Not even Michelle Obama could help Mark Emmert on Saturday. During North Dakota's 3-1 victory over Western Michigan in the NCAA West Regional, the NCAA president was booed by a horde of North Dakota fans every time he appeared on the video screen at Xcel Energy Center -- even when he stood beside the First Lady.
As angry as they were over the NCAA's ban on the Fighting Sioux nickname, their team made sure they left the arena happy. North Dakota took a 2-0 lead, then withstood a Western Michigan rally to earn a place in Sunday's regional final. The Sioux (26-12-3) shut down the Broncos on three power plays, and goalie Aaron Dell surrendered only one goal on 25 shots to push their winning streak to eight games.
Michael Parks scored at 6 minutes, 4 seconds of the first period, and Corban Knight added a goal at 3:16 of the second as the Sioux ran their record to 11-2 in NCAA regional games under coach Dave Hakstol.
"[Western Michigan] battled extremely hard,'' Knight said. "It was one of the toughest games I've ever played.
"As the season has gone on, the maturity and experience has really come forth. We just stuck to the plan, and we've been executing at a really strong level lately.''
The Sioux defense kept Western Michigan (21-14-6) in check throughout the first period. Parks struck first as he carried the puck over the blue line on the right side, then wrapped around the back of the net and banked the puck off of a skate for a 1-0 lead.
That margin grew to 2-0 when Knight scored after a Broncos turnover deep in their zone. Instead of deflating, the Broncos finally found their footing.
They gained steam as the second period went along and peppered Dell with many good scoring chances, outshooting the Sioux 13-10 in the period. Kyle O'Kane got them on the board at 12:57 as he finished a breakaway by beating Dell on the glove side.
Western Michigan got the puck past Dell again at 14:49 of the second, but the North Dakota goal was knocked off its moorings just before the puck crossed the line, and the goal was disallowed. The Sioux supported their goaltender well, giving up very few second chances, and finished it off with an empty-net goal with 25 seconds remaining.