GRAND FORKS, N.D. — It’s not often that North Dakota Fighting Sioux fans boo their team, especially when trailing by a goal in the third period and on the power play.
But it happened at a sold-out Ralph Engelstad Arena Friday night as the Sioux dropped a 6-4 decision to the visiting Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks.
Two weekends ago in Mankato, North Dakota took three of four points from the Mavericks. Yet when the Sioux badly needed a power-play goal at home, they repeatedly failed to get the puck out of their own zone, resulting in the chorus of boos.
“I was booing, too,” said North Dakota coach Dean Blais. “It was a total breakdown and we deserved what we got tonight. You don’t fill a building like this with half-assed performances, which it was.”
It was that kind of night for North Dakota. After fighting back from a two-goal deficit for the second time in the game, the Sioux tied it up 4-4 at 12:10 of the third period on freshman defenseman Andy Schneider’s power-play goal, his first of the year.
However, the Mavericks got the game-winner at 14:56 on a strange play. Mankato defenseman Andy Hedlund spotted the Sioux on a line change and sent sophomore forward Cole Bassett streaking in all alone on goalie Andy Kollar. Kollar stopped the first shot and stopped Bassett’s rebound shot. But the Sioux goalie couldn’t avoid his backchecking forward Ryan Hale, who crashed into Kollar, causing the puck to slide in for the winner.
That was all the Mavericks needed. With Kollar pulled for the final minute of play, Mankato senior forward Nate Mauer intercepted David Lundbohm’s outlet pass in the Sioux zone and shot the puck into the empty net, icing the game.
“I think we’ve been playing pretty well over the last two or three weekends, but didn’t have much to show for it,” said Maverick coach Troy Jutting. “So it was nice after they tied it up to get the victory.”
Even better for the Mavericks, they won on the road playing Jason Jensen, their third-string goalie. He filled in for senior Eric Pateman, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and Jon Volp, nursing a pulled hamstring.
“It was the second game he’s started in three and a half years and, in both games, I think he’s done a great job,” Jutting said. “I couldn’t be happier for him and our team right now, considering the situation we’ve had at goaltending. It’s nice just to see a kid get rewarded who’s worked awful hard.”
Under the circumstances, the Sioux hoped to pepper Jensen with shots early and often. However, the exact opposite happened. The hard-working Mavericks continually beat the Sioux to loose pucks and limited them to just three shots on goal for the first 19 minutes of the opening period.
With a goal apiece from fourth-line forwards Justin Martin and Brad Thompson, each getting their first scores of the year, it looked like the Mavericks would end the first period with a comfortable two-goal lead. But Sioux freshman forward Brandon Bochenski caught fire in the final minute to score two goals 24 seconds apart. Despite being outplayed and outshot 13-5, UND had tied the game.
Jensen said that not seeing the puck much in the first period hurt more than it helped.
“You like to get quite a few shots, especially on the road. You want to get into the flow of the game,” he explained. “As time went by, I was just waiting, waiting, waiting and the shots weren’t coming. When they came they were going in, so I was hoping the shots weren’t going to come after that,” he said with a laugh.
The Mavericks took command again in the second period with a goal by sophomore forward Dana Sorensen and a power-play goal by senior Nate Mauer, putting Mankato up 4-2 at the 13:30 mark. Yet once again, the Sioux struck as the period wound down. Junior forward Kevin Spiewak roofed a wrist shot over Jensen’s shoulder with just eight seconds left.
North Dakota appeared to gain momentum in the third period with Schneider’s tying power-play goal, but it was short-lived. Bassett’s game-winner seemed to take the fight out of the Sioux, who never seriously threatened after that, earning scorn from North Dakota fans and Blais.
“When you score four goals in your own building, you should win the game, but we didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t a good effort,” he said.
Despite turning in a three-point performance, Bochenski was critical of the team’s play. “We let ourselves get down and we didn’t catch up,” he said. “This was a game we really needed and we didn’t get the job done.”
Mauer and his teammates savored the hard-fought win. “We’ve played well in games where we haven’t got the victory. Tonight, we finally got the bounce for the fifth goal. It was nice,” he said.