MEN'S HOCKEY: Slow start, fast finish for Sioux
ST. PAUL -- The MacNaughton Cup won't be in the lobby of Ralph Engelstad Arena for the next year, but the UND men's hockey team has a new piece of hardware to replace it.
The Sioux won the Broadmoor Trophy as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champions with a hard-fought, 5-3 win over St. Cloud State on Saturday night in front of 16,414 fans in Xcel Energy Center.
At times, the strain of playing six games in nine days showed, but Corban Knight, Brad Malone, Danny Kristo, Chris VandeVelde and Matt Frattin scored goals to help the Sioux erase an early two-goal deficit and win this tournament for the first time since 2006.
"We've got an honest bunch of kids," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "They are regular guys. As everybody, you have ups and downs. But at the end of the day, it's about accountability. And I know in our locker room, we have a bunch of guys that are accountable in the way they handle themselves and I'm very proud of that."
Tournament MVP Evan Trupp had two assists and helped the Sioux continue their late-season charge. They will enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed, winners in 12 of the last 13 games.
They'll officially learn their destination at 10:30 a.m. today when ESPN2 reveals the 16-team bracket. One speculated destination is Worcester, Mass., facing Michigan in the first round.
It would be a difficult draw, indeed, but this UND team showed throughout the weekend that it could overcome adversity.
The Sioux became just the second team in WCHA history to come from the Thursday play-in game to win the tournament. They knocked off defending champion Minnesota-Duluth - a game that ended the Bulldogs' season -- then beat the country's top-ranked team, Denver, on Friday.
The Sioux thrilled a UND-partisan crowd Saturday by winning the Broadmoor Trophy -- an old name for a new piece of hardware that was introduced earlier in the day.
Injured captain Chay Genoway came out to accept the trophy at the urging of his teammates. He then passed it among other members of the Sioux, who took photos before departing the ice.
"He didn't really want to go," said UND senior Darcy Zajac, who was one of several players yelling for Genoway to go accept the trophy. "But he wanted to be out there (playing) more than anybody. And to play St. Cloud in the final. . . it was just a special moment. Me and Vandy knew it wasn't our turn. It was his turn. He deserved it. He was a little embarrassed. He didn't want to go out there, but I think in the end, he knew he should accept it."
St. Cloud State, which also will be a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs, has been a part of the biggest moments of the year for the Sioux.
It was Husky forward Aaron Marvin that injured Genoway back in mid-November with a hit from behind. And it was the rematch between the teams in February when the Sioux seemed to find their magic. They trounced the Huskies 8-1 in that series finale to start the current 12-1 run.
Many moments of adversity have come up during that run and the Broadmoor Trophy game was no different. St. Cloud State scored goals on each of its first two shifts to go up 2-0 before the game was even a minute old.
But that didn't faze the Sioux.
"I looked at our bench and I think I saw a steely look," said Sioux goalie Brad Eidsness, who stopped 29 shots and earned all-tournament team honors. "We knew we didn't come out very well, but that's kind of been the story of our year. We've been able to battle through adversity and we were able to settle ourselves down."
The Sioux evened the game by the end of the first on goals by Knight and Malone. Then, they went up 4-2 on power-play goals 43 seconds apart by Kristo and VandeVelde, chasing St. Cloud State goalie Mike Lee, who is 0-3 with a 6.70 goals-against average and a .835 save percentage against the Sioux this season.
St. Cloud State cut the gap to 4-3 late in the second on David Eddy's second goal of the night and UND's fatigue showed in the third. The Huskies dominated the final 20 minutes, but the only goal was an empty-netter by Frattin.
"I looked up at the clock somewhere around the eight- or nine-minute mark," Eidsness said, "then took a look at our bench and I had a feeling that I probably shouldn't let in another goal. They weren't going to be too happy with me if we had to go to overtime.
"We laid our heart on the line. We played really well and we really wanted it."