GRAND FORKS, N.D. — In a fast-paced offensive game that belied the low score, North Dakota (20-5-6, 16-4-3 WCHA) played to a 3-3 tie with the Wisconsin Badgers (15-11-3, 10-8-3 WCHA) in the opening game of a key series for both teams.
After Friday’s tie, with a victory Saturday night UND can take a commanding lead in the WCHA, while the Badgers hope to gain ground toward home-ice advantage come playoff season.
The first period had many rushes by both teams, but resulted in only 15 shots — six for UND and nine for Wisconsin. The Sioux had the first rush, on a fast attack by the first line of Jeff Panzer, Ryan Bayda, and Bryan Lundbohm. UW goalie Graham Melanson looked strong, however, and blanked the Sioux throughout the period.
Wisconsin drew first blood with a Kent Davyduke goal at 7:33 of the stanza. Erik Jensen and Andy Wheeler drew UND goaltender Karl Goehring out of position and passed the puck to Davyduke, and the junior pushed it past Goehring for the first tally of the game.
The Sioux had more scoring chances, but seemed to be snakebit. Three times in the course of the evening the Sioux had shots ring off pipes: one from Travis Roche, one from Trevor Hammer and a third from Aaron Schneekloth in overtime that nearly won the game.
UND also had a 5-on-3 power-play chance, and was not able to convert. Wisconsin’s Dany Heatley took a cross-checking penalty at 10:56, and shortly after Jeff Dessner was whistled for slashing to set up the two-man advantage for the Sioux. UND had great opportunities, but was denied by a great performance from Melanson.
Melanson, who had a .908 save percentage coming into this weekend, had 29 saves on the night.
The second period started out the same, but saw the Sioux find their scoring touch late in the period. At 11:42, sophomore Chris Leinweber netted his first career goal. The blueliner walked past two Wisconsin defenders and flipped a backhand shot past the UW goaltender.
“David Hale found me going up the boards, and gave a deep pass. I drove to the net and lucky enough, it went over his pads,” said Leinweber.
UND made the score 2-1 on a laser shot from the blue line by Travis Roche at 18:08. A poor defensive play by the Huskies resulted in a scoring attempt for Kevin Spiewak and Jeff Panzer. Spiewak picked up a rebound and winged it to Roche, who was waiting to bury the shot passed a screened Melanson.
The Badgers, meanwhile, seemed to have bad timing all night. Wisconsin tended to take whistles at inopportune times, leading to many UND opportunities.
The third period saw Wisconsin tie the score early on an Erik Wheeler shot. Wheeler and Davyduke, along with Jon Krall, brought the puck in. Wheeler shot a high from between the circles, and the puck ended up behind Goehring.
Play was close after the goal, with emotions high at both ends. At 6:10, both teams took double minors for roughing after a pushing match ensued after the whistle behind the Wisconsin net.
At 10:07, UND made the score 3-2 when Tim Skarperud won a battle in the Wisconsin zone against Krall. Skarperud pushed the puck through Krall’s legs, and David Lundbohm buried a point-blank shot from Melanson’s doorstep.
Wisconsin was not ready to lie down, however. Badger scoring leader Heatley tied the game at 16:15 of the period. A neutral-zone turnover set up a shot by Kevin Granato which rebounded off of a shaky-looking Goehring and back to Heatley, who shot the puck up and over a sprawling Goehring.
Overtime saw both teams skate tired, and the play reflected it. Schneekloth had two quality opportunities, only to see one hit the post and one slide just wide of the net.
“I thought a few of our penalties were bad on our part,” Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer said. “I think Panzer is the key. We just tried not to give his line any odd-man rushes.”
“We played well; it didn’t bounce our way. It’s a big series, and we have to come back tomorrow and play our best and try to come out of it with three points,” said Spiewak.