GRAND FORKS — There were three instances in the third period Saturday, Feb. 15, where the University of North Dakota and Denver players got into scrums around the net.

All three times, UND goaltender Peter Thome jumped in.

He didn't go after the Denver players, though. Thome bear-hugged his teammates and ripped them away from the situation, determined to keep them out of the penalty box.

It worked.

UND didn't take a single penalty in the second or third periods and the Pioneers were limited to 13 seconds of power-play time during UND's 3-1 victory Saturday night in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

With the win the No. 1-ranked Fighting Hawks (23-3-3) increased their lead atop the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings to eight points ahead of Minnesota Duluth with six games remaining.

On Monday, Thome emphasized his message to his teammates.

"I think it's just about wanting to play five-on-five, knowing that's the strength of our team," Thome said. "If they want to come and crash the net at the whistle, that's fine. I don't need anyone to step up for me. I love that they do and that's great — I have great teammates — but I'd rather have (the opponent) get in there, take a penalty and us skate away and take the power play as opposed to going four-on-four.

"I'd rather not play shorthanded and see guys go in the box and have our bench short. I'm just trying to keep everyone in the game and do what we do best, which is five-on-five."

That's also what Thome does best.

The UND junior has been outstanding in even-strength situations. He's allowed just three even-strength goals on 116 even-strength shots during his eight appearances this season.

Thome's .974 save percentage at even strength is by far the best of any National Collegiate Hockey Conference netminder. No other goalie in the league is over .930.

The Fighting Hawks have been the NCHC's most disciplined team this season, averaging 9.2 penalty minutes per game. On Saturday, UND was only called for one penalty for two minutes. It was the third time this season that UND has registered just a single penalty in a game.

"Guys played with a lot of discipline," Thome said. "That was a big focus for us. They have a really good power play, even with (top power-play goal scorer Bobby) Brink out Saturday night. They have a lot of dangerous players, so that was a big, big emphasis for us."

NCHC even-strength save percentage leaders As of Feb. 17, 2020
Percentage Player/school
.974 Peter Thome, North Dakota
.927 Austin Roden, Omaha
.926 Magnus Chrona, Denver
.924 Hunter Shepard, Minnesota Duluth
.924 Brendan Bussi, Western Michigan
.924 Ryan Ruck, Colorado College
.921 Devin Cooley, Denver
*: Minimum five starts

UND passes 2015-16 team in honors

On Monday, Collin Adams was named the NCHC forward of the week, while Thome earned NCHC goalie of the week honors.

Adams scored a goal in each game against the Pioneers, including the game-winner on Saturday night. Thome stopped 51 of 53 shots on the weekend, posting a .962 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average.

Notably, UND has now earned 18 player of the week honors, its program's record in the NCHC era, which began in 2013-14. The 2016 NCAA national championship team won 17 player of the week honors.

UND's honorees this season have been goalie Adam Scheel (four times), forward Jordan Kawaguchi (three times), defenseman Matt Kiersted (three times), rookie Shane Pinto (three times), Thome (twice), defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker (once), rookie Judd Caulfield (once) and Adams (once).