St. Cloud, MN – After getting thumped 8-1 on Friday, a determined UND hockey team rebounded for a well-deserved 5-3 win and split of the series with the SCSU Huskies. Provided with an opportunity to climb into a first-place tie with the Fighting Hawks in the NCHC standings, the Huskies put forth an uneven effort gaining no ground in the standings remaining six points behind UND. Additionally, with Western Michigan winning again, the Broncos take sole possession of second place three points ahead of both SCSU and Denver.
The Huskies, who have lost 4 of their last 5 games have nearly a month off before they face Bemidji State University in a non-conference series on December 31 and January 1. They do not return to league action until January 7/8 when they host the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
” I thought we made a few too many mental mistakes tonight that cost us,” said head coach Brett Larson in the post-game conference. “When you are playing a good team you can’t give them the unforced errors. You can’t gift a team like that goals.”
“Things that went wrong tonight are fixable, said Larson. “You can’t win games like this in this league without playing your best. Tonight I thought the energy and the effort was there. I thought we handled their push well but I thought we just made too many mental errors.”
“I’ll be honest, we are battling some sickness and injuries and I thought behind the scenes the guys really gutted it out this weekend,” said Larson.
The series finale was a redemption of sorts for former SCSU goaltender, Zach Driscoll who was torched for three goals on five shots on Friday. In the series finale, Driscoll appeared to be off to a rough start once again yielding a goal in the first 17 seconds of the contest but settled down thereafter stopping 30 of 33 shots in earning his 11th win of the season.
The Huskies duplicated Friday’s effort beating Driscoll with the first shot on goal just 17 seconds into the contest. Kevin Fitzgerald (Perbix, Peart) who scored his second goal of the weekend and eighth goal of the season to give the Huskies a quick 1-0 lead. Perbix took a shot from the right point which was retrieved by Fitzgerald who curled at the right circle and snapped off a wrist shot that beat Driscoll for a 1-0 lead.
Unlike the previous night, the lead was short-lived as North Dakota responded 3:06 later with a goal by Jackson Kunz. Riese Gaber circled behind the net and fed Griffin Ness who got behind the Huskies defense and placed a shot on goal. Hrenak made the save but Kunz was there to bury the rebound and tie the game at 1-1.
North Dakota added another on the power play after the Huskies were whistled for too many men on the ice at 7:37. The Fighting Hawks scored one minute later when Riese Gaber beat Hrenak with a wrist shot from the right dot for a 2-1 North Dakota advantage.
But, the Huskies responded with just 23 seconds left in the period on a goal by Kyler Kupka (Fitzgerald) his second in as many games to knot the score at 2-2. Kupka retrieved a pass at center ice and carried it into the UND zone beating Driscoll with a wrist shot from the mid-slot.
The Fighting Hawks outshot the Huskies 11-9 in period one.
The Huskies who should have had the momentum to start period two flatlined in the period getting only three shots on Driscoll from inside the dots, went 0 for 1 on their only power-play opportunity and yielded a shorthanded goal and an even-strength goal to the Fighting Hawks.
A tripping penalty to UND’s Louis Jamernik fourteen seconds into period two gave the Huskies the opportunity to continue the momentum in their direction. However, inattention by the Huskies in pursuing a puck sent into the SCSU zone by UND’s Cooper Moore on the penalty kill spelled trouble for the Huskies. Gavin Hain beat the Huskies to the puck and skated laterally to the net and slid the puck under Hrenak with a backhand for a 3-2 UND lead.
This was the turning point of the game for which the Huskies did not recover.
The ‘Hawks added another goal midway through the period which was certainly preventable. A shot from the point by Gavin Hain was sent wide but it bounced straight off the back wall and Louis Jamerick stuffed it in off of Hrenaks pad who was out of position and not sealing off the left post. Suddenly it was 4-2 with the Fighting Hawks in control of the game.
SCSU outshot North Dakota 14 to 12 in the period with the majority of the shots outside the dots.
With desperation setting in, the Huskies ramped up the pressure and nearly closed the UND advantage to a goal with slightly over 13 minutes remaining in the contest. With a lot of traffic in front of the net, Driscoll made a toe save on a shot that nearly made it a 4-3 game.
However, UND responded with another goal at 9:40 of the period by Connor Ford to stretch the lead to 5-2.
The Huskies finally scored at 13:49 when Nick Perbix (Miettinen, Walker), who was pinching in, one-timed a pass from Veeti Miettinen past an out of position Driscoll for Perbix’s first goal of the year and a 5-3 UND lead.
But, that was as close as the Huskies would get as they pulled Hrenak for an extra attacker with 2:39 remaining but despite some very good pressure were unable to get the puck past Driscoll.
SCSU attempted 28 shots in the period with 10 hitting its mark as the Huskies outshot the Fighting Hawks 10-6 in the period.
SCSU outshot North Dakota 33 to 29 in the contest. David Hrenak stopped 24 of 29 UND shots while the Fighting Hawks Zach Driscoll stopped 30 of 33 shots. Hrenak’s record falls to 9-5-0 while Driscoll’s record improves to 11-6-0.
The Huskies won the battle of the faceoff circle for the second straight game winning 33 of 59 faceoffs (55.9%). Nolan Walker led the Huskies winning 10 of 15 faceoffs (66.7%).
Nick Perbix (1-1-2) and Kevin Fitzgerald (1-1-2) each had a multi-point game for the Huskies.
Stars of the Game: #1 Gavin Hain (UND), #2 Mark Senden (UND), #3 Nick Perbix (SCSU)