Minnesota built a 4-1 lead with three second-period goals and UND was unable to duplicate last week's epic comeback, falling 5-2 to the Golden Gophers in the NCAA West Region championship game at the Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota (28-13-1), the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular season champion, earned a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four with the win. UND, the WCHA playoff champion, had its eight-game winning streak - and season - come to an end.
The Gophers took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on a Ben Marshall goal, but it was the 3-goal outburst in the second period that tilted the game for good. Minnesota blitzed UND with a 12-2 edge in shots on goal during the middle frame, striking once on the power play and twice at even strength.
"I think the difference was the second period where they took advantage of some momentum after we went 2-1," said UND head coach Dave Hakstol. "Had we been able to push that to a 2-2 game or take a one-goal game into the third period, it would've been much different."
UM sophomore Erik Haula scored his 20th goal of the season just 20 seconds into the period during a Gopher man advantage to make it a 2-0 game.
UND appeared to regain momentum just 1:23 later on Kristo's (Jr., Eden Prairie, Minn.) 19th goal of the season. A dump-in by Brock Nelson (So., Warroad, Minn.) took a wild carom off the glass and the puck rolled to Kristo in the slot, and the junior winger wired a wrist shot past Gopher netminder Kent Patterson to make it a 1-goal game.
However, Minnesota goals five minutes apart by Taylor Matson (at 9:08) and Travis Boyd (14:28) halted UND's comeback bid. Matson cleaned up a rebound on a Nate Schmidt breakaway, while Boyd notched his first career goal on a deflection of a Nate Condon shot.
Hakstol said Matson's goal was a difference-maker.
"Once we got it back to 2-1, we made a mistake to allow it to go 3-1 without forcing Minnesota to make a great play, and that really turned the tide against us," Hakstol said. "Momentum's a big thing in a hockey game. That was a huge momentum swing tonight."
Nine days after erasing a 3-goal deficit against Minnesota in the WCHA Final Five title game, UND pressed hard to come up with another rally in the third period. The Green and White threw 15 shots on Patterson, while allowing only four Minnesota shots, but could only produce a Mario Lamoureux (Sr., Grand Forks, N.D.) goal with 16:07 remaining.
"I think with the character in our locker room, nothing was lacking tonight," said junior center Corban Knight (High River, Alberta). "It was just that the game of hockey is a weird game sometimes and there are not always answers for everything and tonight is one of those nights where I do not have an answer for the outcome."
Lamoureux's goal was the fourth goal of the season for the UND captain, who was playing in his final collegiate game. Lamoureux also finished with five shots on goal and went 15-4 in the faceoff circle.
Patterson was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after making 24 saves, 14 of them coming in the third period. Dell finished with 19 saves in his first loss in 14 career March starts.
UND went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Gophers finished 1-for-4.
It's been a hell of a ride," said Hakstol. "We didn't expect for it to end tonight, so to be able to put a loss like tonight into perspective eight minutes after it ends is impossible. In terms of our season, I couldn't ask more from a group of warriors."
Notes: Kristo, Nelson and senior defenseman Ben Blood (Plymouth, Minn.) were named to the all-tournament team ... The loss was the first in a regional championship for Hakstol, who is now 5-1 lifetime in such games ... It was UND's first loss in the team's last 17 March games and Dell's first March loss in 14 career starts ... Freshman forward Mark MacMillan (Penticton, British Columbia) had his team season-high 7-game point streak snapped ... Nelson finished as UND's scoring leader with 47 points in 42 games, including a WCHA-leading 28 goals.