Shorthanded UND top GophersGRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota saw its leading scorer get ejected for an illegal hit in the first period Friday night. But what’s another obstacle for this team to overcome?
By: Brad Schlossman, Forum Communications Co.
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota saw its leading scorer get ejected for an illegal hit in the first period Friday night.
But what’s another obstacle for this team to overcome?
A UND team that’s made its mark adjusting to players being out of the lineup did it again during its 2-1 victory over rival Minnesota in front of a frenzied crowd of 11,846 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Junior Andrew MacWilliam scored his first-career goal in the second period and Brock Nelson added the winner with 3:35 left to give UND a dramatic win over a team that swept them two months ago.
“It was a high-energy, hard-fought hockey game,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “When you come out on the good side of those, it’s a great win for your team. But it was an entertaining, high-paced game.”
UND, which improved to 12-8-2 overall and 8-1-1 in the last 10 games, will try to sweep the Gophers in their final meeting here as Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals during the series finale at 7:07 tonight.
UND will have Danny Kristo back for that game — his checking from behind major was a game misconduct — but will likely be without Rocco Grimaldi and Derek Forbort. Not that it matters to this team anymore.
They’ve put together their current run while often times playing with a mix-and-matched crew and not enough healthy skaters to fill out a full lineup.
“With injuries or guys getting kicked out or just being short, it’s just guys stepping up,” said captain Mario Lamoureux, who had an assist. “It hasn’t been the same guys every time. Different guys have stepped up and helped us get wins by blocking shots, making hits, making good, solid plays and obviously lots of guys are scoring big goals for us.”
On Friday, it was one highly unlikely source and one usual suspect.
Minnesota held a 1-0 lead on a goal by Kyle Rau at 6:29 of the second period when MacWilliam blasted a point shot over Gopher goalie Kent Patterson with just nine seconds remaining in the middle frame.
The bench erupted to celebrate the stalwart defenseman’s first-career tally.
UND continued to play well until the winning goal in the final minutes.
Michael Parks, who was promoted to the top line in Kristo’s absence, won a battle in the corner and left the puck for Nelson. The Warroad, Minn., product picked it up, skated to the right circle and snapped a shot through traffic that went five-hole on Patterson. The sold-out crowd erupted and was buzzing for the final 3:35 of the game.
“It was definitely fun,” said Nelson, who potted his team-leading 16th of the season. “The crowd was unbelievable tonight. Hopefully, they come back the same way tomorrow. It was good to see the guys play a full 60 minutes. Guys stepped up and battled.”
Aaron Dell was once again strong for UND in goal, stopping 25 of 26 shots.
UND’s penalty killing also was key, successfully dispatching Kristo’s major. For the season, UND has killed 17 of 18 Gopher power plays.
“Like all three of the games, it was hard fought,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “They made the play late to win it. There wasn’t much space around the rink tonight. Both teams battled hard and the goaltenders played well.”
UND says it wants to play with the same intensity in the series finale.
“I kind of had a lot of emotion coming into this game, especially because the last series against them didn’t go great,” Lamoureux said. “We knew we wanted to come in and take care of tonight. We did that. So we’ve got to come back tomorrow with the same effort.”
Schlossman is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.