MINNEAPOLIS — A less-than-capacity crowd at Mariucci Arena saw a less-than-perfect hockey game Friday night, as netminder Karl Goehring made 29 saves to lead North Dakota past Minnesota, 4-1.
Confronted with a businesslike Sioux squad, the host Gophers turned in a flat performance in a surprisingly unemotional game, considering that it pitted archrivals in a battle for first place in the WCHA. The Sioux defense was partly responsible, keeping the Gophers on the perimeter and limiting chances around the net.
“It was our best defensive effort of the season,” said UND head coach Dean Blais. “We didn’t give them a lot of second opportunities. … The first two periods were mostly center-ice play.”
The win extended North Dakota’s Mariucci unbeaten streak to six, and moved the Sioux to 11-2-3 in the last four seasons against Minnesota.
“We never seemed to hit our stride,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “I was surprised we didn’t play with much emotion.”
In a scene which would be repeated, an innocuous-looking play led to the first UND goal. A lead pass from junior Paul Murphy found David Lundbohm on the right side, and the rookie center promptly beat Minnesota goalie Adam Hauser glove-side from the right faceoff dot at 2:20. The goal came on UND’s first shot of the game.
Less than two minutes later, Minnesota answered with an Aaron Miskovich goal, a low hummer off a Stuart Senden drop pass that beat Goehring five-hole to make it 1-1.
But with another Gopher-Sioux scorefest seemingly in the works, the intensity dropped down a notch, mostly on the Minnesota side as an ill-advised slash by Sioux winger Ryan Bayda turned into gold for North Dakota. During the ensuing Gopher power play, Jeff Panzer stole a loose puck in the defensive zone and broke in two-on-one with Bryan Lundbohm, who took Panzer’s short pass and wristed a low shot by Hauser to reestablish the lead.
“A lot of people might think it was a weak goal,” said Blais of the eventual game-winner, “but I don’t think either team had more than six or seven quality chances [all game].”
Later in the first, a three-on-two gave Minnesota its best chance to tie the score, but Goehring, catlike, snatched Nick Anthony’s backhander out of midair, sending both teams to the first intermission with UND up 2-1.
Five minutes into the second, defenseman Travis Roche continued his offensive contributions for North Dakota. The 1999-2000 WCHA All-Rookie pick kept a clearing attempt in the zone, skated down to the right circle and beat Hauser, who was moving to cut down the angle, to the far side for his fifth goal of the year.
UND nearly added a fourth goal minutes later, but Hauser stopped two chances for the Sioux’s top line — the nation’s top-scoring line — of Panzer, Bayda and Bryan Lundbohm to keep Minnesota within two.
Meanwhile, the Gophers continued to earn power-play chances thanks to poor Sioux decision-making, but could do nothing with the opportunities. For the evening, the Minnesota power play went 0-for-6 as the absence of injured John Pohl — a game-time scratch with a bruised ankle suffered last weekend — showed.
With Minnesota showing few signs of life, Tim Skarperud put the game away early in the third period, putting a shot just inside the left post off a centering pass from Kevin Spiewak.
That goal, also coming on the first Sioux shot of the period, ended Hauser’s night with 11 saves on 15 UND shots — though not before Hauser broke Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber’s team record for minutes played with 5,750. The junior departed in favor of backup Pete Samargia, who made 11 straight saves in just his second appearance of the season.
“It’s no secret [Hauser] struggled,” said Lucia. “Now, what’s more important for him is to bounce back tomorrow night.”
Minnesota and North Dakota face off in the back end of the series Saturday night at Mariucci. The opening drop is set for 7:05 p.m.