Sioux top Bemidji State, head to WCHA Final FiveGRAND FORKS — Mario Lamoureux skated off the ice slowly, glanced around the rink and tried to let everything soak in. Finally, the senior captain and Grand Forks native concluded: This is a good way to leave Ralph Engelstad Arena.
By: Brad Schlossman , Forum Communications Co.
GRAND FORKS — Mario Lamoureux skated off the ice slowly, glanced around the rink and tried to let everything soak in.
Finally, the senior captain and Grand Forks native concluded: This is a good way to leave Ralph Engelstad Arena.
In his final game in the building, Lamoureux assisted on a goal, blocked a shot with his head and set the tone for the University of North Dakota in its 4-3 win over Bemidji State on Saturday — one that punched a ticket to the program’s 10th straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
UND’s opponent is yet to be determined, but a tough task awaits for that team.
The Sioux are the two-time defending Broadmoor Trophy champions. They’ve won 10 straight WCHA playoff games. And they have the country’s best record since Thanksgiving — 18-5-2.
“It feels good,” Lamoureux said. “All year, one of our goals is to get home ice. We did that and we took advantage of that. It’s exciting to go down there. It’s an extremely fun tournament. Probably the funnest tournament you’re ever going to play in for a lot of guys. It’s very exciting to go down there. At the same time, it’s all business and we want to win that thing.
“The last couple years, we’ve been playing our best hockey at the Final Five. I think we’ve got another step to take to be a little better next weekend. I think we’re going to have to take that step to win it. But I think everyone will be on the same page and we’ll take that step.”
UND improved to 22-12-3 overall and bumped up to No. 9 in the Pairwise Rankings immediately after the victory. The Sioux victory had some familiar and unfamiliar traits.
Uncharacteristically, the prolific top line of Danny Kristo, Brock Nelson and Corban Knight was held off the scoresheet, but UND got scoring from the other three lines. Connor Gaarder, Carter Rowney, Michael Parks and Dillon Simpson all tallied goals, while rookie Mark MacMillan had a career-high three assists.
In familiar fashion, the Sioux didn’t make it easy on themselves. Holding a 4-1 lead late in the third, Bemidji State’s Jamie MacQueen scored back-to-back goals in 19 seconds to cut the lead to 4-3 with 3:37 to go. UND locked it down from there.
“We’re excited,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s such a great weekend to go and be part of it. It’s a nice reward for a lot of work they’ve put in. This game tonight is kind of indicative of our year. We don’t and can’t do things in an easy way, but we just find a way to get it done. That’s the best compliment we can pay our guys is that we find a way to win. It’s a nice reward to get to St. Paul.”
One night after a brilliant performance by Aaron Dell, the Sioux looked to senior Brad Eidsness. He also was strong in his final game in Ralph Engelstad Arena, stopping 26 shots.
After the game, the team did one last stick salute at center ice in Ralph Engelstad Arena, where they lost just four times in 22 games this season. The Sioux ended the season on an eight-game home unbeaten streak.
That was a nice way for the Sioux seniors to say goodbye to the home fans.
“I took a last little look and tried to soak it all in,” Lamoureux said. “It was a great four years here, a lot of great memories. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the fans and the people who support the program. It’s first-class in every way and makes me extremely proud to be part of this program and represent everything about it. It’s a good way to go out.”
Schlossman is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.