Saturday Game React: UND vs. Denver

UND’s special teams were special tonight, as the Sioux downed the Pioneers 3-1 at Magness Arena in Denver.

North Dakota used a smothering penalty kill, two power play goals, and a back-breaking shorthanded tally to gain a split of the weekend series.

Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (7-5-1, 1.52 GAA, .940 SV, 4 SO) allowed just one goal on 36 shots and was at his best in the third period, turning aside all 24 shots he faced and helping UND kill all three Denver power plays. Denver outshot North Dakota 24-7 in the third period and 35-26 for the game. Lamoureux, who allowed just two goals and stopped 63 of 65 Pioneer shots in the weekend series, should be in line for the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week award.

Lamoureux, who has played every minute in net for the Fighting Sioux this season, has now started 38 consecutive games and is two shy of the school record of 40, held by Al Finkelstein (1951-53).

Ryan Duncan played his best game of the season, tallying two goals and adding one assist. Chris VandeVelde (1 goal, 1 assist) and T.J. Oshie (2 assists) also played well. Ryan Duncan and T.J. Oshie have now scored 12 goals and 15 assists in seven Sioux victories, and have been held scoreless in five Sioux losses and a scoreless tie.

UND fared much better in the face-off circle tonight, particularily in the first and second periods, when they won 30 of 40 draws (75%). Darcy Zajac was inserted into the lineup tonight, and he, along with VandeVelde and Kaip, were very effective.

The turning point in the game came at the 11:14 mark of the second period. Denver had just scored (Tyler Bozak from Brock Trotter, 10:04), had drawn a penalty (Oshie, hooking, 10:26), and owned all the momentum. Playing shorthanded, Sioux defenseman Joe Finley sent Chris VandeVelde and Ryan Duncan in alone on Peter Mannino, and Duncan made no mistake on the feed from VandeVelde and made the score 3-1 just 70 seconds after Bozak’s goal.

“Joe (Finley) made a great play; he kind of chipped it up the boards,” said Sioux junior Ryan Duncan. “He had great vision and saw Vandy in the clear and we were able to get a step and get a two-on-0. It doesn’t happen very often, especially against a great team like that.”

“I thought the biggest goal of the game was the shorthanded goal,” added UND head coach Dave Hakstol. “There was a momentum swing there where Denver scored a few minutes before and the crowd was getting into it, and that goal was a critical one.”

That score would hold up the rest of the way despite three Pioneer power plays in the third period. UND was solid every time Denver had the man advantage, killing all seven penalties for the game to raise their season penalty kill percentage to 90.9% (60 of 66). In the last four meetings between the two schools, UND has killed 22 of 23 Pioneer power plays (95.7%).

North Dakota scored twice on the power play (VandeVelde, Duncan) in seven chances, and are now converting 16.9% of power plays (10 of 59) on the season. UND also scored its first shorthanded goal of the year (Duncan).

UND now holds an 11-4-1 record (.719) at Magness Arena since 97-98.

I knew I would be impressed with Denver sophomore forwards Brock Trotter, Tyler Ruegsegger, and Rhett Rakhshani, but I was more impressed with the play of freshman forward Tyler Bozak (8 goals, 4 assists in 14 games). Not only did he score both Pioneer goals on the weekend, he had seven shots on net, won the majority of his draws, and played well all over the ice.

North Dakota has now split five consecutive conference series (@Michigan Tech, Colorado College, @Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth, @Denver) after opening the season with impressive wins over Michigan State and Northeastern and a 0-0, two period tie with Boston College.

Denver falls to 10-4-0 (7-3-0 WCHA) on the season, while North Dakota improves to 7-5-1 (5-5-0 WCHA). The Sioux host the Gophers for a pair next weekend; the Pioneers head to St. Cloud to battle the Huskies.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

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