ST. CLOUD, Minn. — A little more than four minutes into the third period Saturday night at the National Hockey Center, North Dakota’s Tyler Palmiscno was cutting across the St. Cloud State blue line carrying the puck between his legs. He dropped his head for a brief second to find the puck and smack.
Mr. Palmiscno, meet Jonathan Lehun. The Husky freshman forward caught him good, real good. The result, other than a small pool of blood near the Husky blue line, was a Fighting Sioux hockey team that had finally found a spark.
North Dakota trailed the Huskies 2-1, and until the hit, looked as if the Sioux were heading home with a pair of defeats to open their WCHA campaign.
Instead, they rallied.
Zach Parise scored his ninth goal of the season late in the period and James Massen ended it 47 seconds into overtime as North Dakota escaped central Minnesota with a split.
“When (Palmiscno) went down it was kind of a test of our team’s character,” said Massen, whose game-winner was his third goal of the year. “It was a clean hit, but what happened after that was the character of our team showing through. We wanted to win this one for (Palmiscno) and it just kind of fired us up a little bit.”
The Fighting Sioux had plenty of opportunities to get it done, but for a while couldn’t get anything past Husky goaltender Jason Montgomery. They had nine power-play chances on the night, including four in the final period, but were unable to score on any of them. Parise found himself alone on the side of the net 10 seconds after their final power play had expired, and the rookie sensation made St. Cloud State pay for leaving him there.
“The guy had his back towards me and I was able to slip down into the back door,” said Parise, who Friday night was held scoreless for the first time in his college career, but responded with the goal plus an assist Saturday. “I got the pass and moved it to my forehand and flipped it under (Montgomery’s) arm.”
St. Cloud State got on the board first 9:19 into the game with a power-play goal from Jeff Finger. He got the puck at the blue line, sidestepped a diving Rory McMahon, and fired a shot past Josh Siembida.
North Dakota would get it back, though, just over a minute later. With the Huskies on another power play, Parise flipped a backhand off the glass and into center ice, where Brandon Bochenski picked it up and went in alone on Montgomery, beating him with a backhand.
The Huskies regained the lead midway through the second period on an unassisted power-play goal by Matt Hendricks. The junior picked up a loose puck at center ice and skated into the zone. Using a pair of Fighting Sioux defenders to set up the screen, he wristed a shot past Siembida.
After the hit to Palmiscno in the third, North Dakota had six minutes of power-play time to work with, including four in a four-minute, 11-second span, but didn’t get the equalizer until Parise snuck around the backside with 3:08 to play.
“I thought it was a very good college hockey game,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “And I was really happy with the game until the steady parade to the penalty box. Yeah, we killed them all off, but it takes away a lot of your offense and it takes a lot of energy to kill them off.”
Which seemed to be the difference when the overtime started. Massen found himself all alone in front of Montgomery with the puck, waited as a pair of St. Cloud State defenders watched helplessly, and beat the goaltender with a shot low to the ice that just eluded Montgomery’s right skate.
“I have no idea how he got so open because I haven’t seen the tape yet,” said Dahl. “But I do know somebody fell down, but other than that I don’t know.”
Massen didn’t know either.
“I couldn’t believe I had that much time,” he said. “I just waited for the goaltender to commit, then shot.”
That shot lifted North Dakota’s record to 7-1 overall, and earned the Fighting Sioux a split in their first WCHA series of the year. The Huskies, on the other hand, fell to 4-3-1 overall and 2-1-1 in league play.
Both teams will be in action next weekend as St. Cloud plays a home and home series with Minnesota State, Mankato. North Dakota will host Alaska-Anchorage.