GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Minnesota Golden Gopher coach Don Lucia said a lot with a little after Saturday’s 5-5 tie with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
“I’ve never had that many guys down,” said Lucia after the hard-fought draw.
Minnesota gained the lead twice, once off the opening goal of the game and again at 1:08 of the third, only to have UND charge back each time. The Sioux also held the lead twice, and twice lost it to a Gopher team severely depleted by injuries.
The Gophers were without the services of forwards Stuart Senden and Nick Anthony, as well as defenseman Matt DeMarchi. Senden and DeMarchi are both recovering from knee injuries, and Anthony was a last-minute scratch because of lingering effects from a concussion suffered Friday night.
“He woke up with a headache this morning,” said Lucia, “and we weren’t going to take any chances.”
The fatigue factor from such a depleted roster was a factor for Minnesota, which relies on its depth to tire other teams.
“We were all skating three shifts, and were physically tired. That begins to affect you mentally,” said Minnesota defenseman Jordan Leopold, who had a goal and an assist in the game.
North Dakota looked better off with a much more complete roster and starting goaltender Karl Goehring in net; however, Sioux coach Dean Blais felt that both teams showed great resiliency.
“I was pleasantly surprised. The momentum went back and forth,” Blais said, “and each team fought back.”
The Gophers fired up the Engelstad Arena scoreboard first with a goal from Grand Forks, N.D., native Grant Potulny. His tip-in of an Erik Westrum shot could have been an early backbreaker for the Sioux, as Minnesota was 6-0-0 this season when scoring the first goal of the contest.
However, at 13:46 of the second period Trevor Hammer buried a shot from the the slot that trickled through Minnesota goalie Adam Hauser’s pads.
UND’s first line of Jeff Panzer, Ryan Bayda, and Bryan Lundbohm had a role in four of the Sioux’s five goals. Panzer and Lundbohm were one and two, respectively, in WCHA scoring coming into this series.
The Sioux have been able to rely on more than just forwards for help in scoring, however.
After tying the game early in the second, UND struck again to take the lead for the first time in the game. Freshman David Hale scored at 13:46 of the second off of assists from Ryan Bayda and Travis Roche, who was coming off a school record-tying six assists in Friday’s 7-5 win.
The momentum that Blais saw swing back and forth then swung toward the Minnesota bench again as the Gophers tied it up again at 17:38 of the second, on a Jeff Taffe goal. Taffe, who had a goal and an assist, caught a Pat O’Leary pass and charged across the crease, shoving a shot between Goehring’s legs.
In the third, Minnesota continued its scoring ways, with right wing Troy Riddle scoring a power-play goal at 1:08. The Sioux’s Ryan Hale was called for tripping at 19:21 of the second, and the Gopher power play carried over into the third, creating the opportunity.
Then it was off to the races for UND, as the Panzer-Lundbohm-Bayda line showed why it has been so effective for UND this season.
Lundbohm and Panzer broke out two-on-one against Minnesota defenseman Mark Nenovich, and Panzer faked Nenovich out of position and streaked by him along the far boards. Panzer gave a laser pass to Lundbohm, who one-timed it past Hauser for the tying goal.
North Dakota’s top line was not finished, however. Just minutes later, at 3:37, Lundbohm again followed Panzer and buried a drop pass to make it 4-3 UND.
For the evening, Panzer and Lundbohm had the Gopher defense retreating, enabling them to capitalize on the speed both use so effectively. Lundbohm had two goals, and Panzer tallied two assists.
That second goal from Lundbohm and Panzer highlighted the injury situation for Minnesota, which badly needed Matt DeMarchi to be a defensive presence against a relentless North Dakota offense.
Both team traded goals after that, with Gopher Matt Leimbek scoring off of Leopold and Potulny assists to make it a 4-4 tie. Leimbek’s shot deflected off players in front, took had a strange bounce that Goehring mishandled, and the puck trickled through.
UND continued the pressure, and at 13:17 gained a 5-4 lead with a goal from center Kevin Spiewak. Spiewak shoved a backhand just under Hauser’s blocker for his second goal of the season.
At 15:20, the Gophers sealed the overtime with a goal from Leopold. A quick shot by Dylan Mills was chased behind the net by John Pohl, who set it up in front for Leopold to bury.
In overtime, both the Sioux and the Gophers seemed to have little left, emotionally and physically. Lundbohm nearly netted a hat trick in the overtime period, but was gloved on the shot by Hauser.
After the horn sounded, both benches seemed to accept the tie.
“It was a fun weekend, with two great teams head to head. This is what you can expect — we’re happy to get a point,” Panzer.
“We have become used to coming here and getting beat on Friday night, especially the last couple of years,” said Leopold.
Regardless, with another UND-Minnesota series ended, it’s clear there’s plenty of fuel for the next meeting between the two teams, which will come Jan. 12-13 in Minnesota.