Feb. 27, 2010

* Courtesy of North Dakota Athletics

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - After more than 30 games played this season, the race for home ice in the WCHA playoffs and a spot in the NCAA tournament may have come down to a mere five-minute span for the Fighting Sioux.

Trailing 2-1 with less than two minutes left in the third period at Colorado College, with which UND entered the night tied for the fifth and final home playoff spot, junior forward Brad Malone (Miramichi, New Brunswick) banged home a loose puck in front of the net to tie the score and send the game into overtime.

Then just three minutes into the extra period, Malone sprung linemate Matt Frattin (Jr., Edmonton, Alberta) on a breakaway at the CC blueline and Frattin beat Tigers goalie Joe Howe high to the glove side for a rousing 3-2 win over the 13th-ranked Tigers. Frattin was playing in his 100th career game.

The win as UND's fourth straight and moved the Sioux into sole possession of fifth place, just two points behind fourth-place Minnesota Duluth. The Sioux, 17-11-5 and 12-10-3 in the WCHA, also maintained their hold on the No. 8 spot in the all-important PairWise Rankings.

Malone's play late in the third period was undoubtedly the game changer.

After CC defenseman Nate Prosser gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead with his second of the game 2:44 into the third period, the Sioux were unable to find the equalizer, thanks largely to the play of Howe, who finished with night with 39 saves.

But with possession deep in the CC corner, Evan Trupp (Jr., Anchorage, Alaska) threw a puck at the net that bounced off Howe and then bounced off Malone before dropping at his feet. Malone corralled the puck with his stick and slid it past Howe for his eighth goal of the season with only 1:42 left in regulation.

Howe and Sioux netminder Brad Eidsness (So., Chestermere, Alberta) combined for a brilliant display of goaltending, combining for 65 saves. Eidsness was particularly sharp in the first period when the Sioux were able to build a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 13-8. UND freshman Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn.) opened the scoring with a power-play tally, his 11th goal of the year, 5:25 into the game. With heavy traffic in front of Howe, Kristo threaded a wrist shot from the point that found the back of the net.

Eidsness did the rest in the period, making several spectacular saves, including a brilliant toe stop of Tyler Johnson on the doorstep.

Prosser pulled the Tigers even at 13:06 of the second period, jumping into the rush as a Sioux power-play expired and converting a Matt Overman feed on a 2-on-1.

UND fired 31 shots on goal over the final two periods and finished with a 42-28 edge on the shot clock.

The Sioux penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5 and killed three straight CC power-plays to close out the first period. UND went 1-for-5 with the man advantage.

UND can now clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs with a victory tomorrow night over the Tigers.