GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Just call North Dakota coach Dean Blais the Gambler.
With 3:22 left in the game and his team on the power play trailing 2-1, Blais pulled goalie Jake Brandt for a 6-on-4 advantage.
“We’d scored only one goal last night and one goal tonight,” Blais said. “What the hell do you have to lose? So what? You have to go out there and try to win the game.”
It took just four seconds for the gamble to pay off. After the Sioux scored and sent the game into overtime, they needed just 36 seconds to defeat the Pioneers 3-2.
On the game-tying goal, Sioux freshman center Zach Parise won the faceoff in Denver’s zone. Defenseman Andy Schneider quickly dished the puck to wing Brandon Bochenski. From the left circle, he threaded a wrist shot through traffic that deflected off a Denver player’s shin guard and past goalie Wade Dubielewicz.
A defenseman’s perspective of playing without a goalie is somewhat different from a coach’s.
“It’s motivating, but it’s a little scary, too,” Schneider said. “You kind of peek over your shoulder.”
For Bochenski, who came into the game tied for the national lead in goals, it was his first one against Denver in nearly 12 periods of play. He wasn’t finished.
In overtime, Bochenski was camped out in the slot when Schneider fired a wrist shot from the point. He got his stick on the puck, deflecting it up and over Dubielewicz’s shoulder for the game-winning goal.
“I don’t know if it hit my stick or my body, too,” Bochenski said. “But you know what? The way it’s been going, I’ll take it.”
The dramatic come-from-behind win knots UND’s series with Denver 1-1. The third and final game of the series begins at 7:05 p.m. Sunday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
In a hard-hitting, tight-checking game, goals were hard to come by. In the first period, Denver outshot UND 7-4. It wasn’t until 13:13 of the second period that the 0-0 deadlock was broken. With the Sioux on the power play, sophomore forward Rory McMahon knocked in a rebound of Parise’s shot to give the Sioux a 1-0 lead.
The Pioneers answered with a power-play goal of their own at 18:29. Senior wing Greg Barber stuffed in a rebound off defenseman Aaron MacKenzie’s slapshot from the point. Although the Sioux outshot the Pioneers 13-5 and had two 5-on-3 power plays, the second period ended tied 1-1.
In the third period, seconds after Dubielewicz made a brilliant save on Bochenski, the Pioneers broke into the Sioux zone 2-on-1. Defenseman Ryan Caldwell and wing Luke Fulghum played the give-and-go, culminating in Caldwell’s goal at 14:23 that put Denver up 2-1.
The Sioux got new life when Denver sophomore center Jeff Drummond ran into Brandt and was called for checking the goalie. Blais immediately pulled Brandt for a sixth attacker. That move resulted in Bochenski’s game-tying goal and eventually his winner in overtime.
“You’re fighting for your life right now and you’re going to do anything to try to get a little bit of an edge,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky. “It was a good move by Dean.”
Dubielewicz said, “If we don’t win tomorrow night, we probably won’t get an NCAA bid. It’s just going to make us a little bit more desperate and a little bit more hungry.”