DULUTH, Minn. — Leave it to a freshman from the visiting team to steal the glory on Senior Night. That’s what happened here Saturday, when North Dakota’s Brandon Bochenski posted his first collegiate hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in a come-from-behind 5-3 win over Minnesota-Duluth in the Bulldogs’ 2001-02 home finale.
Bochenski’s third-period tally was the highlight of a furious comeback for the Fighting Sioux, who fell behind 3-1 before scoring four unanswered goals. The win gives North Dakota (15-16-2, 10-14-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) a split in the two-game series.
Bochenski also netted goals in the first and second periods.
“The puck popped out to me tonight,” said Bochenski. “I got in front of the net, and every time I got out in front of the net the puck seemed to be there.”
“He’s probably going to be the [WCHA] Rookie of the Year,” said North Dakota head coach Dean Blais. “He’s played with that [Tim] Skarperud and [Ryan] Bayda line, and at times he’s one of the top players on the line. You’ve got a senior and a junior and yet Brandon complements ‘em. You’ve got a playmaker in Skarperud, you’ve got Bayda, who’s a grinder, and you’ve got Bochenski, who’s a finisher.”
Bochenski now has 17 goals on the season, which puts him second on the team behind Skarperud.
Skarperud and Bayda each added a goal and an assist for UND, while freshman Josh Siembida picked up his fifth win in net, as he stopped 16 of 19 UMD shots.
UMD honored four seniors — Mark Carlson, Judd Medak, Tom Nelson and Andy Reierson — during the first intermission. And statistically it was led by two seniors, Medak and Reierson, who had a goal an assist, and a sophomore, Junior Lessard, who also finished with one of each. Adam Coole’s 35 saves were not enough, as his record dropped to 4-12-3 on the season.
The loss also ensures UMD (13-20-3, 6-14-3 WCHA) will finish the season in ninth place in the WCHA.
Penalties were aplenty in this game as well. Referee Randy Schmidt whistled a combined total of 23 sins on the evening, for a total of 68 minutes. Fifty-eight minutes of those penalties were issued during the second period, when a massive melee in front of the scorers box led to a fight between Duluth’s Nick Anderson and North Dakota’s Rory McMahon, and several other minor scuffles. Anderson and McMahon were each given fighting majors and disqualified for the remainder of the contest.
The scrum occurred just 31 seconds after the Bulldogs scored to make it 3-1, and head coach Scott Sandelin says it seemed to be the turning point of the hockey game.
“It was a war in the second period, they were probably a little frustrated,” said the former North Dakota assistant. “It just seemed like toward the end of that period they started to get it going, and we were kind of hanging on and it carried over to the third.”
Blais says he wasn’t happy with his team’s lack of discipline in that incident.
“You can tell the guys were intense, but they’re intense to the point of being undisciplined,” said the veteran head coach. “It shows that you’ve got to be on the edge, but you can’t be over the edge, and at the end of the second period we were over the edge. The penalties that we got were deserved.”
UMD started the game wasting little time in lifting the spirits of the 5,206 in attendance at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 33 seconds into the contest when Medak jammed in a rebound of a Lessard one-timer in between the right goal post and the left arm of Siembida. Tom Nelson also assisted on the play which gave Medak his 15th goal of the season.
But the first period momentum would change midway through when Bochenski scored his first goal of the night as the team’s skated four-on-four. Skarperud set up the freshman when he swept a back hand pass to Bochenski in the slot. Bochenski then placed his own backhander past Coole to make it 1-1 at the 11:58 mark.
The Bulldogs would regain control of the game with two goals in the first 6:40 of the second period. It became 2-1 when Andy Reierson sent a backhander into the net at the 2:17 mark. And just over four minutes later, Reierson helped set up Lessard to make it 3-1. From the left point, Reierson first passed the puck into the slot to Lessard, who sent a redirect right to Siembida. However the rebound caromed just to Lessard’s left, and the sophomore reached out and swept the puck in for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Then came the brawl which sent seven players into the penalty box, and gave UND a power play. But UMD would not allow a goal during that or any other Sioux man-advantage situation. North Dakota ended up going 0-four-7 with the extra man during the two-game series. UMD finished one-for-three on the man-advantage on Saturday, and three for eight on the weekend.
The Sioux instead turned toward their freshman phenom to start the comeback. Bochenski made it 3-2 on a goal beautifully set up by Chris Fournier.
Fournier first intercepted a UMD clearing attempt at his own blue line and skated across the ice to the left face-off circle, then threw the puck in front to Bochenski, who fired a one-timer through Coole’s five-hole with just under five minutes left in the second period.
Massive offensive pressure followed, as North Dakota peppered shot after shot on the UMD net for the rest of the game. Yet for a while it seemed Adam Coole would be able to withstand the onslaught. He knocked away a shot from the slot by Ryan Hale, and was the beneficiary of two off-target shots by Jason Notermann and Bayda.
But the barrage would pay off for UND with two goals just 1:30 apart. First, Skarperud would get the tying goal at the 15:19 mark. The junior from Grand Forks skated across the UMD blue line and moved across the high slot to the right wing face-off circle where he ripped a wrist shot past Coole’s stick side for his 18th goal of the season.
Then came Bochenski’s game-winner. The freshman collected a rebound of a Bayda shot that Coole failed to smother in time, and tucked it into the net between the goaltender and left post.
UMD’s chances were severely limited, as North Dakota outshot the Bulldogs 16-3 during the final 20 minutes. Many in attendance thought they had tied it, when Reierson’s slapshot from the right point rang off the inside of the right goal post, and then skidded along the goal line before exiting the crease.
“I thought it was in,” said Reierson. “I put my arms up a little bit, then I saw it go in the corner. Just a bad bounce, I guess.”
The Bulldogs pulled Coole with 1:18 left to play, but that only allowed the Sioux to ice the victory with Bayda’s empty-net goal with less than five seconds remaining.
“I thought we really took over in the third period and did a good job fore-checking,” said Blais.
“We had to dig through guys and they’re [UMD] always in good position, especially in the defensive zone, but we finally got a break.” For the game, North Dakota outshot UMD 40-19.
The Bulldogs also played without second leading scorer Jon Francisco, who suffered two knee injuries in Friday night’s 3-2 victory.
As for dropping his last game on home ice, Reierson says its disappointing.
“Obviously it’s kind of a sad thing,” said the defenseman from Moorhead, Minn. “We played here for four years, its a great place, great town, I love my teammates, had nothing but fun here, but we still have some hockey to play.”
UMD visits Wisconsin next weekend for the regular season finale, while North Dakota hosts top-ranked Denver.