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Tough home games: St. Cloud State sweeps NCHC series against UND at Ralph Engelstad Arena

FNS Photo by Eric Hylden The University of North Dakota’s Rocco Grimaldi, front, tries to control the puck as St. Cloud State defenders Nic Dowd, right, and Kevin Gravel, back, look on during a NCHC game on Saturday in Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS — Senior Dillon Simpson has been through about everything in his four years at the University of North Dakota.

One feeling he’s never known, though, arrived Saturday night.

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For the first in his career — for the first time in anybody on UND’s roster’s career — the team got swept in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

St. Cloud State achieved that rare feat by beating UND 3-1 in front of 11,882 in the series finale, dropping UND to 2-3-1 overall and 1-3 in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play.

Nic Dowd had a goal and an assist, while Tim Daly and Kalle Kossila added goals as the Huskies became the first team to sweep UND in The Ralph since January 2010, when the MacNaughton Cup champion Denver Pioneers did it. That’s a span of 35 series.

“When you play out West, you play in front of so many big buildings and big crowds,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “I don’t want to say you get used to it, but it’s fun for (us), too — at home and on the road. It’s a great environment, the best in college hockey. But not many people ever come in here and do that.”

St. Cloud State is one team that doesn’t seem fazed by coming to The Ralph.

This is the second straight year that the Huskies made the road trip to Grand Forks and avoided losing. Last year, they got three points. In one of those games, they held UND to a paltry 16 shots on goal. This season, it was a sweep. On Saturday night, UND was only able to muster 17 shots on goal.

St. Cloud State junior goalie Ryan Faragher is now 4-1-1 with a 1.50 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in The Ralph.

“We didn’t generate enough,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “That starts in coming up ice. We didn’t make enough plays coming out of our zone and into the neutral zone to get us speed and to have some opportunities off the rush. I though down low, as an example in the third period, we spent a fair bit of time in the offensive zone, but we didn’t get enough to the net.”

UND had 15 shot attempts in the third period, but only three reached Faragher.

“That’s not enough,” Hakstol said.

UND will take a three-game losing streak — its longest since October 2011 — to Omaha next weekend for a Saturday-Sunday series. UND hasn’t lost four games in a row since December 2006.

“We look at the things we need to do better and there are a lot of things we have to look at and go back to work and become better at,” Hakstol said.

No. 1 on the list will be generating more offense.

UND has five goals in the last three games. After a five-point opening weekend, standout forward Rocco Grimaldi has been held off the scoresheet in four straight games. UND’s third and fourth lines have one goal in the last five games.

UND actually jumped out to a lead in both games this weekend.

On Saturday, it was freshman Troy Stecher, who blasted a one-timer from the point for a power-play goal at 18:40 of the first period.

But the Huskies scored two goals in the span of 12 seconds in the middle frame to take the lead for good. On the first one, UND goalie Zane Gothberg made a series of good saves. Then, with a loose puck sitting near the crease area, he tried to sweep it into his glove and freeze it, but Gothberg missed covering it and Daly knocked it in.

On the next shift Dowd executed a give-and-go with Jimmy Murray and sniped the corner of the net to make it 2-1.

“We had a defenseman that went down in the corner that created a very quick two-on-one outnumbered situation and we didn’t hold the net front on that,” Hakstol said. “Those are things we have to learn from. That’s a learning point for a couple of young guys that were involved in that. That’s obviously a tough goal to give up.”

Junior goalie Stephane Pattyn said: “We have to watch a lot of tape and find out the little things we can improve on.”

Notes: UND’s all-time winningest coach, Gino Gasparini, was honored along with his wife, Tootsie, before the start of the game. . . Colten St. Clair re-entered the lineup for UND, but left the third period with an injury to his left leg. . . Coltyn Sanderson played his first regular-season game since last October.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer 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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