Bad ice delays UND’s outdoor win over OmahaOMAHA, Neb. — The day was long and filled with delays. But the end made it all worthwhile.
By: Brad Schlossman , Forum News Service
OMAHA, Neb. — The day was long and filled with delays.
But the end made it all worthwhile.
UND walked off of T.D. Ameritrade Park’s infield on Saturday night, a sweep in hand, looking up at hundreds of fans that had congregated above the dugout, roaring and chanting.
Captain Andrew MacWilliam was the first to reach the tunnel. He paused, looked up at the fans and let out a scream.
The huge UND contingent in Omaha roared back, creating a wild scene as the players left the field with a 5-2 win over Nebraska Omaha in the program’s first-ever outdoor game in front of 13,650.
“It’s tough to explain really,” UND goalie Zane Gothberg said. “It’s an incredible feeling. I’ve never experienced something like that in my life, of that amplitude, with that much support — everyone pulling for one common goal.”
Corban Knight, who had a goal and an assist, said: “I think that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced being a Sioux. It puts a smile on your face even thinking about it. Our fans are crazy. They’re one of a kind. They’re the best you could ever ask for.”
UND coach Dave Hakstol said: “It sends shivers up and down your spine. I don’t know if there’s any real way to describe it. Anybody that was here today understands. Not a word needs to be said. You can feel it.”
The fans were able to thoroughly enjoy the outdoor experience thanks to another strong performance by a North Dakota team that’s now on a five-game unbeaten streak and has lost just three times in the last 17 games.
Knight and Danny Kristo each had a goal and an assist, while Jordan Schmaltz, Nick Mattson and Mitch MacMillan added tallies to help UND improve to 16-8-6 overall and 11-5-6 in Western Collegiate Hockey Association play.
UND moved alone into second place in the league standings, three back of leading St. Cloud State, while jumping to No. 6 in the Pairwise Rankings.
“The guys deserved the results this weekend,” Hakstol said. “They worked very hard, played a complete 120 minutes and did that against a very good hockey team. To win games back to back on the road, you have to have some bounces go your way. I thought we had that this weekend. But to take advantage of those breaks and bounces is another thing.”
The ice was less-than-stellar and the game was delayed two-and-a-half hours after United States Hockey League players carved it up during an afternoon game.
But after a rousing national anthem by renowned singer Jim Cornelison, UND stormed Omaha with three goals in the opening 10 minutes, 32 seconds of the game to take a commanding lead.
Schmaltz blasted a one-timer at 6:51 on the power play, Mattson followed up a Rocco Grimaldi for a rebound goal at 9:19 and MacMillan scored on a wraparound at 10:32 to chase starting goaltender John Faulkner, who made just two saves.
Knight added to the lead late in the second, tipping a point shot by MacWilliam, who had his first-career, two-point game.
Omaha, who entered the series as the top-scoring team in the WCHA, mounted a quick rally with back-to-back goals by Josh Archibald and Dominic Zombo, both sons of former UND players. But Kristo ended any chance of a comeback with a breakaway goal late in the third.
Gothberg finished with 29 saves in the game and now has a 1.96 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in the last six starts.
“It’s a huge four points with the standings being the way they are,” Gothberg said. “The ball is in our court. We have to keep rolling with it. It’s up to us what we do with it.”
And the fans that made the trek to Omaha from all over the United States — Oregon, Colorado, Texas among other places — recognized UND’s efforts at the end.
“That was unbelievable,” Mattson said. “I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face walking down the tunnel. That’s a big reason a lot of us come here, because of the fans. That’s ridiculous. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Knight added: “They were so patient all day. They were awesome. When you have numbers that travel like that, you want to get the win for them. We’re definitely happy we were able to do that.”