GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The North Dakota Fighting Sioux found their scoring touch again, only to see the strong defensive play and solid goaltending of the last five games desert them.
The Sioux rallied twice from three-goal deficits — scoring three unanswered goals in the third period — to tie visiting Minnesota State University
6-6. Before tonight, North Dakota had given up just six goals in its last five games. The Mavericks, however, scored five in the first period to take a 5-2 lead.
North Dakota coach Dean Blais attributed his team’s lack of sharpness to the news received Wednesday that UND benefactor and former Sioux player Ralph Engelstad had died in Las Vegas. The Sioux wore Engelstad’s old number, 23, on their jerseys for the game.
North Dakota junior David Lundbohm noticed a difference in the team’s attitude.
“The guys weren’t up and chipper like they usually are,” he said of the mood in the locker room prior to the game.
North Dakota opened the scoring at 1:23 on a goal by forward Rory McMahon. After Maverick center Grant Stevenson tied the game at 5:52 with his ninth goal of the season MSU then capitalized on four consecutive power plays, two of which were scored five-on-three.
With two Sioux players in the box, junior forward Shane Joseph put MSU ahead 2-1 at 6:36. That was quickly followed by left wing Jeff Marler’s power play goal at 7:49 to make it a 3-1 game. A goal at the 10:30 mark by freshman center Zach Parise cut the Maverick lead to one.
MSU wing Cole Bassett responded to put his team up by two again with a power play goal at 11:52. North Dakota coach Dean Blais then pulled goalie Jake Brandt after the sophomore gave up four goals on six shots. He was replaced by junior Marc Ranfranz, who made his first appearance of the season.
Less than two minutes after Ranfranz entered the game, the Mavericks were on their second five-on-three power play. Stevenson netted his second goal of the game and tenth of the season when he scored at 14:29.
“Our penalty kill was real good for quite a while and they made a mockery of it,” Blais said. “They move the puck around as well as anyone we’ve seen and we sat there and watched them shoot it in the net.”
With MSU leading 5-2, Maverick freshman forward Ryan McKelvie and Sioux assistant captain David Hale dropped the gloves and went at it. The fight earned each player a five-minute major and a game disqualification.
The second period saw both teams trade goals, enabling the Mavericks to take a 6-3 lead into the final period. North Dakota sophomore Brandon Bochenski netted his 12th goal of the season on the power play at 15:23.
But once again, the Mavericks quickly responded. A goal by freshman wing Brock Becker less than a minute later gave MSU a comfortable three goal lead.
Blais switched goalies to start the last period, returning Brandt to the Sioux goal. Less than two minutes into the third period, North Dakota cut MSU’s lead to 6-4 when freshman forward Mike Prpich scored his first goal of the season off a feed from Bochenski.
“When it was 6-4, I thought, hey, we’re not out of this game,” Blais said. “There’s a lot of time left and a lot of things can happen because we were carrying the game.”
At the 6:29 mark, defenseman Nick Fuher made the score 6-5 when he blasted home David Lundbohm’s pass up the slot through traffic.
With the home crowd of more than 11,000 behind them and momentum on their side, the Sioux got MSU in penalty trouble. UND capitalized on its only five-on-three opportunity at the 14:19 mark when sophomore forward James Massen scored his sixth goal of the season.
“Getting that early goal helped them,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting of North Dakota’s third period comeback. “It’s a big difference when you play at home, too. I think the crowd got behind them and they’re a good hockey team. They weren’t 11-1 for no reason.”
Although North Dakota dominated the last five minutes of the period, the Sioux couldn’t get the puck past Jensen. In overtime, both teams had quality chances, but couldn’t connect.
“It’s a tough one to take,” Stevenson said. “We felt pretty good coming into the third period. Maybe we’re guilty of sitting back a little bit and not being aggressive enough.”
The tie left North Dakota 11-1-1, 5-1-1 WCHA. MSU is 3-5-3 on the year (2-3-2 WCHA). The teams will play the second game of the series Saturday.