MacMillan brothers key to UND’s win over BeaversGRAND FORKS — At the start of the third period, the University of North Dakota was just one point ahead of seventh place, a spot that will earn you a road trip for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
By: Brad Schlossman, Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — At the start of the third period, the University of North Dakota was just one point ahead of seventh place, a spot that will earn you a road trip for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
By the end of the evening, UND was alone in second.
Thanks to a three-goal third period, UND rallied to a 4-2 win over Bemidji State on Friday night — a win that placed UND smack dab in the middle of the MacNaughton Cup race and, for a night, kept UND ahead of a jumbled group in the middle of the league standings.
Mark MacMillan scored twice, his brother Mitch MacMillan scored once and defenseman Joe Gleason added another to help UND improve to 18-9-6 overall and 13-6-6 in the WCHA standings.
UND sits three points behind of league-leader St. Cloud State and one point ahead of Minnesota. UND can clinch home ice during tonight’s series finale (7:07 p.m., Ralph Engelstad Arena) with a win and a loss or tie by either Wisconsin or Denver.
“I’m not getting caught up in the standings,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We haven’t all year. I’m not going to start now. We’re just going to try to worry about ourselves, come back tomorrow night and try to play good hockey.”
The series opener was a slugfest — not much flow, not a lot of scoring chances and only three power plays in the game. But UND grinded away and the game eventually generated enough to get its fifth win in six games.
“We knew it would be that way,” Hakstol said of the tightly checked game. “Every game is a little bit different, but we played pretty hard tonight. Guys dug down deep. I thought we were maybe a little sluggish for the first 10 minutes. But after that, we dug down deep, played the type of game we had to against a good team, and we generated the win.”
Bemidji State fell to 6-18-7 overall and 5-14-6 in league play, extending its winless streak in Grand Forks to 16 games (0-15-1). The Beavers last won here in 1970.
“I was really happy with our effort,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “There wasn’t any easy ice out there. There wasn’t. … Overall, I thought we did a good job back-pressuring them and had good numbers in the neutral zone. And so did they. That’s what happens. I thought tonight’s game was pretty much a turf war.”
Bemidji State briefly held a lead in the second period when Cory Ward snapped home a goal from the high slot at 5:39, but the lead only lasted 15 seconds.
Right after the faceoff, Mark MacMillan rushed the puck up the right wing and took it hard to the net. Goaltender Andrew Walsh slid back into his own net and Mark was able to go top-shelf after his brother pushed the loose puck back into the crease.
Early in the third period, the brothers converted again.
Mark led a rush into the zone up the middle of the ice. He flipped a pass to Mitch, who was flying up the left wing. Mitch held the puck until he got to the circle, then snapped a shot short side past Walsh to make it 2-1 at 2:42.
UND extended the lead with 5:21 left, when Joe Gleason’s point shot went off the skate of a Beaver defender. And UND’s Rocco Grimaldi fed Mark for an empty-net goal in the waning minutes.
“That’s a huge win for us, no matter what the standings are,” Mitch said. “They’re always a tough team to play against. They always work hard. So it’s nice to get the two points.”
Bemidji State’s Radoslav Illo rounded out the scoring with an awkward backhand from the outside of the circle that beat UND goalie Clarke Saunders (17 saves) high, but it was too little too late.
“Obviously, the second and third goals were killers,” Serratore said.
“We probably could have prevented those goals. But then again, they made some great plays on them.”
After the game, UND was already looking forward to the series finale – a night in which the seniors will be honored after the contest.
“Obviously, it’s a huge win,” said Gleason, one of the six seniors. “We wanted to get a win tonight, because tomorrow’s a big one.”
Notes: Medal of Honor winner Clint Romesha, a Minot resident, was honored before the game and dropped the ceremonial first puck. … Derek Rodwell was inserted in the lineup in place of Brendan O’Donnell.