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UND finishes winless weekend with tie against Michigan State

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Kiss Cam zoomed in on a fan texting in the stands during the third period. She looked up, saw the screen and flipped it off. Yeah, most everyone was a bit salty in Ralph Engelstad Arena. No. 5 North Dakota tied a struggli...

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University of North Dakota defensemen Tucker Poolman (3) is chased around the boards by Michigan State defensemen Zach Osburn (2) in Subway Holiday Classic at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. (Jesse Trelstad/Forum News Service)

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The Kiss Cam zoomed in on a fan texting in the stands during the third period.

She looked up, saw the screen and flipped it off.

Yeah, most everyone was a bit salty in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

No. 5 North Dakota tied a struggling Michigan State program 2-2 on Saturday night, finishing off a winless weekend against the Spartans and extending the team's home winless streak to four games (0-2-2).

It is UND's longest home winless streak since December 2006-January 2007 when it went 0-4-1 in a five-game stretch.

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This streak comes directly on the heels of a 31-2-2 record in the span of 35 home games.

The Fighting Hawks started the day with a team meeting with the coaches. It ended with a players only meeting in the locker room after the tie against Michigan State.

"All we talked about was putting it together," UND defenseman Christian Wolanin said. "It's unbelievable how well we play when we're on and we're firing on all cylinders - forwards, defense and goaltenders. Then, we turn it off for a period, turn it off for five minutes and there's a momentum swing and the energy on the bench dies.

"It's not that we're young. It's not that we have no leaders. It's just a mindset that we have to develop."

After a promising 5-0 start, the defending national champions are 2-5-3 in the last 10 games.

The Fighting Hawks appeared to turn the corner last weekend with a dominant sweep at St. Cloud State, becoming the first team to shut out the Huskies in back-to-back games in the National Hockey Center.

But after taking two steps forward, UND took one back against the Spartans.

"We saw how well we played in St. Cloud," Wolanin said. "We saw how well we can dominate. But what does it mean if we don't do it every night? Everybody can do good on certain occasions. We have to put it together for a full season. We saw what we did last year. That's exactly what it has to be."

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Can this team do that?

"We're the University of North Dakota," Wolanin said. "That's what's expected. It's excellence or nothing."

UND now has a loss and a tie against both Michigan State and Minnesota in nonconference play - results that could hurt the Fighting Hawks in the Pairwise Rankings, which are used to determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field.

"It's something we watch closely," UND coach Brad Berry said of the Pairwise. "But it's a body of work over the course of a year. Early in the year, we were pretty high in it. Now, we've dropped a bit. The body of work is the total year. We have to make sure we know that. We have a few games left in nonconference and we have to make sure we remember we want a 60-minute effort next time we get in a nonconference game."

UND travels to New York City next weekend to play a single game against Boston College in Madison Square Garden. Its final regular-season game of the season will be a single game at Union College on New Year's Eve - one where UND may be without World Junior Championship team candidates Tyson Jost and Brock Boeser.

UND played its second straight game without Boeser on Saturday. He's listed as day to day with an upper-body injury.

The coaching staff also juggled the lines, scratching Chris Wilkie and Ludvig Hoff in favor of Andrew Peski and Mike Gornall. They moved freshman defenseman Casey Johnson up to forward.

Although UND outshot Michigan State 34-19, the Fighting Hawks weren't able to generate enough offense against Spartan goalie Ed Minney (32 saves).

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"I thought we battled and competed," Berry said. "The players did a lot of what we asked of them - blocked shots and competed and played in a 60-minute timeframe. Obviously, we were short a goal to win the game, but for the most part they played the way we wanted them to and with the effort we need."

Michigan State jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal by Thomas Ebbing, but UND answered with back-to-back tallies later in the first.

Zach Yon scored on a wrist shot and Tucker Poolman scored on a power-play blast from the point.

But UND gave up the lead early in the second on a botched play behind the net that led to a tap-in from Patrick Khodorenko.

"Our effort was a lot better than last night," UND junior Johnny Simonson said. "But it's still not the result we wanted. Guys aren't too happy about that in the locker room. We still have a long ways to go as a team."

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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