North Dakota overcomes setbacks for win in WCHA playoff openerGRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s captain was ejected in the first period. Its goaltender allowed a center-ice shot in the third.
By: Brad Schlossman , Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s captain was ejected in the first period. Its goaltender allowed a center-ice shot in the third.
Yet thanks to a pair of goals and an assist from alternate captain Danny Kristo, UND was able to overcome several bumps in the road on Friday night and beat Michigan Tech 5-3 on Friday night in the opening game of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“We survived it and recovered,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol, who notched another 20-win season. “Maybe that’s the story of the night. We hit a few bumps in the road, but we found a way, at the end of the night, to get a win.”
Kristo was the first star, scoring goals No. 22 and 23 of the season, while Michael Parks, Dillon Simpson and Derek Rodwell added tallies for UND, which moved one win away from an 11th straight trip to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul.
UND, which has a WCHA-record 14-game league playoff winning streak, will have a chance to clinch that during tonight’s Game 2 at 6:07 p.m. in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
“That’s our goal — to go to the Final Five,” said Simpson, who had a two-point night. “The hardest thing to do is end a team’s season. Tomorrow, we have to bring our best. They’re a good team. They’re playing well. It’s going to be a challenge.”
UND (20-10-7) swept Michigan Tech (12-19-4) in Houghton, Mich., earlier this year, outscoring the Huskies 10-2 in the process. But this one was much more difficult.
It started with a major penalty against UND captain Andrew MacWilliam at 12:30 of the first period. MacWilliam hit Tech forward David Johnstone with an open-ice check. Johnson reportedly fractured his clavicle on the hit, but MacWilliam was called for contact to the head.
Tech scored a power-play goal on the ensuing major to tie the game 1-1 late in the first period.
The Huskies added two more on shaky plays by UND goaltender Zane Gothberg. Jacob Johnstone threw a shot from the boards, unscreened underneath Gothberg to tie the game 2-2 early in the second.
And they were allowed one late chance when Riley Sweeney’s center-ice dump-in went five-hole on Gothberg with just 4:46 left.
But UND — and Kristo — had answers.
UND’s Hobey Baker Award candidate scored twice in the third period — one of them just 58 seconds after Sweeney’s center-ice goal, to give UND the two-goal advantage back.
“That’s something that’s important,” Hakstol said of Kristo’s answering goal. “That has to happen when you’re not going all that well. You get a bounce against you, you have to go out and answer. Dan was one of the guys who consistently tonight went back and answered as he did with that late goal.”
Kristo now has nine points in three games against the Huskies.
Michigan Tech went with Jamie Phillips in goal. Phillips, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick, had stopped 58 of 59 shots in his two second-half starts, but UND tallied five goals on just 24 shots.
“It’s so hard to evaluate,” Hakstol said of his team’s play, “because it was a tough hockey game to find any flow. Obviously, we need to play better and we’ll turn our focus to doing that tomorrow night.”
When asked if he’s concerned about the goaltending, Hakstol responded: “There’s different concerns about different parts of the game, but I’m not going to pick out any one part.”
All of UND’s players agreed that they could play better.
“I don’t know if it was our best 60 minutes of the year, but we got the result,” Rodwell said. “We’re going to try to move forward and try to win tomorrow.”
Kristo, who moved to 15-1 in WCHA playoffs in his career, said earning the Game 1 win was big.
“Friday night’s the biggest game of the series,” he said. “We played very average tonight. We didn’t do the things we needed to do to keep playing at this time of year, but we’re going to move on and forget this one, take the win, and get ready for tomorrow. It’s going to be tough to end a team’s season. Tech is playing good hockey right now. I’m proud of the win, but we’ve got to be better tomorrow.”