness collected his third shutout of the season with 22 saves, while Retier made 32.
“We had a feeling that whoever was going to score the first goal, it would have a huge impact,” said Gregoire.
Said Eidsness: “With seeing only 10 shots in the first two periods, it was a waiting game for me. You have to patient.”
UMD (22-17-1) came into the game with the top power play in the WCHA, but went 0-for-5, as did North Dakota. However, the Bulldogs thought they scored on a power play at 1:23 of the third period from Cody Danberg. But the play was initiated by a high stick, said referees Don Adam and Tim Walsh, before finally going off Eidsness and then off the skate of North Dakota center Darcy Zajac.
“We thought we had a goal and that would’ve been a huge spark,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “But that didn’t happen. It was like we were a half-step behind all night. After the first shift of the game we never seemed to get going.”
In the first two periods, the Bulldogs were out shot 25-10 and Reiter was simply fantastic. He stopped VandeVelde, Danny Kristo and Gregoire, all on first-period power-play attempts, and gloved Mario Lamoureux and Trupp.
In the second period he stopped VandeVelde and Kristo, again, on a power play. Brett Hextall was stopped in close and Brad Malone was turned away on a breakaway. UMD did have chances in the third period, leading 12-9 in shots.
“They were peppering us with shots and Kenny was coming up big. Even so, we said to just stick with it; but you’re not going to win any games if you don’t score,” said UMD senior captain Drew Akins.
North Dakota, which faces No. 1 Denver in today’s 7:07 p.m. semifinals, is 10-1 the last 11 games and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in that stretch. The Fighting Sioux and UMD tied for fourth in the league during the regular season. Last year, UMD defeated North Dakota 3-0 in the semifinals.
“[Eidsness] took a little bit of the brunt when we weren’t having success in the middle part of the season [going 1-5 in January and part of February], but we weren’t giving him that extra goal we needed then,” said North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol. “Now we are finding a way to pull the wins out.”
As North Dakota moves on, UMD will be monitoring its fading NCAA tournament chances. After the loss, the Bulldogs dropped three spots to No. 14 in the PairWise Rankings. Sixteen teams will be chosen Sunday morning and UMD will need help in other conference tournament playoffs to earn a spot.
UMD sophomore center Jack Connolly and junior right winger Justin Fontaine were named to WCHA all-star games at a league banquet Thursday afternoon.
Connolly became the first Duluth native from UMD chosen for the WCHA first team. Entering Friday’s game, he led UMD’s scoring with 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points in 39 games. Fontaine, from Bonnyville, Alberta, was put on the second team for a second straight year. He had 46 points in 38 games, including 13 power-play goals.
Regular-season league champion Denver earned most of the all-league accolades including junior goalie Marc Cheverie as player of the year and George Gwozdecky as coach of the year. Wisconsin junior defenseman Brendan Smith was named defensive player of the year and Michigan Tech senior defenseman was named student-athlete of the year.
Minnesota Duluth ………..0-0-0—0
First period – No scoring. Penalties – Andrew MacWilliam, North Dakota (boarding), 3:23; Brady Lamb, UMD (boarding), 7:37; Jason Gregoire, North Dakota (interference), 16:55.
Second period – No scoring. Penalties – Justin Fontaine, UMD (slashing), 5:30; Dan DeLisle, UMD (hooking), 10:11; Brett Hextall, North Dakota (interference), 19:21.
Third period – 1. North Dakota, Jason Gregoire 20 (Chris VandeVelde, Derrick LaPoint), 12:22 (sh); 2. North Dakota, Evan Trupp 6 (Danny Kristo, VandeVelde), 18:01. Penalties – Corey Fienhage, North Dakota (interference), 6:10; Dylan Olsen, UMD (slashing), 7:41; Rob Bordson, UMD (hooking), 9:46; Trupp, North Dakota (tripping), 11:40.
Shots on goal – UMD 4-6-12–22; North Dakota 10-15-9–34. Goalies – Kenny Reiter (13-10), UMD (34 shots-32 saves); Brad Eidsness (22-9-4), North Dakota (22 shots-22 saves). Power plays – UMD 0-of-5; North Dakota 0-of-5. Referees – Don Adam, Tim Walsh. Assistants – Nathan Freeman, Bob Keltie (Jarod Moen). A – 15,292.