Saturday Game React: UND vs. St. Cloud State

UND skated to a 2-2 tie with the visiting St. Cloud State Huskies on Saturday night, extending its school record 17-game unbeaten streak (14-0-3). The teams battled to a 1-1 tie in Friday’s opener. The Sioux last lost a game on January 4th to the very same Huskies in St. Cloud. That loss is North Dakota’s only defeat since the calendar turned to 2008.

Once again, the goaltending was spectacular. UND’s Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (31 saves) and SCSU’s Jase Weslosky (28 saves) turned in impressive performances, and were named WCHA co-Defensive Players of the Week for their weekends of work. In the two-game series, Lamoureux stopped 48 of 51 shots and Weslosky made 57 of 60 saves in battling to two ties. It was the second consecutive week that Lamoureux has earned the honor.

In Saturday’s finale, North Dakota led 2-1 until St. Cloud State was given a man advantage with under four minutes remaining. Sioux winger Andrew Kozek was called for hooking at 16:11 (only the fourth penalty of the game) and the Husky power play made no mistake. Ryan Lasch corralled a rebound of an Aaron Brocklehurst attempt and put it past a diving Lamoureux to knot the game at two. Kozek was the only player sent to the penalty box over the final 56:10 of the hockey game.

The Sioux took the lead late in the second period on Matt Watkins’ eighth goal of the season. The junior winger tipped freshman Derrick LaPoint’s shot up and over Weslosky with 1:08 remaining in the middle frame to put UND up 2-1.

The Huskies’ Brent Borgen knotted the game at one after a mad scramble in front of the Sioux net at the four minute mark of the second period. North Dakota’s Brad Miller scored a power play goal midway through the first period, less than twenty seconds after Tony Mosey went off for cross-checking. Both teams finished 1 for 2 with the man advantage.

St. Cloud controlled the face-off circle for the second consecutive night. The Huskies won 34 of 61 draws on Saturday night after winning 30 of 52 a night earlier. For the weekend, the Huskies won over 56%, led by Garrett Roe, who won 22 and lost only 11 in the two-game series.

It seemed as if referee Todd Anderson and his assistants forgot their collective whistles once again. The teams were called for only four minor penalties after combining for only three penalties on Friday night. Remarkably, Friday’s game, including a five-minute overtime session, took only 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete. Saturday’s game was even quicker, clocking in at 2 hours and 12 minutes (despite the extra frame).

Two of the WCHA’s best were on display this weekend at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Lamoureux edged out Colorado College freshman goaltender Richard Bachman for the league goaltending title (1.7431 GAA to 1.7536 GAA), while SCSU sophomore forward Ryan Lasch took the scoring title with a two point weekend (one goal, one assist). Lasch finished with 34 points (17g, 17a) in league play, edging CC junior forward Chad Rau, whose three points in the final conference series against Denver left him at 33 (23g, 10a) for the year. Remarkably, the 3rd-7th place finishers in the WCHA scoring race were all on the ice in Grand Forks as well. SCSU’s Andreas Nodl (15-16-31) and Garrett Roe (11-17-28), and UND’s T.J. Oshie (12-17-29), Ryan Duncan (9-19-28), and Chris VandeVelde (12-12-24) rounded out the top seven.

Minnesota-Duluth’s Alex Stalock was the only goaltender in the conference to play more minutes in league games than Lamoureux, backstopping the Bulldogs for 1688:36 (28 games) to Lamoureux’s 1686:40 (28 games). Stalock and Lamoureux were the only two goalies to play every WCHA minute for their teams.

UND, which entered the weekend as the second-most penalized team in the nation (20.76 penalty minutes/game), dropped to 19.8 penalty minutes per game (still second in Division I) after this weekend’s series. UND has killed 88.3% of penalties this season (6th nationally), and improved its season power play percentage to 18.6% (16th). SCSU penalty killers have a success rate of 87.3% (9th), while the Huskies’ power play continues to crackle at 23.2% (3rd).

North Dakota ends the regular season at 23-8-4 (18-7-3 WCHA), while St. Cloud holds a record of 17-14-5 (12-12-4 WCHA). Both schools are currently in the top ten (UND t-4th, SCSU t-8th) in the PairWise rankings, which mimic the method used by the NCAA Selection Committee to determine participants for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament. After awarding automatic bids to the playoff champion in each of the six conferences, the committee will grant at-large bids to the top ten remaining teams in the PairWise to create a 16-team field.

The two teams split the regular season series, with each team gaining a win and two ties. UND and SCSU will share the Challenge Cup for the 2007-08 season.

The Sioux and Huskies will both host WCHA first-round playoff series this weekend. UND entertains the Michigan Tech Huskies, while the St. Cloud State Huskies play host to Wisconsin. Both series are best-of-three, with the winners advancing to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul.

Thank for your reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. For more on the matchup between the two teams, click here. For reaction and analysis of Friday’s game, click here. For more about the UND/SCSU Challenge Cup, click here.

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