GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Jeff Panzer may take some criticism from time to time for not having the most physical game; however, he more than makes up for that in scoring.
The WCHA’s scoring leader showed that again Saturday night, notching a hat trick to lead North Dakota to a 5-1 win over Minnesota State-Mankato.
Panzer also showed he has a physical side in a sometimes-rough game, in the corners along with Travis Roche — who notched assists on all five goals on the evening — and the UND defense, and even drawing a penalty on Mankato’s Eric Pateman when the Maverick goalie took a shot at Panzer with his blocker at the end of the second period.
Sioux fans cringing at the thought of their scoring machine change roles need not worry, however. Panzer didn’t stray far from his usual game, and was rewarded with his 200th career point, just the fifth Fighting Sioux player to reach that plateau.
Panzer is only one point behind current volunteer coach and former Sioux forward Lee Davidson for the fourth spot.
“I am lucky to play with some great linemates,” said Panzer. “People like Roche are great to play with.”
Meanwhile, the Mavericks may have thought they found the formula for the Sioux on Friday night. Taking the game period by period, Mankato used good defense against a Sioux team that seemed to struggle at times. The Mavericks lit the lamp three times in the third Friday night to grab a point, but UND rebounded Saturday with a five-goal effort to crawl back into first place in the WCHA.
UND’s lines looked markedly different, beginning with the breakup of the league’s leading line of Panzer, Bryan Lundbohm, and Ryan Bayda. Rather, Panzer centered a line made up of Tim Skarperud and Bayda, while Lundbohm joined Jason Noterman, back from a game disqualification levied last Saturday against Minnesota, and sophomore Kevin Spiewak on the second line.
UND seemed to respond, scoring two first-period goals. The first came from freshman Quinn Fylling, who backhanded a Roche pass past MSU-Mankato goalie Eric Pateman for the Sioux’s first tally, and his second of the season.
Mankato used a delayed penalty to create the six-on-five situation, but was not able to convert. Tempers flared after the whistle in the first evidence of a very physical game.
For the evening, a total of 46 penalties for 130 minutes were whistled.
UND’s second goal was Panzer’s first, off a Roche pass near the corner of the net. Panzer tipped the laser pass in to make it 2-0. The power-play opportunity came after a slashing penalty to Mankato’s Nate Mauer.
The second period became rough early. At 4:20, Trevor Hammer for the Sioux and Cole Bassett were whistled for roughing while pushing along the near boards. Wes Dorey and Tyler Baines nearly fought at center ice during the ensuing delay.
At 5:21, Jeff Panzer took on a more physical role, and was given a double minor for roughing along the boards. The ensuing fracas would see a total of eight double minors handed out, along with two 10-minute misconducts, to UND’s Chad Mazurak and MSU’s Ben Christopherson.
Referee Derek Shepered disallowed a goal for Mankato at 11:41 of the second, as the net had become dislodged.
Later, there were even more fireworks. At 16:07, Sioux forward Pat O’Leary and MSU’s Josh Kern were both given five-minute majors and game disqualifications for a center-ice fight that started when O’Leary came in to second Wes Dorey. The fight ended with Kern topless, and equipment covering the ice.
North Dakota freshman David Hale took a roughing call to create a power-play opportunity for Mankato, and MSU then scored, a goal by Jerry Cunningham — who broke a four-game pointless streak — on an odd-man rush. Peter Holoien and Andy Hedlund pushed the puck past a retreating Sioux defense and onto the stick of Cunningham, who fired it in to make it 2-1.
The next two goals, however, would be all Sioux, and all Jeff Panzer.
The senior netted his 200th career point at 12:32, on another assist from Roche and Aaron Schneekloth on a power play.
A standing ovation rewarded the Hobey Baker candidate, but he was not finished. At 17:29, Panzer finished the hat trick, off assists by Roche and Lundbohm. The goal was nearly a carbon copy of his first, with a pass from Roche threading the needle to Panzer, who buried it to make it 4-1 and mark the beginning of the end for Mankato.
In the third, both teams appeared tired, and the play reflected it. At 19:12, Sioux defenseman Aaron Schneekloth scored on a five-on-three to round out the score, 5-1.
In a physical series for both teams, UND took three points, though Mankato once again proved to be a thorn in UND’s side.
Roche, a major contributor in both Saturday’s contest and Friday’s tie, recognized that.
“It gets to be kind of a pain; these guys [the Mavericks] always seen to play us very well,” said Roche.
Panzer also felt UND had to work a little harder against Mankato, “I think it just shows the character of this team, 20 guys going out and working hard.”
Mankato next faces Minnesota-Duluth, while the Sioux host St. Cloud State next weekend.