DENVER — Mark Senden skated to the center dot to take the game's opening faceoff Monday night.
That in itself was a message from UND coach Brad Berry.
After his team lost Sunday night for the first time in more than a month, he wanted Senden, known more for his physicality and puck possession game than putting up gaudy offensive numbers, to set the tone for the series finale.
He did more than that.
Senden won the draw, got the puck in the offensive zone, made a couple of big hits and just 18 seconds later, Matt Kiersted scored to put UND in front.
That was only the start of the night for Senden.
The junior center piled up a career-high four assists as UND beat Denver 5-1 in the series finale in Magness Arena.
On top of his points, Senden was a key penalty killer as UND successfully wiped out Denver's seven advantages, including a five-minute major and a full two-minute five-on-three in the third period.
Senden's longtime linemate Gavin Hain scored an empty-net goal, while their new linemate, freshman Louis Jamernik, had an assist.
"There's a guy whose playing in the National (NHL) right now, his name is Cole Smith, that played with Hain and Senden," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Those guys were pretty good for us when we started games and periods with those guys. We just tried to replicate that to have maybe a heavier line out there, a line that has the mentality to get a puck deep and grind away and sure enough, the first shift, they did."
Kiersted had a goal and an assist to move into the NCHC's scoring lead among defensemen, while Jordan Kawaguchi and Grant Mismash each scored a goal and set each other up for one as they were reunited on the top line.
Defenseman Josh Rieger even got in on the scoring, burying a power-play goal in the final minute of the game. Rieger has two career goals. Both have come in Magness Arena against Denver.
Not only did the win give UND a series split, it also moved the Fighting Hawks into first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings, two points ahead of St. Cloud State.
"Complete 180 from last night," Berry said. "The start's a big thing, obviously, in hockey and the NCHC. I thought we started the right way. I thought that line we put together with Senden, Jamernik and Hainer, they had a mentality similar to one we had last year. They score right away on the first shift of the game and that was huge. We all know if you score the first goal or two, it gives you a lot of confidence."
UND improved to 9-0-0 when scoring the game's first goal.
"Obviously, tonight we started with a lot more fire than we did last night," Kiersted said. "I think starting that Senden line, like we did a lot last year, was a message to the team that we need to play heavy. They line to push the puck forward on that opening draw, get in on the forecheck and it worked to a T. That was a big start and a message to play heavy tonight."
UND goalie Adam Scheel, who was pulled after two periods Sunday night, had a big bounce-back game, stopping 32 of 33 shots. The lone goal he allowed was by Denver defenseman Slava Demin late in the third period.
The Fighting Hawks wore their black jerseys and improved to 10-1-1 in them over the last two seasons.
"When you get off the bus and walk into the locker room and see the black jerseys hanging up, you know it's business mode," Kiersted said. "That's what we had to be tonight, we had to be straight business and get back to playing our game. Message received. I think we all received that well and went out and performed."
UND avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time since the 2019 playoffs in Magness Arena against Denver.