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Fighting Sioux seeking eighth title

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Erik Fabian is rounding into form, just in
time for the North Dakota's final game.

Fabian scored two goals and goaltender Jordan Parise stopped 26
shots to lead North Dakota to a 4-2 win over Minnesota in an NCAA
hockey semifinal on Thursday night.

"We were joking in the locker room before the game and I told
them that since I was injured for most of the early part of the
season that I'm hitting my midseason stride right now," Fabian
said with a wide grin.

Travis Zajac added two third-period scores, including a
short-handed goal, and Drew Stafford assisted on both for North
Dakota.

Fabian, a fourth-line winger, nearly matched his season scoring
output. He scored three goals this season and just six in his
career. But he led the Fighting Sioux (25-14-5) to their 12th
national title game. North Dakota has won seven national
championships.

"It's not often that you can play for a championship, so we
want to make the most of it and enjoy while we're here," said
Parise, who ran his unbeaten streak to 12 in a row (10-0-2).

Parise was almost unbeatable in net, making a number of
acrobatic saves. He faltered briefly in the third period when the
Golden Gophers scored two power-play goals through heavy traffic.

Parise lay on his back on the ice for more than a minute near
the finish after being kneed in the head by Minnesota's Tyler
Hirsch. Parise got up and finished the game.

Defending champion Denver beat Colorado College 6-2 in the other
semifinal. The Pioneers (31-9-2) will meet the Fighting Sioux on
Saturday night in the final at Ohio State's Value City Arena.

Minnesota made it interesting by scoring twice in a 90-second
span midway through the final period, cutting the lead to 4-2. But
Parise made several big stops the rest of the way -- making a huge
save on Chris Harrington's hard one-timer with just over 9 minutes
left.

"They [the Fighting Sioux] played a very good game tonight,"
Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "They dictated the first period
and put us back a little bit, but then we came on."

It has been an incredible ride for North Dakota and first-year
coach Dave Hakstol. The Fighting Sioux finished a distant fifth in
the Western Collegiate Hockey Association during the regular season
and fought their way into the Frozen Four, joining three other
conference teams -- the first time that's happened in the
tournament's 58-year history.

"We got off to the start we wanted and then through the third
period, sometimes you get a comfy lead and you know it won't be
that easy -- especially against a team as good as Minnesota,"
Hakstol said. "We settled down and played with a lot of poise when
they got it to 4-2."

Fabian opened the scoring 5:34 in by stripping the puck from a
defender with a quick move.

He swooped down the left wing on a break but his shot was
stopped by Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs, with defenseman Judd
Stevens collecting the loose puck and skating behind the goal cage.
With Fabian and Stevens skating side by side, Fabian stole the puck
just before the two reached the right circle, Fabian ripping a low
shot from a hard angle that surprised Briggs.

"I don't think he [the defender] knew I was behind him and I
reached out and got it real easy," Fabian said. "When the puck
was on my stick, I looked over and saw that Briggs wasn't quite
right. So I fired one on net and it went in."

Parise was as good as ever. The NCAA playoff career leader in
goals-against average (1.00) and save percentage (.961) was
brilliant for the Fighting Sioux. He turned away three shots in a
10-second span at the start of the second period.

Later in the period, Minnesota's Garrett Smaagaard had the puck
all alone just a few feet in front of the net. He took the time to
tee it up, then tried to go high over Parise, who caught the puck
and sprawled to the ice.

Fabian then made another big play for the Fighting Sioux.

He dug the puck out along the back boards midway through the
period, carried it to the edge of the crease and scored high over
Briggs on the stick side.

In the teams' three meetings this season, Fabian got off just
one shot.

Zajac made it 3-0 in the opening minute of the third period,
pounding in a rebound after Stafford's shot was blocked by Briggs,
the puck bouncing out to the slot where Zajac was waiting.

Zajac then added his 19th goal of the year, scoring short-handed
on a shot from the high slot.

Minnesota finally got on the board on Mike Howe's power-play
goal with 13:43 remaining, before Gino Guyer added another goal
with a man advantage a minute and a half later to narrow the lead
to 4-2.

"When ND can play with a lead, they're that much better of a
team," Lucia said. "They'll box you out and play physical. That's
why the first goal is so important."