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Sioux stunned in OT by Duluth

UND's Jake Marto controls the puck on Saturday in Duluth. (Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune)

DULUTH -- The UND men's hockey team's last memories of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center will be ones of controversy and frustration.

In the team's final game in the 43-year-old building, the Sioux squandered a two-goal, third-period lead for the second time in eight days and lost to Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 in overtime Saturday night.

Travis Oleksuk scored an extra-attacker, game-tying goal with 33 seconds left in regulation and Justin Fontaine had the game-winner just 12 seconds into overtime to end UND's hopes of sweeping the Bulldogs one final time here.

The Sioux (9-5-2, 6-5-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) left Duluth steaming -- not only because of the loss -- but also because they believe there should have been a whistle right before the tying goal was scored.

Sioux forward Jason Gregoire attempted to clear the puck out of the zone in the final minute. It hit a Duluth player's stick, flew into the air and off the netting above the glass. When it came down, defenseman Derrick LaPoint pinned the puck along the end wall waiting for a whistle that never came.

Instead, a Duluth forward poked the puck loose and got it to the point, where Jack Connolly ripped a shot that hit Oleksuk standing right next to the post. He easily tucked the rebound behind UND goalie Brad Eidsness, who came out to play the puck. The DECC erupted and Gregoire immediately asked the referee if the play was reviewable.

"That's a big-time call, because the puck went off of white and the faceoff would have been out of our zone with 40 seconds left in the game," Gregoire said. "That's a huge advantage, rather than five seconds later having the puck in the back of the net, the game is tied, and they are still on the power play."

The goal came with two seconds left of four-on-four play, which meant the Bulldogs were able to finish the third and start overtime on the power play.

UND sophomore Brett Hextall, who was on the bench during the tying goal, said he thought the puck hit the net, too.

"I think it looked like that to everyone expect for the officials and there's four of them out there," Hextall said. "You'd think they could help each other out or something. I don't know if none of them saw it or what they were doing. Unfortunately, that's part of the game."

Gregoire said the referee told him that the puck hit the glass, not the net.

"He was pretty adamant that it hit the glass," Gregoire said. "I'm not going to make an excuse for it. We gave up two goals in the third period. Whether or not it hit the net, so be it. We've got to be better in the third. We can't give up two-goal leads like that.

"I think we were just kind of shooting ourselves in the foot, not making simple chips out of the zones on plays at our blue line. I don't know what guys were thinking sometimes, including myself. It's so frustrating to give up a two-goal lead like that. It's the second time we've done it this season. We need to get that out of our game."

It spoiled a strong start for a Sioux team that was playing without their leader up front and on the blue line. While Chay Genoway missed his seventh straight game with an apparent concussion, Chris VandeVelde was held out for the first time this season with an undisclosed injury. VandeVelde is listed as day-to-day.

Darcy Zajac was the only senior on the ice for the Sioux on Saturday.

But the youthful roster started the game strong, pressuring Duluth goalie Brady Hjelle, who made 11 of his 26 saves in the opening frame. The Sioux got the lead when Evan Trupp feathered a pass from behind the net to Brad Malone, who was standing in traffic in the slot. Malone batted it in at 14 minutes, 45 seconds.

UND added to that lead when Hextall ripped a shot from the right circle just 37 seconds into the second frame. It deflected off of Hjelle's glove and into the net for a 2-0 lead.

The tide started turning in the third, though. Duluth's Kyle Schmidt scored his second goal of the weekend on the second shift of the period to cut the Sioux lead to 2-1. Then, the Bulldogs got the two at the end.

"They won the first two shifts (of the third) and got themselves back in the hockey game," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "That was a critical point in the game. We got back on our heels and we allowed them to get the game back within a goal.

"We had a pretty good start, played a pretty good game, but we did not close out a game that we had a two-goal lead going into the third period. It hurts to not get the job done."