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UND men's hockey clinches share of NCHC conference title

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Penrose Cup was not in Omaha on Saturday night.Neither was the National Collegiate Hockey Conference commissioner or any other league personnel.It wasn't supposed to happen this quickly.In the span of 30 hours, North Dakota wen...

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University of North Dakota's Keaton Thompson celebrate his first period goal against the University of Nebraska at Omaha at Baxter Arena on Saturday. (Photo by Chris Machian/The Omaha World-Herald)

OMAHA, Neb. - The Penrose Cup was not in Omaha on Saturday night.
Neither was the National Collegiate Hockey Conference commissioner or any other league personnel.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly.
In the span of 30 hours, North Dakota went from a dead heat with St. Cloud State atop the NCHC standings to winning a second straight Penrose Cup championship thanks to a pair of victories over Nebraska-Omaha and a pair of St. Cloud State losses to Minnesota-Duluth.
Seconds after UND completed its sweep of the Mavericks with a 4-1 victory, the Huskies’ game went final, too, and word trickled out to the team that it had clinched a share of the title.
It is UND’s 17th conference title - most in college hockey history - and the first under rookie head coach Brad Berry.
The three-foot high silver cup will reside again in Grand Forks, but both St. Cloud State and Denver have a shot at sharing it with UND.
The Fighting Hawks can win it outright by getting one point in next weekend’s regular-season finale against Western Michigan.
“One of our goals coming in was to get that Penrose Cup,” UND senior Bryn Chyzyk said. “We have a share of it now, but we don’t want to share that thing. It was exciting news, but we’re not done yet.”
UND defenseman Troy Stecher added: “It’s obviously pretty special when you can get a chance to win a trophy and hang a banner in The Ralph. At the same time, we want to win that thing outright. We don’t want to share it.”
Stecher, who had to sit out Friday night’s game with an NCHC-imposed suspension for an illegal hit last weekend, called the Omaha series UND’s most complete 120 minutes of the season.
After winning the opener 4-2, UND jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series finale and hung out to finish its second sweep of the Mavericks since the teams joined the same league in 2010-11.
UND moved to 26-5-3 overall and 17-4-1 in league play, staying six points ahead of St. Cloud State and Denver in the NCHC standings.
Omaha (18-13-1, 8-13-1) continued its tailspin and can no longer finish in the top half of the league. After going 14-3-1 in the first half of the season, the Mavericks are now 4-10 since Christmas break. After going 8-0 in its first eight games in the brand new Baxter Arena, they have now been swept four times in their home building since Christmas.
UND, which had allowed the game’s opening goal in four straight games, finally got an early lead on Saturday night when Keaton Thompson buried a feed from Johnny Simonson (two assists) at 15:31 of the first period. It was Thompson’s first goal since the season opener.
Drake Caggiula and Bryn Chyzyk followed that up with back-to-back goals in the second period. Caggiula batted a puck out of mid-air for his 17th of the season at 6:22 and Chyzyk followed, burying a Stecher feed in the left circle.
Luc Snuggerud broke up the shutout bid of Cam Johnson (26 saves) when his point shot went off of Schmaltz at 17:27 of the middle frame, but Brock Boeser iced it in the third with his 22nd of the season.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Berry said. “They battled. It’s a tough environment to win in here in Omaha. We want the next one now. We’ll focus on Western Michigan next weekend. It’s a nice accolade and a nice goal to attain, but we want to make sure we move on to that next goal.”

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
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