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UND's Chris VandeVelde tries to get his stick on a rebound as Denver University's defenseman Matt Donovan, and goalie Marc Cheverie look on in the second period Friday. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

No. 3 Denver drops Sioux

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GRAND FORKS -- It has been talked about and written about endlessly that the UND men's hockey team misses its captain, Chay Genoway.

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Friday night in Ralph Engelstad Arena, it became painfully clear that he's not the only player the Sioux are desperately missing.

UND's 2-0 loss to the University of Denver was highlighted by an inability to score on the power play. The Pioneers scored twice in the opening 3 minutes, 18 seconds and the Sioux were unable to mount a comeback, despite nine chances with the extra man.

That power-play unit was buzzing along at a 24.1 percent clip - second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association - when forward Brett Hextall went out with a leg injury on Jan. 3. Since then, the power-play unit has scored on just two of 36 chances - a 5.6 percent clip.

The Sioux have gone 28 consecutive power plays without a goal going back to a Jason Gregoire tally three weeks ago.

Denver goalie Marc Cheverie didn't make it easy for the Sioux on Friday. He stopped all 33 shots he faced to shut out UND for the second time this season.

It also marks the second time in three games UND has been blanked. The Sioux are averaging just two goals since the injury to Hextall, who was the team's leading goal-scorer when he hit the shelf.

"He'll be back when he's back - we've got enough guys in the lineup to score goals," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "A combination of things have to happen. We have to bear down a little more, finish plays and we need a bounce of the puck. The most important thing coming back (today) is that we have to have confidence and a strong resolve. We have to play at a high tempo and have a solid game."

The Sioux will try to avoid being swept by the Pioneers for the second time this season. Denver pulled out 1-0 and 3-2 victories in Magness Arena earlier this season, becoming the first team to sweep the Sioux in three years.

This time, they'll try to do it in Ralph Engelstad Arena - a place Denver has not won in more than three years prior to Friday. Standout seniors Rhett Rakhshani and Tyler Ruegsegger, who had a goal in the series opener, won for the first time in Grand Forks on Friday.

UND goalie Aaron Dell started his first Western Collegiate Hockey Association game since Nov. 14, when he was pulled after allowing three goals in 20:14. This outing didn't go much better. The freshman allowed two goals in the first 3:18 and was replaced by Brad Eidsness after the first intermission.

Hakstol said the first goal was not Dell's fault, but he felt that the Airdrie, Alta., native should have had the second one.

After a long opening shift, defenseman Matt Donovan got a clean look from the point and let go of a slap shot. Anthony Maiani took one whack at the rebound before Joe Colborne found it in the slot and buried it for a 1-0 lead at 1:23.

Less than two minutes later, senior Ruegsegger picked a puck off the wall and beat Dell five-hole at 3:18 to quiet 11,728 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The Sioux appeared to break through just 2:38 into the second period when Jake Marto made a nifty move at the blue line to open space and fed Carter Rowney at the bottom of the right circle. Rowney buried it but the goal was waved off because Corban Knight was called for interference during the play. The UND bench was livid about the call.

Later, David Toews hit the crossbar with a slap shot.

"I thought we created a lot of opportunities. We had some Grade A opportunities five-on-five and on the power play," Hakstol said. "We had several good opportunities. On a few of them, Marc Cheverie was very good. On a few others, we weren't able to complete a play around an empty net and get the bounce of a puck. So, it was a combination of things there."

Notes: Knight returned to the lineup after missing four games with a leg injury. Knight played on the third line. Hextall (leg) and Genoway (concussion) remain out. . . . A fundraiser has been started at Bank Forward to support the Lamoureux family at the 2010 Olympics. Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux will play for the U.S. women's hockey team.

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