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FNS Photo by Eric Hylden Western Michigan’s Colton Hargrove scores a short-handed goal in the third period past University of North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg on Saturday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Western Michigan scores short-handed, beats UND

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GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota celebrated its seniors on Saturday after the game.

But it wasn’t an overly joyful celebration.

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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 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 shorthanded.

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.”

UND never led on Saturday. Western Michigan struck first with a power-play goal at 7:22 of the opening frame.

Bronco forward Justin Kovacs hit Hargrove in stride as he entered the zone up the middle. Hargrove carried the puck to the high slot, where he wristed a shot past the blocker of Gothberg for his ninth of the year.

UND evened it midway through the second with a power-play goal.

Forward Rocco Grimaldi picked up the puck at the left point and skated it into the circle, before spotting some room in the middle. Grimaldi darted across the slot and fired a shot low. Bronco goalie Lukas Hafner made the initial save, but Stephane Pattyn scored on the rebound for his second goal of the weekend.

Hargrove’s second goal in the third period was the difference.

“We saw what happens when you get a little sleepy,” Mattson said. “That’s an opportunity we’d like to have back, but it’s over so there’s not much we can do about it.”

Mattson said it was disappointing not to win the Penrose Cup for the seniors.

“I consider them almost my brothers with the things we’ve been through together,” he said. “It’s tough. You want to win so bad for them. It really sucks seeing those guys with their heads down and knowing we didn’t get the job done for them.”

Notes: The parents of the UND seniors were recognized on the ice before the game. . . Greg Enkers filled in on the play-by-play for Dan Hammer. . . UND used the same lineup as Friday’s game. . . Western Michigan scratched forward Michael Rebry for Aaron Hadley. . . Western Michigan radio play-by-play man Kory Lee is a graduate of Grand Forks Central High School and served as a stick boy for the UND hockey team for 10 years.

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Brad Elliott Schlossman
Schlossman is in his 10th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2014, he was named one of the top three beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.
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