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The night after North Dakota forward Mario Lamoureux watched his sisters Jocelyne and Monique honored for their silver medal performance in women’s hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics, he stole the spotlight back.
Lamoureux’s unassisted goal at 7:12 of the third period completed the Fighting Sioux comeback from a two-goal deficit, giving UND a 3-2 win and a sweep of Michigan Tech before 11,815 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“Nothing comes easy for us,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “We’ve found a way to keep moving forward, and it always seems like it’s somebody different who steps up and helps us get the job done.”
The seventh straight win for the Sioux (20-11-5 overall and 15-10-3 in league play) assured them of a fourth-place finish in the WCHA, which means Minnesota will begin the playoffs in Grand Forks next weekend.
Sophomore forward Jason Gregoire scored in the second and third periods to knot the score, but it was Lamoureux’s determined, gritty goal that put the Sioux ahead for good.
With the Sioux applying strong pressure on the forecheck in the Huskies’ zone, Lamoureux knocked down a clearing attempt up the middle at the blue line.
“I came right off the bench,” Lamoureux said. “I don’t think their guy saw me coming.”
His first shot from high in the slot hit a pile of bodies in front of the goal. With MTU goalie Josh Robinson down and out of position, Lamoureux dove at the rebound to put the puck in what he thought was an open net, only to have the shot blocked by an MTU player in the crease.
Lamoureux jumped up, got the puck again and roofed it over the prone goalie and a host of Huskies to give UND a 3-2 lead at the 7:12 mark.
“The third time’s the charm,” he quipped.
“Just another ho-hum game-winner for him,” Hakstol deadpanned.
As was the case in Friday’s game, UND got off to another slow start, and MTU took advantage of it. The Sioux began the period by taking three straight penalties. The Huskies cashed in on their first opportunity with the man advantage.
Sioux sophomore goalie Brad Eidsness couldn’t control the rebound off Deron Cousens’ one-time slap shot from the right point. Junior forward Jordan Baker found the puck at the right side of the net and knocked it in at 2:53 to give MTU a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies then proceeded to take three consecutive penalties, but MTU’s penalty killers combined with stellar goaltending by Robinson to keep the Sioux off the board. The Huskies went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead at the end of the first stanza, just as they had in Friday’s game.
“Our penalty kill’s been good lately,” said MTU coach Jamie Russell. “With 18 freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, it was a real learning curve at the beginning of the season. The last month, I’ve been really happy with it.”
MTU took a 2-0 lead at 5:36 of the second period on its second power-play goal of the game. UND entered the game as the third-ranked penalty kill in the nation.
The Huskies brought the puck into UND’s zone with speed. Dobson, carried to the right of Eidsness, then passed cross-crease against the grain to senior forward Malcolm Gwilliam, who had a wide-open net to shoot into.
“Our special teams were very good,” Russell said. “We were solid on the PK and had two power-play goals.”
UND got on the board one second after its power play ended. Freshman forward Danny Kristo fired a wrister from the top of the slot that Gregoire, camped out in front of Robinson, tipped in at 14:04 to make it a 2-1 game.
“The goal at the end of the second was huge and something we could build off of,” Lamoureux said.
Gregoire made it 2-2 at 4:20 of the third period. He carried the puck into MTU’s zone, pulled up at the top of the right circle, and rifled a wrister that beat Robinson short side.
“I kind of caught him off guard, I think,” Gregoire said. “We had two guys driving the net. Shooting the puck, you never know what happens, and it found the net.”
Of Gregoire’s performance under pressure, Hakstol said, “He competes at a little higher level in those situations. He has a real good presence out there and finds a way to get the job done.”
Lamoureux’s tally at the 7:12 mark put the Sioux ahead for good.
“It wasn’t our greatest game, but we found a way to get the job done,” Lamoureux said. “And I was glad I could contribute to the win.”
UND kept the pressure on, making it difficult for the Huskies to pull Robinson for the extra attacker. When he finally got off the ice with the clock winding down, MTU couldn’t generate a shot on goal.
“We did a better job of controlling momentum and making simple decisions,” Russell said. “We need to learn how to grind out that win.”
MTU entered the series without leading goal scorer and top faceoff man Brett Olson, who’s out with an injury. The situation became worse, as more Huskies went down in Friday’s and Saturday’s games.
“I thought when North Dakota pressured and had sustained pressure, we were tired,” Russell said. “And with a short bench, we started making poor decisions and turning the puck over.”
MTU falls to 5-28-1 overall and 4-24-0 in league play. The Huskies will travel to Denver next weekend for a best-of-three series with the WCHA champion Pioneers.
“We played them two weeks ago and had a real good series with them,” Russell said of the upcoming playoff games with DU. “I thought a bounce here or a bounce there, a game could have gone our way. Hopefully, we’ll get some guys back.”