T.J. Oshie tallied both Fighting Sioux goals and Jean-Philippe Lamoureux turned aside 10 of 11 shots as North Dakota earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over the visiting Huskies of Michigan Tech. The victory propels UND to its sixth consecutive WCHA Final Five tournament, where the Sioux will face Denver in the Friday afternoon semifinal match-up (2:07 p.m.). North Dakota is currently 5th in the PairWise rankings; Denver is tied for 6th.
Oshie, a junior who quite likely played his last game at Ralph Engelstad Arena, went out in grand style, scoring his team-leading 16th and 17th goals of the season. He took a saucer pass from linemate Ryan Duncan and walked around MTU netminder Michael-Lee Teslak to knot the game at 1 late in the first period, and one-timed a feed from senior defenseman Robbie Bina for the game-winner just 19 seconds into the second period. Oshie’s game-winning goal came with the teams skating 4 on 4.
North Dakota has excelled in four on four situations all year long, outscoring opponents 8-2. It is critical for defensemen to move the puck and join the rush to create scoring chances while skating four on four, and North Dakota has plenty of blueliners who fit the bill. Robbie Bina (three assists), Chay Genoway (three assists), and Joe Finley (two goals), in particular, have been outstanding in 4 on 4 play.
Michigan Tech head coach Jamie Russell had high praise for UND’s Oshie:
“The kid’s a helluva hockey player,” Russell noted. “He’s a difference-maker. He’s not long in this league. He’s going to be a difference-maker at the next level as well. He’s a terrific hockey player. He plays hard, too. He’s strong defensively, he’s good on faceoffs, he’s solid on his skates, he’s a strong kid. He’s impressive.”
T.J. Oshie leads North Dakota with 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists).
Jean-Philippe Lamoureux rebounded from Saturday’s Game 2 defeat (3 goals allowed, 23 saves), allowing only Tyler Shelast’s tip-in goal at 11:27 of the first period. The goal came off a feed from Alex Gagne, who stole the puck from Oshie in the neutral zone and skated in two-on-two. Shelast, Saturday night’s hero, finished his career at Michigan Tech with 51 goals and 36 assists in 151 games played.
Two key moments stand out in this hockey game:
The first key was T.J. Oshie’s first goal, just 2 minutes and 42 seconds after Tyler Shelast had staked the Huskies to a 1-0 lead. Oshie swung the momentum back to North Dakota after UND had struggled for much of the opening frame.
The second key was MTU senior captain Jimmy Kerr’s 10-minute misconduct penalty at 10:35 of the third period. The Sioux were clinging to a one-goal lead at the time, and Kerr’s untimely verbal sparring with the official earned him a seat in the penalty box for the remainder of the game. The winger from Leduc, Alberta is Michigan Tech’s third-leading scorer (9 goals, 10 assists), and the Huskies desperately needed him on the ice at the end of the hockey game.
North Dakota helped Lamoureux out at every turn, blocking 23 of MTU’s 52 shot attempts. 18 of the remaining 29 attempts were wide of the net. The 11 shots on goal allowed by the Fighting Sioux is their lowest total this year. For the season, UND has allowed 24.3 shots on goal and 1.74 goals per game, the best defense in the country.
UND finished 0 of 2 on the power play (5 shots) while Michigan Tech went 0 for 3. The Huskies only managed 1 shot on goal during their three man-advantage situations. North Dakota’s penalty kill (88.1%) is sixth-best in Division I.
North Dakota’s penalty minutes continue to fall. The Sioux are now averaging 19.18 penalty minutes per game, fifth in the country. UND’s opponents are averaging 19.6 penalty minutes per game, and North Dakota has had 170 power plays (31 goals) and been asked to kill 168 penalties (20 goals allowed) this season. The 19.18 PIM for the Sioux this year are not far ahead of the top two teams in the PairWise, #1 Michigan (17.89) and #2 Miami of Ohio (17.84).
Michigan Tech fared well in the face-off circle on Sunday night, winning 35 of 63 (55.6%). North Dakota dominated Friday and Saturday night, winning 61.6% (77 of 125) over the first two games.
Lamoureux (24-9-4) heads into Final Five weekend with the nation’s best goals-against average (1.6312) and tied for the lead with six shutouts. He ranks fourth in Division I save percentage (.934), and is a virtual lock to be named one of ten Hobey Baker finalists. In addition to his six shutouts, Lamoureux has allowed exactly one goal 16 times this year.
Although it is customary for UND players to give a stick salute to the fans only after a home sweep, the Sioux treated the 11,639 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena to one final salute for the 2007-08 season. Somehow, one more fan fit into the arena Sunday night, as Saturday’s announced attendance was a sold-out 11,638.
Three of the four North Dakota seniors (Lamoureux, Bina, Rylan Kaip) dressed for the series finale, and the trio returned to the ice for one final skate before heading down the tunnel for the last time at the Ralph. The fourth Sioux senior, forward Kyle Radke, was not in Sunday’s lineup. Lamoureux left a memory for one fan, tossing his goalie stick over the glass and into the crowd. The senior goaltender from Grand Forks, North Dakota recalled a game at the old Ralph Engelstad Arena:
“I remember being at (Sioux) game when Jason Blake (1996-99) scored an overtime goal,” Lamoureux said. “I was standing by the tunnel, and he gave his stick to a kid a couple of feet away from me. I thought it was pretty cool.”
North Dakota won five of the seven meetings between the two schools this year, outscoring the Huskies 23-9. Michigan Tech ends its season at 14-20-5, and says goodbye to seniors Peter Rouleau, Tyler Shelast, Jimmy Kerr, Malcolm Gwilliam, Jordan Foote, Mark Malekoff, and Jake Wilkens. There is also speculation that junior goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak (8-11-4, 2.20 GAA, .918 SV, 1 SO) will not return for his senior season.
The Sioux are a lock for the national tournament regardless of the results next weekend in St. Paul, but hope to return to the WCHA Final Five championship game for the third straight year. UND won the Broadmoor Trophy in 2006 (defeating St. Cloud State 5-3) and lost a thrilling overtime contest to Minnesota last season.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. I will be covering the WCHA Final Five tournament for SiouxSports.com, so check back throughout the weekend for news, notes, quotes, and commentary from St. Paul.