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Western Michigan's J.J. Crew and Ian Slater scramble for the puck in front of UND goalie Aaron Dell and Corban Knight while Andrew Panzarella tries to clear it in the third period of Saturday's West Regional NCAA hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Eric Hylden |Grand Forks Herald

UND, Gophers will battle for Frozen Four berth

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UND, Gophers will battle for Frozen Four berth
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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota appears to be over last weekend's stunning loss against UND in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five.


Now, the Gophers will get another shot their biggest rival.

Minnesota beat Boston University 7-3 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday in the Xcel Energy Center to advance to the West Regional final at 4:30 p.m. today against the Sioux, who topped Western Michigan 3-1 earlier in the day.

"It's going to be a tough test," senior captain Mario Lamoureux said. "It's going to be even tougher than (Saturday). We have to make sure we're preparing and ready to go."

The Sioux beat Minnesota 6-3 a week ago in the semifinals of the Final Five. The Gophers, who won the WCHA's regular-season title, led 3-0 in that game, but gave up a goal at the end of the second and five straight in the third.

"Everyone was kind of down after that loss and the coaches were ticked off -- and had a right to be," Minnesota senior Jake Hansen said. "On Saturday, we had a great practice, a good workout. We came to the rink Monday and we didn't talk about it. We just had one goal in mind, beating BU. We played a good game and get to play North Dakota.

"I'm sure the media loves it. The fans are going to love it. In my opinion, North Dakota is our biggest rival. It's been a big fight all year playing them. It's going to be a good game. I'm excited for it.?

Minnesota holds the 3-2 edge on UND this season.

The Gophers swept UND in Mariucci in November with 2-0 and 3-2 victories. The teams split in Ralph Engelstad Arena with the Sioux winning the opener 2-1 and Minnesota winning the finale 6-2. The Sioux won last weekend's WCHA postseason game 6-3.

"To be honest, I don't think that game gives us any motivation," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "We've played five games against them. Three have been the way that I anticipate tomorrow's game -- 2-0, 2-1 type of game. Goaltending is going to be important. Discipline is going to be important. They know us, we know them. It's a rival in a great atmosphere in the building tomorrow. It's a lot of fun. You've got to beat a good team at this time of year."

Lucia said there are no secrets between UND and Minnesota.

"They have a big, strong defensive corps," Lucia said. "I think that's the strength of their team. Other than 10 or 15 minutes, we've played pretty well against them. Nobody has to be Superman tomorrow. Everyone has to play to their strength. If we do that, then we'll feel good about our chances.

"Certainly, it's a couple of heavyweights going at it."

Boston University veteran coach Jack Park said he thinks it will be quite a regional final.

"I know Dave (Hakstol) and Donny real well," Parker said. "It will be a hell of a game tomorrow. Probably neither one of them wants to have a replay of last Friday night. I was really impressed with what I saw with North Dakota and Minnesota. I was even more impressed with the Gophers, seeing them on the ice against our team."

Brian Schlossman is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald, which like the Bemidji Pioneer is owned by Forum Communications Co.

Pioneer staff reports