Sioux hold off Huskies in third

From WCHA.com …

SAINT PAUL, MN. — Aaron Dell won a tense goaltending duel with St. Cloud State’s Mike Lee Friday night, as North Dakota won a first-round Final Five victory over the Huskies 4-1 before 15,133 at Xcel Energy Center. In reality, it was a 2-1 game until the Fighting Sioux scored twice into an empty net at the finish.

North Dakota (23-13-3) will face top-seeded Minnesota (26-12-1) in Friday’s 7 p.m. second semifinal, following the UMD-Denver first semifinal at 2 p.m.

St. Cloud State reached the Final Five on the strength of a strong finish behind goaltender Mike Lee. The Huskies took three out of four points on the last regular-season weekend to knock UMD out of a chance to win the WCHA title, then swept two games from Nebraska-Omaha in the league playoffs.

Lee was sharp again Friday night, but was the victim of a bad bounce at 7:40 of the first period, when North Dakota’s Corban Knight carried through the right corner and passed to the goal-mouth from behind the net. The puck hit a defenseman’s stick and the ricochet beat Lee for a 1-0 Fighting Sioux lead. Mark MacMillan and Andrew MacWilliams got assists on the goal, even though it went in off a defenseman.

Knight got his first of two penalties later in the first period, and that power play gave the Huskies the chance to tie the game. Ben Hanowski, a junior sniper from Little Falls, MN., blasted in a power play set-up from the corner faceoff circle at 16:14.

The teams traded chances in a close-checking second period, until Sioux sophomore Brock Nelson, grandson of former 1960 Olympian Billy Christian, carried into the St. Cloud zone, cut to the slot, and fired his deadly shot into the left edge at 15:51. Nelson’s team-leading 24th goal put North Dakota ahead 2-1 and held up as the teams battled into the third period.

The Huskies turned up the intensity of their attack as the final period progressed, but Aaron Dell prevented anything from crossing the line. And Lee ended up on the bench for a sixth attacker through most of the last two minutes, and North Dakota alertly cleared pucks from danger and scored twice into the empty St. Cloud State goal.

Brock Nelson scored his second of the game, zooming in to score at 19:00, and when the Huskies tried to press, it resulted in a five-minute major and disqualification penalty to Taylor Johnson for goaltender interference. Lee went to the bench after the ensuing faceoff, and with 27 seconds left, Danny Kristo flipped a shot from center ice into the empty net for the misleading 4-1 final.

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About paisleyhockey
I am the college hockey writer for the Colorado Springs Gazette focusing on the Atlantic Hockey Association, National Collegiate Hockey Conference and Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

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