UND has fun as it cruises past Bulldogs
DULUTH, Minn. — Midway through the second period, the University of North Dakota bench was put on the AmsOil Arena’s kiss cam.
The crowd roared. UND scored a goal a few seconds later, and the team was clearly having fun en route to a convincing 6-2 victory over Minnesota Duluth on Saturday night in front of an arena-record 7,009 fans.
“I promised the guys that if they showed me on the cam, I’d do it,” Caggiula said. “I guess the crowd liked it. We scored on the power play right after, so I might have to start kissing a few more guys.”
Everything seems to be working for UND these days.
Since dropping a home decision to St. Lawrence on Nov. 29, UND is 14-2-1, surging to a tie with St. Cloud State atop the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings and to No. 10 in the Pairwise Rankings.
UND also clinched home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, marking the 12th consecutive year that Ralph Engelstad Arena will host a first-round series.
“After that Friday game (against St. Lawrence), we had that big meeting for an hour or so,” UND sophomore Rocco Grimaldi said. “We got honest with each other and we said, ‘This isn’t good enough. This isn’t how we play here.’
Since then, it has been a full, four-line team, every pair of ‘D’ and whatever goalie is in the net. Every guy has been playing his heart out, just playing like a warrior. That’s what you need, especially this time of year. You’ve got to have all four lines going, because that wears teams down and keeps us energized. Every guy on the team has been unbelievable the last couple months. We’ve just got to keep pushing forward.”
On Saturday, 12 players ended up on the scoresheet. Paul LaDue had two goals, while Mitch MacMillan, Michael Parks, Dillon Simpson and Colten St. Clair each added one. Grimaldi, Jordan Schmaltz and Bryn Chyzyk all had two assists.
UND stormed Duluth in the first period, outshooting the Bulldogs 22-10, but came out of it trailing 2-1 thanks to an odd-man rush goal by Kyle Osterberg and a breakaway goal by Caleb Herbert.
But UND kept its foot on the gas in the second period and blew it open with four goals in the first 11 minutes — three of them on the power play.
“I thought we played great,” said LaDue, who has a plus-11 rating in the last six games. “I thought we came out in the first and we did what we wanted to do. We put a lot of shots on goal. The second period, we came out and did the same thing and we popped a few in. That was huge for us.”
Duluth goaltender Matt McNeely made his first start since Dec. 13, and was the star of the opening frame, making 21 saves. But by the midway point of the second period, he was yanked in favor of Aaron Crandall.
While UND continues surging up the standings, Duluth is falling. It marked the fourth straight loss for the Bulldogs, who dropped to 4-7-3 at home this season.
Late in the third period, the Duluth fans filed out and the UND fans in the upper deck were making noise, chanting, “Let’s go Sioux.”
After postgame handshakes, players lifted their sticks in the direction of the UND fans before leaving the ice.
“Overall, it was a good game,” Caggiula said. “Right from start to finish. Even though we went down, our team battled back. We scored six goals. We haven’t done that very often this season. Everyone chipped in this whole weekend. Great weekend. Great game.”
The coach was pleased, too.
“You’ve got to come out ready to play on Night No. 2 on the road,” Hakstol said. “I thought we did that. We had a pretty good first period. We came out of it on the wrong end of the scoreboard. But we stuck with it and made a lot of plays in the second period.”
Notes: UND didn’t make any changes to its lineup. . . Duluth scratched forward Joe Basaraba (virus) and defenseman Willie Corrin. They were replaced by Sammy Spurrell and Tim Smith. . . The 2003-04 Frozen Four Bulldog team was recognized during the first intermission. . . UND finishes the regular season with a road series at St. Cloud State and a home series against Western Michigan.