Oct. 10, 2010

Courtesy of North Dakota Athletics

The signs were evident before the puck was even dropped that the Fighting Sioux meant business tonight against 12th-ranked Alaska.

Before the Nanooks even stepped onto the ice for pre-game introductions, every Sioux player in uniform was lined up at the Sullivan Arena end boards, awaiting the arrival of their opponent. When the snow had cleared 60 minutes later, second-ranked North Dakota had put the finishing touches on a dominant 3-1 victory over Alaska to clinch the Kendall Hockey Classic title.

One night after seeing a four-goal lead evaporate in a 5-5 tie with Alaska Anchorage, the Sioux made the most of every single shift against Fairbanks, rolling four energized lines, controlling the play in all three zones and punishing the Nanooks with nearly 60 hits.

Goals by juniors Brett Hextall and Jason Gregoire and senior Matt Frattin provided the Sioux with a 3-0 lead. This time, the Sioux put a vice grip on the lead, limiting the Nanooks to just one shot in the first period, four in the second and 15 for the game.

"We were a lot tighter in the neutral zone and we were causing turnovers," said Gregoire, named the player of the game. "If you want to win a game, you've got to be able to control the neutral zone and we did just that today. I thought all of our guys were going and taking the body and they started turning away from it."

UND established its physical edge in the opening minute of the game, led by the line of senior Brent Davidson, junior Mario Lamoureux and freshman Derek Rodwell, who was playing in his first collegiate game.

"They set the tone on the first shift and did virtually the same thing every time they were on the ice," said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. "They kept earning more and more ice time and more confidence from their teammates and us as coaches. They went out and played simple, hard hockey and were real effective at it."

The physical play paid off less than five minutes in while on the power-play, when Hextall cruised up the right wing and fired a wrist shot from the faceoff dot to beat Alaska goalie Scott Greenham. UND led 1-0 after the first period, a score that belied the play on the ice as the Sioux carried an 11-4 edge in shots on goal and did not allow an even strength shot until midway through the period.

Gregoire notched the eventual game-winner 5:40 into the second period. After taking a pass from Corban Knight at the Alaska blueline, Gregoire weaved his way through the slot and slipped a backhander along the ice that snuck inside the far post. The goal would prove to be the game-winner.

"I've got to give the credit to ‘Knighter' and ‘Hexy' for driving to the net," said Gregoire. "I was really just throwing it far pad for one of those guys to knock in a rebound," said Gregoire. "It's one of those goals that was fortunate enough to go in and it ended up being the game winner."

Frattin pushed the lead to 3-0 with a power-play tally late in the second period, hammering a one-timer off of a Derek Forbort cross-ice pass.

Alaska received a break at the end of the period when, during a seemingly harmless scrum, UND's Brad Malone received a five-minute major and game misconduct for grabbing the facemask. The Nanooks were only able to find the net once during the five-minute advantage, with Cody Kunyk coverting a back-door play with the Sioux down two men due to a Forbort minor.

Sophomore Aaron Dell, making his first start of the season, was solid when called upon in stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced.

Greenham finished with 27 saves for the Nanooks, who were out-shot 30-15.

UND will return to the road and open WCHA play next weekend at Bemidji State.

Notes: Forbort assisted on each of UND's three goals, his first collegiate points ... Anchorage native Evan Trupp had a pair of assists Saturday ... UND went 4-for-10 on the power-play in two tournament games while killing eight of nine shorthanded situations.