GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Even though Michigan Tech lost to North Dakota by one goal Saturday night as opposed to the 10-goal pounding the Huskies endured Friday, coach Mike Sertich found little solace in the game’s outcome.
“Any time you make a 10-goal turnaround and play like we did, you have to be pleased,” he said following North Dakota’s 4-3 victory. “But they don’t give points for pleasing.”
After the 12-2 drubbing Friday, Sertich said there was no need for locker room histrionics or a change in strategy.
“We didn’t play last night. We didn’t even show up. It was embarrassing,” he said. “We got beat in every phase of the game — everywhere, from every position.”
Sertich said the Huskies did two things differently on Saturday: “We just played our game and everyone competed. If it wasn’t for the bounce of a puck, it might have been different.”
Although the score was much closer, the final result was the same. A goal by Sioux junior forward Ryan Bayda with 5:36 left in the third period broke a 3-3 tie. It proved to be enough for North Dakota to record its first home sweep since Oct. 13 when the Sioux defeated Colorado College in their opening WCHA series of the season.
The game-winner was set up when Sioux defenseman Matt Jones prevented the Huskies from breaking out of their zone by chipping an outlet pass back to center Tim Skarperud.
“I got the puck and just turned. I was about to shoot and then heard Bayda yelling pretty loud,” Skarperud said. “I looked over and his stick was right there. He out-muscled a guy in front of the net and put it in.”
Coach Dean Blais praised Skarperud’s play, calling him one of the team’s most valuable players and comparing him to clutch Sioux players from the past.
“He’s our guy that we’re leaning on,” he said. “He’s made himself one of the best players in the league.”
North Dakota opened a two-goal lead in the first period. Skarperud netted his third goal of the series at 12:37 when he cut across traffic in front of the net a rifled a wrist shot that caught the top corner on the glove side of Husky goalie Cam Ellsworth.
The Sioux struck again at 10:31 during a 5-on-3 power play. Bayda’s centering attempt was deflected on to the stick of freshman forward Brandon Bochenski, who jammed the puck under Ellsworth.
With three goals and an assist for the series, Bochenski said the young Sioux team is coming on strong.
“It’s late in the season and freshmen can’t be freshmen any more,” he said. “You just can’t make the rookie mistakes this time of the season.
Michigan Tech cut North Dakota’s lead to 2-1 with 5:20 left in the first period. Freshman forward Ryan Markham found an unattended rebound from Colin Murphy’s shot lying in the crease and stuffed it under Sioux goalie Jake Brandt.
The Sioux went up 3-1 at the 15:33 mark of the second period. Bochenski picked up his second goal of the night and third of the series when he tipped in defenseman Chad Mazurak’s blast from the blue line. But the Huskies didn’t wait long to cut UND’s lead to one goal. A minute later, Brandt lost track of the puck as Michigan Tech crashed the net on a 3-on-2 rush. Opportunistic Husky forward Jon Pittis found the loose puck and stuffed it in the net.
With 8:14 left in the second period, the Huskies took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game, 3-3. Defenseman Justin Brown gathered in Murphy’s feed to the point fired a low shot that cleanly beat the screened Brandt.
To start the third period, Blais replaced Brandt with freshman goalie Josh Siembida, but not because he was unhappy with Brandt’s play.
“It was just to shock the team into getting going in the third period,” he explained.
It worked. As the minutes ticked off the clock, Sioux fans were on the edge of their seats. Too many times this season, they’d seen comfortable leads disappear in the final minutes. But even after Sertich pulled Ellsworth for an extra attacker with a half minute left, North Dakota held on for its first home sweep in four months.
“We haven’t had lot of success here,” Bayda said. “To come out and play two strong games this weekend was big. We’ll take wins whether they’re at home or on the road this time of the season. We just need to build on it and get on a roll going into the playoffs.”