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No. 2 Bulldogs hand No. 1 UND its first loss in 224 days

DULUTH, Minn.--There was no music blaring, no hollering. UND's locker room was so silent that the water dripping out of the showers could be heard down the AmsOil Arena hallway Friday night. The players eventually walked out of the locker room st...

DULUTH, Minn.-There was no music blaring, no hollering.

UND's locker room was so silent that the water dripping out of the showers could be heard down the AmsOil Arena hallway Friday night.

The players eventually walked out of the locker room stone-faced after experiencing a feeling they haven't felt in a long time.

For the first time in 224 days-a span of seven months and 11 games going back to last season-the University of North Dakota men's hockey team lost.

In a showdown between college hockey's top two ranked teams, No. 2 Minnesota Duluth beat No. 1 North Dakota 5-2 in AmsOil Arena, handing the Fighting Hawks their first defeat since March 18, when they lost to the same Bulldog team in Minneapolis' Target Center.

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After that game, UND reeled off a 10-game unbeaten streak, a nine-game winning streak, won an NCAA national championship and started this season 5-0 with five consecutive home wins.

But that run came to an end in a showdown in Duluth.

Bulldog senior forward Alex Iafallo finished off his first-career hat trick with an empty-net goal in the final minute to seal UND's fate.

"There goes the undefeated season," UND captain Gage Ausmus said. "Obviously no one on this team likes losing. That's the great thing about this team. I haven't really focused on it and I don't think anyone else is focused on the last time we lost. Now, we're looking to the next task at hand."

The next task will be trying to salvage a split at 7:07 tonight, while the Bulldogs attempt to pull off their first sweep of UND since January 1995 and their first sweep of UND in Duluth since November 1992.

Recently, the Bulldogs haven't had much success against the Fighting Hawks.

Entering this weekend's series, they were 1-6 in their six-year-old building against UND. They hadn't scored a goal in 166 minutes, 23 seconds and had 104 consecutive shots stopped by UND's goaltenders.

But Minnesota Duluth broke through with an early power-play goal-Iafallo tipped a point shot over Johnson at 5:46 of the first period-and cruised from there.

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Iafallo had a four-point night and accounted for nine shots on goal, while his line held UND star Brock Boeser without a point for the first time this season and the second time in the last 17 games going back to last season. Boeser's centerman, Tyson Jost, also was held without a point for the first time in his college career.

The Bulldogs built a 3-0 lead in the opening half of the game.

UND stormed back with a power-play goal from Rhett Gardner-he found a rebound of a Christian Wolanin point shot-and a breakaway goal by Shane Gersich. The sophomore forwards scored their goals in the final three minutes of the middle frame to make it a one-goal game.

But Bulldog defenseman Neal Pionk scored on a blast from the point with traffic in front of UND netminder Cam Johnson-who stopped all 78 Bulldog shots in this building a year ago-to make it 4-2.

"It's a little bit of a setback, losing a game," said Brad Berry, who experienced an October loss for the first time in his coaching career (11-1-2). "Playing against a good team like this in their rink, they played hard and they won the game. Our mentality, our culture is-what's the pushback? Our guys in the locker room have a lot of pride coming back tomorrow."

One focus for UND will be starting faster.

Friday night marked the fifth straight game that UND allowed the first goal of the game. The Fighting Hawks battled back for wins in the first four, but don't want to have to do that again in the series finale.

"We obviously know what's happening," Wolanin said. "It's a mindset that starts in warmups. It starts right when we get to the rink."

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Minnesota Duluth will be looking for its first series victory-with a tie or a win in the finale-over UND since 2008, when they earned a win and a tie at the old Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. UND will try to avoid a rare sweep.

"Adversity sucks, but it's what a team needs," Wolanin said.

Notes: UND sophomore defenseman Hayden Shaw did not make the trip to Duluth because of a lower-body injury. . . Wolanin returned to the lineup after missing last weekend with a lower-body injury. . . Minnesota Duluth forward Parker Mackay returned to the lineup after missing the last three weeks with an injury. . . Minto, N.D., product Jade Miller played fourth line left wing for the Bulldogs. . . Friday's game marked the first time in eight meetings between UND and Minnesota Duluth in AmsOil that it did not sell out. Attendance was 6,393.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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