GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Throughout their run to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) title, the Fighting Sioux frequently relied on Hobey Baker Award candidates and all-conference performers to come up with big plays at critical times.
Tonight, however, it was a little-known, mid-season walk-on who punched North Dakota's ticket to a ninth straight berth in the Red Baron WCHA Final Five.
Freshman Taylor Dickin (Winnipeg, Manitoba), who joined the Sioux following the Christmas break, scored his first career goal late in the second period tonight to break a 1-1 tie and propel UND to a 3-1 win and first round playoff series sweep of Michigan Tech.
The top-ranked Sioux (28-8-3) will receive a bye into Friday's semifinal game, with their opponent yet to be determined.
Dickin's goal symbolized a hard-fought win in which nothing came easy for the Sioux, who won Friday's game one in an 8-0 romp. Dickin's linemate, Joe Gleason (So., Edina, Minn.), won a battle for the puck behind the MTU net and worked it in front, where center Brock Nelson (Fr., Warroad, Minn.) tipped it to Dickin below the right dot. Dickin swatted the puck through traffic and between the legs of Husky goalie Josh Robinson to give the Sioux lead for the first time.
Senior Hobey Baker candidate Matt Frattin (Edmonton, Alberta) sealed the series sweep with an empty net goal, his NCAA-leading 33rd goal of the season, with six seconds left.
The Sioux were forced to rally against a team they had outscored 25-3 over the past three games. MTU freshman Ryan Furne opened the scoring just 6:15 into the game, beating Sioux goalie Aaron Dell (Airdrie, Alberta) with a snap shot from the right dot.
The 1-0 Husky lead stood up through the first period, despite the Sioux holding a 15-9 edge in shots on goal. Robinson was equal to the task throughout the night, finishing with 35 saves on 37 shots.
Sioux junior Brett Hextall (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) knotted the game at 3:33 of the second period, when a Jason Gregoire (Jr., Winnipeg, Manitoba) centering pass ricocheted off of Hextall's skate and past Robinson.
Dell provided steady goaltending once again, turning aside 18 of 19 shots for his 26th victory of the season.
Neither team was able to strike on the power-play in a game in which only four minor penalties were called, three on the Huskies.
UND now awaits the Final Five bracket to be finalized.
Notes: The Sioux were awarded the MacNaughton Cup by WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod following the game ... Gregoire extended his career-long point streak to 14 games. He has 17 goals and 27 points during that stretch ... Frattin pushed his career-best point streak to 11 games, during which he has 13 goals and 24 points ... Dell made his 40th career appearance, which qualifies him for UND's career goaltending record books. His 1.86 career GAA is a school record. Dell also lowered his NCAA-leading GAA this season to 1.87 ... UND's scoreless first period ended the team's streak of 11 straight periods with at least a goal.
The Fighting Sioux celebrate the 2010-2011 regular season title with the MacNaughton Cup