GRAND FORKS, N.D. — WCHA rivals Minnesota and North Dakota played to a 7-5 Gopher win on Friday, as the University of North Dakota opened the new Ralph Engelstad Arena in grand style. The arena, 22 months and nearly $100 million in the making, was a fitting backdrop for the WCHA rivalry. The Gophers were the spoilers on this night however, handing the Sioux their first loss of the season.
“We were happy with the arena and the crowd, but unfortunately the game didn’t go our way.” Dean Blais said after the game.
The arena was dedicated before the game amid tight security. The fans were treated to a laser and light show, and proved that the new building has a nearly equal noise level as the old one. The cheers were loudest for former UND goaltender, and benefactor Ralph Engelstad. It was Englestad’s donations and vision that made the rink a reality for the school. The rink had a capacity crowd of 11,690 on hand for the opening.
The building is similar in design to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. that is home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild hockey club. The UND version is more refined and intimate, featuring leather seats and numerous brass accents. The ends of the rink feature a Club seating area, complete with a bar, and stools to watch the game from. The rink is five times as large as the old Engelstad Arena, and has a large museum area in the entryway that highlights the history of the hockey program at the University of North Dakota.
UND was successful in scoring the first goal in the new arena. UND senior and Captain Chad Mazurak buried a shot from the boards and beat Gophers goaltender Adam Hauser to the wide side for the his 15th career point. The unassisted goal came at 6:00 of the first.
The UND crowd was quieted only :30 seconds later thought on a goal by Minnesota’s Mike Erickson. The freshman from Eden Prairie, MN beat Fighting Sioux goaltender Andy Kollar to the pipe, sliding in the tying goal and his first goal as a Gopher.
The score remained tied until 8:41 of the period, when Sioux sophomore David Lundbohm slapped a shot past Hauser’s glove side. The lone on the goal assist was credited to Kevin Spiewak.
David Lundbohm is the younger brother of last year’s WCHA and all game goal-scoring leader Bryan Lundbohm. The younger Lundbohm would find Spiewak again at 16:07 of the period, and the combination was once again productive. On a two-on-one break, Spiewak hit a streaking Lundbohm in front of the Gopher netminder, and Lundbohm tapped it home to put the Sioux ahead by two.
A small scuffle along the glass resulted in tensions flaring and a UND power play. Jordan Leopold spoiled the chance for UND, however. The senior blueliner for the Gophers flipped a high shot to clear the zone, and the puck dribbled past a visibly frustrated Kollar for the goal. The assist on the short-handed goal went to Paul Martin. Leopold’s goal would prove to be a back-breaker for the Sioux.
UND junior Ryan Bayda, the only member of the NCAA leading scoring line from last year’s Sioux team, scored on a power-play just was before time expired to put the Sioux up by two once again. Bayda slapped a shot from the wing that bounced in past Hauser. Hauser allowed four of eight UND shots to go in. He would leave the game, and was replaced by freshman Travis Weber.
Minnesota struck first in the second period on a Jeff Taffe score. Kollar slid for a Troy Riddle shot, and was well clear of the net when Taffe picked up a rebound, and quickly put it past the UND goalie.
Kollar began to look very frustrated, and would leave the game in the third. He faced nine Gopher shots, and allowed four by. He was replaced by another freshman goalie, Jake Brandt.
” I don’t think anyone predicted that two seniors would start the game, and two freshmen would end it,” said Minnesota coach on Lucia after the game.
UND scored once more, on a Matt Jones shot that burrowed through traffic past Weber for the tally. Lundbohm was credited with the assist, and would have four points on the night.
The third period started with a Gopher power play, after UND freshman Rory McMahon was assessed a double minor late in the 2nd. The experienced Gopher team took the opportunity to blow the top off of the game and spoil Sioux chances for a win in the new building. Jordan Leopold scored his second of the night at :27 seconds of the period when Johnny Pohl came in fast, and passed to Leopold, who shot from point blank range and knocked it past Kollar. It was Leopold’s second of the night, and was only the beginning.
The Gophers went on a scoring tear, scoring three goals before the 3:30 mark of the period. Junior center Jeff Taffe came around the net and wristed a shot past Kollar at 2:01 of the period, Nick Anthony and Keith Ballard were credited with assists on the play. It was Taffe’s second of the game.
Jon Weibel scored at 3:25 off of a Keith Ballard shot, deflecting the puck into the Sioux net. At 8:44, Matt Kolaska scored Minnesota’s fourth goal of the period on a wrist shot pass Kollar that would put the Gophers ahead by two.
The Sioux look to Colorado College next, and Coach Dean Blais said that it will be back to normal now, and that the distractions of the past week were behind him.
“We didn’t have a lot of things to work on the first week, a loss gives a coach something to yell about though,” Laughed Blais.
The game was the US Hockey Hall of Fame Game, and raised money for the hockey institution.