Grand Forks, ND – You knew it wasn’t going to be easy for the Huskies. A North Dakota team desperate for wins against a top team made a valiant first-period effort but eventually ran out of steam against the #1 ranked SCSU Huskies in a 3-1 loss at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, ND. Starting strong, the Fighting Hawks took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by former Brett Larson recruit, Nick Jones but couldn’t hold up to the relentless attack of the Huskies offense getting only ten shots on goal the final two periods in a key conference game. Without a doubt, UND goaltender, Adam Scheel was the team MVP making numerous outstanding saves giving the offensively challenged Fighting Hawks a chance to steal a game from the Huskies in the third period. SCSU got stronger as the game progressed and by period three outshot UND 16-4 in the period and 36 to 15 for the game. Micah Miller, Patrick Newell and Blake Lizotte (EN) scored for the Huskies who improved to 18-3-2 overall and 10-1-2 in the conference. The win maintained their eight point margin ahead of the UMD Bulldogs who defeated Omaha by a 7-2 score.
North Dakota’s battle plan was to come out hard in period one and pressure the Huskies defense down low and that’s what they did to start the period. They appeared to ambush the Huskies somewhat and were certainly the aggressor in period one. A penalty to Nolan Walker 3:18 into period one gave UND an early opportunity but they were only able to manage one shot on goal during the power play. However, they did finally convert at 11:21 following a scramble in front of the SCSU goal.The puck was pushed back to Nick Jones (Kawaguchi) who backhanded the puck off of the back of David Hrenak’s skate for a 1-0 Fighting Hawk lead. This was Jones 5th goal of the year. Following, there were several big saves by both goaltenders in the balance of the period with Hrenak stopping a Grant Mismash shot from the right circle at 15:37 and again making another key save on a shot by Jasper Weatherby at 16:06 who was staring at a wide open left side of the net. Fortunately Weatherby didn’t get a complete shot off and Hrenak was able to get his pad out. On the other end of the ice, Patrick Newell forced Hayden Shaw into a turnover in the UND zone and he went in all alone on UND’s Scheel who snared a quick wrist shot at 17:35. A penalty to Ryan Poehling for tripping at 18:23 put the Huskies at a disadvantage for the second time in the period but they did a nice job controlling the puck for the roughly minute and a half on the penalty kill before the end of period one. Despite being on the penalty kill twice in the period, SCSU outshot UND 8-5 but trailed by a one-goal margin after the first session.
The second period began with an early penalty to Rhett Gardner for tripping at 1:03 but the Huskies were unable to convert on their first man-advantage of the game. A big save by Scheel at 16:56 kept the one-goal advantage as the Huskies applied a great deal of pressure in the UND zone for about a half-minute after the penalty expired. Slowly but surely, the Huskies began to win more puck battles and greater possession of the puck. And, it appeared that they finally got the equalizer with 12:05 remaining in the period. Jack Poehling backhanded the puck laterally across the goal mouth and with Scheel out of position Nick Perbix who was charging the net appeared to punch the puck over the goal line while falling forward. Play went on for nearly a minute until a stoppage of play allowed a video review. With an overhead shot that seemed to show the puck fully over the goal line, the officials made the decision to waved it off with “no definitive evidence” that it crossed the line. The Huskies now clearly dominating play had another opportunity with 4:30 remaining with Ryan Poehling getting a point blank shot from the left slot that was stopped by Scheel. A penalty to Matt Kierstad of UND at 17:28 for tripping put SCSU on the man-advantage again. Despite some strong puck control and good puck movement in the UND zone they were stopped once again from capitalizing. However, the Huskies continued their attack and with 13.8 seconds remaining in period two Micah Miller (Walker | Perbix) who has suddenly found the scoring touch scored his third goal in as many games. Miller retrieved the puck from Nolan Walker and he unloaded a low quick shot from the left circle that beat Scheel five-hole to tie the game at 1-1. Clearly, the Huskies were taking control of the game and outshot UND 12-6 in the period and 23-12 in the game.
Period three continued with SCSU simply getting stronger as the game wore on. Scheel had to make a big save on a Jake Wahlin shot from the left dot 3:24 into the period and another goalmouth stop on Blake Lizotte at 4:08. He made yet another goalmouth save at 9:04 and stopped a low long shot by Jimmy Schuldt shortly thereafter. Then at 10:54, Jack Ahcan got into the offense attacking the UND zone and took a high shot from the left of the goal that Scheel had to glove. Ultimately, a penalty on Jasper Weatherby at 11:14 gave the Huskies their third power play of the night. Scheel had to make three consecutive goal mouth saves and then Robby Jackson missed the net as the Huskies put immense pressure on a collapsing UND penalty kill. However, they weathered the storm partly through luck and via some outstanding stops by Scheel who was certainly UND’s MVP of the game. It wasn’t until after the penalty expired that SCSU finally beat Scheel again. On an outstanding job of forechecking by first-year forward Nolan Walker he stripped the puck from Colton Poolman and backhanded the puck across the slot to Patrick Newell who tapped it in for a 2-1 SCSU lead and eventual game-winner. Despite a strong late push by the Fighting Hawks, they were penalized on a retaliation by Grant Mismash for swinging his stick at Jimmy Schuldt who had just collided with him along the side wall. Mismash was taken to the UND locker room with a lower body injury and was penalized for slashing. UND pulled Scheel for another attacker but it backfired with Blake Lizotte (Jackson | Brodzinski) sealing the win with an empty net goal at 18:48. Frustrations during the last minute of play saw five penalties called – three on North Dakota and two on the Huskies including a roughing penalty to Patrick Newell, his first penalty in about two seasons. SCSU outshot the Fighting Hawks 16-4 in a period highly dominated by the Huskies.
Final shots on goal were 36-15 and both goaltenders were called upon to make some big saves particularly Scheel who stopped 33 of 35 SCSU shots on goal. Hrenak stopped 14 of 15 in earning his 14th win of the season. SCSU was 1/4 on the man-advantage while UND was 0/2. The Huskies blocked 9 shots with UND blocking 12. UND had the advantage in faceoffs 29-25.
“That was gutsy. That was a battle.” said coach Brett Larson. “It wasn’t cute. It was a man’s game. Obviously they will come out hard tomorrow. Saturday night in this in this league is tough. We know we’ll need our best tomorrow night.”
Nolan Walker had the lone multiple point game for the Huskies with 2 assists.
Stars of the game: Newell (SCSU), Scheel (UND), Walker (SCSU)