GRAND FORKS, N.D. — If it looked as if one team was playing its first game of the season and the other had three games and nearly a month of practice under its belt, that’s because it was the case.
In North Dakota’s 8-4 drubbing of Yale, UND coach Dean Blais and Yale coach Tim Taylor agreed that the Fighting Sioux were in better condition — and it showed.
“This is their first game, so they don’t really have the conditioning,” Blais said of the Bulldogs. “I think they deteriorated as the game went on. I was really impressed with them in the first period and the way they took it to us. As the game wore on, I think we got stronger.”
UND opened its season against Minnesota-Duluth back on Oct. 4 and has played two regular season games and an exhibition since then. Until Friday night, Yale had played only one exhibition game.
“Right from the get-go, they were quicker to loose pucks,” Taylor said of UND’s conditioning advantage. “I thought they were pulling away from us in those races for the puck, and when they got to them, they had plenty of time to keep the play alive make a tape-to-tape pass in our zone. There were far too many of those.”
Despite that, the Bulldogs played well enough in the first period to claim a 1-0 lead and entertain thoughts of upsetting the second-ranked Sioux. Yale had just four shots on goal for the period, but it made one of them count when sophomore wing Zachary Mayer beat Sioux goalie Jordan Parise with a shot from the bottom of the left circle just 1:25 into the game.
Although UND outshot Yale 9-4 for the period, the Sioux couldn’t beat sophomore goalie Josh Gartner.
The Sioux tied it 1-1 at 2:17 of the second period. UND junior center Rory McMahon passed to sophomore forward Mike Prpich in the slot and he buried the opportunity. At the 6:38 mark, the Sioux took the lead and never looked back. Freshman forward Drew Stafford scored his third goal of the season from the slot while being checked by two Yale players.
Junior forward Quinn Fylling put the Sioux up 3-1 when he split the Bulldog defense on a breakaway up the middle at 12:36.
The Bulldogs closed to within a goal at 13:50 with sophomore wing Christian Jensen’s unassisted goal. However, the Sioux took a two-goal lead into the locker room at the end of the second period with a goal by junior center Colby Genoway at 16:29.
Two Sioux goals early in the third period put the game out of reach for Yale. It took only 25 seconds for UND junior wing Brandon Bochenski to score what proved to be the game-winning goal. His linemate, freshman forward Brady Murray, took the puck away from a Yale defenseman and dished it to Bochenski, who put it into a wide-open net.
Fylling netted his second goal of the game at 3:05 when he put in the rebound off Murray’s shot from the blue line. Yale made it 6-3 at 8:26 with a goal by sophomore center Joe Zappala.
The Sioux answered with two more goals, one at 8:48 by junior defenseman Matt Jones and one at 10:31 by Bochenski. It was Bochenski’s sixth goal of the season and his 101st career point at UND.
After the Sioux scored their seventh goal, Taylor replaced Gartner with junior goalie Peter Cohen. Blais took the opportunity to replace Parise with freshman goalie Nate Ziegelmann, who was immediately tested on a Bulldog breakaway that he stopped.
Yale closed out the scoring with a goal by senior wing Nate Murphy to make the final tally 8-4 in favor of UND.
Although UND outshot Yale 42-14, the Sioux have yet to score their first power play goal of the season and they are now 0-24 on the power play.
“I thought we worked it a little better, but it’s definitely going to have to click sooner or later,” Blais said. “I don’t think it’s a problem. It’s a matter of sooner or later, the puck’s going to go in the net.”
Bochenski said the players also aren’t overly concerned about the lack of power play goals.
“It’s almost a joke now that we can’t score on it. We were kind of laughing,” he said. “Tonight, we had so many chances on the power play that you look at that as a positive instead of a negative.”
UND got goals from all four of its lines and 10 of 12 forwards had at least one point.
“A huge thing this year is that there’s not going to be one line, there’s going to be two, three, four lines coming at you,” he said. “It’s going to be tougher for teams to put one line together to stop us because we’ve got three more coming.”
Offensively, Taylor was satisfied with his team’s performance, but defensively, he was not.
“I was pleased with the fact that we scored a few goals. It shows that we can do that, but I think we were exposed as a team that has a long way to go defensively,”
UND and Yale play the second game of the series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena.