GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Some of the magic that made North Dakota’s old Ralph Engelstad Arena a tough place for opponents to win showed up Friday night in the new Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Trailing the visiting University of Maine Black Bears 2-1 at the start of the third period, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux scored two unanswered goals to win a hard-fought 3-2 decision between two evenly matched teams.
The difference in the game turned out to be North Dakota’s penalty killers and goalie Andy Kollar. The Black Bears went 0-for-5 on the power play and couldn’t cash in on a golden opportunity to tie the game in the closing minutes.
With just under three minutes left in the game, Sioux sophomore defenseman David Hale was called for spearing Maine captain Peter Metcalf. Hale received a major penalty and game disqualification, putting the Black Bears on the power play for the remainder of regulation.
But even when Maine coach Tim Whitehead pulled goalie Matt Yeats with 1:44 left for a 6-on-4 advantage, Kollar and the Sioux penalty killers held on for a one-goal nonconference victory. The Black Bears are now 0-6 when playing the Sioux in Grand Forks.
“Andy played another solid game,” said UND coach Dean Blais of Kollar’s effort. “He was the difference.”
North Dakota looked as if it might take control early on, getting good scoring opportunities. Yeats held off the Sioux and got some help from the pipes when UND forward Tyler Palmiscno bounced a point-blank shot off the post.
“Matt Yeats was excellent. I thought he was really tested in the first period,” Whitehead said.
About half-way through the opening period, the momentum shifted in the Black Bears’ favor when Maine forward Niko Dimitrakos opened the scoring at 17:50. Metcalf intercepted a clearing attempt in the Sioux zone and fed Dimitrakos, who blasted a low slapshot past Kollar on his glove side.
North Dakota tied it up at 3:35 of the second period when Sioux freshman forward Rory McMahon dished a goalmouth feed to another freshman forward, Brian Canady. Canady deked Yeats and slid the puck in under the goalie’s leg.
Just when it appeared the Sioux were about to take control, they gave up their second shorthanded goal in four games. Martin Kariya broke into the Sioux zone one-on-one with UND defenseman Aaron Schneekloth. As the Sioux defense collapsed too far, Kariya passed up a shot and waited for his teammates to catch up to the play.
He found freshman defenseman Matthew Deschamps cruising unattended down the slot and put a picture-perfect pass on his stick. Deschamps fired a quick wrister over Kollar’s shoulder at 9:38, giving the Black Bears a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.
“One of the weaknesses of my game is that I’m sometimes hesitant to drive to the net,” Kariya said. “But if no one comes after me, I’ll stand there and make the play.”
In the third period, North Dakota dominated, outshooting Maine 13-6. Jason Notermann tied the game for UND just over two minutes into the period. Freshman Brandon Bochenski fed a pass to Notermann as he crashed the net, and Notermann got his stick on the puck and tipped it past Yeats.
The game-winning goal came at 15:04 with the Sioux on the power play. This time, Bochenski found defenseman Chad Mazurak streaking in behind Maine’s defense.
“I came flying down the wing,” Mazurak said. “Brandon saw me, gave me a good pass and I threw it between his legs.”
Despite the penalty to Hale in the game’s closing minutes, North Dakota managed to hold on for a 3-2 win.
Maine and North Dakota meet again Saturday at 7:35 p.m. for the capper in this weekend’s two-game series at Engelstad.