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Minnesota Takes Round 1 of Final Act in North Dakota Series - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Minnesota Takes Round 1 of Final Act in North Dakota Series

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With the rink's 10,000 seats long since sold out, play was passionate from the opening faceoff Friday, Jan. 18, as the Gophers and North Dakota squared off for the first of their two final regular-season conference hockey games at Mariucci Arena.

The Gophers got a power-play goal from Ben Marshall in the final seconds of the second period to snap a 1-1 tie and seized a 5-1 victory in front of 10,318, the third-largest crowd ever at Mariucci.

But this game never seemed like a four-goal game. Minnesota led 27-25 in shots, and North Dakota led 10-8 in penalties.

Nobody seemed much interested in yielding.

"The North Dakota-Minnesota rivalry doesn't need much explanation," North Dakota center Corban Knight said. "There's not a lot of love out there between the two teams. Right from the get-go I think guys started to show that hatred out there, and you saw that through 60 minutes."

The longstanding rivals are parting company after this season, with Minnesota moving to the Big Ten Conference and North Dakota to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Neither wants the 294-game series to conclude with a loss.

The rematch -- also sold out -- is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday as part of Hockey Day Minnesota.

"We'll be focused," North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. "We were focused coming in tonight, and we'll be focused tomorrow."

The Gophers, ranked No. 1 in the country, also seemed to have plenty of focus in a game in which two players on each side  were called for roughing in the first 13 minutes.

Nate Condon scored a short-handed goal and added two assists, while Erik Haula returned after missing three games because of injury and had a goal and an assist as Minnesota raised its record to 17-3-3 overall and 9-3-3 in its final season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Nick Bjugstad and Seth Ambroz each picked up two assists for the Gophers.

"There's nothing like beating the Sioux," Condon said. "Hopefully, it can carry through tomorrow. There's nothing like sweeping 'em, too."

Marshall's goal broke the deadlock and probably a little of North Dakota's spirit, coming with just 5.2 seconds left in the middle period.

But it was still a 3-1 game a little more than halfway through the third period when UND's Carter Rowney crashed the net, and the score was the same 40 seconds later when Rocco Grimaldo put a wicked backhander on goal.

Minnesota freshman goaltender Adam Wilcox calmly stopped both.

"Wilcox doesn't seem to be fazed by anything," Condon said. "He's that kind of kid."

Wilcox didn't show it during the game, but when it was over, he said he and his teammates were pumped.

"These are the weekends we get really excited for," he said. "You could tell this week the intensity in practice was going up, and especially before the game in the locker room there was a lot of energy in there. These are the games I love."

Haula, who raised his career points total to 101, said he never doubted he'd be back in the lineup to face North Dakota, which was ranked sixth nationally.

"It's a huge series and I knew there was going to be a big crowd, so I really wanted to play," he said. "I wasn't going to miss it."

Asked if his hand was fully healed, Haula smiled.

"Let's put it this way: I've never felt better, after this win," he said.

North Dakota dropped to 13-7-3 and 8-4-3 in the WCHA, one game behind Minnesota.

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