Minneapolis, MN – North Dakota head coach Brad Berry admitted neither he nor his team was interested in scoreboard watching this weekend to track the Pairwise. To the delight of the throngs of UND fans at the Target Center on Friday it won’t be necessary after an impressive 1-0 win over top-ranked Denver in an epic battle at Target Center in Minneapolis.
In one of the most high-energy games this writer has witnessed this season, it took forty-two and a half minutes and a lucky bounce off some lively boards to give the Fighting Hawks the break they needed to solve Tanner Jaillet and produce the only goal needed to win the game. In the process it also proved that a low scoring game could carry just as much excitement as a game with five times as many goals.
From the drop of the puck it was obvious this was going to be a chess match and neither squad was going to yield much real estate. In a tight game with some thundering checks, the teams threw little rubber at each goaltender with a total of 16 shots on goal by North Dakota and 12 shots on goal by Denver through two periods. This included six power play opportunities total through two periods with North Dakota being shut out in four opportunities and Denver in two.
Finally, in period three, the goaltending stalemate was broken on a play with an assist to the back boards. On an attack towards the Denver goal, Colton Poolman shot the puck wide of the DU goal but it took a lively bounce off the back boards onto the stick of Austin Poganski who was driving to the net for a rebound. Poganski made no mistake and buried the puck beating the league’s top goaltender for the only goal of the game at 2:30 of period three. This was Poganski’s 12th goal of the year and assists went to Poolman and Tyson Jost. The balance of the period continued to be a back and forth affair with the Fighting Hawks sensing victory and seeming to get stronger as the period wore on. This included killing a penalty to Joel Janatuinen at 7:32 of the period. The Pioneers did pull Jaillet for an extra attacker with 1:40 remaining but again were stunted by the energetic Fighting Hawks who held on to the 1-0 win and shutout for Cam Johnson.
In a goaltenders duel, Cam Johnson stopped all 21 shots on goal in earning his 20th win of the season. Tanner Jaillet stopped 23 of 24 shots on goal and suffered just his fifth loss all season. North Dakota outshot Denver 24 to 21 for the game. Both teams were unsuccessful on the power play with UND 0 for 4 and DU 0 for 3.
The win improved the Fighting Hawks Pairwise to a secure #9 and earned them the right to battle the UMD Bulldogs in the Frozen Four championship game at 7:38 PM CT on Saturday.