GRAND FORKS, N.D. — For $100 million, the late Ralph Engelstad bought the University of North Dakota one of the world’s finest hockey arenas. But for more than four periods against Minnesota-Duluth, UND couldn’t buy a goal or a break.
When UMD freshman center Tim Stapleton scored with 2:01 left in the third period, it proved to be the game-winner as the Bulldogs held off a late rally by the Sioux. The 3-2 win, along a 3-3 tie the day before, moved the Bulldogs into fourth place in the WCHA and dropped UND into fifth place.
“Scary finish, I’ll tell you that,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.
On Saturday, the Sioux scored three first-period goals against UMD, but then went more than 100 minutes without scoring. The drought looked to be over when UND freshman center Zach Parise appeared to score twice in the third period, but referee Mike Schmidt waved off both goals.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs used a power play goal by Junior Lessard at 4:11 of the first period and a goal by Nick Anderson at 11:41 of the second period to build a 2-0 lead that they held until late in the third period.
But two UND goals nine seconds apart by Parise and Brandon Bochenski at 16:32 and 16:41 respectively suddenly gave the Sioux a tie, new life and momentum.
“We said between the second and third periods, ‘Hey, we don’t need to go out and over-hit. We don’t need to take penalties. We need goals. Just stay with it. Everyone’s got to believe that something good is going to happen,’” said North Dakota coach Dean Blais. “And it did. Everyone was going crazy and the arena was electric.”
Just 1:18 after Bochenski’s game-tying goal, Stapleton scored the game-winner on an outstanding individual effort. He took a pass from defenseman Neil Petruic deep in North Dakota’s zone and broke into the Sioux zone two-on-two.
UND defenseman Matt Jones fell down as he turned to chase Stapleton. Sioux goalie Josh Siembida came far out of the net to challenge him, bit on a shot fake, went down and gave the Bulldog freshman a wide-open net to shoot into.
“They came down and took it away,” Blais said. “We found a way to lose instead of a way to win.”
After the game, Bochenski was adamant that one of Parise’s two disallowed goals should have counted. The goal in question was waved off because Bochenski was called for playing the puck with a high stick when he batted it out of the air to the front of the crease where Parise knocked it in.
“I hit the puck out of the air and, with my follow through, I hit the post. The post is below the crossbar and the crossbar is obviously the limit. My stick wasn’t going down. It was going straight across,” the sophomore forward said.
The video replay appeared to back up Bochenski’s claim. When Duluth coach Scott Sandelin was asked whether the call was correct, he replied, “What do you think I’m going to say? No?”
Then he added, “Sometimes the calls go your way and sometimes they don’t. Tonight, they went our way — especially at the end.”
After being ranked first in the nation earlier in the season and challenging for the WCHA title, UND is now 1-7-2 in its last 10 WCHA games and in danger of losing home ice for the playoffs.
Of the Sioux losing streak, Bochenski said, “It’s just been the way things are going. Right when we start to climb out of it, the bottom falls out again and we plummet even further, it seems.”
UND, now 22-9-5 overall (12-9-5 WCHA), ends its regular season next weekend at Wisconsin. Minnesota-Duluth, 17-12-5 overall (13-9-4 WCHA), plays at home against Michigan Tech.