North Dakota Topples Top-Ranked SCSU 5-1

Jon Lizzotte (Photo Prout)

Grand Forks, ND – North Dakota responded in a must-win situation to topple the #1 ranked Huskies 5-1 at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday, January 26. With a lineup depleted by the flu bug, the Huskies were missing Mika Ilvonen, Jack Poehling and Robby Jackson and the Fighting Hawks took advantage scoring early in the first period, victimizing David Hrenak for two more goals in the first nine minutes of the second and ending the Huskies hopes for a road sweep in Grand Forks. UND was missing a top player as well, Grant Mismash who was injured in Friday’s game but the scratches for the Huskies required them to submit a lineup that included defensemen, Luke Jaycox and Clark Kuster on the 4th line as forwards. The disruption in the lineup seemed to affect the Huskies with uncharacteristic spotty play and not the usual energy displayed by the team. The team also continues to be without one of their top goal scorers, Kevin Fitzgerald who was injured in the UMD series and will probably be out of the lineup until March. Road sweeps are never easy in the NCHC and the Huskies found that out Saturday in Grand Forks as they faced a focused North Dakota team needing to gain at least a split of the series. On this night, they were the better team.

In similar fashion to Friday’s game, the undermanned Huskies faced a hard-charging UND team to start the first period. It appeared that the Fighting Hawks intent was to get as many shots on David Hrenak as possible. And, again, like they did Friday, the Fighting Hawks hit the scoreboard first with a goal by Gavin Hain 3:22 into period one. UND converted on a two on one with Mark Senden making a nice backhand to Hain who beat Hrenak stick side for a 1-0 advantage. The flow of the game seemed to alternate back and forth in the first period with opportunities on both ends. UND’s Ludvig Hoff was stopped on the doorstep trying to bury a backhand at 14:10 and conversely Easton Brodzinski had a wrister from the left circle go wide. But, give credit to UND, the Huskies didn’t get their first shot on goal until 10:13 into the period. SCSU seemed to gain traction as the period progressed and they nearly tied the game on a golden opportunity by Patrick Newell. Newell had a breakaway at 8:14 but lost the handle on his backhand and it sailed over the net. Following a penalty to Patrick Newell, Hrenak made a big save on Rhett Garner at 6:03 and then the Huskies had two consecutive opportunities first with 2:22 remaining on a re-direct by Hentges stopped by Scheel and then another opportunity shortly thereafter by Ryan Poehling. UND outshot SCSU 9-7 in the period and carried a 1-0 lead into period two.

With the Huskies only down by a goal, they had  several chances by Newell in the first six minutes of the period. But, it was North Dakota who extended their lead 6:29 into the session with a goal from Mark Senden. The play started looking as though the Huskies would be on the power play with some indecision by the official. He partly raised his arm to call a penalty for a high stick in the UND zone then dropped his arm with play continuing and Senden leading the charge into the SCSU zone and beating Hrenak stick side with a high shot from the left dot for a 2-0 UND lead. Slightly over two minutes later, UND struck again this time on a shot from the right dot by Dixon Bowen that beat Hrenak five-hole. With the goal certainly stoppable, the coaching staff pulled Hrenak to get things on track and inserted Jeff Smith. A difficult situation for a goaltender, Smith was tested early with a backhand shot by Colton Poolman but Smith made the save to keep the score at 3-0. With SCSU seemingly on their heels, UND nearly stretched the lead to 4-0 with 6:10 remaining with the puck going off the post not once but twice to merit a review of the play. It was ruled the puck did not enter the goal. A penalty to Jacob Benson at 16:27 gave UND the opportunity to extend their lead further but the Huskies turned tables on the Fighting Hawks with a short-handed goal by Jimmy Schuldt at 17:25. Patrick Newell entered the zone along the right wall and placed a backhand shot on goal that rebounded directly to Schuldt who buried it to close the UND lead to 3-1. Certainly a key goal late in period two and  something to build on into period three. But, admittedly, it was a period with an advantage in play to UND who outshot the Huskies 11-8.

Down by two goals the Huskies controlled the first three minutes of period three necessitating a time out by North Dakota to regroup. It apparently worked as Gavin Hain added his second goal of the game at 5:52. He buried a rebound off a shot by Poolman to  stretch the North Dakota lead to 4-1. They added another, Dixon Bowen’s second of the game as well at 14:05 tapping his own rebound past Smith for an insurmountable 5-1 lead. A lead  which seemed to take the wind out of the Huskies. A barrage of penalties followed with the Fighting Hawks taking three in a row placing SCSU on their first power play opportunities of the game. Staring at a four-goal deficit with less than five minutes to play the Huskies power play lacked energy and they were unable to convert. With the game decided, liberties were taken to relieve some frustrations by both teams starting with a slashing penalty by Gabe Bast on Ryan Poehling and culminating in seven additional penalties being called at 19:15 and 19:54 of the period. In the end, the Fighting Hawks earned a 5-1 win and gained their first win over the Huskies in seven tries. The loss was only the second in the conference by SCSU this season but combined with another win by UMD over Omaha narrowed the Huskies conference lead to five points.

“We were down to nine healthy forwards tonight and in this environment we almost had to play a perfect game which we didn’t do.” said coach Brett Larson. ” Our forward group was pretty worn down by the end of that game. We needed to play a real smart game with the low numbers. We needed to manage the puck and we didn’t. We had three turnovers that ended in goals. We knew turnovers would kill us tonight and they did. It was a battle . North Dakota played hard and they brought a good game and they played well. They capitalized on their chances.We just didn’t have enough.”

In a reversal from Friday’s game, UND outshot the Huskies 29-23 with Adam Scheel stopping 22 of 23 shots to see his record improve to 12-8-1. SCSU starter David Hrenak had his struggles in the series finale stopping 10 of 13 shots before being relieved after 28:47 minutes of play. Jeff Smith stopped 14 of 16 shots allowing two goals. SCSU blocked 15 shots and UND blocked 9. Both teams were 0/3 on the man-advantage with a total of 15 penalties for 46 minutes whistled. UND had the advantage in faceoff wins 35-26.

Stars of the Game: Hain (UND) Senden (UND) Bowen (UND)

Notes: The short-handed goal by Jimmy Schuldt was his seventh of the season. With Massachusetts losing to Maine the Huskies will remain the #1 Pairwise team as they return to home ice to face Miami next weekend. The win helped move North Dakota to #20 in the Pairwise. They hit the  road to face Denver next weekend.

BOX SCORE

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