GRAND FORKS, N.D. — In a weekend series that saw two overtime ties and seemed to settle very little, North Dakota and Wisconsin skated to a 4-4 tie Saturday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The game was punctuated by a number of shots — 41 by Wisconsin and 40 by North Dakota.
Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer felt his Badgers played well, and didn’t get discouraged.
“It was a game of men out there tonight,” Sauer said.
The first period appeared to be a period of mistakes for both teams. UND defensive slip-ups resulted in two Badger goals, but the Sioux were still able to score first.
Kevin Spiewak opened the scoring for the night. He caught a pass in front from Wes Dorey, who dug it out of the corner. Spiewak buried a pass around Wisconsin goalie Graham Melanson to draw first blood.
In a play where the UND defense looked especially slow, Wisconsin wingers Erik Jensen and Andy Wheeler picked apart the UND defense and Jensen pushed it past an out of position Andy Kollar for a goal at 9:17. Kollar had 37 saves on the night.
Both teams seemed at times to be frustrated. At 14:32, UND received a bench minor to coach Dean Blais for unsportsmanlike conduct. Jeff Panzer took a hard spear, and when it went uncalled, Blais grabbed a stick and hit the boards, resulting in a penalty for the Sioux.
Wisconsin took advantage of the power play, scoring its second goal at 16:07 of the period. Freshman Dan Boeser took a feed from Dany Heatley to net UW’s second goal of the night.
The second period also saw UND score early on a funny bounce out of the corner that resulted in a goal by Ryan Bayda. The puck was shot by Lundbohm, rebounded out, and Bayda evaded Melanson for his 16th goal of the year. Melanson had 36 saves in the contest.
Both teams seemed to be engaged in a clutch-and-grab game. The pace slowed to a rough game, one that seemed to favor Wisconsin, and stifled UND’s fast-paced offense.
UND wing Bryan Lundbohm was whistled for a trip at 11:23 and created another opportunity for the Badgers to have a man advantage. The Badgers made the most of it, scoring once again to take the lead with a score of 3-2. Matt Doman buried a shot that moved across the crease and slipped behind Kollar. Heatley and Boeser tacked up assists on the effort.
At 11:23, a tie up between Spiewak and Jensen resulted in a man advantage for UND, but the Sioux seemed cursed, and were unable to score on the power-play opportunity. The Sioux peppered Melanson for almost 1:30, allowing no changes for a tired Wisconsin penalty kill unit, but came away with nothing to show for the effort. UND seemed unable to capitalize on any Badger mistakes.
The Sioux finally netted their first power-play goal at 16:55. Bayda scored his second goal of the night. A rebound popped out and Bayda pushed the puck around the Wisconsin goalie to tie the game at 3-3. Chad Mazurak and Panzer were awarded assists on the Sioux’s first power-play goal of the weekend, after going 0-for-7 on Friday night.
The Badgers answered once again, retaking the lead 1:07 later on a hard shot from the blue line by Jeff Dessner. The shot was misplayed by Kollar, who played high in anticipation of a rising puck, and allowed the puck to slip low to make the score 4-3 for the Badgers.
In the third, Bayda netted a goal at 4:06, his third of the night for his first career hat trick. Panzer picked the puck up at the neutral zone dots and fed it to a streaking Bayda, who caught the pass near the blue line.
It was Bayda on Melanson after that, and the winger faked the goalie to make it 4-4.
“Panzer and I came in on a two-on-one and I don’t think the defense saw me, he went to Panzer, and Panzer dished it over to me and I went in one on one and head faked him a little, and put it in the net,” Bayda said.
“It’s a big relief, before that I probably could have had like four goals tonight.”
Overtime saw good chances for both teams, but the fatigue began to set in. In what had become a familiar scene on the weekend, UND player Quinn Fylling hit the pipe in OT, and was denied the game-winning goal. Kollar also had a big save on Matt Murray when Murray came sliding across the crease. The Sioux goalie was able to get a piece of it, and break up the opportunity.
“That was the story of the series,” Mazurak said. “We had a lot of bounces that didn’t go our way.”
“The big thing is that we kept coming,” Sauer said. “Even when we got behind, we kept coming.”
The Sioux had wanted to gain a much larger lead over the rest of the pack in the WCHA. Wisconsin’s position is now securely in fifth place in the WCHA.