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Terriers rough up UND, skate to easy win

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BOSTON — The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team admits that there’s some frustration creeping in.

“Absolutely,” forward Rocco Grimaldi said.

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“It’s tough, I’m not going to lie,” defenseman Nick Mattson said. “It wears on you.”

Things didn’t get any better on Friday night, either.

Boston University jumped out to an early lead and beat UND 3-1, handing UND its sixth loss in the last eight games. A half-empty Agganis Arena crowd of 3,882 watched a UND team continue to struggle generating offense in the absence of a few key players.

UND didn’t get on the scoreboard until Grimaldi snapped a shot by Boston University goalie Matt O’Connor (37 saves) with just 2 minutes, 37 seconds left in the game. By then, it was virtually all but wrapped up.

Now, it’s up to UND to try to salvage a split at 5 p.m. tonight in the series finale.

“Every weekend you’re looking for a sweep, two wins,” Grimaldi said. “We haven’t gotten one of those yet. We’ve gotten swept, split and tied. That’s frustrating. At North Dakota, we’re known as a winning tradition and a winning program.”

UND hasn’t had a losing season since 2001-02, the first year of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena, but it has a hill to climb to avoid that. After Friday’s loss, the team dropped to 4-6-1 overall.

“It’s tough,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “These are the times that you have to embrace that challenge. You can’t back off of it. If you’re afraid of a challenge, you’re probably in the wrong place. Our guys have bounced back. They are very resilient.”

UND’s players say they are determined to get out of the hole.

Mattson referenced his freshman year, when UND started 4-7-1, but crawled out of it and ended up as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

“You’ve just got to stay strong,” Mattson said. “A lot of us have been through this before on different teams. The common thread is that they were able to have mental strength to battle through it. So, we’ve got to dig down and start doing it. It’s about time.

“I think we have the character and we have the talent on this team. It’s just a matter of putting it together. Just because you play for North Dakota doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. We’ve got to band together and do it.”

UND’s current lineup is probably not what the coaching staff drew up before the season started. With regular forwards Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell, Colten St. Clair and Derek Rodwell all sidelined with injuries, the staff moved defensemen Gage Ausmus and Andrew Panzarella up to forward for the first time.

With the makeshift lineup, UND generated a season-high 38 shots on goal, but had trouble cracking O’Connor.

“I didn’t think we had enough quality opportunities,” Hakstol said. “We generated a lot of shots on goal, but the shot ticker doesn’t always tell the story. I don’t think we generated enough from critical areas.”

Hakstol also pointed to penalties as a problem. Boston University had the first five opportunities of the game — scoring on two of them — as UND wasted energy killing penalties.

Cason Hohmann, Danny O’Regan and Kevin Duane scored the goals for Boston University, which improved to 6-6 overall. Defenseman Garrett Noonan also had a pair of assists for the Terriers.

The only bad part of the game for the Terriers was that Hohmann was injured after scoring his goal and he won’t play in the series finale.

On UND’s end, it will search for more offense and an elusive victory.

“We have a lot of really good players, so we shouldn’t have any excuses for not creating offense,” Mattson said.

Notes: Grimaldi led UND with a game-high seven shots on goal. . . Clarke Saunders stopped 34 shots in net for UND. . . BU had seven power plays to UND’s two. . . MacMillan, O’Donnell and St. Clair are all out for the series finale. Rodwell is doubtful.

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Brad Elliott Schlossman
Schlossman is in his 11th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2014, he was named one of the top three beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.
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