O'Donell, UND top Miami for 1st NCHC win
OXFORD, Ohio -- The University of North Dakota's young team isn't wasting any time growing up.
In its first road game of the season, UND upset the No. 1 team in the country, Miami University, in front of a sold out homecoming crowd Friday at Steve Cady Arena.
Junior Brendan O'Donnell scored twice and had an assist, while classmates Michael Parks and Nick Mattson each tacked on goals to help UND pull off a 4-2 victory in the first-ever National Collegiate Hockey Conference league game.
"We knew we'd be in tough, coming into this building, in this atmosphere, against that level of a team," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "But I knew we'd come in and play hard."
UND did just that, building a 3-0 lead and holding off a late charge from a Miami team that had dropped just three of its past 29 games in Oxford. The crowd of 3,642 was silent as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"We want to establish ourselves as a great team in this league right away," Mattson said. "Obviously, that will be determined over the course of the year, but it started tonight."
With the regulation win, UND earned three league points and moved to 2-0-1 overall. Miami, which blew out Ohio State in back-to-back games last weekend, dropped to 2-1.
The highlights for UND were aplenty.
On the offensive end, the junior line of O'Donnell, Parks and Mark MacMillan led the way. O'Donnell had two goals -- the same number he scored all of last season. Parks also had two points.
On the defensive end, UND held Miami stars Austin Czarnik and Riley Barber without a point. Barber was the nation's leading scorer coming into the game.
Goaltender Zane Gothberg was stellar in stopping 35 of 37 shots, and his defensemen cleared out almost every rebound he left.
"Zano stood on his head tonight," freshman Luke Johnson said.
Earning one win in Steve Cady Arena is rare in itself. UND will try to do something even more difficult in tonight's series finale (6:07 p.m.) -- get a sweep in Oxford. In the last seven seasons, only one team has done that -- Lake Superior State in October of 2011.
"I think we're going to respond well, Mattson said. "It's easier said than done, but I'm confident in this group. We didn't come out here for (three) points."
The depth that UND's coaching staff desired at the start of the season is starting to show. While the Rocco Grimaldi, Drake Caggiula and Adam Tambellini line dominated Week 1 against Vermont, that trio was held without a point against the RedHawks. Instead, it was the other lines.
Hakstol had such confidence in the fourth line of Stephane Pattyn, Colten St. Clair and Connor Gaarder that he didn't avoid matching them up against Miami's prolific top line.
"We have confidence in all our lines," Hakstol said. "All of our lines are going to have their ups and downs. That's the nature of a young team. But we have confidence the guys can go out there and play the right way. I thought all four of our lines played with a good mentality and tried to play the right way."
Miami, which outshot UND 37-25, put on some pressure in the opening five minutes of the game, but UND took control at the end of the first.
Parks, skating on a three-on-two rush, crashed the net and buried the rebound of his own shot at 7:55 of the first. UND extended its lead at 18:03, converting another three-on-two rush. This time, O'Donnell launched a hard wrist shot from the slot over the net, but it hit the end wall, flew back over the goal and hit Miami goalie Jay Williams before going in the net.
UND caught Williams out of the net a few seconds into the third period and O'Donnell finished off a Parks feed to make it 3-0.
Miami made a strong push to end the second period and got within a goal. Sean Kuraly pounced on a rebound of an Alex Wideman shot at 8:25 and Anthony Louis threw a shot off of Mattson's skate and in at 18:18.
Mattson put it away with a point shot on the power play in the third period, though. His shot went off of Czarnik and in the corner of the net.
"A little bit of karma," Mattson said with a laugh. "The hockey gods worked it out for me there."
And in the end, a young UND team had a big win.
"It's a pretty special group of freshmen," Mattson said. "More so than ones I've seen in the past. They are really mature, great guys off the ice and a fun group to be around. They are very serious about hockey and I have all the confidence in the world in them."
Notes: ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross attended the game. NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton and director of officials Don Adam also were in attendance. . . UND's scratches on the trip were defenseman Andrew Panzarella and forward Derek Rodwell. . . Miami forward Blake Coleman was ejected for checking from behind at 4:27 of the third period. UND did not score on the major power play. . . UND has killed 19 consecutive opponent power plays.